In the evenings, I typed out a letter describing the sights of the island for my work group back home. Here's the letter, to add to the description of the island along with a few pictures.

Tuesday, from Malaysia

Hello everyone

Here I am in Penang. We got in Friday about 10 AM. The flight was 24 hours from Colorado to Singapore, then a short overnight and another hour to Penang. It was plenty boring, especally since there was nothing to see out the window - it was either ocean or dark the whole way.

They put us up in the Equatorial Hotel, a few miles from Agilent. This place is pretty swanky. The central attrium is ten stories tall with each floor circling the attrium like a balcony. The elevator is one of those glass bubbles where you can look out as you go up. The heat and humidity feel really tropical. Long ivy vines flow from the railings, covering several floors like in a rain forest. The lobby is open on two sides with a fish pond and the smell of forest.

On the south side of the attrium is a waterfall surrounded by trees flowing into the room and into a fish pond. The pool is on the east side, and it has a waterfall you can swim under. Off the north side of the attrium is a small shopping area with five restaurants. These are actually a level down from the main lobby with tables on the patio overlooking the pool and fish pond.

I'm on the fifth floor, looking west toward the hills and other highrises. The room is pretty fancy. Besides all the normal stuff, it has a fridge stocked with Pepsi, beer and chocolate bars. There's a pile of snacks on the counter, a safe in the closet, three phones, and the Koran and Buddist bibles along with the Gideons bible.

The weather here isn't as hot as I expected. It's kind of muggy but not as bad as a bad day in Cleveland. The streets are buzzing with motorcycles. They're already crowded with cars and the cycles zip in and out of traffic and between lanes. Cars and cycles both seem to ignore lane markings and just go whereever there's an opening. It all looks a lot caotic but everyone here seems to be playing the same game and it seems to work for them. The building are a little run-down looking, looking kind of moldy from years of rains. Trees and bushes grow everywhere, filling in the spaces as if the forest is trying to take back the city.

On Saturday, Wooi Po and Lee Choo took us to breakfast in an open air market (roof with no walls), for a real third-world feel. Dogs were walking through and the food was wheeled around on carts - just grab whatever looks good as it goes past. When we were done they just counted the bowls to add up the bill. Everything is a seafood mix: Tiny packets of diced shrimp, rice and a vegetable, wrapped up in some kind of leaf. We had about ten different versions of something similar but I'm not sure what most of it was. One of the things I tried was clear and tasted like a mushroom, he called it fish bladder but it was actually Sea Cucumber. Saturday night we went to a street market where vendors (hawkers) sell every kind of food imaginable. I walked through looking for something recognizeable and came across a booth called 'Barbarque Chicken'. One of the items he had was roasted feet. I kept walking and ended up with shrimp casserole.

I'm not crazy about seafood but what really makes this tough is the chopsticks. They're easy enough to use but since you can't cut the unknown piece into tiny nibbles, you have to eat it all at once and hope it's edible. I tried a fork once, but then everyone looked at me as if I just walked in from another planet. At any rate, it's really not bad but I'll probably head for Mcdonalds as soon as I'm back.

On Sunday we did a tour of the island. We drove through a village where street vendors lined the road and people were everywhere. Cars were moving at a crawl, motorcycles dodged traffic and people stood in the road. It was like driving through a shopping mall on Christmas Eve. We then parked the car and hiked up to a Chinese temple. The sidewalk went a quartermile up the hill and street vendors built their huts along its whole length. It was like running a gauntlet through a narrow hallway full of people while vendors tell all about their stuff. But the temple was impressive - great architecture with incredible statues on the inside. Intricate figures were carved into the walls, ceilings and pillars, with bold colors and detailed woodwork everywhere.

Later that day we went to a botanical park that had 500 different kinds of trees. About two miles of paths looped through the forest with foot bridges crossing the creeks and the trees drippy wet in the hot muggy air. Most of the narrow path was overhung with trees but sometimes meadows opened up the view so you could see the taller trees. Monkeys darted around like squirrels and kids played in the creek to cool off. Real tropical and lots of fun.

I seem to be the biggest person on the island. At least until yesterday, when Joe claims to have seen someone taller. This got even more dubious when he claimed it was a Malaysian. This morning I ran across another usurper. This guy looked just like Bro Ray. As I got closer I thought - this really is Ray. I asked him if he was American, and he said he was Dutch, so either it wasn't Ray or he was lying.


Agilent - Where I work.
Cleveland - Where I grew up.
Wooi Po and Lee Choo - Engineers at Agilent Malaysia.
Joe - Engineer from Agilent Colorado.
Chinese Temple - This is Kek Loc Si.
Malaysia Travels 2000       This was a business trip to Penang Malaysia and not a vacation. There was a load of things to see and do, but I was only able to get out and see the sights on one day, and at dinner.
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