What a great place this is.The easy way of life here, from the hawkers, the trishaw riders, the beachboys, the taxi drivers, the Post Office staff, the owners of my guesthouse, they are all ready with a genuine smile, you can have a bit of a laugh with them all.
My fruitman as I call him he runs this little cart parked on Chulia St, he has a couple of eskies full of fruit, 2 big wooden chopping blocks, a blender so can juice the fruit, he and his mate are always chopping , always cleaning, juicing, its a very busy little cart. When he sees me he grabs a mango starts chopping it for me, laughingly calling me the mango lady, he tells me no jackfruit but I should try the rockmelon from China, which I do, I ask him why is this mango so orange, he tells me its variety is Black Gold and the other yellow one is Mango King. He knows I have a fruit interest other than just eating them but he always laughs, he works from his cart from about 8 am and it is open until after dark, he works 6 days a week and he gets up to go to the fruit market to pick out the best. I am lucky that it is mango season here now because I love them. The rockmelon from China is crunchy not to sweet but the same colour as Rockmelon or cantaloupe in Australia although a different shaped fruit more oblong than round.
I eat at a place called Red Garden most nights of the week, the drink lady always comes to me and says iced Lemon tea no sugar? I smile and nod, she is a very old lady has worked there many years but is slowly getting frailer, I notice her boss lady comes up to her at times to push her to sell more beer for the bosses get a commission on the amount of beer they sell, they hate me with my $1 iced tea, but the lady always smiles we have a little chat, she is lovely. The food there is a multiple choice possibly 40 or so different hawker stalls some BBQing satays, fresh fish on ice to be cooked your way, rice of all countries, even American rice I haven’t eaten it ,why would I, the picture depicts a mound of rice with carrots and peas served with 2 sausages!!! You can choose frog hotpot, crispy pork, duck, roti, naan, curries, tempura veggies, dumplings, shawarma, western hamburger, its endless the choice many travellers come here for a meal so the diners are probably 40% western with the rest being local. The vendors aren’t pushy, they all serve fresh good tasting meals at a reasonable price. As some reviews say its a little more expensive than street food, maybe it is but I can still have a decent meal with my tea for under $4.00 Aust. Sometimes I wonder about these folks that write the reviews about oh you can get it cheaper at this place don’t go here, how much cheaper do they want things to be, really they have never had to pay rent on a business and know that these stall holders pay whereas the street vendors may pay a bit but not as much. Obviously, this annoys me. They are all friendly, you ask for more chilli sauce they get it no extra charge just a smile.
Public transport here is easy and cheap, the major bus depot is well signposted so you know where to catch your bus if not there is a booth with a friendly man you can ask, all buses have a screen that shows the next stop coming up. To travel to Batu Ferringhi which can be an hour depending on the traffic is still less than $1 Aust. It makes it an easy place to navigate around. You must have the right money as they don’t give change.
This is an island with the main town being Georgetown, the British occupied it for nearly 200 years, the influence remains in the old colonial architecture, a small statue of Queen Victoria on a plinth on a corner surrounded by chicken wire , but there is an understanding here that perhaps cannot be found in other SEAsian countries almost a familiarity that makes you comfortable being here. It is a Muslim country but a country that is accepting of all religions that exist here. As you travel on the bus to wherever you pass an elaborate Indian temple, next minute a golden-domed Mosque comes into view around a corner a Taoist temple with its dragons on the roof tails curling, further up the road a Methodist church you pass all interspersed with roadside shrines and men selling coconuts or nasi lemak. That’s what I love this intertwining of cultures, how over the decades they have learnt to respect each other’s traditions, religion and food. So as a traveller you feel a harmony here that so far I haven’t felt anywhere else, even Australia. In Australia and America different nationalities have come over a long time due to gold rushes, wars, here they all arrived at the same time. Penang was a fishing village until 1780 when the British decided it would make a great port for the distribution of spices. So the Chinese and Indians came to work on the wharves, in the godowns, they all had to live together with the local Malay population that arrived from the mainland to work learn to speak English as a means of communication but still retain their festivals, their religious traditions, best of all the food. That is why I love Penang.
I mentioned food before but Penang is a food heaven a pot of deliciousness. I am very lucky that the Penang International Food Festival is on this week, last weekend I went to the street food part managed to see the fireworks, a touch of food theatre, the mix of food stalls , I had some satay, dim sum, ondeh ondeh a Malay sweet pandan flavoured and brown sugar covered in coconut, you only need one but they are so pretty. Some amazing wok work by these professional hawkers, they are so deft with their hands, the whole family there behind the counter, preparing, taking orders money, so lovely to see that this generational skill is being passed down and will be here to see for years to come. There was a huge crowd, hats off to the organizers of this festival they did a great job I hope to go to the curry night tomorrow night if the rain doesn’t arrive as it normally does at around 6pm. All in all the food here is abundant, a lot of the hawkers only do days then their stand is taken over by the night time food. Some foods are only eaten during the day, Hokkien Mee or chicken rice are traditionally breakfast and lunch foods. You can eat any time of the day or night there is always something open, the Indian place I go to JAYA is open 24 hours. A lot of the hipster cafes do a western style breakfast if you don’t feel like noodles.
Thats why I love Penang, the people, the food, the traditions, the whole shabang!!
I went to the dentist last Thursday, he found a filling that was chipped, fixed that combined with my clean it cost $80.00 Aust all up. Clean, professional up to date equipment and painless financially and physically.
I am off to Thailand next Wednesday so my blog day will be Thursday from the town of Krabi. Until next time..