Although Malaysia is very close to Singapore, I have made very little number of trips there. So far, I have probably made the most number of trips to Johor namely because we were hungry and wanted to eat. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur once when my dad was there on a working trip (jam jam jam all the way from the airport!), Malacca (road trip with my now deceased aunt) and over the Vesak day weekend, I finally made the trip to Penang. I had felt bad about the fact that mom basically paid for my trip to Hong Kong last year (granted, she goes there every year and all I did really was to tag along but still…) so I wanted to do something nice this year. So I suggested Penang and since I knew that mom would end up paying for everything if I allowed her to go to her travel agent to book the trip, I basically did everything myself. One of my mom’s friends also wanted to come along so I booked us on a SilkAir flight to Penang and we stayed at G Hotel which was close to Georgetown on Gurney drive.
Right, so not the smartest thing to do for someone who is recently unemployed but I had made the booking before being unemployed so it doesn’t count. And why stay near Georgetown and not near the beach? I mean, isn’t that what everyone does when they go to Penang? Well, take into account 2 middle aged ladies and one very nearly middle aged lady who have never been very sporty to begin with (my mom can’t even ride a bike) and you will understand why I picked a hotel right next to the famous local food market and new shopping centre.
And please give me some credit. For a die-hard shopaholic like me, I left Penang with only one pair of slippers. So not too bad right? We actually did do a fair bit of sightseeing on our own. For one thing, I dragged the poor ladies all over Georgetown with me. We walked into any temple that caught my eye. I specifically wanted to see the Khongsi clan house (never found it…or maybe we did and I just didn’t recognise it?) and the Peranakan house (also never found it) but quite by accident, we found the temple that my godfather (now deceased) came from. They had this guy in his forties giving his spiel about the temple in rather fluent English. I don’t think he’s an official tour guide. I also don’t think he’s hired by the temple, I think he’s a volunteer who had nothing to do so he will latch onto any unsuspecting tourist and kind of talk to them about the temple in the hopes that they will donate something to the temple. In case you don’t know, Penang is now an official UNESCO site and the government is now actively trying to cash in on their fact. Many of the Khongsi, and temples are being actively restored. During that trip, I kept thinking about the CityFreeTour group from Paris and fervently wished that there was a Penang-Chris to bring us around Georgetown and show us stuff. That said, I still think we managed to see quite a bit on our own despite that none of us could read the map well, and none of us had read up on Penang or even thought of what we could see in Penang. If I was truly honest, I think one of the main reasons to go to Penang was for the food.
oh yes. The food. I mean, I’m still a Singaporean at heart. Food is always a top priority, and I always heed that calling despite an uncooperative waistline or the fact that being in my 30s also means that fat now favors its deposition around my waist instead of other areas. And of course, when you are in Penang, you really ought not to miss out on Penang Laksa. And I also had satay (the real satay, not the stupid crap meat-on-a-stick the americans call satay, ok?), lok lok (think ingredients of yong tau foo drenched in satay sauce), chendol, popiah….yeesh. I’m getting hungry again.
We were also lucky that it was the Vesak day weekend (although we actually left the day before Vesak day) and were able to join the Burmese in their celebration of the Buddha’s birthday at their temple. What a celebration. There was food, there was music, there was blessings given out by the priests.
It never fails to amaze me how even when people have left their homes in search of a better life, they will always try to recreate a piece of that home in their adopted country. After wandering around for a bit (and my mom’s friend also bought some comics about the Buddha’s teachings), we went across the street to the Thai temple where the famous Sleeping Buddha resided.
Bearing in mind that I only possess a point and shoot camera, it was difficult to capture the full majesty of the Sleeping Buddha. But it was impressive. It basically spanned the entire temple and people were praying along its entire length. It was housed in a rather simple building, and I wondered if perhaps the Buddha was originally meant to be housed in the open and they simply built the building around it to keep it from the elements?
All in all, it was a rather productive weekend. We spent a good amount of time eating and walking and sightseeing. I think my mom and her friend had a good time and it gave me a chance to explore a new city. But I think until I find a new job, or new direction, the travels may have to stop for a while. Sometimes I wish I have the money to just spend the rest of my life travelling. Maybe my mom is right, I’ve gone soft and lazy in America.