Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Road Trip to Penang

After visiting Kuala Lumpur, my parents and I went on a privately guided tour to Penang. The driver/guide was not the most professional in etiquette, but he did take us to all the right places. 

BIDOR
Duck noodles.
PUN CHUN NOODLE HOUSE/DUCK NOODLES--Was brought here for the duck noodles. I had to try it since I am told it is what they are known for. The soup base is very herbal; Not what I prefer, but edible. My appetite was definitely ruined when I saw a cockroach having free reign of the neighboring table. Yay!

PENANG
TEMPLE KEK LOK SI--This is a very colorful temple that requires a small climb and a short tram ride to the top; or you can just drive to the top! I've had enough of Buddhist temples by this time of my trip and this wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing place to me. The pond full of turtles was creepy and  decor very kitschy.
Temple details
CHEW JETTY--These were part of a clan jetty culture back in Chinese pioneer days where each jetty was inhabited by people with the same last name. And a jetty consists of houses built on stilts over the ocean and connected by a walkway. The jetty I visited was the "Chew" Jetty. I'm not sure who lives here now, but some houses are open to travelers to stay in and some sell gift items.
Chew Jetty Houses
PENANG MURALS--There are these street art/murals all over Georgetown, Penang. They can be hard to find on your own, but there's an app for that! Here's a list of the murals and pictures of the artist's process.
One of the mural and passerby.
PENANG HILL--This is a hill on Penang that is supposed to provide a good vantage point. It was foggy when we went and we could hardly make out the city! The hill requires a tram ride up. At the top, there's a few private residences, an owl craft museum, and some other corners to explore.
View of Penang on a foggy day.
PENANG FERRY--You can get onto Penang island via the bridge or ferry, but make sure you go with the ferry on at least one leg of the trip. Penang's sky photographs so beautifully though the ferry was a little stinky.
Another ferry passing by.
EAT//
LAKSA--I ate this at the Air Itam Open Air Market at the foot of the hill where Lok Kek Si Temple is. It was introduced to us as a must try of Penang. There is tamarind, mackerel, mint, and all kinds of ingredients in there. The flavor was strong and the soup thick. I appreciated it but it wasn't my cup of tea.
Laksa
CHENDUL--We had ours at Famous Penang Street Chendul. All I know is that it is cold and sweet. I never liked Asian desserts that much in general so this was okay for me.

ROJAK--Fruits and stuff with a thick black sauce. I looked this dish up and apparently the sauce have shrimp paste in it. I understand savory and sweet. But why must the savory flavor be fishy?! 
Chendul//Rojak
Charred Kway Teow
CHARRED KWAY TEOW--We can get similar dishes as this in the states so no biggie. But the way they are made in Malaysia are always with a nice dollop of hot sauce.

**Everything tasted acceptable, perhaps even good. But knowing how dirty everything is really took away from the enjoyment of any of the foods. Not everything sat well with my stomach, be warned!

BUKIT TAMBUN
JETTY SEAFOOD--We stopped here for lunch before a long drive back towards KL. The restaurant afforded a nice a riverfront view which doesn't seem that rare in soggy Malaysia. The surprise came after lunch when a whole lot of commotion went on the other side of the river; There appeared 20 or so macaques and 3-4 water monitors. They are a marvel to see in real life away from a documentary or zoo situation! Seeing them was definitely a highlight of the trip!
Restaurant's view of the river.
Macaques and Water Monitors!
KUALA SELANGOR
RESTORAN KUAN HWA--This was another restaurant by a river. It was also right beside where we board for the firefly tour. We ate dinner while watching the sun set. We ordered some mantis prawns. They tasted alright but were kind of gross looking. We also ordered some fried mini octopus (really mini!), and razor shells; all seafood I have never seen before!
Eating and waiting for the sun to set.
FIREFLIES--There are 3-4 locations around Kuala Selangor that provides firefly tours. They take you on boats out onto the river to watch fireflies along the riverside vegetation. Our boat was around a 15 people boat and we sped onto the pitch dark river. We went around many river bends then the captain stopped the engine for us to look into the dark silhouette of the trees. As our eyes adjust, we start to see twinkling allover the trees, like little LED lights. Sometimes, you see a few zip around. It is quite amazing!
Going off into the darkness to watch fireflies do their thing.

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I admit I didn't like Malaysia in general, but I liked Penang more than Kuala Lumpur. I like places where I can feel a sense of genuineness coming from it: an acceptance of a place for itself, for its history. I also loved being on the road before morning and waking up to the sun rising over the lush Malay forest. It is so marvelous to me to see the different plants and trees so foreign to me. I have heard it said that "When man creates god, then the god is like man; But when God creates man, then the man is like God." This simply means that creation takes on the character of its creator. I think this is so with all creatures. Temples and cities, however beautiful, never rivaled a blue sky or a flower in bloom.

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