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The island of Penang, Malaysia. Island number 11 (out of 100), country number 10 (out of 25), months number 5 (out of 100.)

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The password to access the WIFI in the E&O hotel is “heritage”.
I find that funny.

This old hotel founded in 1885 – more than 130 years ago! – has introduced a relatively modern technology – wifi internet access – but to get access to it you have to write the word “heritage” …

According to the dictionary “heritage” means: “valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.”

And yes, E&O gets many of its guests from tourists who want to experience the old, historic buildings of George Town, the main city of the island of Penang.

The “oldness” is what draws the tourists to the island.

And E&O is an iconic landmark in George Town. Situated just next to the water, and with loads of character reminding visitors of its long history, it is in many ways like stepping back in town to step into the halls of the “Eastern & Oriental Hotel”. In its heydays is was know as “the premier hotel east of Suez.”

In 2008, it was listed as one of Malaysian UNESCO World Heritage Site for its long history as a cosmopolitan city.

And here is where the paradox occurs.

Because the definition of “cosmopolitan” is “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures.”

So George Town was included into the list of World Heritage Sites (a list of historic buildings and cultural traditions) because of its history of being a city that is “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures.”

Sounds like a paradox to me.

A city open to new ideas from foreign lands is celebrated as a place that should be protected to be kept the same as it has been…

Personally I love the E&O hotel (even if it has lost some of its glamour from the past), and I love the historic sites of old George Town – but I also love the concept of innovation, creativity and new ideas.

To have progress – to make the world better – we need to constantly strive to improve and make things better.

At the same time we need to know when to slow down and protect what we have.

Logging in on the WIFI to write this column while sitting in a very old chair in a very old hotel has given me the dual sensation of inspiration from new technology and inspiration from history.

That is the dual sense of emotions that hit me while visiting the island of Penang today.

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of Penang was island number 11, country number 10 and months number 5.

 

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