was in penang last weekend for the annual year-end pilgrimage - for some unknown reason, we seemed to spend our christmas breaks there.
after a leisurely 5-hr drive (did remember: speed trap, speed trap!) we were there by late afternoon. traffic was a breeze & thanks to touch 'n' go, crossing the often congested penang bridge was easy. without hesitation, the 1st stop, as always, was the hawker stalls, as we had a late breakfast & had skipped lunch. after a delightful course of char kway teow, hokkien mee & pasembor, downed with brown-sugared soya bean drink, we were ready to take on penang.
after putting our stuff at the in-laws', we headed for bukit dumbar. this green-lung in congested jelutong provides sane reprieve in terms of open space & recreational activities.
lots of space for football....
tai-chi & children's playground....
& a view from the top.
when i started working in penang years ago, eden restaurant was synonymous with good tasty western food at reasonable prices & all through the years, in my opinion, they have never failed to deliver. they even have a branch (really, a misnomer bcos this is larger than the original one) at the batu ferringhi tourist belt. i still remember the very popular set lunches at RM7.90++ those days, consisting of a warm bun, soup of the day, main course meal, ice cream & tea/coffee - what a lot of food for that price!! it costs over twice now, but still a grand deal!
so we decided to have dinner at the original shop on hutton lane. they used to have 2 shops, each just 2 doors away from the other, but i suppose competition is stiff as there are nasi kandar/mamak stalls aplenty just a stone's throw away along penang road. also they now offer set dinners at RM24.90++ & that it was only half-full on a saturday night betrayed that things are not well. the black pepper steak i had was top-notch, & so i remain a loyal eden patron.
the next day we checked out the new queensbay shopping mall. naturally, the parking was almost full by the time we got there at 11.30am, probably because it's still free for now. lots of window-shoppers but few buyers. the best place to be by a long shot, has to be starbucks. located within the premise of borders on the 2nd floor, the glass wall provided a panaromic view of the pulau jerejak, the sea & penang bridge. taking in that picturesque scene & with a good book in hand, that latte will last some hours.
you know how it is said that the world is a small place but i can tell you that penang is even smaller. bumped into ex-medic classmate dr C at the apple/ipod shop. funny, he couldn't recognise me when we had just met last year at the reunion, & i don't think i've changed that much either. exchanged work & family tales - he's a physician at 1 of the many private hospitals there & his eldest, a girl, is going for A-levels in uk next year. it seemed only yesterday when he was tops in the anatomy clinicals.
then bumped into dr L & his family, with whom we shared many a meal in sheffield, UK when we were both in the same registrars' rotation. our daughters were born in the same year there - i named mine emma because it was such a typical english name & he named his june, even though she was born in august. he's also in private practice in penang, his hometown.
that evening found us religiously doing our ritual - the almost mandatory hike up penang hill from youth park. emma & i huffed & puffed up to the usual #3 stop where we rested for tea, but this time we raised our benchmark a little & ascended a further (pant! pant!) 15mins to #5 stop.
fairly steep climb
#5 stop in sight
affirmation : #5 stop
here again, tea, coffee plus cream crackers & roti kok were offered. medics often advise people not to eat immediately before & after strenous exercise (something about blood flow being diverted to the contracting muscles) but i think a light snack is fine, because i've never appreciated black coffee & roti kok till now, right after an exhaustive hike. there we bumped into a cousin & his wife, both regular hikers & they offered to take us up yet one more level to #7 stop tomorrow. i'll have to think about that.
the next day, we were at the chowrasta market to get some famous tau sar pneah & at the same time, to savour the even more famous chendol, located at lebuh keng kwee, off penang road.
the 2 stalls have been operating for ages &
for some reason, the one on the right (below)
seemed to attract more customers. in terms of taste, i have no preference
but the stall on the left (below)
did have more ingredients. no matter, because almost without fail,
i'll have a bowl each from both stalls.
the red beans used to be much bigger
later, we met the cousins for the hike. you have to hand it to the penangites - they eat well & yet, they exercise almost religiously. the car park was already half full by that time - at 4pm in the blazing sun!! we took a different route up, but no less easy.
apparently, the hash house harriers had been there.
however, #7 stop was just a spot between stop #85 further up & #5 below, which we achieved yesterday. an anti-climax? the descent was a stroll.
this has been an unusual penang trip. i planned on meeting an ex-primary school classmate william (whom i have not seen for over 30yrs) but he couldn't make it. instead, i bumped into 2 colleagues & 2 cousins. it's always nice when we unexpectedly meet friends & colleagues, esp those we have not seen for some time. in these crazy, crazy times, we need to build bridges more than ever.
so, should auld acquaintance be forgot & never be brought to mind?
God forbid, for we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
blessed new year, one & all!