In case you have been wondering why no new posts for 2 days after the daily posts, well… I’ve been sort of, busy.
I was playing semi host / semi tour guide to a lady traveler from overseas. I know you guys will be interested, but I am not going to go into detail on how we knew each other, let’s just say that this revamped blog played a minor part. No, she does not have a blog, nor does she wants to appear in any blogs, so forget seeing a picture of her as well.
What I meant about semi host is that, I was not able to provide free accommodation because I myself is staying in a rented room. So I settled for picking her up from the airport over the weekend, showed her around for a bit, and dropped her at the hostel that she booked.
So yesterday I played the semi tour guide part. I actually took one day leave for that. So I arrived at her hostel at 9.30 AM and picked her up, and asked: “So, what have you been up to yesterday?”
“Oh, nothing much, I just walked around town for a bit and ate a lot of oily and yummy food.”
“Really? What did you eat?”
“I found that char kuay teow place that you mentioned, then I packed some of those loh bak thing to go, oh and I also had that fishy sour noodle soup thingy and the cendol dessert in a tiny shop in some sort of an alley.” (laksa and Penang Road cendol, I guess)
“What? So you’ve had them all! What am I supposed to feed you with today??”
“I don’t know, you’re the local expert here! Maybe you can show me something healthier that the locals eat.”
“Okay… So… show me the photos you’ve taken, I don’t want to bring you to the same places.”
I spent 10 minutes flipping through her camera screen at her photos of the clan jetties, the Esplanade, Khoo Kongsi, Little India, Love Lane, Armenian Street and Komtar.
“Seems like you’ve already covered most of Georgetown by yourself. Maybe we can go to Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill then.”
“Kek Lok Si? Is it that big temple on top of a hill? I booked a tour from the hostel last night. I’m going there tomorrow!”
“You’ve got everything covered then! OMG, what else are we gonna do?“
Just then, an idea struck me…
“Okay, I know, this is nothing touristy, in fact it might even be boring. What say you to a driving tour round the island? There’s nothing much on the other side of the island, so tourists don’t go there. In fact I’ve never driven on that other side before.”
“A road trip to the unknown? Sounds great, let’s go!”
On our way, as we approached the Gurney Drive area, I realized we could make a stop at that Reclining Buddha temple (what’s it called), but before I could open my mouth, she spotted the temple and said: “Hey, I thought I recognized this temple. I walked here too yesterday!”
“Oh.. okay… no, wait, you what? Walked here?? From the jetties??”
“Yeah, what’s wrong?”
“That’s like… 3 kilometers, or 2 miles!”
“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?”
Soon we arrived. It was late morning, and we were hungry, so first things first. I can’t possibly bring her to any of these, can I?
So we went to the only place that resembles a Malaysian eatery. Yes, Papparich. But I think it’s not bad actually, although not street food, you do get some semblance of local food, and the taste is not too bad.
Glutinous Rice – We usually get this in dim sum restaurants, they call it lor mai kai 糯米鸡, Papparich serves vegetarian version where they replaced chicken with vegetarian meat. But the taste is still there.
White Coffee – I am quite positive that this is a drink unique to Malaysia, the coffee beans are roasted with margarine to produce this. I know my American and Japanese work counterparts usually buy these coffee powders back home in boxes.
Roti Bakar – Toasted bread, served with butter and kaya (coconut jam). Not many foreign visitors can get used to its flavor, so I requested that they leave the spread ingredients on the side.
Half-boiled egg – it means what it means literally, egg boiled halfway instead of fully cooked, then cracked open into a bowl. Add a bit of soy sauce and a pinch of pepper and you got yourself a heavenly taste.
My guest loved all of them (thank God), and she was surprised that she has never seen these stuff featured in the travel blogs. I’m not sure why myself, the American / European travel bloggers who come to Malaysia almost only rave about the char kuay teow, nasi lemak and roti canai (which they love to call the rotee).
Anyway, stomach filled, time to stroll around and take photos…
We kind of lucked out on coming here today. Notice the long stretch of batik cloth along the railing? Apparently there’s something going on.
I learnt that my guest is a bit… different from other tourists. She shows more interest in seemingly pointless details.
“Do you know where this leads to?”
“I don’t know, probably Narnia..”
“Let’s go find out!”
Actually I know where it leads to. It goes straight to Island Plaza, which is a pointless shopping mall and more than 1 kilometer away! So…
“No no no, I’m just kidding! It leads to a dead end! It’s just a path they built for the rich people living in this area to come here. The housing area is walled up, there’s nothing for us to see, let’s go back!”
We spent more time than I expected here, but I guess it is understandable. Straights Quay is a very comfortable place to stroll around and lepak, because it is so clean and tranquil. Especially on a weekday when practically nobody comes here except for the occasional tourists (like us).
We skipped past Batu Ferringhi, because according to my guest, she already registered for another tour with the hostel (again) for Thursday. Apparently there are tours that will bring you hotel / beach hopping in this area. Not that Penang’s beaches are worth anything anyway (just my personal opinion).
We also skipped past the Teluk Bahang National Park, because she will be spending a few days in the bigger National Park in Pahang.
Basically, I had no more idea what to do, except continue driving. And then we arrived at a semi interesting place.
“Wow! There’s a lake here! Why isn’t there any tourists here?”
“It’s not a lake, it’s a dam, a water catchment area. Like a mini Hoover Dam.”
So when we were making our way back to the car, she sprang this question to me.
“The roads from here on out, will it be similar to that twisty road that we took when we left the Straights Quay?”
“Yeah, I think so. In fact, it’s quite remote here, so I think it will get worse. Why? Are you sick? I’ll go slower.”
“No, I mean, I’m wondering if you can let me drive?”
I don’t know what possessed me, but I somehow agreed after 3 seconds of deep thought.
What a big freakin’ mistake!
I thought she was sick with my driving, turns out that was not the case at all!
She took a while to get up to speed, and then, she turned all out into Sabine Schmitz! Shouting and cheering when turning every tight corners! For a while, I was hanging on for dear life!
It was during this drive that I finally learnt that when she was studying in the US, she bought a second hand Mustang and once drove it from Colorado to San Francisco and back. I had to constantly remind her that my car has less than 100 horsepower and cannot be compared to her ‘Stang! (If you want to know what car I drive, click here).
Anyway, we came across a durian stall as we were descending the mountain pass. I told her that this will be another Malaysian experience. So we stopped by the road side, she unwound the window, took a whiff, and immediately wound the window back up.
“OMG OMG! What’s that smell?? I’m going to faint!”
“That’s the durian…”
She did not hesitate for one moment, immediately stepped on the gas pedal and just drove off without giving me any chance to persuade her for a try.
When we made our way into the Balik Pulau town, it was almost 3 PM, all the food shops were already closed. So we did not stop and kept going. After all, Balik Pulau is only good for durians and the laksa (good for her, she can’t stand the former, and she already had a taste of the latter).
She was fascinated with the township though. She said the shops and houses architecture are nice. Really? Ah I forgot, she is someone who is interested in the minor details.
I was out of idea on what else to do. So, we did the un-touristy thing of catching a movie in Queensbay Mall. Surprisingly, I somehow gave her another eye opening experience.
We were queuing up for snacks, and when she eyed the popcorns, she got pretty excited.
“I’ve never seen caramel corns on sale in movie theaters! I love them! What a great treat for movie goers in this country!” Ah… I recall this now, I’ve been to the Metrolux 14 in Loveland, the only popcorn they sell are the lightly salted ones..
She was also surprised that we do not need to queue up for the tickets.
To make it even better, we have numbered seats here. You have to know that in most parts of the US, and England (and I suspect Europe for that matter), their cinemas are free seating. If you are in a big group and go in late, you might not be able to be seated together. Cinemas in Malaysia FTW!
We had a light dinner in Porridge Time 丰衣粥食 before we left the mall.
When I ordered this, she did not know what those crunchy thing was. I asked her if she wants to know what it is before eating, or after eating. She chose the after option. Very well.
She was complaining about wanting to have healthier, less oily food today. LOL! Out of this pile, I had a grand total of 1 piece of fish cake. She polished everything else.
After we paid and left the restaurant, I made the big reveal.
“That crunchy thing that came with the porridge just now? That’s deep fried pig’s intestines.”
I’m not sure what to make of my tour guiding skills. I was mostly (I mean totally) unprepared. I hope she enjoyed her day…