My fifth trip to Penang was a couple of months ago but it didn’t start off very well. In fact, it could have been a disaster. I had been asked to conduct two days of training literally across the street from the Krystal Suites, the hotel where I stayed in 2011. I booked with Agoda and was issued a confirmation for two nights. When I arrived I noticed that the unmanned reception desk had dust on it. Not a good sign. There were two security guards at a desk in the lobby who informed me that the hotel had been closed for two years! Agoda is still taking bookings for this hotel.
Luckily for me, I had stayed here before and knew there was a good hotel not too far away. The security guards called a taxi for me which took me to the Eastin Hotel If I had been a tourist from Europe who had never been to Penang and didn’t speak English very well, I would have been in dire straits. Agoda charged me for one night as a cancellation fee for a hotel that was not open. It reminds me of the scam that the Wine Guys were pulling in Australia but Agoda is a global company. How are they getting away with this!?!
Anyway, my fifth trip to Penang has a happy ending (my favourite kind) but you will have to wait until next week for Penang – Part 5 (B) 🙂
My fourth visit to Penang was part of a Holland America Cruise that I took over Christmas and the New Year with my sister Brenda just a few years ago. As I mentioned in Penang – Part One, this is one of my favourite places and so I was really excited to share it with my sister. The walk from the cruise ship port to the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, where we had a lunch of local food, is approximately a kilometer and a half and passes by some historical sights. I had a martini to raise a toast to Farquart’s Bar and to Billy Duncan.
My third visit to Penang included a trip across the bridge to Butterworth, the mainland part of Penang state. I had been invited to attend a wedding in George Town that weekend but the festivities began on Friday night at a nightclub in Butterworth. Clearly, this was going to be a rocking weekend!
The next day my friend Jen took me to some of her favourite places in George Town. Penang is considered by some to be the “Food Capital” of Malaysia.
I was able to visit the apartment of the groom’s parents in the residential area of Air Hitam, a part of Penang with a fascinating history. Please follow this link if you would like to learn more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Itam
My next trip to Penang was in 2011 for business. I was asked to come and conduct on-site training for an international company with offices in Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone. This area is in the south-eastern part of Pulau Pinang (that’s Malay for Penang Island). My flight from Singapore arrived the morning before the training so I had most of the day to explore a new part of Penang. I chose to check out the snake temple.
There are more than just snakes, and believe me, there are a lot of snakes; there are also monkeys, tortoises and turtles, as well as iguanas and other kinds of lizards.
For lunch, I went to Jaya Cater’s Corner, a nearby open-air Indian restaurant where I had roti prata. The irony of eating Indian food and visiting a Chinese temple in Malaysia is not completely lost on me but I also think it serves to prove that Malaysia is more multi-cultural than some might think.
Penang Island, in the Straits of Malacca, is my favourite part of Malaysia. In fact, it is one of my favourite places in South East Asia. Last month, I went to Penang for the fifth time and I decided it was time to write about it on this blog.
The first time I went to Penang was about 7 1/2 years ago. I wrote about it on The AFB and if you follow this link you can read about how Penang had been on my list for a long time.
That first trip was to George Town, the capital of Penang and it was love at first sight for me. I spent an entire day wandering around looking at the street art and I ended up at the Clan Jetties.
The next day I visited Penang Hill with its Kek Lok Si Temple which, according to Wikipedia “…is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.” It is also home to a huge statue of the Goddess of Mercy.
Not only was that trip my first to Penang but it was also my first time staying in a Tune Hotel. I can recommend it for those whose budget falls between a hostel and the Eastern & Oriental Hotel.
My younger sister is coming to visit me in October and although she travels frequently, this will be the longest flight she has ever taken so she asked me for my advice. Here are my suggestions for surviving super long flights:
- Buy the highest class of seat you can afford. If you are like me and can only afford economy, choose the most comfortable seat available even if it means you have to pay a fee. I am a bit claustrophobic so I vividly remember the two flights where I did not have an aisle seat.
- In the old days, airlines provided pillows and blankets for all of their passengers. These days, economy passengers are lucky to get a seat belt! Getting as much sleep as possible will help to ward off jet lag and it is a lot easier to sleep when you feel cozy. If you are travelling to a cold climate, bring a cardigan or an overcoat which you can use as a blanket, on board. If you are travelling to a warm climate bring a pareo or beach towel either of which will double for a blanket, also bring an inflatable neck pillow.
- Drink a lot, preferably water 😉 Not only will this keep you hydrated in the Sahara-like on-board environment but will force you to make several trips to the toilet which leads us to tip number 4.
- Move!! Do those at your seat exercises (see the in-flight magazine) but also get up and walk. Big airplanes have miles (kilometers) of aisles that you can stroll up and down. You can easily get your 10,000 steps done, just ask any flight attendant.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You might think your jeans are comfortable until you have had to wear them for more than 24 hours and sleep in them. Also, metal buttons, zippers, and buckles could set off the security alarms at the airport so choose to wear something that more closely resembles pyjamas.
- Bring lip balm and hand lotion/ moisturizer (see tip 3).
- Bring a pen (sounds so simple but you’d be surprised how often I have had to lend mine to the person sitting next to me).
- View the hours you are forced to spend in airports and on planes as an opportunity to research your destination when you aren’t walking or sleeping.
- Bring a book, e-reader, or Ipad.
- If you have any food restrictions make sure to pre-order your meals.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is often called, is the largest city in Malaysia. According to Lonely Planet, “The founding of KL was almost an accident. In 1857, 87 Chinese prospectors in search of tin landed at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers and set up camp, naming the spot Kuala Lumpur, meaning ‘muddy confluence’.”
These days Kuala Lumpur is more famous for the Petronas Twin Towers than it is for the twin muddy rivers. I have written about my frequent trips from Singapore to KL but this post is about an opportunity I had to share my favourite part of KL with some visiting Canadians.
We began our evening at Bijan Bar & Restaurant which advertises that they serve “fine Malay cuisine”. The food, the ambiance, and the service were all great. This restaurant is located in the trendy Bukit Bintang area so there were plenty of places to choose from for a ‘nightcap’ after we finished our wonderful meal.
When a long-tailed parakeet flew overhead while I was swimming today, I realized that with the exception of the post about being attacked by a crow, I had not written about the birds of Singapore.
The first time I saw one of these beautiful, bright green birds, I thought someone’s pet must have escaped. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the long-tailed parakeet is native to South East Asia. Now, whenever I hear their distinctive call I look up and smile.
For a ‘birder’ visiting Singapore who does not have the time to seek out the many different kinds of birds that live here, I recommend a visit to Jurong Bird Park. It is the largest bird park in Asia.
Visitors to Singapore are sure to include Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanic Gardens, and the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in their itinerary but may miss out on some interesting places that are off the beaten path. Before the Lion City was famous for its futuristic architecture, it had kampongs and fishermen.
Palau Ubin harkens back to what Singapore used to be like. To get there, you take a bumboat from Changi Village.
St. John’s Island has a fascinating history. A ferry from Marina South Pier MRT station will take you there.
Lazarus Island is inhabited by monkeys and cats. You must walk there over the causeway from St. John’s Island or you can take your yacht.
In keeping with the theme of unusual things to do in Singapore, this post is about what I did last evening. I am not sure what to call it; it was a film, it was a symphony, it was amazing!
It is events like this (and like the exhibition that I posted about previously) that blur the line between art and technology; perhaps there isn’t even a line to blur. According to the program, “Half a century after its original release, West Side Story the motion picture will be presented tonight in a format that brings its own innovations. MGM has created a restored, high-definition print of the film that reveals details unseen since 1961. A new sound technology developed by Paris-based Audionamix and utilized by Chace Audio by Deluxe, one of the film industry’s top restoration companies, has isolated vocal tracks from the feature, using new source-separation technology that separates elements within a monophonic soundtrack.” The Singapore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joshua Tan, performed the musical score so seamlessly that I often forgot that the music wasn’t part of the film. They deserved every bit of the enthusiastic applause that followed the film’s end credits.