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Butterflies and Bugs

by becca on January 27, 2010

Our final day in George Town, we ventured out to the Penang Butterfly Farm. This involved an hour long bus ride on a really nice city bus, and a 1 km walk from the main street that hugs the coast of Penang. Cheesy as it sounds, this place was really cool — sort of like a zoo dedicated to bugs and reptiles.

The “farm” is home to over 4000 butterflies of 120 different species, and upon walking in we were surrounded immediately. Every direction we looked there were butterflies of different colors, shapes, and sizes. One followed Nate through the entire outdoor area.

In addition to the butterflies, we saw a meter-long monitor lizard, an alligator snapping turtle, and thousands of insects, both alive and behind glass with neat titles and pins stuck through them. My favorite was the (live) Orchid Mantis, which looks like the flower and attracts and attacks unassuming butterflies. Other fun tidbits: There are over 350,000 species of beetle. Tarantulas’ bites are not lethal, in fact they do little more than make you itch. And finally, butterflies are a natural indicator of an ecosystem’s condition — they start to disappear when the ecosystem is disturbed by deforestation, pollution, etc.

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Mansions, Museums, McDonald’s

by becca on January 27, 2010

In George Town, we found ourselves away from the beach for the first time in a number of weeks, and took to soaking up culture instead of sun for a few days.

To get our history fix, we spent an afternoon on a tour of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Cheong Fatt Tze left China in the late 1800s a 16-year-old peasant without a penny to his name. The story goes American dream style, as George Town was seen as the land of opportunity for many Asians at the time. He built an empire as a trader and banker, and with his empire came many wives, children, and homes. His favorites of all of these were in George Town, and the structure that stands today is a testament to his success and his humble beginnings, as our guide informed us that for a Chinese house it is rather gaudy and lavish.

We also visited the Penang State Museum, a unique collection of artifacts and information about Malaysian history, peoples, and culture set in a beautiful building that originally housed the Penang Free School.

We spent an evening sampling current day local culture walking around the mall that sprawls out from the 65-story KOMTAR building, but were a bit disappointed that you can no longer take an elevator to the top and admire the view. After riding up and down escalators and dodging eager sellers, we were able to sit at a bustling McDonald’s to eat a McFlurry and a sundae while admiring the advertising for the “Prosperity Burger” being promoted for just in time for Chinese New Year. Double the happiness with a double chicken or double beef burger.