Monday, January 9, 2012

Penang - a 'new' revisit

In the late 80s and early 90s, I lived in Penang for four years. Those were GREAT years despite having to share a room with five other girls in the first year, one in the second, and another two in the third and fourth years. I walked miles uphill and downhill at times unless I managed to get a ride as pillion on a friend's motorbike. Life was relatively simple and restricted to limited number of clothes (mostly t-shirts and jeans) which I had to handwash myself, three simple meals a day plus tea/supper at times when I had the time and company, lectures, projects, tutorials, extra-curricular activities, trips to the library to study and 'lepak', and visiting the lab at strange hours like 3am and 6am to tend to the bacterial colonies I was cultivating....ooh, I could go on and on about those glorious days. I'd give this present life to re-live those four years!

Penang was haphazard and dirty then, as it had been for many, many years. I had re-visited Penang as a visitor numerous times since I left in 1992 and recently on 26 December 2011, I went there again. We spent three nights at a newly-opened budget inn on Macalister Road. The streets of Penang are much nicer to walk on now with less rubbish strewn about or clogging up drains. The weather is still uniquely Penang, when it's hot in general elsewhere outside the island, it feels much hotter there. And there seems to be a more orderly feel. The Prangin Road bus terminal looks brighter without its walls coated with the black soot from bus/vehicle fumes and the air seems more breathable. However, I forgot to check if the Yellow Bus company is still operating there! I believe the opposition party has been making a difference ever since they took control of that state.

We made a spontaneous decision at Butterworth to take the ferry across. While the queue was long, we finally got our car onto the ferry and got out for some 'fresh' sea air and take in the view during the 20-minute ride. Unfortunately, the sea air was tainted with the ferry's diesel fumes, but C got to experience for the first time riding on a ferry with our car onboard (her first ferry ride was in August to Pangkor Island).

The ramp for cars to get onto the ferry

Oncoming ferry similar to the one we took, lower deck for vehicles, upper deck for passengers

On the island, we ate to our hearts content and devoured seafood, local hawker fare, Thai food, durians, restaurant and foodcourt fare. We also became tourists and visited the Tropical Spice Garden, Bukit Genting and the Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion (also known as the Blue Mansion).

The Spice Garden was an easy and good introduction to the many different species of tropical plants, some used as garnishes and spices in cooking.

Pandanus sp. by a pond

Bukit Genting is a novelty place for a hilltop view of the south-western coast of the island. The roads uphil and downhill are paved/tarred but rather uneven, narrow, and windy (especially downhill). On the way to Bukit Genting, we did a half round-island drive, stopping at Balik Pulau for some good durians.

The Blue Mansion tour was very interesting with the house guide giving a detailed story behind this mansion -- how this 17-year-old Hakka young man came from China and became a celebrated entrepreneur among the Dutch and British, the special feng shui features of his mansion and how the mansion was restored. The colourful story and exhibits were good enough that it managed to hold C's attention for a whole hour....haha....

This picture does not do justice to the actual grandeur of the mansion

From another angle, photography is not allowed inside 
We also visited a mega aquarium store on Burma Road, CTY Aquarium, touted to be the largest live fish store in Southeast Asia...Besides, fish, they also have birds, cats, dogs, rodents, reptiles and pet supplies.

After checking out of the hotel on the last day, we stopped at the famous Ghee Hiang 'tau sar pneah' place and got some of their goodies before heading for Ipoh, this time via the Penang Bridge.

The places we ate at in Penang (not in chronological order):
Ocean Green seafood restaurant
New World Park foodcourt
First Avenue mall foodcourt
McDonald's (ugh...) at Prangin Mall
End of the World seafood restaurant
Sisters char kway teow and yam cake on Macalister Road
Durian Cap Kaki, Balik Pulau
Bukit Genting Thai food restaurant
Song River cafe kopitiam on Gurney Drive
Cendol stall on Penang Road

Other local fruits at Durian Cap Kaki

Thai-style stuffed crabs at Bukit Genting

Garlic steamed prawns at Ocean Green

Sisters char kway teow and yam cake

Lala (clams) in herbal soup at End of the World

Ice kacang at New World Park


teetwoh said...

I laughed at Macca's inclusion but just for an instant as I too had a Macca offering yesterday (cant resist the $2 offer) ... :-(

Anna said...

Yes Teh, I had to be honest to include it, haha! :D It was to keep one 9-year-old and another 4-year-old happy on a hot afternoon, much to my hawker- and Chinese-food-loving mum's displeasure. And there was nothing much else better in that mall that mostly sells pirated DVDs and IT stuff!