Monday, January 08, 2007


I arrived in Penang last night - falling in and out of sleep during the 8 hour trip from Melaka by express bus. We crossed the 13 km bridge from Butterworth onto the island to the new bus station where I was met by Laly's cousin and his girlfriend. They took me out of the rain and to a hawker area where we were served at tables. I had some malaysian ho fen (seafood) with an orange juice. It was enough to satisfy me, but then an onslaught of food came - I wish I could remember the names - one was a plate of fried goodies (fish, sausage, tofu) with cucumber and 2 dipping sauces. Another was a really tasty fish - the sauce was delicious. Another was of cuttlefish and octopus - also with an amazing sauce. And then there was a plate of small oysters (out of shell) that came with its own dipping sauce. I was quite full by the end! I was trying to think about how to make all of these dishes once I get back home - one is just getting quality seafood/meat. The other problem is figuring out the sauces - there is a complexity and balance to each that I doubt I can replicate.

I stayed at 100 Cintra Street, which is an antique shop on the bottom, a museum on the third floor, and recently converted hostel on the second floor. I made the mistake of choosing the dorm section (the attendant gave me a mosquito coil, but it didn't last long enough and I was thoroughly eaten all night long - perhaps losing weight in blood what I've gained in fat from eating), which is the closest one to a neighboring disco that pumps until 3 or 4 am. I hardly got any sleep, and left the place to walk around town once it got light out. I happened on a quite a few morning markets, where Chinese were selling fresh made fish balls, tofu drinks, bamboo wrapped goodies, baked breads, and lots of meat and seafood. I had breakfast at a yummy dim sum place with a bottle of xian-dou-jiang (sweet soy milk), chilled. I also hit the Penang Museum ($1RM = 0.25 $USD) - and learned a lot about the history of Penang and the different make up of the Malaysian people - Malay, Chinese, Tamils, Sikhs, Javanese, British/Dutch/Portuguese, Thai, etc. I walked along the eastern side of Georgetown for a while along the piers - not a very interesting area, then came back to the hostel to switch my room to a single (which comes with a mosquito net I look forward to testing out tonight).

I'm now in the Komtar mall - which is huge. The Singapore and KL malls were also huge, but the stores were big. This place seems big because there are so many little shops all crammed into one place. I think there are 2 malls adjoining each other and there's something like 900 shops. I found a yummy Chinese waffle cart - like the ones you can get in New York City, but bigger and filled with a bit of custard. So good. Next to it was a Japanese cart, but they hadn't got going yet, so I didn't get any.

Tonight I'm meeting Laly's college mates for dinner. Tomorrow will be my last day here before catching an overnight bus to Singapore to catch my flight to Sydney on Qantas. Christina and I will be exploring the Sydney to Cairns route - hopefully hitting up the Blue Mountains and Atherton Tablelands.

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