Penang island

I recently went home to Malaysia for the Chinese New Year celebrations. This was the first time since coming to the UK I’ve been back home for it! It was hectic but so enjoyable meeting up with relatives long missed and new members of my extended family. Obviously there was a lot of gorging on New Year goodies and local delicacies. Between meeting my relatives in three different states and a lovely dinner with old school friends, we managed to squeeze in a short trip to Penang island. My grandfather moved from Penang to KL many decades ago and we still have relatives living there. My dad spent his uni days there and he tells us how he used to explore the island on his motorbike and how cheap a plate of char koay teow used to be… Anyway, it seems that a trip back home is not complete without a gastronomic jaunt to Penang. The pictures below are from my visits there this year and last. Click on them to get larger pictures.

The island still retains a lot of its colonial architecture from when it was a Straits Settlement under the British but I see so many in ruins, it’s such a shame. I don’t think Malaysians are very good at conserving our architectural history, we’re more interested in buying new.

Cheong Fatt Tze mansion

Clockwise from top left: Fresh roasted chestnuts, a decrepit movie theatre, Chowrasta market stall, windows on a random building

Khoo Kongsi – the Khoo clan house

Khoo Kongsi details

Khoo Kongsi details

Lighting joss sticks at a temple devoted to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy

This was taken in some backwater village on the island.

This scene is the stereotype I used to draw in art class as a wee student with perhaps a traditional village house on stilts, paddy fields and kids flying kites. Trust me, most of my friends would draw very similar stuff so it was not at all original!

Clockwise from top left: Famous asam laksa in Balik Pulau, not-so-famous char koay teow (but still delicious), and famous Penang Road ais kacang

Clockwise from top left: Seafood otak-otak, fried fish with mango salad, Thai red curry, kangkung with sambal belacan

We went looking for our favourite Thai restaurant one night and after a couple of spins around the area were still completely lost until an emergency phone call to my uncle rectified the situation. The food was delicious and that curry was amazingly spicy but so tasty we kept nibbling at it and sipping our drinks in turn to quench the heat.

We made a visit to my great uncle and his family whom I had never met in my life. We hung out at Gurney Drive at night, just enjoying the atmosphere, the breeze and the company. We drove to Balik Pulau to have servings of asam laksa and Siamese laksa (we all had two bowls!) and on our way back stopped at a viewpoint to enjoy the hillside scenery. We walked down lanes lined with numerous hawker stalls selling all sorts of yummy food, bought putu mayong for supper and fell asleep sated and contented.

View from the highway

Then we made the long drive back home, but I’m sure we’ll be back very soon.

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One thought on “Penang island

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