I am glad to be back in Penang for a two weeks holiday. It is not quite a year since my last trip, which was in October 2011. But, it seems much longer. I always love coming back home to my birthplace. It is nothing like home, where I grew up.
I booked this flight months ago. Before I left my office on Friday, my manager was joking with me as to how he managed to approve my leave! I have been very busy at work since I joined the company in September 2011, moving to Melbourne from Hobart. It was a big move and big change. I am back doing what I do best, which is managing IT projects. This time, it is different. I am managing multiple projects at one time with shorter project durations. In total, before I left the office on Friday I have 8 projects in my sleeves! That was the reason my manager could not believed he had approved my leave, and in his own words, “how silly am I!”. Unfortunately, it was too late for him to stop me from going on my leave. But before I left, I assured him that I had everything under control. Let’s hope I am right and still have a job when I get back.
I love Penang, and I still do. Coming home gives me a sense of belonging. Arriving at the Penang International Airport, I can only feel proud that Penang has grown and still growing. The airport for the first time has undergone the biggest redevelopment in Penang history. It is now worth carrying the title of being called an “international” airport. In the past, it was tired, rundown with poor amenities and small to be called an international airport, but befitting for a small island of less than 1/2 million in population. Now, Penang has over 1 million people – the highest population density in Malaysia with close to 2,000 people per square kilometer on the island, and 1,000 people per square kilometer on the mainland and a build up area of 1,050 square km.
I arrived in Penang with my partner, flying Air Asia X from Melbourne and transit in Kuala Lumpur with a domestic Air Asia flight. The aircraft from Melbourne was a bit tired and old, but the overall flight was nice and comfortable. The fares was much cheaper than flying Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines, which if booked in advance could save a traveler almost half of the usual fare of the other airlines. However, I do miss all the frills and perks of flying a Singapore Airlines with the In-flight entertainment and being served by the flight attendants.
It is quiet in Penang especially on the road which is highly unusual. I later found out that it is a long weekend public holiday – “Hari Raya Adilfitri”. Here is wishing all the Muslims in the world a very happy and safe Hari Raya, or in Malaysia, here is wishing a “Selamat Hari Raya”.
Today also marked the beginning of the “Hungry Ghost Festival” (actually started on the fifteenth of August) which goes for a month. This is very widely and traditionally practiced in George Town, with street stage performances worshipping the deities with great feast and shows to entertain and keep the “free wondering spirits” happy and not harm the people in the streets. My mum gave me a soft warning last night not to take any photos of the festivities around the stage and feasts at night time. Mum is superstitius and told me that I may capture a white shadow if not heed her advice. I will, hopefully, in the next few days and nights make my way into the heritage enclave of George Town to recapture the moment of my childhood memory growing up in this cultural heritage city of George Town.
Some local scenes I have captured around my place this morning, which most visitors will not see as a tourist. I woke up early at 5:30 am, had a 20 minutes exercise in the gym and 4 laps in the pool. Then, walked to a nearby “kopitiam” for a plate of “hokkkien char” and iced barley drink.
After my early morning Penang breakfast, which is typical for me growing up in Penang, I leisurely strolled back home but detoured to a nearby fishing village where it is a popular local spot for grilled seafood “ikan bakar” – traditional Malay style. I have never eaten there and probably won’t after I have seen what the place looks like, which is quite filthy. However, the scenery is reflective of how Penang beachside was once like as a fishing village.
and…, later I spotted a Malaysian style truck, “Lorry”. The driver is typically ruthless on the road – a challenge to look out for them, and the motorcyclists!