Cunard Cruise 2012
Trip Day 6
Monday, March 26th
Penang, Malaysia

The next stop on the cruise after departing Port Kelang last evening is also in the country of Malaysia. Penang is a very short sail from Port Kelang. I think it may even be shorter the the first hope from Singapore.

The time difference here is the same as Singapore which is 12 hours ahead of home. At this point I do not have specific arrival and departure times for these locations.

The shore excursion that I have selected for here is called "Penang Grand Tour". It is scheduled to take 7.5 hours and the departure time is shown as 8:45 am in the information I am working from at this point . Here is the description from Cunard's information:

The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ offers unspoiled stretches of golden beaches, paddy fields and is steeped in history and tradition.

Visit the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, a stately Chinese dwelling with 18th and 19th century Chinese architecture. In the year 2000, it won the ‘Most Excellent Project’ for the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Continue onto the colourful Thai Buddhist Temple, which houses the fourth largest Reclining Buddha in the world, measuring 108 feet, before stopping at the ornate Burmese Buddhist Temple.

An international buffet luncheon will be served, before heading towards the northern tip of the island to the Butterfly Farm. Set in beautiful landscaped gardens, this walk-in aviary features over 100 species of live butterflies, as well as Water Dragons and giant scorpions.

Continue past tropical countryside and paddy fields that make up the beautiful scenery of the island. Pause awhile at the local fruit and spice stall for a first-hand look at the many local fruits and spices grown on this island.

Round off your tour at the Baba Nyonya Mansion, also known as the Chung Keng Kooi Mansion, previously a private home belonging to a Chinese Capitan, who was the head of the Hai San secret society.

As always there are same additional notes and here are those;

Note: There is approximately 1½ hours of walking during this tour including some uneven and narrow steps at the Butterfly Farm. Comfortable, non-slip shoes are recommended. Ground at the Temple may be slippery in places. Conservative dress is required for visiting the Temple.

So, this is the plan for this day.

What actually happened!!!

Today's itinerary occurred much as described above with the exception that the last stop listed was the first stop with the rest of the tour proceeding as described. Here is the short description as sent to the selected people who received Cruise Update #1 followed below by the details.

(Note: the description of the Hindu Temple that I call the Sri Maha Mariamman temple is incorrect as you will see further below. It was a Hindu Temple but not this one. I have decided to leave this the way I originally wrote it.)

Today`s stop was Penang, Malaysia. Arrival there was at the appointed hour of 8:00. The weather kept up the Malaysian reputation of hot and humid with roughly the same amounts as yesterday. The tour I was on was called the Penang Grand Tour. This one consisted of several heritage house`s in the town of Georgetown. Penang is the name of an island with the city of Georgetown as the main population centre. One was called the Pinang Peranakan Mansion and the other The Cheong Fatt Tze  Mansion which is a UNESCO World heritage site. The next stop was a very ornate Hindu Temple with a huge reclining female who apparently is Sri Maha Mariamman the mother of all Hindu gods. Right across the road is a Buddhist temple which is almost as ornate. Lunch was at another 5 star hotel. After lunch was a stop at a butterfly conservatory, a shop that sells local spices, and an example of an old style local peasant home. This one was a bit late getting back to the ship but was not the last one.

Here are the details with many pictures!

Pinang Clock Tower

This is the Penang Clock Tower taken on the way to the first stop of the tour.

The first stop which was a short drive from the ship is called the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. The best way to describe this location is to borrow a couple of paragraphs from the web site ( that describes the basic history of this mansion.

"The Peranakans, also known as the Babas and Nyonyas, was a prominent community of acculturated Chinese unique to this part of the world, especially in the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) hence its other name, the Straits Chinese. Adopting selected ways of the local Malays and later, the colonial British, the Peranakans had created a unique lifestyle and customs which had not only left behind a rich legacy of antiques but its cultural influences like cuisine and language are still evident in Penang today."

"At the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the typical home of a rich Baba of a century ago is recreated to offer a glimpse of their opulent lifestyle and of their many customs and traditions. With over 1,000 pieces of antiques and collectibles of the era on display, this Baba-Nyonya museum is also housed in one of Penang’s heritage mansion of eclectic design and architecture. Built at the end of the 19th century by one of local history’s famous personalities, the ‘Hai Kee Chan’ or Sea Remembrance Store had once served as the residence and office of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. Though not a Baba himself, his Chinese courtyard house was much like a typical large Baba home of eclectic style, incorporating Chinese carved-wood panels and English floor tiles and Scottish ironworks. Having survived the many decades of neglect and decay, the mansion has now been restored to its former glory of a stately home."

If you want more details about this then click on the link above which will take you to the web site and more details. The web site says that photography and videography are not allowed but we were permitted to take pictures here, unlike the next stop where none were permitted. Here is a selection of pictures, many of which I cannot provide much detail about, but they will give you a bit of a feel for what the mansion was like.

The group from the bus I was on waiting for the mansion to open.
It was opened early especially for the tours from the ship.
The area around the mansion. The mansion is on the left.
They do like interesting colours in this area of Malaysia.
This is the main entrance to the mansion.
An religious alter inside the entrance.
These two pictures show a couple of scenes located around the courtyard that is shown in the left picture below.
There were a number of these showing various scenes from the past.
The centre courtyard of the mansion.
The scenes above were on either side under the roofs.
This is the roof area on either side of the left picture. You can see some of the scenes shown above mounted high on the wall just under the roof on the right.
PPM 8 PPM 12
This is a door located behind where I took the picture directly above from. It looks out on the road where the first pictures in the section above were taken.

This is a formal dining room in the mansion.

PPM 10 PPM 11
This is a dining area that is rented out for weddings and other occasions. This is a close up of the wall that you can see on the right of the previous picture. I believe it is some type of inlay possibly marble.
PPM 13 PPM 14
On the second floor of the mansion was this ornamental glass collection. Here is a china collection that was either in the same room as the glass or very near by in another room.
PPM 15 PPM 16
More of the elaborately decorated fur nature. A view from the upstairs looking down in the main entrance area.
PPM 18 PPM 17
More of the "elaborately decorated fur nature". A view of the outside as we were waiting to depart.

I think it was something like an hour and change here and then we went to another mansion called the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. This 38 room mansion has 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and some 220 windows was built by Cheong Fatt Tze in the late 1800's. Apparently Cheong Fatt Tze was a very powerful and apparently rather colourful individual and has quite a history which is much too complicated to expand upon here. One quote calls him "One of China's last Mandarins and 1st Capitalists". This mansion is the biggest and most elaborate of his homes and "is reputed to be only one of two such buildings of this size, outside of China".

As noted above no pictures were allowed inside this mansion which was strictly enforced so the best I can do is show you an outside view. This will give you some idea as to why it has the nickname "La maison Bleu".

CFT Mansion

The next stop, again just another short drive from the previous one, is called the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram or the reclining Buddha Temple which has the third largest reclining Buddha in the world. Apparently it is also known as Wat Buppharam. This is a Hindu temple that was built in 1845. Here are some pictures of the rather ornately decorated temple. Here is a description from the web site describing the statue....

Draped in a gold-leafed saffron robe, the sprawling statue was erected as a monument to signify Buddha’s final resting position at his death and symbolizes his detachment from worldly matters.

(Note: any reference that I made in the past, especially in Cruise Update 1, to this being the Sri Mariamman Temple appears to have been wrong. Sorry for the confusion.)

The outside of the main temple. A small outer temple currently being refurbished.
The gold leafed reclining Buddha.
I noted from the tour description (above) that it is 108 feet long.
These temples act much like what we would call a mausoleum.
The large statue is on the left and this is behind it.
One of attendant statues.
I believe this is the one on the right side of the right picture above.
This room, only a portion of which you can see here, contains many more of the remains of followers who have passed away.
The head of of Buddha. The left half of the reclining Buddha
along with numerous candles in the foreground.


You might call this the temple's steeple but I doubt that this is the proper name for it.

Across the street from the Reclining Buddha Temple is the Dharmikarama Buddhist Temple which was built in 1803. Here is a description of it taken from

Dharmikarama Burmese Temple is the only Burmese Buddhist temple outside Myanmar. Located in Georgetown Penang, it stands opposite Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple, with a pair of large stone elephants flanking the front gates. Inside the pagoda grounds is a Boddhi tree, a wishing pond and apartments for monks.

Devotees have contributed many statues of Buddha, so his serene-faced image can be found at almost every corner in different meditation poses. The walkways have a series of panels with beautiful murals depicting scenes of the journey of Prince Siddharta (dressed in typical Burmese fashion) achieving Nirvana and becoming Buddha.

Here are some pictures of it.

This is the entrance. You can just see the two elephants mentioned in the description above above the umbrellas on either side of the gate. The inside of the pagoda.
This may be the boddhi tree but I am not sure. More of the inside. All the little statues you can see lining the walls in these pictures are similiar to the previous temple remembering those who have passed away.
The main Buddha statue. Many other statues.
Many, many more of the small statues. The entrance from closer with the elephants on either side above the umbrellas which were mainly there to keep the sun off.

After this the tour took a drive out of the town of Georgetown and to a hotel for the included buffet lunch. Here are a few pictures of things I saw along the way.

Shore 1 Shore 2
A beach, something that Penang is not known for. Another shoreline view.
Village 1
A view of a village that the bus passed through on the way to lunch.

After a reasonably half decent (at least for me anyway) lunch the tour continued on to a butterfly conservatory. Apparently it is one of (if not the biggest one) in the world. Here are some butterfly pictures.

Butterfly 1 Butterfly 2
Can you see the butterfly?
It is black and just below and slightly left of centre.
These are pieces of pineapple that are placed to attract the butterflies.
There are 6 butterflies in this picture.
Butterfly 3 Butterfly 4a
One butterfly right in the middle. I do not know what type of flower this is
but these three butterflies seemed to like it.
Buefly 5 Butterfly 6
No butterflies in this picture just a nice indoor waterfall. Again, I have no idea what type of flower,
but this butterfly seemed to like it.
Butterfly 7 Butterfly 8
There are three brown butterflies on these red flowers.
They are a bit hard to see just to the left of centre.
A neat picture of a butterfly, at least in my opinion anyway!

There was some other of the local wildlife on display at the conservatory as well. Here are some of those.

Spider 1 Scorpion 1
A tarantula, I think, safely sealed in an enclosure . A scorpion also safely sealed in an enclosure.
Stag Beetle 1 Horseshoe Crab 1
A Stag Beetle. Some horseshoe crabs.
Locust ? 1 Beetle 2
Not sure about this guy but I think it is a locust of some kind. Another type of nasty looking beetle.
Beetles 3 Giant Scorpion 1
Lots of beetles here! A collection of Giant Scorpions safely sealed in an enclosure.
Stingray 1
A couple of Osculated River Stingrays that are native to Malaysia apparently.

The next stop was at a local spice shop where there were some demonstrations of how spices and other things are grown here. Here are several pictures.

Rubber Tree 1 Flower 2
How to get latex (rubber) from a rubber tree. An interesting flower.
Flower 1 View from Spice Shop
Another interesting flower. The view of the Strait of Malacca from the spice shop.

Bus 1

The bus parked on the road near the spice shop.

The final stop before returning to the ship was at an example of a typical home of this area a number of years ago.

Bus 2 House 1
Three of the busses on this tour
ended up at this last stop at the same time.
A typical older style Malaysian house, exact age unknown.

With this being the last stop we then took what I seem to remember was about an hour to get back to the ship. Here are some pictures taken during the return to the ship.

Back to ship 1 Back to Ship 2
Rice paddies. Some of the more dilapidated housing outside the city.
Back to Ship 3 Back to Ship 4
Much better housing nearer the city. High end housing in the city. If I remember right this was one of the most expensive condo style buildings in Georgetown.
Back to Ship 5 Back to Ship 6
The bridge that connects the island of Penang to the Malaysian mainland. Satellite dishes everywhere.

Once back on the ship, here is a panoramic shot of the harbour area of Georgetown and mountains further inland taken from one of the upper decks of the ship.

Penang Panorama

The final picture below shows Penang Island, on the right, with the 8 mile long bridge that connects it to the mainland. This is the same bridge that is shown in the picture above but from the port side.

From ship during departure

This completes the day in Penang with the ship sailing at around 5:00 heading for the next stop tomorrow. This next stop will turn out to be a different one than is shown on the schedule and for a rather interesting and somewhat unusual reason. Here, from Cruise Update 1, written several days after this, is how I described what happened.....

At about 5:15pm the Captain came on the PA system and explained that there was a problem with tomorrow`s stop in in Phuket, Thailand. Apparently a decision had been made by the immigration authorities to do a face to face inspection of all passengers and crew of the ship. That is just over 3000 people. Apparently there were only a few inspectors to do this. Cunard`s people figured it would take something over 5 hours to do this which would leave no time for anything else. They spent most of this day trying to find a way around this including getting the British Embassy involved all to no avail. The decision was then made to not go to Phuket and go somewhere else. It is interesting that Phuket is such a major tourist destination one wonders what the Thai officials were thinking. The other interesting thing was that the ship had made two previous stops in Thailand without any problems prior to my embarkation. The alternate choice was Langkawi, Malaysia which apparently is quite a tourist destination in itself even though I had never heard of it before. They even managed to arrange three shore excursions for those that wanted them. The ones in Phuket were refunded. I choose one called Langkawi Highlights.

There actually is some additional story to this that I heard much later in the cruise but was not meant for public consumption that somewhat better explains why this happened. First a brief explanation......

This cruise I was on consisted of the last two segments of a World Cruise that had started some 80 days or so before this at Southampton, England. Some of the people who have been on the ship for all this time get to know the crew of the ship rather well. At lunch on a shore excursion in Rome, Italy, approximately three weeks later, I encountered some of these people who were providing all sorts of interesting tidbits that they had heard from some of these members of the crew that served them and had gotten to know quite well.

So, most of the story above is accurate except that, apparently those immigration officers in Phuket actually wanted free drinks and wanted to take all this time to do the inspections on the ship so they could have more and more free drinks. The Captain and Cunard would have nothing of this, of course, and that was the real reason the next stop was changed.

So, on to Langkawi, Malaysia instead of Phuket, Thailand.

Created: Feb. 23, 2012
The"What actually happened" update was started: June 9, 2012
The "What actually happened" update was completed: June 12, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 2:21 PM