Landing in George Town, Penang, waiting for my rucksack (my whole life for a year) was a touch hair-raising but for some reason I wasn’t worried. I sat on my empty airport trolley and waited, sure enough it found me after choosing to catch a slightly later flight. I think Penang’s optimism had already infiltrated me.
I’d only managed to turn up right in the middle of George Town’s Literary Festival. I realised this in the nick of time, exactly one hour before published travel writer, Eric Hansen, was due to talk. Arriving a little out of breath and very sweaty at the China House, I nabbed a seat right at the front – geek! I was instantly welcomed into a crowd of locals who were there for the talk too. Eric’s had so many travel adventures, throughout the whole world, a really inspiring man, it wasn’t a chore to soak up every word. I also learnt a lot about the world of orchid smuggling, who knew such a world even existed?!
I spent the day listening to poetry, exploring the street art, meeting authors and learning all about the Malaysian art scene. For me this was heaven! Like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a post drinking session appetite (without the headache, cold sweats and ‘the fear’).
Another author worth a mention is Marc de Faoite, he read a few of his newly published short stories from ‘Tropical Madness’ with such passion and jumping between accents that everyone was spellbound. I will be buying this book when the Kindle addition arrives, or it’ll have to wait till I get home. He focuses on being an outsider looking in, easy to do as an Irishman living in Malaysia. Exploring topics like black magic, racism and inverted racism (i.e. the minority groups being put on a pedestal), individual consumer cyber-activism and one story is written in Facebook status format. You had me at black magic!
I walked back excited and culturally nourished and extended my stay in Penang for an extra 4 days. So what have I done with my time, well I’ve tucked into the world-renowned but cheap as chips street food, sipped cappuccinos in cafes chatting to various artists, writers and musicians who all seem to have gathered here (probably due to the festival), and roamed the streets checking out all the mostly animal related street art that George Town has to offer. Some could say not much but for the creative side of my brain it’s been a marathon session.