Thursday, June 11, 2009

Penang: it's the food

penang gurney drive IR
View over Gurney Drive

So our little trip to Penang is over, and we're safe at home with the cats. The verdict on Penang: it's the food. I hate to say this, but all the historical heritage in Georgetown couldn't drag us away from the food. Now, next time I visit Penang, I'll soak up the history in Georgetown till it comes out of my ears ... but this trip was for the makan.

No 17 Jalan Irrawaddi

Not that that's all we did. There was some time for some history of a more personal nature - my wife went looking for her grandma's old house, which in the end we figured isn't standing anymore. All we have are pictures of where it might have been - but it was an interesting walk to get there, and it's something less than usual for us.

But in the end, it was all about the food =)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Fishing off Gurney Drive

fishing off gurney drive
Fishing Off Gurney Drive

Walked around today, looking for an old address that my wife remembered. Walking around, you see a city from street level, and you see the small things - like this boy fishing off Gurney Drive.


Though I've never been to Penang before, I have been to countless Penang Hawker food events at various hotels in Singapore - so it's quite something to finally get to Penang, and actually sample that same food in its natural environment. Although I tried very hard not to let the context influence me unduly (everything on holiday just seems better because (a) you're on holiday and (b) you have a vested interest in creating a positive memory, to justify the expense and trouble of all that travel) the food did taste better. Food-wise, Penang is all it's cracked up to be.

The G Hotel is slightly more cosmopolitan than we imagined ... I thought it was some sort of beach hotel, but it turns out that Gurney Drive overlooks more mudflats than beach, and the hotel is next to a shopping mall - well, to be fair, they're so close I'd call them conjoined. This is not a problem for Singaporeans - we just inserted more shopping into our plans =)

red moon over penang

After dinner, we had a short walk along Gurney Drive, and saw a red moon rising over the horizon. By the time we started photographing it, it was more blood orange, and over the course of our attempts to take a clear photo, it became yellow. The locals must've thought we were made, the way we contorted our bodies trying to find a stable spot for the camera.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009



The last time I went to the US, 11 years ago, it was my last big Journey as a student. It was the last time I traveled the way I traveled as a university student - you know: on a budget, dirt poor, hostels and backpacking and such. Everything after that was Vacations - because Vacations only exist when you Work, and indeed they are defined in contrast to Work. Vacations connote a minimum of 3-star hotels, room service, and bathrooms you don't have to share with the entire floor. Oh, and baggage that rolls on wheels, rather than weighs on your back.

This most recent trip was worse than a Vacation: it was Work. We were travelling to meet with several universities, along a route that was eerily similar to the route I took the last time - except everything was different. Instead of traveling with friends, it was colleagues. Instead of buses and trains, domestic flights. Instead of grubby youth hostels, business hotels. And instead of Seeing The World, it was Meeting Important People.

So I can't really say I got to see the US the same way I did in '98 - after all, to paraphrase Heraclitus, you can't go on the journey twice. The country has changed, and so have you.

dark city
Dark City

I did manage to sneak some time away to go for a few walks through the various cities - Washington and New York primarily - recapturing a bit of that old feeling of excitement, wandering alone through a foreign city. For various reasons (sheer exhaustion and the cold being high on the list) Boston was experienced primarily indoors, or within the various meeting rooms of various universities. New York remains for me one my favourite - if not the favourite - cities, for the simple reason that I've never felt like a stranger there - not when everyone feels like a stranger. There's an equality of alienation, and, because of that, a sense of being at ease. You're much more yourself than you could be elsewhere.

I have a dream
I Have a Dream

It's a bit ironic that the only time I can undertake major journeys now is when they are work-sanctioned: other than that, the thought of a long journey seems impossible, with the conflicting schedules my wife and I have. I have thought about returning to visit my old University in the UK, but such a trip seems impossible to plan now.

times square
Times Square


I have been reminded umpteen times by the wife that I haven't posted on this blog for quite a while, so I thought I'd finally post an update on few things that have happened - mostly trips abroad.

Let's start with Melaka:

Our second driving holiday in Malaysia. There's something nice about driving yourself on holiday - besides the fact that it's cheaper, it keep you closer to the ground, literally, but also figuratively in the sense you see more of the country. Chasing a double rainbow on the North-South highway driving home was an added bonus - she drove while I desperately tried my hand at that obscure field of photography called "Digital Infra-Red Rainbow Photography (moving vehicle sub-set, high-speed category)". Suffice to say that, had the shots turned out well enough to show, they'd be here.

face glimpsed through a door

Melaka was a nice quiet town to visit for a day. I'd say it reminds me of what Singapore was like in the early Eighties, when I was growing up, except it feels like the time warp is even longer than that - the seventies, it feels like. Life on Mars Melaka, as it were.

We stayed at a lovely little hotel (read: "boutique", as they mostly are nowadays - we don't really have a tradition of Bed and Breakfasts' in this region, unfortunately, so the evolutionary niche of "Hotel, Small, Quaint and Charming" has been filled by the boutique hotel ) called the Majestic, with a lovely attached spa, and enough Peranakan vibes to keep even the most hardcore TCS fan satiated.

the majestic melaka

No, we did not get enough Peranakan food. This fact alone makes a follow-up trip more a necessity than a possibility.