Embracing Penang: An Impromptu Adventure in Georgetown

Malaysia is probably one of the most stunning countries in Asia.  From the strawberry fields (yeah, who knew there was an abundance of strawberries in Malaysia!?  I sure didn’t…) to the tea plantations, Chinese influenced Operas, massive mountains with breathtaking summit views, and incredibly vibrant wildlife.

We spent about two weeks in Malaysia, our time evenly split between the peninsular side and the Borneo side.  Each half of the trip was very different, yet equally as adventurous as the other.  The first half was more group-oriented:  tours, day trips, city walks.  The second half was just my college roommate, Chelsea, and I getting ourselves into some absurdly unforgettable situations.

Here’s my favorite story of the entire trip.  Chelsea and I were in Georgetown, Panang.  We didn’t know until after we left the city that it’s actually one of the more dangerous places in the country.  The two of us check into our hostel (I think we were the only guests) and walk to a nearby 7-11 to find some dinner.  We were exhausted, didn’t speak the local language, and just wanted to get a snack before we hit the hay.  As we’re walking down the street, a man outside murmurs something to us about yoga.  We pay no mind to him until our walk back.  He stops us and asks us if we’d like to participate in a private yoga class that he would do for us free.  Typically we’d say no, but we gave each other a “why not?” look and went with it.  If we were going to die, we had each other and an epic story no one would ever know about.  Carpe diem, right?

That night was one of the most unreal nights of my entire life.

His yoga class was unlike any practice I’ve ever experienced.  He set us up under the stars behind a beautiful building of worship (not sure which religion).  He simultaneously guided us in meditation, challenging us to use our non-dominant hand as to bring more balance to our lives and telling us to squat more for it keeps your body more agile.  After our private yoga class was finished, he invited us to a Chinese Opera in the town next door.  He seemed like a kind man who, if he really wanted to hurt us, would’ve murdered us by then.  Plus, when you’re invited to a Chinese Opera in Malaysia with a backstage pass, you go with it.

He drove Chelsea on his moped first then came back for me.  The performance started as a puppet show.  It was definitely strange, but we were given tea and just soaked it all in.  Next we moved to an area where a man was literally whipping himself.  Bleeding, yelling, seemingly possessed.  Similar to the “Vegetarian Festival” in Thailand, they were explaining that he had a spirit come over him and was proving that his body was not connected to the spirit.

Then it was time for the actual Opera.  A VERY LOUD OPERA.  Caps lock doesn’t even begin to represent how loud it was.  I can still hear it ringing in the back of my head.

We went backstage, met the beautifully adorned singers, make-up artists, costume designers, and one-man band producing the chaotic sounds for the show.  We also met two miscellaneous people just hanging out back stage, seemingly friends with our host.  The woman was dressed in all purple.  Down to her nails, earrings, socks, literally everything on her was purple.  The man was a gentle presence, speaking few words but observing everything.  They invited us out for tea after the show and, again, you don’t pass this kind of stuff up.

Turns out the two were astrologists.  They told us all about the universe, conversing about certain energies, and even telling Chelsea and me information about ourselves we never provided to them based on our birthdays and time of birth.  It was jaw-dropping.  Their talent & skills, whatever you want to call it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.  Now get this: they had just met that day.

Malaysia is magical. Go there.

Kelsey PowellComment