Penang is popularly known as the Pearl of The Orient, and Penang was where we, the family, went for our little family break.
Well, with the exception of two members of the family that is. Unfortunately, but education do come first.
For the record, we made plans for our little break to coincide with the school holidays. Just before that is, as to coincide with the school break would mean getting caught in a mad rush to secure good accommodation, never mind the traffic conditions associated with school holidays.
My better half made all the necessary arrangements, where to stay, where to go etc etc. Trust her to do all the necessary research. Thanks Yang!
We took off for our journey to Penang early in the day and by late afternoon we had, despite a short detour to Gua Tempurung in Ipoh, had already checked into our homestay accommodations.
It was a nice double-storey two-room apartment in a new part of town, with all the convenient facilities required for people on the road eg eateries, 24-hr convenient stores, etc, all of which were just around the corner, and most importantly, within short driving distance from the main reason we are in Penang – the sights, the sounds and the smells of George Town.
In the itinerary planned by my better half, for places to visit in George Town itself, we had listed Fort Cornwallis, Chowrasta, The Esplanade, Armenian Street as the places that we must go and explore.
Well, ‘must’ is a pretty strong word to use. Maybe we should say ‘should’ instead.
In addition, we also had Entopia, Teluk Bahang, Penang Hill, Batu Ferringhi, the Botanical Gardens and Balik Pulau in the list.
All in all, quite a number of places to visit and to look forward to. All within the 5 days and 4 nights that we will be in Penang. And that does not include the gastronomy aspects yet.
But first, once we have settled in our rented apartment, the search was on for food. And where else but to venture into George Town. To be specific, the Jalan Kota Lama food court.
Why, as you might ask. The word is that the ‘Mee Udang’ is to die for. Well, that’s the word anyway and we were pretty sure that would be the case.
Rest assured, our visit to the food court there was, to say the least, an experience. From the moment we stepped into the food court, we felt like we had just entered a ‘war zone’ with stall owners ‘fighting’ amongst themselves over our small group of five.
We could see that we have the sympathy from the other patrons of the food court. I guess they too went through the same experience as we were going through at that moment in time.
But as it turned out, soon it was our turn to extend our sympathies to another group who walked in after us, as the stall owners lay siege on the unsuspecting group.
I guess, after years of experience, the stall owners can instantly tell whether you are a local or an outsider. It’s like you have this big signboard on your forehead saying ‘NOT LOCAL’ or ‘OUTSIDER’. They go easy on the locals and lay siege on the outsiders. Huh!
Anyway, having placed our orders, we were then given another ‘experience’ to savour when our orders of ‘Mee Udang’ arrived. As we were hungry, we tucked in what was served.
Or rather, we tried to, and at the same time, ask ourselves whether ‘Mee Udang’ is supposed to taste this way.
Let’s just say our first night’s experience in Penang this time around was not as memorable as we thought that it would be. But since we were hungry and our need for some proper nourishment was not satiated, we went for the safe option and got ourselves some fast food to tide us over for the night.
The experience served us well, for since then, we had proper comfort food for the remainder of our stay. By proper comfort food, we mean but what else, ‘Nasi Kandar’.
As they say, once you are in Penang, its ‘Nasi Kandar’ time, for ‘Nasi Kandar Penang’ is also to die for. I mean, after all, it’s a foregone conclusion that in Malaysia, Penang is the capital city of ‘Nasi Kandar’.
So, it was ‘Nasi Kandar’ as the basic food and the rest eg snacks, street food, impromptu stops at eateries as add-ons.
Worked well apparently. Never once did we returned to the apartment hungry like the first night after that.
Our first drive into George Town that first night also gave us a crash course in negotiating Penang traffic. For both my wife and myself, Penang traffic came across as a slight shock despite our combined on-the-road experience exceeding half a century’s worth of driving, what more for the uninitiated or they who had barely got their driving licence.
If you need a clue as to what we are talking about, look back to your driving lessons and if you remember the phrase ‘hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road’, then you should be ok.
For Penang traffic does have its surprises and I do mean surprises. Most of it when you least expect it.
In hindsight, it was good for us to be given a ‘baptism of fire’ on our first night in Penang. It was as though, all the ‘bad juju’ of our planned mini break were brought together in one night, leaving just the ‘good juju’ for the rest of our stay, having fun and enjoying ourselves.
After five days and four nights, we could honestly say that we did.
More posts to come from our mini-break in Penang, Pearl of The Orient.