Penang Tourists, Trippers and Travellers
A surge of visitors has reminded me I am a tourist too, and how wonderful to share the true essence of Georgetown and Penang with some of my most favourite people in the world all in perfect succession. I have nearly perfected my tour of the old town, malls, foodie hotspots and Penang culture, judging carefully each of my visitors for their tolerance of the heat, smells and drink requirements be it caffeinated, alcoholic, or simply a freshly cut coconut juice.
For me this has been quite the most indulgent few weeks, to have this time with special people, to endlessly chat and connect. The boys have perfected our House Bar, and we readily accommodate guests with a fine martini at home or cocktails out and about town.
A short half-term and time to head back to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of nights and meet Mum. J flew in from Johor, and myself and the boys decided to try the 4-hour ‘luxury’ Aeroline bus. I led the boys to believe their bus wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the Cambodia bus journeys, and the etched-in-our-minds-forever Laos overnight bus to Pakse. The boys were ecstatic at the sight of the bus, and reclined in their cosy leather seats with headphones and a movie! I had imagined witnessing Malaysian life by the side of the road bus alas the curtains were closed for the movies, and every time I did peek through it seemed to be a never ending view of jungle. All in all though a fabulous journey, and for a fare of 60RM adult and 30RM children it was most certainly worth every ringitt.
Of course Mum could’ve flown on to Penang, but really, any excuse to get back to Traders for a night or two we would never refuse. I really do have to recommend this hotel – it is so centrally located within walking distance to the KLCC mall, opposite a walking track and awesome play park for the kids, the best rooftop cocktail bar in town, quite the best breakfast EVER, and well, the Friday Night Seafood Buffet leaves you without a single millimetre of space left inside your stomach. Convinced?
It was absolutely magical to be with mum and we celebrated in style with a fabulous mix of double-up cocktails, retail therapy and culture with an outing to the KL Bird Park. The Bird Park is located at the Lake Gardens, a 15-minute taxi ride in low traffic from KLCC. The boys loved the park. It touts itself as the “World’s Largest Free-flight Walk-in Aviary” which is actually quite magical, and hard to believe you are in the middle of the city. The birds appear to be fairly well looked after, generally fly freely, and the peacocks were particularly endearing (to Oscar).
We flew back to Penang and with a couple more days of school holidays, we opted for a casual day pass to the Park Royal Hotel in Batu Ferringhi, just 5 minutes from home. There are many hotels lining the beach at Batu Ferringhi, and having wandered through most of them the Park Royal Hotel is friendly, low key, attentive staff, and reasonably priced AND allows a day pass. This is the way to really feel like you are on holiday, slides for the kids, a view of the sea, and the obligatory Happy Hour for cocktails and mocktails.
No rest for the wicked or time to get acclimatized to the heat and Mum and I headed off on a Spiral Synergy Little India Walking Tour in the heart of Georgetown to learn about the Indian community here in Penang. We started at the restaurant of Sri Ananda Bahwan with a full Indian breakfast of rotis, thosai with curries, samosas and mango lassis.
I love these tours and generally find them intellectually stimulating as well as inevitably learning tips and tricks about the local area you would never have discovered otherwise. We wandered the streets of Little India with demonstrations of Henna tattoos and threading, a saree shop, spice shop, Indian jewellery and a mass of fried delights.
A weekend in Johor was next on the agenda, taking the 1-hour Air Asia flight to visit J and size up the new accommodation. J had the whole place looking fabulous with bacon butties to greet us on arrival following our early morning start from Penang. It was a great chance for Mum to see J’s office at Marlborough College, and some of the local hotspots for coffee and boys scooting at Puteri Harbour. Great friends of ours are based nearby and 3 families shared a full British Sunday Roast with lamb and all the trimmings. We were all sad to leave J again, but we were soon back and focused on the demands of the school week. J is at least happy and in some ways normalising his weekly commute.
These days with mum have been so special – I have worked full-time since the boys were born and to not have the added pressure of a full-time job has allowed me to really mellow, enjoy our simple days and not to rush.
I will never ever regret this time in Penang – every day here I know is so very precious, and I certainly haven’t taken a single day for granted. I savour this freedom to structure my own day, to have the luxury of wearing shorts and no commute other than the frenzied traffic on the school run. I admit being the sole carer is in itself exhausting, but also exhilarating. Living on such a tight budget there is no concept of a one-stop-shop. You have to shop around and scour the markets, shops and malls for the best way to provide for the family in a wholesome, healthy and caring way, but being mindful to keep it simple and be careful with our money. I can’t live the life that many expats would and actually the simplicity of it all is where my true learnings are. With J working we both sleep well again, our learnings of the value of money an instigator for Sunflower Journey and these lessons I very much needed to learn.
Mum has been trailed the school run, supermarkets and markets, music lessons and malls, local eateries from Indian curries to Chinese dim sum and Japanese sushi, bubble tea and massala tea, and every aspect of our lives here in Penang. Mum has witnessed the ebb and flow of the days, leaving early to school, and reviving them as they tumble back in through the door in the heat of the afternoon. It has been hot hot hot here in Penang, no rain and this wonderful but incessant heat that beats the energy out of even the robust of locals.
Mum you have been amazing, and I will be so very sad to wave goodbye.