You should always check the fine print in the e-mail of an airline: I had not paid attention to it above the confirmation of the flight, passengers’ names, date… which all seemed unchanged in a cursory reading. Only later did I notice that the schedule of Flight FY2027 was changed to 11:20, i.e. 25 minutes earlier.
Ms. Webanonymous, whose address was firstname.lastname@example.org, did not seem willing to enter a dialogue, but was it necessary ? As long as we had seen it before the day of the flight, this change had no significant impact on our plans for that day.
Firefly seemed to have doubts on the harmony in the Marathon couple one week before the flight, because they proposed that we fly at different rows. The illustrator did not know us well, because I am the one who types Flight Reports in flight while Mrs. Marathon reads newspapers, with much more respect for her neighbors than FY suggests.
Penang Island is connected to the continent by two bridges, one of which we spotted from the taxi on the way to PEN.
Georgetown is a historic city in a state which is much larger than the island of Penang. It suffers from the curse of its tourist fame : the inclusion of Georgetown in the prestigious Unesco World Heritage List in 2008 made the number of tourist rise from 2 million to 6.5 million per year. Real estate prices are sky rocketing, expelling the residents to housing complexes some 20 kilometers from the city center.
One of the persons we met was hoping the real estate bubble would burst, but meanwhile, they have to do with that vague reminder of the Petronas Towers.
The flats are probably cheaper than the offices in the Petronas Towers, but the local salaries are not that high either, as reminded by this ad seen near the airport (divide by 4.5 to convert into EUR, at time of posting this report).
Hassle-free arrival in PEN, with the control tower here
And the sun shades protecting the arriving passengers, which must be welcome at the time of the daily afternoon downpour of rain in the monsoon season.
No, this is not Pakistan International Airline, but Penang International Airport
And the entrance doors of the terminal
Durian (and milk) flavored coffee seems to be a Malaysian specialty. Before claiming that you don’t like it, you should try it.
Since I wanted to know about it, and with full understanding of my duties of Flight Reporter, I invested 4.80 ringgit for a cup of this exotic drink.
After tasting, you can’t be indifferent. The taste of coffee is completely masked, but the caffeine is indeed there. The taste lingers for a long time in your mouth after the last drop, which means that if you don’t like eating durian, you will be uncomfortable for an hour or so. But if you like this fruit (I do), you should not miss this.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Marathon (not in this picture) was looking at these items. The price tags in this jewelry meant that they could be no more than imitation stones mounted on silver.
Self-checking machines ?
The first steps were easy
I was then stuck for quite a while at the next riddle in the game. All information data are correct, clicking on one of them only pops useless modification menus, and how do I get any further ?
The trick was to slide town the touchscreen to have the bottom of this window appear. It was bordering on unfairness towards passengers of the generation of the mechanical mouse.
I eventually found the clue and bingo, received a double BP printed on thermal paper.
This was the line at the luggage drop when we got there
We had an ample margin with a 20 kg checked luggage allowance each, i.e. 40 kg for the two of us.
The staff took time to have me confirm that I had none of these dangerous items in my luggage.
This was the waiting line after leaving the luggage drop counter.
I was puzzled by this poster just in before the security check. European Union citizens can stay 90 days without a visa in Malaysia (more precisely, in Western Malaysia and in Sabah), but can’t take a more than a 30 day supply of medication or cosmetics ? They should revise this 30 year old regulation.
The security check was not overloaded, and yet did not bother to object to our volume of sun screen which could be argued to be more than a month’s supply, since we had not used any.
There are duty free shops before the "real" airside area
The first impression was that there was ample airy and well-lit space, and that it was very plane spotter-friendly
One of the shops
With items that I should not need to present in detail
There was not a huge traffic, but there was nevertheless enough for a decent plane spotting exercise. Let’s start with a Firefly ATR72
The same after pushback, shot by my wife. An MH 737 was refueling in the foreground.
Another ATR72, belonging to Malindo, the Malaysian subsidiary of Indonesia’s low cost Lion Air
Arrival of an Air Asia A320
She approaches the jetbridge
But no further : like some European LCC, Air Asia saves on jetbridge usage fees.
The turn-around time was short : this picture was taken 22 minutes after the previous one
Another Air Asia A320, in a livery extolling their frequent flyer program
Three aircraft in the freight area in the distance
Gate B4 lead to the lower level, which was no surprise for a flight operated with an ATR72
But there was no aircraft parked in front of Gates B2 and B4, and it was already 11:08. Flight FY2027 had been rescheduled 30 minutes earlier… but was late !
And there was evidently not much action yet at the gate.
Meanwhile, this is a review of the local pictograms, with a computer area (I’ll go back to it later), prayer rooms for men and women, respectively, and toilets for handicapped passengers, women and men, respectively.
No problem with the toilets which are clean
The internet corner was simply a place with power ports and half a dozen seats which were too low to be used in front of the tables.
The message was clear : OK to recharge your favorite toy, but you’ll probably have to be standing while you do it.
There was no internet access computer, but a free wifi coverage, which meant that this corner was no more dedicated to the internet access than the rest of the terminal, if your battery charge was good enough.
This was the corporate screen at the time
This part of the terminal was probably dedicated to passengers having a plane phobia: all the seats were turned away from the tarmac view. The middle row was turned towards the windows in the rest of the terminal.
The end of the terminal had become totally empty when the flight at that gate had departed
Activity starts picking up somewhat at Gate B4
Boarding was announced at last. A reasonably orderly line appeared. The color of Firefly’s uniform skirts was corporate orange.
Going down this long ramp (this was not Mrs. Marathon ahead)
And reaching this room at tarmac level
It was in front of a still empty tarmac. Note the umbrellas which were certainly welcome during the end of afternoon daily downpour.
It was 11:21, and the plane operating Flight FY2017 scheduled at 11:45 and rescheduled at 11:20 reached it parking spot.
The passengers deplane
And the luggage in the front hold are unloaded
Our turn to board (by zone, after the passengers with children which appear here).
The aircraft was six years old and was in mint condition
The rear seats, which in an ATR (except the newest ones) are those closest to the exit, are identified as "Preferred Seats".
So is the first row, due to the extra space to the bulkhead
The seat pitch for the ordinary passenger
For readers who want a precise measure. Note that the shoes are in harmony with the colors of my measuring tape and of Firefly :)
Another view of the seat pitch, without a yellow measuring tape, but with yellow shoes. The seat support was a nuisance for fitting a hand luggage underneath.
The width is the same as in any ATR. It would be cramped on a LH flight, but only Air Tahiti flies three hours and more in that type of aircraft, to my knowledge.
The reclining capability of the seats is symbolic
This ad for a medicine against the common cold, glued to the rear of the tray table, was a local peculiarity
There was a prospectus for it in the magazine pocket too
There is a safety information card, of course
There was advertising for the BOB which was not available on this flight, and for the "empty seat option”
Publicity for miscellaneous branded items
And for dream islands on the overhead luggage bins, which give the impression of mood lighting (but it is white light, actually).
Another view overhead
The left engine is started
And the FAs perform the safety demonstration the old way, since there is no IFE.
Talking about safety, the safety belt buckle bears the logo of Firefly.
You could not miss the FAs, with such a bright orange uniform
Arrival of a Silk Air aircraft.
This is one of the best moments in the flight, when the turboprop vibrates at full power for take-off. If you are not a turboprop fan, you can’t understand this feeling.
It was 11 :39, i.e. nearly the original ETD. The problem with the ATRs is that the windows are often badly scratched, and this one was no exception.
Dwellings : the low houses are increasingly replaced by high rises.
Georgetown in the background
One of the bridges linking the island with the continent, already seen on the way to the airport
The turboprop seemed to float in the air next to the plane
The estuary of a small coastal river
Surprise ! there was some catering as part of the deal
It was brought and received with a smile
You would not call this lunch, but Firefly provides both salty and sweet food.
The FA comes back with cups of soy milk and orange juice (very corporate colors again).
This was the whole offering (I had started eating the nuts).
The turboprop, on a not so blue sky backdrop because the cruising altitude was not that high
Have you ever seen in an in-flight magazine an article promoting the job of engineers?
On the other hand, this was a sponsored article for medical facilities which insist a lot on the fact that since Malaysia is a Muslim country, they know how to take into account the need of Muslim patients, mentioning the case of an unidentified porcine product. Cardiac valves, maybe ? “Medical tourism” is in on the rise in the world: I have seen in ICN glossy paper leaflets on that.
The damage on the environment by the monoculture of palm trees
And then the monoculture of individual houses
Sangai Buloh prison, on the alignment of SZB’s runways da
This is the firemen’s training plane model in the center of the picture
They did not waste time on details in this model
The hangars alongside the runway contained some antiques
Two Transmile 727s
The one under the hanger seemed in good condition
The reactors of the other 727 had been removed.
More exotic : on the right, her number helped me identify the only aircraft of Layang Layang Aerospace, a Short SC 7 Skyvan.
Two Malindo ATR72s
The original schedule was 11:45 - 12:45, rescheduled to 11:20 – 12:20, and the actual timing was 11:39 – 12:35, i.e. it was slightly ahead of the original schedule, and a quarter of an hour later with regards of its revised schedule. No big deal .
A last look at the ATR72 which did her job
Riddle : where this other Firefly ATR72 will fly to ?
The luggage delivery room was simple : two short luggage deliveries against the wall with the tarmac behind. They were for international and domestic flights, respectively.
And it was up to the passengers to walk past the customs or not
Arrival landside and purchase of a taxi voucher for a ride to the city.
The flat 70 RM rate was somewhat expensive, compared to the 45 RM paid to reach PEN, but it saved us this line for the standard taxis.
This is the end of this flight report, and the beginning of a tourist bonus.
The reason Georgetown has an influx of tourists is that this is a historic city in the Straits of Malacca, which deserves at least pending two days like we did, and we did not explore the rest of the island.
Like Malacca even before, and Singapore today, Georgetown was a trading place on the sea routes between the Far East, India and Europe beyond that. Georgetown’s historic center has kept from that period an Indian neighborhood.
… with shops selling Indian style clothes.
This Indian community was in part Hindu, hence the presence of Sri Maha Mariammam, with a detail of the front gate here
The other part of the Indian community was Muslim, hence the Kapitan Keling Mosque (the Kapitan were the respective heads of the Indian, Chinese, etc. communities), whose present building was built in 1916.
The Chinese traders formed guilds according to their original provinces, and built as many temples to their ancestors and meeting houses. Some were modest, like for instance the one dedicated to Loo Pun, saint patron of the carpenters, stuck in a residential area.
The decoration of the roof was nevertheless somewhat unusual to the trained eye
Others were exuberantly decorated, like the temple of the Khoo Kongsi clan, which originated from a village near Xiamen, in Fujian Province.
It took us several hours to go through all the details of the sculptures
Penang, Malacca, Singapore : these are cities which made the fortune of the Peranakan who are the descendants of the Chinese merchants who settled there and married Malaysian women. The museums of these three cities which are dedicated to the art and the culture of there “Straits Chinese” are fascinating, and the one in Penang is not the least of the three.
Installed in a superb mansion, it is worth visiting for both the items which are displayed and the sheer decoration and architecture of the building.
This museum rivals with the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, also called the “Blue Mansion”, for obvious reasons.
It was built by Cheong Fatt Tze (1840-1916). This astute businessman, the Chinese consul in Singapore and special adviser to Dowager Empress Cixi (Tzu-hsi) has been called the Orient’s Rockefeller.
Alas, none of the many sons that he had with his eight wives (his favorite one was only 17 when he married her at 70) inherited his talents. He probably had no illusions about them, because a codicil to his testament bequeaths only 500 pounds to one of them who a led a particularly dissolute life.
This superb mansion was neglected, looted, squatted and was a sad devasted shell when it was bought after the death of the last of Cheong Fatt Tze by three architects.
They sank enormous funds to restore the past splendor of this 38 room mansion, partly turned into a luxury boutique hotel. Movie buffs will recognize the backdrop of some scenes of the movie Indochine.
It was high time to protect Georgetown’s historic section, because hotels were starting to disfigure the outskirts, dwarfing the Blue Mansion from the dozens of floors in concrete.
We stayed in another historic building (Noordin Mews) which was less prestigious, but where the welcome deserved the unanimous acclaim found on travel websites.
The room was comfortable
There was no risk to be confronted to unpleasant smells
Let’s go back to the religious buildings in Penang. I could not avoid visiting this temple. You probably recognized the words at the entrance gate 天后宮 ("Temple of the Sky’s Empress"), write the traditional way from right to left, which always designate a temple dedicated Matsu, the traditional Taoist goddess protecting seafarers, which is especially revered in Taiwan.
Nothing in the inside of the temple would surprise whoever is used to the many temples devoted to Matsu in Taiwan.
The conical towers are made of thousands of cells, each lit with a tiny LED which is lit for one year after a donation. This is the Taiwanese answer to the problem of the candles whose soot stain the religious buildings of all faiths.
This small sign reminds Chinese visitors whose piety did not enter modernity (and that on the left informs those who lost the religious references),
on the left : Saint Heavenly Mother (Matsu) On the right, the text in Chinese also asks to not burn incense
This wooden crescent shaped objects, flat on one side and convex on the other are jiaobei 筊杯, i.e. divination blocks. After silently having identified himself and asked a question to the divinity, the faithful drops from his (her) joined hand two jiaobei and can see one of three cases : - One block is lying flat, and the other one is on its convex face : the answer of the divinity is positive - both block are lying flat : the divinity is angry, and this is interpreted as a negative answer - Both blocks are on their convex face : the divinity laughs. This means that the faithful should know the answer, or that the question is amusing.
There are continuous clicks of the fall of jiaobei on the ground in the Taiwanese temples with many visitors.
Matsu was here as usual between the two giant that she submitted to her service – the one on the left can hear one thousand leagues away and the one on the right see one thousands leagues away people in distress.
Quite frankly, this statue of Matsu was one of the least attractive I ever saw. But faith is beyond the beauty of its representation.
Matsu was there in these typically Chinese-Taiwanese low relief sculptures, saving sailors from drowning.
We did not experience storms on the oceans on our way back home ; was this a sign of the protection that Matsu extended to us in her temple ?
Penang - PEN
Subang - SZB
This was a short flight, but for 188 MYR (30 EUR) per passenger, including a 20 kg checked luggage allowance, catering and smiles, the quality-price ratio was excellent. The schedule change had no impact for us. Overall, it was an excellent flight.
PEN is served by a freeway which is unclogged off hours; the terminal has ample light and is very plane spotter-friendly.
The luggage delivery was fast in SZB; I guess there are cheaper (and slower) means to reach the city center.
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