After an hour train ride and a 20 minute ferry ride to the island of Penang, we stumbled onto the hot streets of it's main town called Georgetown. An UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, this city had a lot of British colonial architecture connected (disconnected?) with a lot of missing or interrupted sidewalks. Georgetown was definitely infused with the liveliness of young backpackers and the bars and party hostels that keep them coming, but the bones were basically the same as Ipoh: great food and fun street art. There was one major difference: It wasn’t sad.
On day one, I prepped in the hostel cross-referencing internet 10-best-lists with my tourist map so that we could hit all the “best” sites and food. When we headed out on the street, I pulled out my map ready to lead the charge, and Nate immediately swatted it out of my hands. It was time to try his style of exploration. He called it “The Cascade Effect,” and I think it best to explain it through the following example.
- After putting my map away, we wandered through the streets using our senses as our compass instead of red stars on a map. We followed our nose toward Toucan Sam-style toward street carts and scanned for happy-looking locals to make decisions about food instead of a foodie’s blog suggestions. Lingering past one such alley café, a Malay man enjoying his meal took note of our hesitation and yelled out to Nate. He boasted that this café sold the best coffee in Georgetown, and further, that he’d buy us the coffee if we didn’t like it. Then he added, laughing, that we’d have to buy him a coffee if we did like it. Not sure whether or not to take this bet seriously, we decided to try the coffee out but at a table a safe distance from our new friend so as to not have to make good on the bet. Well - you can guess the outcome - he was right. The coffee was good, and we enjoyed it with toast and homemade peanut butter all served to us by a smiley server who resembled a Nepali Emilio Estevez. We ate contentedly while rats scurried down the gutters inches from our feet. A local man at the table next to us told us deadpan how lucky we were to see these creatures which couldn’t be seen at any old zoo. Annoyingly, this mixture of good food and drink while communing real time with actual people instead of virtually high-5ing internet bloggers on our shared food domination made Nate right and his method of city exploration superior. One awesome interaction beget another awesome interaction. Cascading. Voila! And to top it off, now I can blog boast about the best coffee at a shop in an alley in the middle of Georgetown with rats that can’t be seen in any zoo.