Monday, 12 November 2012

Penang Revisited-10th November 2012

With Zuraidah & her children

Omar with a former colleague in Golden Sands, Razlan

Penang Bridge
Penang Revisited- 10th November 2012

Penang holds great memories for me and family. After i got married 
in 1981, i got a transfer to work at the Malaysian Tourism Office in Penang as Omar was working at his first job at the Golden Sands Hotel  after coming back from Japan. We had small salaries by today's standard but we could survive as life was very simple and we had no car loan or  housing loan to worry  and we used public transport most of the time. Standard of living was  alright and i remembered 1 kilo of prawns was rm 9  which you have to pay around rm 45 now. I used to stop by the road side along the Tanjong Tokong road to buy vegetables as they had many vegetables plots along the road to our rented room in Chee Seng Garden, in the Tanjung Bungah area. Now you only see high rise buildings or large bungalow houses that are turned into boutiques, cafes, beauty parlors, banks etc. Most of the areas in the island are well developed and what i like most, the buildings are mostly painted white which is so Penang.
I stayed long enough in the island  till i delivered my first child Lutfi at the Penang Medical Centre and now it has been taken over by Gleneagles. When Omar moved to Johore Bahru to move on in his carrier  with Holiday Inn , Lutfi was only a baby of 8 months. We never return to the island until much much later only once. We were all over in Malaysia. Tioman, Kota Kinabalu, Kuantan , Lumut,Kuala Lumpur 
When we had to comeback for the wedding of my nieces in Kuala Kangsar we took the opportunity to revisit Penang . But off course our main intention was to visit our dear friend Zuraidah who had just loss her husband Shukri to cancer just 2 months before i manage to track her in the facebook. We were sad to hear the news and so we decided to visit her and at the same time a brief holiday with the kids as well.
It was a pleasant drive on our Malaysian highway  but i always have this phobia of driving during the holiday season . The year end school holiday just started and the long weekend with Deepavalli round the corner and followed by Awal Muharram holiday. I heard so much how people got stranded for hours on the highways and the Penang Bridge could be jammed up too.
Off course we were lucky, the SPM exams are still on, so people with kids having their exams had to stay put hence we were lucky traffic was good except when it rained, driving was slow.
We were all excited to come back to Penang as a family. Most of us already had in mind what to order for our meals. Off course! Penang is the gourmet paradise in Malaysia . Sorry orang Johore or orang Kelantan, ha ha ha. Nasi khandaq, Char Kway Teow, Pasembor or is it  Pasembok, Mee Udang ( sorry Aiman, next time we have mee udang, Insyaallah) Rojak buah, soup kambing, the famous bubur stall near Gama super market, Pulut Panggang, ooi, sedap nya, i miss this also. The list can go longer off course if we add the non halal food as well.
We have only 2 nights, and we can only eat 4 meals. Breakfast we had in the hotel , even though i was so tempted to wake them up to drive to Tanjong Tokong for the lovely local breakfast there and to see the busy atmosphere of the workers going to work at the port or factories early in the morning to "tapau" their breakfast . The stalls are open from as early as 4.30 am.
So we had not much time to eat so many things which we really missed. As it was raining on the first night we had limited choice to to look for food. We drove to Hillside and there we had Rudy's Char Kway Teow. We were surprised that the stall is still there but Pak Ruddy has passed away and now its run by his chinese convert wife to run the stall with 1 helper. Oooh! the kway teow was so so good. From the first spoon full till the end was so tasty. Perfect! Kway Teow was only RM3.50 We had nasi lemak bungkus too and it was rm 2.Drinks came in big, long & tall glasses and are so so much cheaper than in KL. Adoi! lucky Penangites!

In Penang to have a plate of Kway Teow also have to queue!

Driving in Penang is still bearable. Plenty of traffics but try to avoid Gurney drive in the evening. Its just absurd and don't dream of getting a good parking lot near the stalls. Park at the shopping mall and take a long walk to the hawker centres. We could have done that but the rain decided for us to have dinner somewhere else.

The rest of the evening on the first night we just drove around the city and refresh our memories on the major highlights of the city. We passed my former Tourist office & the clock tower near the port. One most memorable thing which i will never forget is the daily walk which i took after office or sometimes during lunch time to the Milo stall near HSBC to have my daily dosage of good old milo! That time i was heavily pregnant with Lutfi. Sometimes i would cycle or take a trishaw just to buy soya bean drink near Chowrasta Market. 

The Tun Uda Ferry terminal still look the same but there are lots of changes along the main road near the terminal. The Rice Miller hotel is under construction and i particularly like this one kopitiam called Mamu Kopitiam adjacent to it.

We returned to the hotel and it was a pleasant surprised when we met an old friend Fong Peng Kuan & his wife Ruby whom we knew since our Penang days. I was taking pictures in the hotel when i saw someone standing in the restaurant. His head was so familiar and i told myself, he looks like Fong Peng Kuan. Just as i was about to leave and he turned towards me. Oh my god! it was really him. We had a brief conversation between him , Omar & me as he was busy with a reunion gathering of 2 clans in their family. But it was really a wonderful surprise. Later i went to talk to Ruby. But the best part is,all of us are residing in the Klang Valley but 
never had a chance to meet.
We stayed at The 1926 Heritage Hotel. It was formerly the government  quarters of Jalan Burmah converted into hotel. 
Owned by the Penang Development Corporation but is run privately now. The hotel was running at fullhouse and we were allocated only 1 night there and for the second night we had to move to other hotel. All of us were not keen to move out and check in again in another property but we were lucky they had a room, smaller but enough for 4.
The following day morning after breakfast we left for Air Itam to meet Zuraidah & her 3 children . Later the children took us for  lunch at the famous Kampung Melayu Air Itam Nasi Khandaq . It was really nice, but until today i cannot understand how people can eat rice with more than 6 varieties or flavors of curry in one plate??!! I had rice with ikan bawal goreng and 2 small sotong and the green chillies and lady's fingers. Memang sedap! Habis! Licin!
Nanti pergi Lagi! ha ha ha, Insyaallah.
After spending some time at her place we moved on to another "Jejak Kasih " session at Lone Pine Hotel to meet Omar's former colleague Razlan. He is the Room Division Manager there. Though he is on a tight schedule it was really nice of him to spare some time with us catching up with old stories and also to show us around the hotel & some rooms for my future visitors from overseas (paying visitors off course). Lone Pine is a lovely boutique hotel, i love the open space concept and the white washed wooden buildings. They receive lots of visitors from Russia, Ukraine , Australia & the Middle Eastern Countries.
After coffee with Razlan we drove to the city to have Bubur Kacang and Bubur Gandum at Ali Bubur near Gama. He has been standing and selling his bubur since 1970. I went for  bubur kacang with pulut. Price,with or without pulut is the same RM 1.20 per bowl and Rm1.30 if you tapau (take away) But he is "canggih"
now with his own brand name on the plastic bags .

Next to Ali Bubur was a Penang laksa stall. We ordered two and shared among us. Makan jangan tak makan! Everything was cheap, "sedap" and " rasa nak lagi", ha ha ha. So "harus pulang lagi". Insyaallah! Insyaallah! 

Later in the evening we went out for dinner with my brother who were coming from Bukit Merah. He has an apartment there and it took him less than an hour to arrive in the island. Another sister Suad was with him together with Kak Nab, my sister in law from Singapore. Gurney drive was too crowded and parking was impossible so we end up again at Hillside but everyone was disappointed as Rudy's Kway Teow were sold out and that was just 9 pm. Wow! Must be the Sunday crowd & also the holiday makers. Nasi lemak bungkus were gone too. So we had other food which were not on our priority list. The Kedondong Juice were superb !
So that was the end of our short holiday in Penang. Cari Kawan, Makan Makan & Jalan Jalan. No shopping at all.
We went back and the only activity was going through our own Fb,   Email etc. 
We decided to leave early after breakfast to escape the afternoon rain and Omar asked if i wanted to make a final visit to any part of the city. I replied in the negative and at the same time i was scrolling my messages on the phone. My Ukhti Zaleha wrote , "don't leave home without visiting Meera @ Little India. They have good assam jawa  and the spices too. "Woh! I was so excited. I told Omar lets go to Little India and i remember it was somewhere near Jalan Kapitan Keling. It was not difficult to find, just ask around & people would be able to show you.
Once i arrived, i was so excited. I was in the  heaven for a while. The assam jawa were so clean & fresh. 1 Kilo was rm 6.50 , Fresh green cardamons was rm 40 a kilo. I bought 1/4 kilo, enough to make "soup tulang" for 1 year , if i cook every weekend. I bought Malawi dhall which was so cheap and also 1 kilo of chickpeas and some cloves. I went crazy but was under control. I love entering spice shops & bazaars.
 For the first time i learned that there is something call black cardamons. So surprised! They are so much bigger and its really black in color. I also learn that cardamons do come from Guatemala & America also not just from India & Indonesia. How interesting & I bet the cashier was wondering why this women is so excited being in his shop. 
So, Spices & Tamarind from Meera of Little India were the only things i bought in Penang. Syukran Zaleha, you made my day! Nanti chek bagi hang sikit cengkih na or assam jawa, he he he.
Short but sweet holiday break in Penang or Pulau Pinang. Insyaallah will go back more often since we have rekindled friendships with some of our friends in the island. 

Insyaallah! Insyaallah! Insyaallah!


                           ASk Pipah-go-mana-mana!


  1. Penang now totally berubah. i was there in 1991 till 1993. belajaq kat MTC tu. dekat RECSAM..

    last pegi about 2 years ago. seronok sangat..

  2. Patut lah ramai yang ke Penang! Plenty of lovely food, a lot of developments especially hotels.