“Really?..” “wow, you really….??”
I said, “yes, yes…,” “and, why not?”
Locals think I am a nut case. I mean..really, is there anything wrong with taking a bus or walk? In Penang, everyone drives, even if it is in the next block, which takes 5-10 minutes to walk. Only people that has no car or motorbike will take the bus or walk. Otherwise, you are looked upon as “crazy”. Locals don’t walk anywhere further than a few hundred metres.
For me, when I travel especially in a town like Penang, I prefer to walk and walk. That is the only way I get to see the beautiful architecture of buildings and discover great eating places and small old “kopitiam” that has only one stall and sell only one type of food.
Yes, the heat may be a problem for most people. It can be quite unbearable. In the first two weeks I was in Penang, that was the case. The tempearature reached 38 degree Celsius and it didn’t drop much in the evening. The worse time is between noon and 5 pm. That is the time to hit the shopping mall to cool down. That is the local favourite “thing to do” on a weekend and evening. After the second week in Penang, the temperature cool down a bit with some rain. It was very pleasant in the evening and morning with temperature around low to mid-twenties, and reached a high twenties on a few days but mostly no more than 32 degree Celsius. So, if you ask me – the best time to visit is, in my opinion, before the start of a rainy season (which is about now) or after the rainy season from October to maybe December and early January.
I am taking you on part two of my discovery of Penang streets – food and architecture of buildings that I managed to capture as I walked around town in search of whatever I find interesting. Unfortunately, as I said in part one of an earlier post, I was not able to take as many photos as I wanted. I left my camera battery charger at home.
Hock Seng Choon in Penang Road, George Town. This old open-air Chinese restaurant or “kopitiam” sells roast chicken rice. Most chicken rice stall sells a variety of roast meats. I ordered a plate of roast chicken with chinese sausage, “lap cheong” and blanched bean sprouts sprinkled with lots of fried shallots and finely crunched dried fish. I added a side order from the kopitiam – a nyonya dish, “Otak Otak” which is a blended fish, eggs with spices wrapped in banana leaf and then steamed. An off-street Indian vendor walked to my table. Asked if I like to buy his curry puff. How can I resist it? Indian curry puff is different from Chinese curry puff. It is usually bigger in size and serve with pickled onions and chilies. Off-street vendor is fairly common in inner city George Town. Patrons may encounter off-street vendor walking to each table to sell something, including lottery ticket! I am glad this culture is alive.
Then, I came across an old shop that sells only fresh coconut juice in Abu Siti Lane. This has been around as long as I can remember. Daily, the shop will have a new supply of freshly plucked coconuts. Local walks up. Make the order. The Indian man picks a fresh coconut from the metal cage with one hand. His other hand firmly gripped onto a sharp “parang”, which is typically used in a Malaysian plantation. It has an extremely sharp long curvy blade with wooden handle. Almost like a machete, but a Malaysian version. With one hand, he swiftly slice the husk off one face of the coconut. Flip the coconut using his other palm and slice again. After three, four more slices, he slices the top off exposing a gap of 3-4 inches. With a straw, the customer drinks the fresh juice through the small gap. When it is finished, the empty coconut husk is handed to the Indian man. Again, with his parang, he slices a bigger gap and slice a small triangular pointed scoop from the husk. The friendly, organic scoop from the husk is used to scrap the coconut flesh off the inside. Everything is so theatrical and interesting to watch. I wished I had my iPOD Nano to film at the time.
I had to try the coconut, juice and flesh. I ordered a young one. It was refreshing and sweet. Not too rich. The flesh was soft and had a beautiful texture and flavour.
They look very fierce. No smile. I was very careful not to cross them, since they have a sharp machete in their hands. I think this coconut street vendor is a competitor to the other shop. Gave me a stern look! 😦
After a nice, refreshing coconut juice, I continue to walk and explore the streets. Came to my old primary school – Wellesley Primary School. The building has the shape of an aircraft, if viewed from the sky. Fortunately, the building was not bombed by the Japanese during WWII.
On a different day, I stopped the bus at Dato Keramat Road in George Town. Walked to an open air food court in “Padang Brown”, which is bordered by three main busy roads – Dato Keramat Road, Perak Road and Anson Road. Padang Brown is very well known among the foodies in Malaysia and Singapore. People flock there to eat at the many different famous street stalls – the most popular are Char Keow Teow, Asam Laksa, Popiah, Pasembur and Loh Bak. This place has been around since I was a child. I have not been there for over 20 years! So, the trip there was a memorable one. I had the Asam Laksa and Popiah. It was very busy. The Chinese stalls are only opened in the afternoon. In the evening and night, other stalls (mostly Malay) are opened.
1. Char Koay Teow
2. Char Koay Kak
3. Asam Laksa
4. Hokkien Mee
5. Loh Mee
7. Wanton Mee
8. Curry Mee
9. Koay Teow Teng, and
10. Nasi Lemak.