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{Penang} The Bucket List, 2012

Can you believe it’s nearly March? My final year in Penang is flying by faster than a young man breaking the speed limit on his plastic scooter. I have lots of lists of things I want to do, things I have to do, things I want to shop for, where I want to go and where I want to eat (that’s a very important list) but for now, here’s my Penang bucket list for 2012. There’s a few carry over items from the previous year, and a few new ones as well. It’s not by any means a definitive list, and it is subject to evolution, but it’s a list nevertheless:

PENANG BUCKET LIST FOR 2012

Hike to the top of Penang Hill (finally)

Hike to Monkey Beach and have a picnic

Visit Penang’s national park for some hiking (and maybe a swim on a clean beach)

Do another lap of the island, one last time

Go on the funicular railway to the top of Penang Hill (yes, I want to go up twice, the easy way and the hard way!)

Eat dinner at David Brown’s restaurant

Go for a Peking duck lunch with friends

Eat more local food and try different dishes

Take photos around Georgetown at sunrise

Do a Nyonya cooking class

Do a few more cooking classes with Nazlina

Do more batik paintings (and try and develop a better technique)

Make another pair of smaller beaded shoes

Learn how to make roti canai, and Indian sweets

Take photos at my local wet markets

Take a photo of the funny driving school

Stay at either the E&O or the Rasa Sayang for a night

Get some tailor made clothes made

Eat at the Thai restaurant at Bukit Genting on sunset

Cross over to Butterworth on the ferry another time and get some photos

Go to the top of the Komtar building to take some photos

Browse around in Penang’s antique stores and pick up some furniture pieces

Visit the Penang Museum

 Photo taken in January 2012 at the Penang Butterfly Farm – one of the activities I was able to tick off my previous bucket list.

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*That* Penang bucket list

Last year I came up with a list of things I wanted to do around Penang in the next two years. I have to say, I’ve done a pretty good job at crossing items off this list (having visitors really helps a lot with checking off some of the tourist stuff.)

There’s a few things left uncrossed on the list, and there’s a lot of things I want to add to the list. Hopefully I’ll get around to making a new list and doing a “year in review” list soon – the last few weeks months have been busy with moving across town, unpacking all our stuff, spending quality time with a visiting friend and Penang friends about to move back to Oz, you get the idea…

Anyway, let’s take a look at that list, shall we?

Things to do around Penang (as listed on January 2011)

Drive a lap of the whole island, more than once – We drove around the island while my family was here last year. I enjoyed the trip and was amazed at how different the “vibe” was on the other side of Penang Island – very laid back and rural. I hope to do another drive or two in 2012.

Take a day trip to the Thai border – I was able to do this back in October 2011 with some visiting friends of Mr B. While I enjoyed the experience of crossing over to Thailand for the day, Hat Yai wasn’t as awesome shopping wise as I’d been led to believe. Mind you, I wouldn’t knock back a chance to do it again.

Visit Penang’s national park – Not yet.

Visit the Butterfly farm– Done! Absolutely loved it, as did my visiting friend. I think Mr B may have enjoyed using his camera to get some cool snaps too. Must do a blog post about this soon.

Visit the Blue Mansion – Did this when my family was in town. I have to say, the mansion is a beautiful building but the tour is somewhat lame (lots of talk, not much moving around the place) and was, in my opinion, over priced. I think I prefer the Green Mansion for showing visitors a glimpse of Penang’s Peranakan past.

Get my Indian sari made up – Wore it to a ball, in fact. Needed an Indian amah to help me get into the thing, but the end result was pretty glamorous.

Hike to the very top of Penang Hill – Not yet. I must do it at least once in 2012, I must!

Eat dinner at the top of Penang Hill – When my family was here we had lunch at David Brown’s restaurant on the top of the hill. The views were stunning (even with the haze) and we had the place to ourselves. Food was delicious, if expensive. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

Get some good photos of someone making teh tarik – Done!

Visit Kek Lok Si properly (I haven’t had a decent explore of the place yet!) – I’ve been to see the 10,000 Lantern display twice and took my friend up to Kek Lok Si in the daytime during her visit. I think I’ve covered that Buddhist temple pretty comprehensively!

See Kek Lok Si lit up for Chinese New Year  – Here’s the proof for that one – we even went twice!

Go on a Thaipusam tour – Done. Check it out here.

Go on a group tour of the Clan Jetties – Another one done. I’ve had a blog draft sitting around for AGES about this tour, I’ll have to post it up sometime before leaving Penang!

Eat a duck lunch at Kristal (I have a feeling I’ll want to do this more than once!) – I have yet to do this, believe it or not. Please believe me when I say I’ve tried out plenty of other places though. Next year I will be in walking distance of this place, and I intend to do that walk.

Have high tea at Suffolk House (and also dinner!) – I’m yet to have high tea at Suffolk House but last year we went there for a group dinner for Mr B’s work. The food was divine and I’d love to go back. I had high tea at the E&O a few times this year, and as usual, it was delicious.

Take some photos around Georgetown in the early morning, when the light is at its best – I’ve taken some great pics around Georgetown, but not in the early morning. Can I get up the motivation this year? Time will tell.

Go on a rickshaw ride around Georgetown – Done! Did this while the family was here, sharing a rickshaw with Mr B. A lovely, leisurely way to see the sights in Georgetown.

Spend a day exploring the streets of Georgetown on foot – Not a day, but I’ve definitely done a morning or two. Too hot for all day, lah! I even walked into town from my new home, then walked back home again and loved finding all sorts of interesting streets I miss when I’m in a car.

Visit Tua Pek Kong temple, Yap Khongsi and Cheah Kongsi – Done, during visits from family and friends and also as part of a tour.

Take more cooking classes at the Spice Gardens – I did a cooking class with the same woman who ran the cooking classes at the Spice Gardens last year, but it wasn’t at the Spice Gardens. I hope to do at least one more this year, and also have ideas for a few others as well.

Do more batik painting – Did this once with my mum last year and with my friend this year; definitely something to do with the visitors heading our way in 2012.

Learn how to make rotis – Still dying to learn how to do this, as well as make Indian sweets, recreate hawker food favourites, etc…Help!

Try and make at least one pair of handmade beaded shoes – I’ve just recently finished beading my first pair and need to take them to the shoe maker. Not bad for a project I’ve worked on in very short spurts for…a year. Oops.

Treat myself to more hair washes at Sunbean – I had a few, until Sunbean closed down. RIP Sunbean, I will miss those fabulous massaging hair washes.

Start getting regular massages – No. Note to self: You’re mad to not be getting regular massages. Rectify this ASAP!

Get some portrait photos taken of Mr B and I around Georgetown – This would require the cooperation of Mr B. Mr B has been somewhat elusive on this subject…

Do a walking tour of Pulau Tikus – Nah. But easy enough to do  in our new location. I could even do it on my bike!

Try foot reflexology – Not yet. I’ve had plenty of pedicures though, does that count?

Try and attend some sort of Chinese New Year celebrations – Not really. Would have been fun to crash someone’s open house but it didn’t eventuate. But this year we had a lot of fun watching the fireworks and hearing the celebrations from the windows of our new home.

Take photos of my local wet markets – Surprisingly I have a few photos taken from when my folks were here, but I want to go there and do a proper job of it.

Stay at the E & O again (or perhaps Rasa Sayang, or Hard Rock) for a night as a treat – Nope. Got to do it at least once before we go though.

See the lighting of the E & O Christmas Tree – Too busy travelling.

Get a photo of the funny driving school – Driven past plenty of times, no pics yet.

Eat at the Thai restaurant at Bukit Genting on sunset – Nope.

Get some tailor made clothes made – Kept using the “I’m going to wait until I’ve lost some weight” excuse. But if I get them made, Murphy’s Law dictates I will then lose weight. Hmm, food for thought…

Now that I’ve got this post out of the way, I hope to be back soon with a “year in review” post and a new bucket list for 2012.

Photo taken on October 22, 2011, on a gorgeously clear afternoon on Penang Hill. A hill I hope to reach the top of, on foot, in 2012… 

(Note: This list has been sitting in my draft folder for ages, and I was reminded of the existence of this list while having lunch with a friend today. Thanks for the reminder Em!)

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This was the year…

…I climbed a mountain. A mountain 4095.2m above sea level, to be exact. In mid-November Mr B, myself and a small band of fellow crazy people hikers tackled Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest mountain (not the tallest in South East Asia as many are led to believe; a range of mountains in Myanmar hold that honour). I’d done lots of practice on Penang Hill, so I started the hike well prepared mentally. Reaching that summit just after sunrise was magical, and the sense of accomplishment was worth every ache of soreness.

I also completed the world’s largest Via Ferrata at Kinabalu, climbing and navigating a vertical drop from 3776m. Let’s just say I wasn’t as mentally prepared for that part of the adventure. I was fine until I went over the edge of the cliff and saw the sheer couple of hundred metre drop below. Cue the panic. I think of myself as fairly good with heights but doing that climb scared the crap out of me. There were plenty of tears shed, obscenities uttered and quite a few “I can’t do this anymore” moments…but we completed the trail. The guide said I wasn’t the worst person ever to do the trail, but I think I came pretty close. And I think Mr B was pretty close to filing for a divorce (I think I really pushed that “for better or worse” part of the marital vows to the limit on that mountain.) In short, I’m glad I did the Via Ferrata, but I will never do it again. I’d tackle the summit again though…

…I became an Advanced Open Water Diver. Mr B and I visited Koh Tao in mid-December to get our qualifications. For Mr B, all he had to do was move from Open Water Diver to AOW. I on the other hand had to get the Open Water qualifications before we could even start on the AOW. My last scuba diving experience in the Perhentians in Malaysia wasn’t the best of experiences, so I went into my Open Water training with plenty of nerves. This time around there were still a few tears and moments of panic, but mostly it was just lots of fun, thanks to Mr B and my awesome instructor, Fabio (seriously, that’s his name!) Swimming amongst the fishes, exploring shipwrecks and “finding Nemo” is the most amazing experience. I hope we can do lots more diving in 2011.

…We did shedloads of travel. There was the big trip around Morocco, Spain, France (well, Paris), England and Scotland; girls trips to Bali and the East Malaysian state of Sarawak; a visit to Hong Kong to watch Mr B play cricket; a few trips to Thailand; a few visits to KL and of course the Kota Kinabalu visit in the east at Sabah. Sabah, Bali, Hong Kong and Thailand (Koh Samui and Koh Tao) were all within the last six weeks or so, hence why this blog has been a little quiet…

So, so blessed to have this rare opportunity to travel so much and I’m loving every minute I can cram into an itinerary. I plan to continue this pattern in 2012 – if I can get away with it.

…I didn’t cook a Christmas dinner. We went out with friends for a buffet lunch at one of Penang’s nicest hotels, the G. I bought cupcakes and gingerbread along to the poolside supper, which was the extent of my holiday baking this year. As much as I loved the all-you-can-eat smoked salmon and prawns (and the roast buffet, and the chocolate fountain…) I sure did miss my Boxing Day leftovers sandwich and snatching mouthfuls of Buche de Noel out of the fridge.

…I did lots of exploring in Penang. I love to drive into Georgetown, attempt to park my car (it can take a while to find a park) and then explore the streets on foot. Happy to say I’ve crossed a few things off the “to do” list I made up, and have quite a few more things to add. That’s a whole other post though.

… I swapped volunteer secretary work for volunteer editorial work, and am so happy with the change. This new role suits me to a tee, much more than the former did. I really need to share some of the pieces I’ve written on here; I don’t see any harm in doing so.

…I celebrated four years of marriage with Mr B. I’m hoping that adorable man will allow me to celebrate at least 40 more years with him 😉

…I had my parents and two of my brothers visit us in Penang. It was very cool to see my folks enjoy Penang as much as I do, but especially my two brothers. With both of them being autistic and intellectually handicapped, I was doing my share of “big sister” worrying before they arrived about how they would cope with the different climate, customs, food, etc. But both of them did brilliantly and enjoyed their visit. One of them, who isn’t known for his huge appetite, even developed an affinity for the local food and would specifically ask for us to go for makan. Awesome.

…Enjoyed a lot more time with friends. Being an introvert, it takes me a while to build up friendships with people but this year, new people have arrived who are now good friends, and friendships started last year have strengthened. I’m so thankful for that. I’ve done a lot more socialising this year, and am definitely happier for it. I hope to savour those friendships more in 2012, as well as build some new ones.

…I gained some of the weight I lost last year. Yeah, I’ve spent quite a few hours berating myself for that. Yeah, I know how it happened – I wasn’t as much of a gym junkie (for various reasons), I did a lot of foodie indulgences on my travels and a few sad moments in the year meant I ate a lot of feelings. But next year I’ll be living spitting distance from the gym and I plan to cycle to the wet markets for my fresh produce. Let’s see how that goes. I don’t want to be focused on a weight measurement or a dress size, I just want to feel strong and healthy. And right now, I don’t feel like that.

…I saw some of my hopes and dreams disappear, and I’ve experienced plenty of sadness because of that. I guess you could say I’ve had to climb a few mountains metaphorically, as well as the physical mountain in Kinabalu. I’ve had to adjust my approach to these particular mountains, and imagine a different summit to the one I initially expected. But life is, as John Lennon famously said, what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and I can’t wait for 2012 and the promise it holds. It’ll be my final year in Penang, and I want to enjoy every moment of it, however I can.

Apologies for the long and photoless post; trying to work out how this new photo uploader on WordPress works. Some days I feel tech savvy, others I feel like a Luddite…

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The week that was…

This week, I…

…did a lot of exercise outdoors, including a hike up to Moon Gate 5 on Penang Hill. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, for various reasons, and boy it felt good to hit the hiking trail again. Having good company along for the hike is always a bonus, and I’m sure I’ll be doing this trail a couple of times each week for at least the next month. I’m hiking Kota Kinabalu in mid-November and I have not done anywhere near enough prep work; better get working on that. I’ve also been doing workouts on the resistance equipment at Youth Park, interspersed with quick jogs around the track. It’s a nice change from the gym, being out in the morning sunshine (though I had my share of indoor time with my PT session).

…had such a great time making cards at my card making workshop. The cards for the troops are now all packaged and ready to be sent.

…enjoyed cooking up a storm for the workshop, and found myself wishing I had more opportunities to bake. There’s so many recipes I want to try, I’d be baking a cake or a batch of cookies each day. Perhaps I need to host a morning tea, or just randomly surprise people by dropping off cupcakes at their door…

…went and tried out the new Kopi Cine (or Kopi C/China House as its now known) with a friend. The verdict? This place is going to be amazing; it already is and they’re still finishing off the finer details. A cafe space, fine dining room, reading room, art gallery…they also had an impressive arrangement of baked goods which reminded me of CWA afternoon teas, and a list of ice cream flavours which made my mind boggle. The food was divine and the sour cream and brown sugar ice cream I tried was pretty darn seductive (I want to make it at home!) I didn’t take any photos as I was too busy chatting and scoffing down food, but trust me, I’ll be going back soon.

…did take a photo on my “Kopi Cine day out”…of washing on the line. My friend may have thought I was nuts, but I loved the colourful batik prints, the lush plants and how both contrasted with the peeling wall. I had visions in my head of playing around with the picture in Photoshop, and this is one of my experiments so far:

…signed up for Pinterest. I’ve been resisting this phenomenon, telling myself I don’t need any more social network time sucks in my life… but then a friend sent me an invite, and I succumbed to the allure. And yes, I was definitely a pin-a-holic for the first few days. It’s addicting, but at least it’s allowed me to tidy up my folder of bookmarked websites into organised and pretty inspiration boards. I’m planning to institute a “Make A Pin Monday” so that I’m doing something with this inspiration at least once a week. We’ll see how that goes…on Monday. And if you want to jump on the Pin bandwagon, just leave me a message and I’ll send an invite. It’s only fair to spread the addiction love…

… Came to the realisation I have all the ingredients for Cosmopolitans in my kitchen. Except the martini glasses, which are back in Australia in storage. It’s just not the same, drinking a Cosmo from a tumbler, is it?

Next week, I…

…hope to complete at least three hikes up Penang Hill, as well as my regular gym workouts.

…want to go take photos down in Little India in the lead-up to Deepavali.

…try and attempt to do one “Make a Pin Monday”.

…really would like to do dim sum again. And visit Kopi C again. Is that too much eating out for one week? (Don’t answer that, Mr Personal Trainer…)

Happy Saturday people!

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I had just finished swimming some laps in the pool at our apartment complex when I looked over the balcony to the beach and noticed the light.

Gorgeously soft, “golden hour” photography light…

Immediately I was seized with a compulsion to grab my camera and run down to the beach to take some photos…if only my camera wasn’t up on the 14th floor…

By the time I went back up to the apartment, got the camera and made sure I was suitably attired that “golden light” had faded somewhat, but the photography potential was still ripe for the picking (or snapping, if you will.)

We have this secluded little beach at the base of our apartment building which I don’t frequent anywhere near enough. I often stare at the beach from my balcony and imagine walking along the sand at sunset, yet my imagination rarely manifests as action.

It was lovely to slip down to the beach tonight and walk along the sand in the fading daylight, listening to the steady rhythm of waves lapping at the shore. There were all sorts of characters down there who captured my interest; fishermen on the rocks, lovers cuddling together underneath the trees, teenagers playing volleyball, women collecting fishing bait in the shallows…

I must admit, it’s not the cleanest of beaches. I wouldn’t dare stick my toes in the water; I’ve seen the garbage and debris floating in the ocean from my balcony. There’s the ever-present concern of ringworm from walking barefoot on the sand. As I walked along I saw garbage washed up on the shore, a mangled rat carcass by the rocks, plastic bags filled with who knows what. Nevertheless, there’s something inexplicably therapeutic about being on a beach at sunset. I enjoyed every moment of it…

Plus I took some really nice photos. I love silhouettes and I took some shots I’m really happy with, and it will be fun to play with these pictures in Photoshop (once I learn how to play). So, here’s a little taste of “our” beach on a Sunday evening:

 

I definitely need to visit this little beach more often. Especially if the light is good…

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Oh, rats…

 

I was at the wet markets this morning (wetter than normal, I might add, due to rain) and while I was selecting my lettuces, a Chinese woman let out an almighty shriek and sunk her fingernails into my arm.

I had no idea what was going on until another woman nearby informed me “Big rat just run past her leg”.

Oh Lord.

“Big rat” is the last thing you want to hear at a venue where you’re shopping for your weekly fruit and vegetables… I know rodent infestation is a possibility at open air markets like these but sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss. I don’t want to think about it.

So, as you can imagine, I spent the rest of my time at the stall checking my feet every ten seconds, lest some rodent run past my leg, and trying to get the image of rats nibbling my lettuce out of my head.

As I walked away from the stall, I heard someone shriek out “Watch out white woman” at the same time I felt a brush of fur along my leg. A loud shriek began to rise in my throat, just as I looked down and saw a thin ginger cat streak past me and run underneath the table of another stall.

My scream dissolved in my mouth, before I had the chance to embarrass myself. Phew! Thank goodness it wasn’t the “big rat”. I started to feel optimistic; perhaps the Chinese woman mistook the cat for the “big rat”…

Or perhaps…

The cat was chasing down that “big rat”…

I don’t want to think about it.

Just another morning in South East Asia…

Happy Tuesday people!

Photo taken by my Mum of me at the wet markets a few weeks ago. As someone who likes to document everyday life, I’m happy to have this photo in my possession. Not so happy I look so ghostly pale without make-up on. Or “whiter than other white people”, as one local woman told me once…

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Today I joined a friend on a photographic excursion to Air Hitam, one of the “suburbs” (for want of a better word) south of Georgetown. My friend is in her last year of living in Penang and, as a keen photographer, she has plans to head out once a week to capture this island through the lens of her camera. I hope to join her as much as I can – she comes up with some fantastic ideas for places to explore. Plus I just love any excuse to get out and take photos of this colourful, vibrant part of the world we live in. Penang just oozes with character.

Air Hitam is best known as the home of Kek Lok Si, the momumental Buddhist temple I mentioned in a previous post. But while I’ve driven through the streets of Air Hitam many times on my way to other places, I’ve never stopped to have a look and wander the streets. Well, today was the day, and we had a pleasant morning of walking, shopping (for some) and of course, photo taking. We discovered some great little shops; a merchant shop filled with all sorts of sewing notions, and a cute clothing store. I plan to go back with a few more ringgits next time…

I love these sorts of photos; photos which capture the small, regular moments of life, beautiful in its simplicity. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the streets we walked along; they were just small shops, roadside stalls, cafes and produce markets. But they were streets which hummed with the strong heartbeat of life here in Penang. I hope I’ve been able to capture a little of that heartbeat in these pics.

Without further adieu, here’s a few pics of what I saw today:

  

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