Penang, Sunday 25-2-73
My dear parents etc.,

In view of the character of the day, I leapt out of my Chinese hotel bed ($4/night) at about 8:30 this morning, donned my very best pair of football shorts, my best brown T-shirt, a clean pair of socks and my Sunday-best Woolworths shoes, sauntered out to breakfast on kepi susu (i.e. coffee with condensed milk - v. nice) and roti pangan (buttered toast), took a bus down to view the slums on the George Town waterfront and caught another bus to the Penang Botanic Gardens where I am sitting on a rock like Rodin's Le Penseur, thinking very hard, composing a letter and feeding the monkeys with 10c worth of peanuts.

However, for the sake of the record, let me begin where I left off last time. For $1/night the youth hostel in the Cameron Highlands was quite reasonable. The nights were very cool: I was cold even in my sleeping bag. I'm not sure that it's so much better than the old ones we had; suppose I'll find out in Nepal. The Cameron Highlands are really very pleasant: quite a different atmosphere from the hot, humid conditions in the lowlands. I walked about a thousand miles and visited a tea plantation where I inspected the factory and received a free sample packet of Boh Tea, heard my first ever sonic boom (courtesy of the RAAF), lunched (would you believe?) on fried fish and chips, received a lift from an O.B. missionary who wanted to invite me to his Sunday meeting to witness no fewer than 5 baptisms (pity I had to move on), grooved over some Tudor-style inns and houses, and got back with aching legs.

Next day (Friday) I hitched all the way to Butterworth. It is only about 175 miles but I had some long waits. It took 4 lifts: with some Indians in a Mercedes; with a retired Malay police commissioner in a Volvo; with some more Indians in a Peugeot 404; and with a Chinese schoolteacher in a Mini. Arriving in Butterworth I tried ringing Dick Moore's friends at the RAAF base but could only get the amah, which was not very satisfactory, so I took the ferry across to Penang where I holed up in a Chinese hotel.

Penang is variously described as "the Pearl of the Orient" and "Emerald Isle of the Indian Ocean". It was originally called Prince of Wales Island by a Captain Light of the British East India Company in the 1780s and has quite an interesting history. The city, George Town, is a thriving, and in many ways modern, centre. Penang has been traditionally a free port and is being maintained as such: variety and price of goods do not quite compare with Singapore, but it puts me in the same quandary about buying clothes etc. which I'll need eventually. I'll probably put it off again.

After working hard at it for a day and a half, I feel I have got to know George Town fairly well, and plan to move out tonight to the reputedly picturesque north coast, to lie on a beach and give my bruised feet a rest.

Yesterday I went wild over Fort Cornwallis, built by the British (in its present form between 1808-1810). Some of the cannon were made in 1798 in the reign of George III, while some were marked GIIR. If I can get as excited as that over a scrappy 19th century English fort off the north coast of Malaya, imagine what a helpless, quivering mass I'll be when I get to Europe! I also visited St. George's Anglican church; the museum and art gallery; the Goddess of Mercy (Chinese temple) which was full of incense smoke and Chinese throwing fiddlesticks about to predict their future; the Kapitan Keling mosque, where I had to remove my best Woolworths shoes, received some instruction in the beliefs of Islam (1. believe Allah is God and Muhamed his prophet; 2. pray five times a day towards Mecca; 3. visit Mecca; 4. fast during defined period; 5. give 2.5% p.a. to charity) and was unable to climb the minaret because I had no money to "give a charity"; the Tunku Abdul Rahman aquarium at Glugor (out of town), which was really very good as these things go; the (Chinese) Snake Temple with venomous Wagler's Pit Vipers circling about the fittings; the (Buddhist) Kek Lok Si temple (quite an impressive setup at Ayer Itam) where I climbed several hundred feet to the top of the Temple of the Thousand Buddhas (after contributing 25c instead of the usual $1) and found out a bit more about Buddhism; and finally Penang Hill. This involved riding up a 2,270 ft mountain on a very picturesque funicular railway, where I viewed the city, the surrounding hills and the mainland by daylight, ate an omelette and drank a pot of Milo at exorbitant prices (almost what one would pay at home), waited for the sunset and viewed the surprisingly impressive lights by night. It reminded me in many ways of the Blue Mountains (complete with Scenic Railway and mountain-top hotels and houses). I haven't seen much natural beauty (except perhaps the smoking volcanoes of Java) which could not be equalled in or around Australia. It's the people, their buildings and their mode of living which is so utterly different and interesting.

I don't know how the Cheas could have been persecuted in Malaya - Chinese seem to make up about 40% of the population (a guess). Admittedly Tun Razak is favouring the Malays: e.g. they must receive 50% of scholarships, whether their qualifications are highest or not, government loans for business are easier for them to get etc. This breeds resentment among the Chinese and Indians who feel they have had to work hard for what they have.

Later. I have now moved my lodgings to Tanjong Bungah on the north coast of the island where I have checked into a place with the unlikely and exotic name of Sydney Café - apparently patronised by RAAF personnel for chish and fips. $1.50/night. Great!

My Malaysian visa expires on 5/3. If I like this place enough (and it looks good) or if the RAAF suddenly becomes particularly hospitable, I may apply for an extension, which won't necessarily be granted to the likes of me. I still think I'll be in Burma probably 13-20 March. Expect to stay as short a time as possible in Calcutta - they say it's a hole, a black hole I suppose. My current feeling is that I'll probably go straight up into Nepal and try trekking for a few weeks. May then cross the north of India into Kashmir and leave the south for another time - depends on heat. However, I'll certainly be visiting New Delhi: you'll be able to write there for some time.