Wake me before you go go - trishaw puller having a nap :-)

Warm Hugs In Penang

How often do we find ourselves not realising that a place of interest is just a stone throw away from where we live? I’m proud to have visited 16 countries and 34 cities in the world thus far, but am embarrassed that I have not explored many places in my country, Malaysia. Ever since I started this blog, I have been reminding myself that, wherever possible, I should spend more time to see the local sites.

In case you’re new to my blog :-) Last year, I had shared colourful posts about Malaysian festivals/celebrations: Thaipusam in Ipoh; Chinese New Year festivities at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur (KL); Wesak light and float procession in Brickfields; and Ramadan evening food bazaar in a KL suburb.

There were non-festive Malaysian posts too: I had travelled to Sabah – one of our states in Borneo across the South China Sea – a long weekend of incredible sunsets, local markets and wildlife. Another fascinating trip I made – only 20 minutes drive from my apartment – was a visit to the Islamic Arts Museum in KL, an impressive display of exhibitions there.

So, to continue with the mission of “going local”, the next destination I had a fun time exploring was Penang.

*****

Penang is an island on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and is linked to mainland via the Penang Bridge. The construction of the Penang Bridge completed in 1985, and the bridge was the first until 2014 the only road connection between Peninsular Malaysia and the island. It is also the second longest bridge in Malaysia and the fifth longest in South-East Asia.

When I was a little tyke, my family and I used to travel from our hometown Melaka to Penang to visit my father’s youngest sister. It was back in the day when there were no highways, car journeys often took 7-8 hours, or sometimes longer. It was also the time when there was no Penang Bridge. Instead, we travelled by ferry from Butterworth on mainland to Weld Quay in Georgetown, the island’s state capital city. I remember my father drove our car on to the vehicle deck of the ferry. We parked and alighted from the car, and walked up to the upper pedestrian deck to have a better view as the ferry approached the island.

Penang Bridge. Image source from Wikipedia.

Penang Bridge. Image source from Wikipedia.

*****

Fast forward to mid-Feb 2015, I drove up to Penang from KL, a distance of 330km and a journey of 3.5-4 hours. I made my way to a low-rise apartment on Jalan Logan in central Georgetown as that would be my home for the next 2 nights.

I did a homestay – booked a room on Airbnb – and my host was the lovely Sapur Khan who calls herself an “international local” Penangite. Sapur was born and raised in Penang but had lived in Europe for 10 years before returning to her home.

Sapur welcomed me with a big hug, as if we had known each other for the longest time, where in fact, we had only exchanged brief messages via Airbnb regarding my booking and the location of her apartment. I quite liked the hug because it felt so genuine and warm. She showed me my room, and the moment I entered the room, I knew this was going to be a start of a wonderful trip :-) You know the joyous feeling of finding an accommodation which looks exactly as it’s depicted on the website? This was it. My room was a large and spacious master bedroom with ensuite bathroom. It was incredibly cosy – a double bed with floral-patterned bedspread, wood night stands and drawers, white-painted wardrobe, and green and white striped curtains – oozed a country cottage charm.

PNG-1

The room is actually bright but the camera was not on the right settings, therefore picture looks dark. Still, don’t you love the set up of the room? :-)

My arrival was quite timely. Sapur was hosting a cooking demo for a group of women (and a gentleman) of different nationalities. She invited me to join them for lunch. Over lunch, I got to know the guests – some were visiting Penang for a few weeks; some were escaping wintry Europe for a couple of months; or some were already calling Penang home for several years.

They wondered about me too and asked what brought me to this island. I shared with them that the last time I saw Georgetown was when I was a little girl but have vague memories of it. I had come to Penang just a couple of years ago, headed straight for Batu Feringghi beach instead. I never ventured into Georgetown because many people had mentioned about the city’s traffic congestion, hence I got discouraged and wasn’t interested. However, of late, I have come across numerous travel posts about Georgetown particularly its UNESCO World Heritage Site and fascinating cultural festivals. The one festival which I didn’t want to miss and that Penang was renowned for, was the boisterous Hokkien New Year which is held on the eighth day of Chinese New Year at the Chew Jetty area. Instantly, the festival became a hot topic at the dining table because my host and others who have been living in Penang for a while, talked excitedly about this unique celebration.

*****

Lunch ended with a delicious dessert of chocolate brownie and coconut ice-cream, and though I would have loved to stay on and chat with my host over more ice-cream, I could not wait to start exploring the city.

I left my car behind at the apartment, and walked to the nearest bus-stop on the main road Jalan Macalister. I had read about the much improved bus services in Penang – the Rapid Penang has an extensive network around the island, its routes are well planned and organized, and the fares are cheap (typically not more than RM2.00 or USD0.50).

I had no specific plans that day except wanting to see the Hokkien New Year celebrations at night. So I hopped on to the bus, headed to the heart of the city which is also the heritage area – Lebuh Chulia – and I just walked and walked and walked around the city. Well, with a little bit of help from a heritage walking trail map – you can see how relatively easy to explore the heritage area – it’s all within walking distance. If you’re tired of walking (especially when the weather gets too hot and muggy), you can always catch the CAT (Central Area Transit) free shuttle buses which ply the roads within the heritage area.

Penang heritage city map. Image source: www.pulaupinang.com

Penang heritage city map. Image source: http://www.pulaupinang.com

Here are some of the photos I took during my walk:

Masjid Kapitan Keling - the oldest mosque in Georgetown, was established with a large site endowed by the East India Company in 1801.

Masjid Kapitan Keling – the oldest mosque in Georgetown, was established with a large site endowed by the East India Company in 1801. The present mosque complex is the result of several rounds of expansion in the early 20th century.

The Church of St. George the Martyr, completed in 1818 is the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia. The church was first restored after being badly damaged during Second World War. It was restored again 2011 after being designated a National Heritage in 2007.

The Church of St. George the Martyr, completed in 1818 is the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia. The church was first restored after being badly damaged during Second World War. It was restored again in 2011 after being designated a National Heritage in 2007.

Goddess of Mercy Temple.

Goddess of Mercy Temple.

Fresh flowers sold on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling

Fresh flowers sold on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling

Walkways of pre-war buildings. Penang has one of the largest collection of pre-war buildings in South-East Asia.

Five-foot walkways of pre-war buildings. Penang has one of the largest collection of pre-war buildings in South-East Asia.

It's dark because of the venetian blinds pulled down to provide relief from the hot sun. But check out the intricately designed tiles.

Venetian blinds pulled down to provide relief from the hot sun but check out the intricately designed tiles. These tiles are commonly found in many pre-war buildings in Malaysia but I believe, these in Penang have been preserved and restored.

A sundry shop in Little India. Interesting mix of cultures - Chinese lanterns in Little India - because it was during Chinese New Year :-)

A sundry shop in Little India. Interesting mix of cultures – Chinese lanterns in Little India – because it was during Chinese New Year :-)

DVD & music shop in Little India - posters of popular Bollywood & South Indian film stars.

DVD & music shop in Little India – posters of popular Bollywood & South Indian film stars. Hmm, looks like the DVD for PK is available now??

Wake me before you go go - trishaw puller having a nap :-)

Wake me before you go go – trishaw puller having a nap :-)

More street photos of Penang – the 3km cultural procession marking the birthday of the Jade Emperor and Hokkien New Year celebrations – look out for next week’s post!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh Flowers in Georgetown

For this week’s photo challenge, share with us a photo that expresses something fresh…

Here’s a sneak preview of my upcoming travel series…Georgetown, Penang Island in Malaysia :-)

Fresh flowers sold on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Georgetown

Fresh flowers sold on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Georgetown

PNG-3

Star Ferry boat at Victoria Harbour

Delicious Dim Sum and Panoramic Views

Who says you do not have time for exercise while on a holiday? I did just that when I went to Hong Kong a month ago. It wasn’t intentional as in I have to pencil in an exercise hour in my travel itinerary but just so happened that my friends in HK brought me along to a 14km walking trail in Lamma Island, a world away from the fast pace of city life. Considering the mouth-watering and delicious seafood, and copious amounts of beer consumed that day (ok, I confess, not that much of beer :-)), the hike was needed but truth be told, the walking trail was a nice change for me. Hiking up a moderate trek along the coast was refreshing compared to hiking up an inclined treadmill in the gym.

*****

So I had another full day in HK before returning to Malaysia. Chris and Jane suggested a couple of activities, and one of which is a dim sum brunch. A trip to HK is never complete without having a dim sum meal. My friends chose City Hall Maxim’s Palace as Maxim’s is one of the few remaining restaurants still serve dim sum in the traditional way. I was told that nowadays dim sum in most restaurants are served on a long table – buffet style – where diners walk over to the buffet, select the dish and return to their tables.

Maxim-Palace

City Hall Maxim’s Palace Restaurant. Image from http://www.ladyironchef.com

At Maxim’s, plates and bamboo steamer baskets of dim sum – fresh and hot from the oven – are served on a trolley. The waitresses push the trolley around the restaurant, call out the names of the dishes and stop by at every other table for diners to pick the dishes they fancy. The trolleys have descriptions of the dishes in Cantonese and English, making it easy for foreigners like us to know and able to choose the dishes that we want.

Maxim’s gets filled up very quickly. We saw the restaurant became very busy by noon, and by 1pm, customers were queuing outside the restaurant to get in. If you like to have dim sum at Maxim’s, the best time to go is at brunch. You will definitely get a table especially next to the window with a fantastic view of the harbour.

*****

After brunch, we walked over to Central Pier to catch the Star Ferry boat across Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The attraction is the Avenue of Stars based on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame to pay tribute to the stars of HK film industry. Hence, there are the usual commemorative plagues and celebrities’ handprints set in cement.

I hardly watch HK Cantonese films, therefore I don’t know any of the stars except the popular ones who are now known in Hollywood such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fatt, just to name a few. Chris, on the other hand, watches a number of Chinese films, so he was able to point who’s who at the promenade. I laughingly said to him that if we were at a Bollywood Avenue of Stars, I would recognise their names rightaway and point out who’s who, aside from Amitabh Bachchan!

But there’s one star who the entire world knows, that is, the infamous Bruce Lee. It was so difficult to get a good shot of the life-sized statue of Bruce Lee in kungfu action because so many tourists got in line in front of the statue mimicking that pose for the camera. I had to wait for quite some time and finally, this is the best I have :-)

Bruce Lee - the unmistakable pose.

Bruce Lee – the unmistakable pose.

It’s obvious that the Avenue of Stars was designed for tourists (and I, unashamedly admit, that I’m indeed a tourist!) but the promenade and sunny weather, though a little hazy, provide a panoramic view across Victoria Harbour to HK Island. I believe this is also a good spot in the evening to capture sunset pictures and the glittering lights of the harbour at night.

Star Ferry boat at Victoria Harbour

Star Ferry boat at Victoria Harbour

*****

One more “touristy” activity to do was to go up to Victoria Peak, or simply known as The Peak. The Peak is the highest mountain on HK island at only 552 metres or 1,811 ft. This is THE place to have spectacular views of the city’s skyline and harbours, and the views are more impressive at night when the high-rise buildings are lit.

There are a couple of ways to go up to the Peak: walk, bus, taxi or tram. My friends asked which option I prefer, and knowing their outdoor-sy nature, I chose the tram option to go up and the walking option to come down from the Peak :-)

The Peak Tram is a funicular railway which brings visitors up to the Peak, so obviously this is a popular option but one has to endure a number of queues at the Lower Teminus. The first queue was for tickets. There was confusion about queues to buy single tickets or Peak Tram Sky Pass or Madame Tussauds Hong Kong + Peak Tram. We wanted to buy single tickets using our Octopus card but there was no separate lane for us to bypass others who were queuing to buy tickets or passes with cash/credit cards from the ticketing booth. Instead we had to queue with others but only when we showed our Octopus cards at the ticketing booth, they asked us to move on and queue (the second queue) in front of turnstiles to flash our cards to enter. As soon as we got through the turnstiles, we had to join the third, but thankfully, the last queue – the queue to board the tram. This was where I felt that all the queueing before didn’t seem to matter anymore because the platform was narrow which created a bottleneck and visitors pushed their way at the platform to board the tram in order to secure a seat.

The tram is coming!

The tram is coming!

The tram departs at every 10-15 minute intervals, so sometimes the wait can be interminable when there are huge crowds. The ride on the tram takes only 8 minutes, and the view gets better and better as it climbs up 373 metres to the top of HK Island.

The Peak Tram

The Peak Tram. Image from Wikipedia.

Majority of visitors opt to purchase the Peak Tram Sky Pass which offers you the tram ride and the chance to view HK from the Sky Terrace 428, the highest 360-degree viewing platform on the island. And why 428? Because it’s 428 metres above sea level. I had been up the Sky Terrace in 2011, so this time, my friends introduced the Peak Circle Walk – an alternate viewing point where no additional money is needed but just a good pair of walking shoes :-)

Sky Terrace 428

Sky Terrace 428

The Peak Circle Walk is a 3.5km walking trail, a tree-shaded path which starts at Lugard Road near the Peak Tower and brings you back to its starting point. It’s basically a 45-minute loop around the Peak (or might be less, depending how fast you walk), and I reckon it’s the best way to experience the Peak scenery and lush greenery.

The tree-shaded path of Peak Circle Walk. Image from www.necessaryindulgences.com

The tree-shaded path of Peak Circle Walk. Image from http://www.necessaryindulgences.com

Skycrapers of HK

Skycrapers of HK

HK-4

Once the sun set and the skycrapers of HK were lit at dusk, the views were just magnificent.

HK-35

We left the Peak at nearly 7pm. Unfortunately, we could not walk down from the Peak as planned because the path was not lit at night. Instead, we took the bus and headed to Wan Chai for dinner. Dinner was at 369 Shanghai Restaurant on O’Brien Road. It’s a small restaurant, crowded and noisy – it adds to the atmosphere and that’s what I like :-) It was my last night in HK, and probably the last time I shall see Chris and Jane before they left Asia for good. They would be moving to Brazil, and Chris had already said to me, “Kath, start saving money now coz you’d better come visit us in Brazil!” We celebrated over simple but delicious Chinese food and more beer (of course!).

After we said our goodbyes on the MTR, and as I walked from Tin Hau MTR station to my flat, I reflected with happiness about this second-time trip to HK. Firstly, I was relatively more organised this time with my plans. With that, I had a better and positive experience enjoying the sights and food, and observing the daily going-ons of the people of HK (locals and expats). Secondly, I got to see my friends again who would be moving on to another continent, another adventure (though they are going to miss Chinese food terribly!). I’m glad that I was part of their good memories of living in Asia (we met in Malaysia) and likewise, they were part of my good memories of travelling in HK, and hopefully, in Brazil some day :-)

If you had missed the previous series on HK, please click Lamma Island and Second Time’s A Charm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Walls inside Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka

Share an image of a wall that reveals something about a place, people, or you…

Last year, my friend and I travelled to Sri Lanka last year, and the aim was to visit as many UNESCO sites as possible during our 6-day trip. We visited 3 sites, and my favourite is the Dambulla Caves which is part of the Golden Temple cave complex.

Situated in the central province of Sri Lanka, Dambulla Caves is the largest and most well-preserved cave complex in the country. The main attraction is the 5 caves which contain statues of Buddha and Sinhala frescoes on the walls of the caves, so well-preserved in terms of design, pattern and vivid colours.

DC-10

DC-11

DC-12

DC-15

Kat:

The Graceful apsaras of Cambodia…

No visit to Cambodia is complete without watching the apsara performance. The apsara dance is the Khmer classical dance. Originally it was performed exclusively for the royal court but was later introduced to the public post-French independence as part of celebration of Khmer culture. The Khmer classical dancers do not sing or speak but use graceful curving movements and hand gestures to convey meaning and to narrate classical myths or religious stories.

I shared this photo last year as part of the Wordless Wednesday theme, and I thought how apt to share this again as part of Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Graceful (http://wheresmybackpack.com/2015/03/06/travel-theme-graceful/)

Enjoy!

Originally posted on Kat Pegi Mana:

SR_3

View original

Weekly Photo Challenge: 5 Shades of Orange

Wow us with punchy pops of orange…

The in-thing now is to name everything with 50 Shades of this and that but I decided to stick to just 5 because that’s what I got here – only 5 shades of Orange! :-)

Fountainhas in Panjim, Goa

Fountainhas in Panjim, Goa

Sunset at Senggingi Beach, Lombok

Sunset at Senggingi Beach, Lombok

Mouth-watering & fresh prawns at Filipino Market, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah

Mouth-watering, fresh prawns at Filipino Market, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah

SL-6

A lone figure…this photo was taken on a mangrove river cruise in Sri Lanka

Elephant having a luxurious bath in this shade of an orange river at a Spice Plantation in Goa.

Elephant having a luxurious bath in this shade of an orange river at a Spice Plantation in Goa.

 

 

 

HK-29

Lamma Island: A World Away From HK

I have always thought that Hong Kong was just city life and concrete jungle. I never knew that residents escape from the hectic financial capital to unwind especially during the weekends. But where to? Well, my friends Chris and Jane introduced me to Lamma Island :-)

Lamma Island is the third largest island of HK, after Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island. The island consists of the northern village (Yung Shue Wan), the eastern village (Sok Kwu Wan) and traditional fishing villages. Access to other parts of Lamma is by hiking or fishing boats.

The main attraction of Lamma is the abundance of nature and scenery. There are beaches and hiking trails. The atmosphere on the island is laid-back and peaceful, a complete opposite to the stressful pace and expensive cost of living in the city. The buildings are less than 3 storeys high and vehicles are nowhere to be found except bicycles and compact trucks which are mainly to transport materials or rubbish.

*****

When I contacted my friend Chris who is from New Zealand, and currently living and working in HK, firstly, he was happy that I was coming over because we were former colleagues in my previous company in Kuala Lumpur, and it has been a while since we last met. Secondly, he asked if I would be interested to join him and his Australian partner, Jane, for a walking trail in Lamma Island. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if he meant just walking or hiking up mountains because I know that both of them are avid hikers…and they hike up treacherous trails! Chris reassured me that the walking trail is on paved road. I said, ahhh, ok, count me in!

Our meeting point was Central MTR Station, and we took a 20-minute ferry ride from Central to Lamma Island’s main village, Yung Shue Wan. While on the ferry, I could have taken in views of Victoria Harbour but I didn’t because the 3 of us were busy chit-chatting. It has been 3 or 4 years, I think, since we last met, so there was a lot of yak-yak-yak enroute to the island :-)

The walking trail starts at Yung Shue Wan’s Main Street lined with restaurants, shops and fruits and vegetables stalls. Walk along Main Street and head towards Hung Shing Ye Beach. I was told that the beach is rather popular during the summer months. Walk past the bathrooms to the end of the beach, continue up the hill and follow signs to Sok Kwu Wan. The 1-hour walking trail takes you up and over the island’s mountainous terrain along the coast. The hike is not difficult at all, in fact, many families go on this walking trail too and some also walk their dogs here. The reward for this 14km hike is the beautiful greenery and coast overlooking the South China Sea, and clean air.

Main Street

Main Street

HK-30

Beautiful coast of Lamma Island, overlooking the South China Sea

Beautiful coast of Lamma Island, overlooking the South China Sea

HK-24

That's Sok Kwu Wan and traditional fishing villages

That’s Sok Kwu Wan and traditional fishing villages

HK-29

Fishing houseboat villages

Fishing houseboat villages

The walking trail ends at Sok Kwu Wan, and the best reward I reckon is a meal at one of their seafood restaurants. Chris and Jane brought me to Tai Yuen Seafood Restaurant, and the first thing we ordered was a bottle of beer! Shortly after, we ordered more beer, bamboo clams, calamari, steamed fish, Chinese broccoli (kai-lan) and fried rice. Wish I could show you pictures of the food but I’m not for one who take photos of food. Sorry, folks! :-)

*****

Once we were done with our meal, we could have taken a ferry from Sok Kwu Wan back to HK but I wanted to take some photos of Main Street, so we walked the same trail back to Yung Shue Wan. There is no direct ferry from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan, so you have to hike up and down the mountainous terrain to get to the seafood restaurants. However, if seafood is your main objective, then the alternative is to skip the hike and take the ferry direct from HK to Sok Kwu Wan.

On our way back to Yung Shue Wan, we found this street art. "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" That's my caption for this piggy ;-)

On our way back to Yung Shue Wan, we found this street art. My caption for this piggy…”All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” :-)

When we reached Main Street, it was already dusk. We met Chris and Jane’s friends at a steak restaurant where we drank more beer and enjoyed the cool air (it was delightfully 16C) until 7pm-ish to catch the ferry back to HK.

Lamma Island is a world away, such a vast difference from HK. If you would like to experience the walking trails on Lamma, wear a good pair of walking shoes, slap on sun screen and bring a bottle of water. Also, it’s best to experience the island early in the day or during the week as this popular destination fills up over the weekends.

If you missed the previous post on HK, please click on Hong Kong: Second Time’s A Charm