Penang: Over and Out

My last blog – before the Pictorial Interlude – ended with Lady Devotea and I in Little India, Georgetown, Penang, hailing a cab to go back to our accommodation.

Over dinner, we’d discussed the idea that we would do something in morning and then head back to take it easy for a few hours before being picked up by our airport shuttle mid-afternoon. My suggestion was a tropical spice farm not far from the resort.

Once in the back of the cab, we continued this discussion, and all a sudden, the driver joined in, asking what we had seen and, as is the way of cab drivers in Asia, suggesting excellent itineraries that he could offer.

Over the 40 minute ride, we spent a lot of time talking about his background: Anglo-Indian/Portuguese. His grandfather was an English guy who arrived in the early 1900s and created five rubber plantations and had some incredible number of children that escapes me now. After all, there was no TV and there are limits to the amusement possibilities in a rubber plantation or five, I guess.

At some point our driver, Jude, suggested that of all the things we should fit into our schedule, Suffolk House, the old residence for the island’s governors, should take priority. And while he was an interesting guy who seemed to know what he was talking about, we politely took his card at the resort and promised to call in the morning if we were suddenly seized with a desire to visit Suffolk House. or anywhere else.

And back in the room, I idly googled Suffolk House. And discovered that we absolutely had to go!

Back in Australia, two weeks before we left home, the ABC had started showing a series we had fallen in love with: Indian Summers. And unbekowst to us, it was filmed not in Simla, India where it was set, but in Penang.

In fact, Lady Devotea had pointed out a bungalow up on Penang Hill a few days earlier, and said “that looks exactly like one of the houses in Indian Summers”. Turns out she was 100% correct!

So in the morning, we rang Jude. We visited Suffolk House, a Hindu Temple, the Botanic Gardens and a batik factory over the next four hours. He proved to be an excellent guide.

Leaving aside the batik factory, which was OK and we bought some stuff, and the Hindu temple, which was great but we were close to melting in the direct sun, the other two were quite excellent adventures. Suffolk House is a great place to have a proper cup of tea and some scones. The Botanic Garden is a great place to look at plants and hand-feed monkeys.

Best of all, though, is that every time we catch an episode of this show we love, we spot little corners where we sat, roads we strolled and trees we looked in wonder at, and it transports us back – a cup of tea in front of the TV in cold, wintry Adelaide becomes a cup of tea on a balcony overlooking a lush tropical garden.

Penang. My verdict: well worth a visit, if you can parley that visit into memories you can share with the person, or people, you love.


Here’s a few photos I pinched from Lady D’s camera.

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A traditional ox drawn wagon in the grounds of Suffolk house.
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Suffolk House. Yes, it’s a displaced Georgian Mansion with some Indian style additions.
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The hall at Suffolk House, if you watch Indian Summers, imagine it full of desks and clerks.
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Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"
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3 thoughts on “Penang: Over and Out

  1. What an awesome experience. One of my favorite series. A must watch for tea enthusiasts.. Thanks for sharing Robert

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