On one of our days in Penang, the heavens opened, and, rather unusually according to the locals, it rained all day long. We were up at breakfast so we had some time ahead of us. What to do!? Mr had some work to tidy up, so he found a comfy spot in our guest house, got tea and plugged in. Being a definite fair-weather traveller, he was not leaving the building. Now I just had to find something to occupy myself with…..
This was rainy season in Penang, so this was proper rain- big drops falling heavily from a marbled grey sky. Unlike the UK rain where we used to live which was lighter, colder and due to the wind, mostly sideways. So I donned my shorts (I’m thinking legs are easier to dry) my faithful flip flops, grabbed my camera and was ready to set off! I hadn’t really photographed many of the interesting old buildings we’d seen around town, so I borrowed an umbrella from the guesthouse and braved the rain. Why would I do that I hear you ask?!
Georgetown, along with Melaka which is the other side of the Melaka Straits, are a UNESCO world heritage site. The reason for this status is due to location and history; the Straits are a major shipping route from east to west since forever, and as a result numerous cultures had settled on both sides of the straits. The architecture of the towns are mostly preserved, having escaped various wars bombings. So as well as the unique local style grown out of all the different people living together, you can still see original English colonial estates, Chinese Temples, Dutch houses, Indian Temples and Malay wooden houses on stilts.
It may have been the area we were staying in, but I was captivated by Georgetown’s crumbling shop-houses. Not many have been fully renovated yet, so you see layers of peeling paint and bricks peeping through plasterwork, giving you a wonderful sense of how the building may have looked years ago. Shop houses are apparently Chinese influence, and although they may seem narrow from the street they can be five times as long, often required to house the whole family! I love the double front doors with symmetrical windows either side, the faded painted shutters and bow shaped air vents above the windows. If you want to read about the history and / or features of Penang shophouses take a look at Penang Shop house blog.
They are all so individual I could spend hours just wondering around looking at them. And this is what I did, so much so that my camera battery ran out, and it was only 1pm! I was fairy soggy so headed back to Armenian House where we were staying whilst dodging a truck-induced tidal wave, I sheltered in the archway of a shop, and turned to see two elderly ladies enjoying a spot of tea and cake. I had to go in. And once in, there was no way I could leave now……..The sight which greeted my eyes was a table, 25ft long, beautifully presented with china plates and crystal cake-stands, overflowing with cakes of all description! I had stumbled upon China House, and was standing in front of Beach Street Bakery’s cake table. China House is a renovated cluster of buildings split into 14 complementary spaces including Kopi C coffee house, BTB fine dining, The Courtyard and burger bar, private dining roomsa, workshops, art spaces and The Canteen (read the Canteen review here).
The Bakery produces 30 cakes a day on site, and the best thing – they had Gluten Free cakes – yes that right, multiple cake choices for those-who-flour-does-not-love!!!! I ordered the chocolate meringue cake and a pot of tea. I probably should have eaten it slower. The meringue cake was moist sponge topped with soft chocolate meringue with a crisp shell – I’m not normally one for chocolate cake but this was an excellent choice! I felt sad Mr hadn’t enjoyed the treat (even though he maintains he doesn’t like that sort of thing) and got a little Afghan cookie to take away, everyone loves a cookie!
We actually came back to the café together another day, and this time I was less overwhelmed and able to take in my surroundings. The coffee shop also offers an extensive and delicious looking menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another highlight is that the table cloths are paper and they provide oil pastels, no less (I guess it is an art space) for you to draw with. Being the children that we are this kept us busy for some time. Eventually we ordered and I had chocolate orange almond cake and tea. Mr, rather surprisingly, went for a Tolberone milkshake! Homemade chocolate ice cream, honey, Kahlua and Baileys together for a boozy taste sensation! It arrived in a tall glass looking like the kind of mud you would lose your wellie in, and it took a lot of effort to get it up the extra-wide straw!! Mr reports that, like many things in life, the extra effort required was most definitely worth it.Show on map