11 May, 2007

Packed Full of Penang Memories

I'm back!!!

Penang was wonderful. It was an eye-opening journey, one filled with interesting mini trips, throwbacks into the 70's, the sound of the crashing waves during dawn, generous sunshine, friendly & helpful Penangites, and last but not least, gourmet street food devoured by the gluttony twosome.

I think I better blog before I get lazy again, like after the Turi retreat (' ',). After the early Mother's Day dinner at Merchant Court, we headed for JB Larkin terminal to board our coach to Butterworth.
Table of 7

Day One
We arrived in Butterworth at 8am on Sunday morning. Butterworth is the site of the Malayan Railway station for Penang, and is linked to the island by the Penang Ferry Service and by the 13.5 km Penang Bridge. The ferry's main purpose is to shutter the Penangites to and from Penang island for work and school. We took the ferry so to arrive direct in Georgetown, Penang's capital, instead of taking the coach down to Nibong. It costs a mere 1.20MYR each and has a departure frequency of 7 mins.

Upon alighting, there is a bus terminal. After some head-scratching looking at the mostly unmarked buses, we took the simplest way out; we asked around for the bus to Jalan Penang (we were absolutely starving, and had googled that the food there is great). A Malay Abang (malay for "brother"), who turned out to be a bus driver, promptly pointed us the bus to board.
Most bus trips around the island costs ard 1 to 2MYR. Just ask the bus-driver and his 'assistant' (who sits besides him in a plastic chair) for the fare to your destination. Giving the exact fare is preferred, but they do offer change in return if you don't. The driver will even inform you to alight when your destination point is reached.

We alighted opposite the Police HQ along Jalan Penang. There are many food lanes that you can explore along the stretch. Most of them open only either in the day, or at night. We stumbled upon this lane where many Penangites were doing their marketing and stopping for bites along the way. Going further in, we found a more sheltered coffeeshop that sells dumpling noodles

and a hawker with a diminishing skill of popiah skin making.

Dear bought some local produce of nutmeg oil and preserved nutmegs for his granny and mum. The elderly auntie, whose shop "New Hock Lai" is behind the bus-stop which we alighted, was such a darling. Her colourful hair and cheerfulness really brought smiles to our faces in the growing heat. She also adviced us where to find good food, and helped us to take note of the bus that would bring us to our hotel.

We reached Naza Hotel in Tanjung Tokong in less than half an hour. We booked the hotel online, taking a chance even though there were few, if not none, reviews about the hotel. From the exterior, the hotel did not look very promising. We were just very grateful to escape from the now glaring sun. However, we were pleasantly surprised by this cozy little hotel. Our deluxe room was very spacious, and it had a front view of the sea. The room was immaculately clean, quiet, and the caress of the cool cool air was simply marvellous.

comfy king bed
all the space u need

the sound of waves from our balcony
view of the pool along the beach

reception area

waiting area

Next we headed to Jenni's Homemade Cakes at Jalan Cantonment, off Jalan Burma, to get dear's chocolate fudge birthday cake. This shop is a favorite amongst locals due to its rich chocolate cakes and wide variety.


oOoo-la-la cakes

After exploring the array of shops and mini-malls along Jalan Burma, we chanced upon a yet another food street and settled an early dinner of lor-bah(similar to SG's ngor hiong), super spicy mee goreng and Penang-style hokkien mee(which is in soup form, not the fried ones like we have here).

We then boarded the cab of a chatty retired-policeman-turned-cabdriver-named-Thomas to return to the hotel in fear that the heat might melt the choc fudge lol. He peppered the short journey with tales of the dwindling malay villages in Penang, which are bought over and cleared to make room for the modern multi-millon-ringgit condominiums, especially those near the sea. Maybe in a few years' time when we return to Penang, Georgetown would have a totally new facade. It would be rather a pity, if that's the case, of only preserving and restoring the colonial buildings and history, while stripping away Penang's existing heritage.

After watching some shows on StarMovies in the room, we went to check out the hawker centre across from our hotel. We tried some super delicious supper snacks, washed down by a few drinks of beer. Sat back to gleefully watch Chelsea draw Arsenal, and thus lose the premiership title to Man Utd. A handful of locals had gathered there as well, and as far as I can tell, with all the hi-fives and the sniggers at every failed Chelsea goal-attempt, all of them were estatic about Man Utd's crowning.

poor Chelsea.. Not~!

Char Koay Teow (local spelling)

Chee Cheong Fun (best we've had)

It was after midnight when we went back upstairs to our room. Dear is one year older!! =))))))

Happy Birthday, Darling!!!

a perfect end to a beautiful day

Day Two
Woke up to a cool breezy morning. Stepping out onto the balcony, the tides were already in, and the sound of the waves was very soothing. Tried valiantly to wake Dear up for breakfast, afterwhich we planned for the day's activities.

the "DND me" sleepyhead

Went to Prangin Mall, and spent most of the day shopping there. Prangin Mall is, arguably, the biggest mall in Penang. Located on Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Fong, adjacent to Komtar(tallest building in the city), it houses some international/asian brands like MNG, Seoul Garden, Vincci, Cathay cineplex etc. Most of the shops are local boutiques, gifts, and accessories shops. Dear bought a top & some clay-modeling tools, while I bought some accessories.
Initially, we intended to make our way down to Sungei Nibong bus terminal(lower SE side of Penang) to purchase our return coach tickets. However, as we were exploring the shops, we chanced upon a row of agencies that sell the tickets in Prangin. We chose to return by Konsortium coach, and they even provided the transfer to Sungei Nibong for us to board the coach.

After saving the hassle of travelling to Nibong just to buy tixs, we had more time to roam around and snap pics =)))


Jalan Penang

super crispy sio bak at Bee Hooi Garden coffeeshop

some 'abandoned' buildings

Moorish-style Clock Tower, junction of Lebuh Light & Lebuh Pantai

Church Street Pier

a malay mosque

a gas pump, taken on an unscheduled pit stop during a bus trip =)

We decided to have Dear's birthday dinner at The Ship restaurant for the second time (1st was in KL last year). It is located on the north-western part of Penang, and within the Batu Ferringhi Night Market.
The bus journey up to Batu Ferringhi was a long one, partly due to us travelling there during knock-off hour. After we bypassed our hotel and headed uphill, the temperature started dropping as the tides brought in the seabreeze. There are many hotels along the stretch of Batu Ferringhi, catering to mostly caucasian tourists, as well as some locals staying in huts or tin-roof houses.

The Ship restaurant at Batu Ferringhi is located in an old refurbished ship. The decoration and ambience inside is familiar and similar to the other outlets under its establishment. The night market is filled with knick knacks, souvenirs, ornaments, clothes & accessories, and even some imitation designer bags.

The Ship

literally hundreds of night market stalls

Last Day
Check out day!

Our coach back to SG was at night. We intended to go on a walkatour of the heritage buildings in Penang, but were unwilling to lug our bags along until at night. Therefore after checking out of Naza at noon, we checked ourselves into a retro Oriental Hotel right smack in the middle of Georgetown, and 5 mins away from Prangin Mall where we will board our transfer to Nibong.

Oriental hotel is a budget hotel located at the junction of Jalan Penang and Lebuh Leith. But from its looks and the staff service, one can tell that the hotel had much better times back in its hayday a few decades ago. They had a porter who brought our bags to our room, and also helped us find a dish that I've been wanting to try since we arrived - curry noodles with pork blood! cubes! (eeew all u want, but pork blood has been banned in SG for the longest time already).

basic room amenities

dear figuring out the interlocking mass of Jalans and Lebuhs

70's hot water flask and tray

'imposing' looking room key

We followed his directions and arrived in Lebuh Muntri about 8 mins later by foot. The street-stall owner asked us to take a breather in the coffeeshop opposite her while she prepared our orders.

yet another retro coffeeshop

Lebuh Muntri curry mee stall

yummy curry mee!

The weather had become scorching hot, and as we explored the trails of historical and religious buildings, sweat was literally pouring down our faces.

Some of the interesting buildings
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion on Lebuh Leith

we were too late for the tour.. grrr...

Hainan temple "Thean Ho Keong" on Lebuh Muntri

Goddess of Mercy Temple on Jalan Masjid Kepitan Keling

Town Hall on Jalan Padang Kota Lama

19th century fountain next to Town Hall

Cathedral of Assumption on Lebuh Farquhar

a chinese clan/association of some sort

Dear bought some prayer bracelets made of crystal beads from a shop next to the Goddess of Mercy temple. After which the exhausted pair headed for some dinner & bites, before returning to Oriental hotel to shower and rest our feet.

a taste that has to be acquired, of salted fish toufu and salted meat

After checking out of Oriental, we headed to Konsortium to board the transfer van to Sungei Nibong bus terminal. During the 25 mins journey, I felt abit sad that our Penang adventure has come to an end. There are still many places that we have not explored. We plan to come back with Dear's mum sometime soon, as she could not make it for this trip on such short notice (we planned it only days b4 departure).

Penang was indeed an interesting getaway of a different sort. What struck me most was how friendly the Penangites are. Of the 15 or more people that we spoke to to ask for directions or suggestions, all of them were extremely helpful and warm.
The weather, on the other hand, was too scorchingly 'warm' for comfort. My advice is to disregard weather forecasts of any possible 'thunderstorms', which most probably would not occur (esp. during these months). Any rain of any kind would just be drizzles that disappear b4 u noticed them, and the glorious sunshine would be back within minutes.
Visit Penang with an open mind, light clothing, and comfortable walking shoes. Do not bother watching your weight though. The food is utterly satisfying, and the hawkers don't bother counting calories anyway.
I do treasure Singapore more after this trip. I did not know how important our horticultural planning is! Also, with an efficient and widespread public transport system, it makes all we wanna do, everywhere we wanna go, effortless.
Nevertheless, I still love what I've seen and experienced on this Penang trip. Of course, the company of my trip partner made a world of difference too. Thanks for taking care of me, dear. And for carrying my bag when I was tired, making sure I drank enough water, being the one with the sense of direction etc *giggles*

I seriously think I've blogged enough, don't you? = P