Above: Small statues of the Boddhisatva Quan Yin, arranged in neat little rows at Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia.

Seeing a quiet weekend with no visitors as our opportunity, Tawn and I slipped away to Penang, Malaysia for a few days.  Thanks to an Air Asia fly+hotel promotion, we were able to secure a really good price at the Cititel Hotel in downtown Georgetown.  Arriving with no expectations, no “to-do” list, and no agenda, it was a truly relaxing weekend.  And thanks to the mixture of cultures, we were able to try all sorts of good food!

While in Penang, we spent a lot of time with a couple of friends whom we have met in the past few months.  Much more relaxing to visit a city in the capable hands of locals.

DSCF5761 Our flight down was on Air Asia, the major budget airline of southeast Asia.  Think Southwest in the US or Ryanair in Europe.  The interior of the airplane has advertising on the tray tables and the overhead bins.  This particular plane was interesting because it had advertising for a series of epic Thai historical dramas about King Narisuan by the same director of “Legend of Suriyothai.”  What’s interesting is that the advertising includes logos for several major sponsors of the film, companies such as 7-11, Siam Commercial Bank, and THAI Airways.  Since THAI and Air Asia are major competitors, the THAI Airways logo is conspicuously absent on the King Narisuan advertising aboard the Air Asia plane.

DSCF5789 Our flight left early on Saturday morning.  It has been particularly foggy over the past few days and as the sun rose over Suvarnabhumi Airport we were treated to a very hazy sunrise.  No sign on our taxi out and take off of any of the pavement cracks that have been reported at the new airport, but the terminal still has no shortage of problems.  We did enjoy a pastry and latte at a cute little cafe that sits amidst the expensive duty free stores and looks like an old fashioned diner done up in modern lines and dark wood.  Below: On the tarmac in Penang.


DSCF5809 When we arrived in Penang, Teh was waiting for us with his car and took us into town.  We had brunch at a hawker center, a brand new one that is apparently the largest hawker center in Penang.  Hawker centers are essentially food courts but the quality of food tends to be very high and because the facility is licensed by the government, there are inspections to ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of food prepared by the vendors.  We sampled a lot of different things including char kway tiaw, a local fried noodle dish; chicken and wild boar satay; fried turnip cake; and roast duck, to name just a few. 

Right: Teh and Tawn with a feast of local dishes at the hawker center.

There was no particular agenda to our day.  Instead, we just looked at some sights, spent some time at one of the local malls, and visited.  One area we spent a little time was Chinatown and the adjacent Little India.  This older section of Georgetown is full of colonial-era buildings, most only two or three storeys tall, and is very walkable.  The shop houses have some tremendous architectural detailing, much of which is in disrepair.  Some building owners, though, have done a good job of maintaining these details, which are very flattering.

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Above: Tawn posing in front of two of the different brightly colored buildings.


Above: This building’s storefront and columns were composed of small tiles.  From a distance is appeared that the Chinese characters were painted on the tiles, but upon closer inspection the characters were actually tiles that had been carefully cut and inserted in the white tiles to create a brushstroke effect.  Talking with the owner, he told us that the tiles were installed more than fifty years ago.  Below right: Detail of the tile characters.  Below right: On another building, the characters are actually poured in as part of the concrete columns.

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In the evening, we stopped by the famed Eastern and Oriental Hotel, above.  Originally built in 1884 by the same brothers who later opened the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, the E&O was known as “The Premier Hotel East of Suez” and catered to notables such as Rudyard Kupling, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham, who featured the E&O is some of his stories.  After falling into disrepair in the 1990s, the E&O was remodeled and reopened in 2001 and is once again the beautiful anchor of Georgetown, nestled along the ocean at the eastern edge of town.

DSCF5846 In addition to taking nighttime pictures in front of it, we came back for a lunchtime visit and had their famous tiffin lunch, a set lunch that features an elaborate buffet of appetizers and desserts along with a choice of three main courses.  The lobby in particular is beautiful with a large dome and a very nice melange of Asian antiques, Victorian wall treatments, and more contemporary furniture.

Andrew joined us for Sunday lunch at a cute traditional Chinese tea shop.  The food was really tasty, all small plates.  Best of all, we enjoyed a set of rose tea, served the traditional way in a special teapot with small cups that required constant refilling.  Right: Andrew poses with us in front of Lao Sher Tea House, located at 217 Burma Road.

In the afternoon we went to Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.  Located on a hill overlooking Georgetown, the temple is 100 years old.  One of its main attractions is a giant statue of Quan Yin, the Boddhisatva of Compassion.  The bronze statue is 120 feet (35 meters) tall and they are in the process of erecting an octagonal room that will cover the statue, resting on enormous carved granite columns.


Above: Tawn standing in a moon gate at the Kek Lok Si Temple.  Below: hanging lanterns for the upcoming Chinese New Year’s festival.


As I woke the first morning in Penang, I looked up at the ceiling in our hotel room and noticed a small sticker on the ceiling – near the top of the left picture, below.  “What is that?” I thought.  It wasn’t until I looked closer that it occurred to me that it points in the director of Mecca, so that Muslim guests know which way to face when doing their prayers.

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Back in Khrungthep, life returns to normal.  Thai language class this morning.  Work in the afternoon and evening.  Good news, though: Aaron will be arriving on Thursday.


6 thoughts on “

  1. Yes I got the card…thanks so much. The comment about my Dad not letting me come to Thai Land made me laugh really hard…and made Dad laugh too….hehehehe…thanks. I miss you guys…I want to come see you. One of these days I will. Kisses and tell Tawn I say hello. =)

  2. Wow…so many Quan Yins!! I want to visit the temple and try the cuisine as well!!RYC: the dating question is one of the “hot” topics whenever i meet up with my relatives.If not for the gift certificate, I would not afford this expensive hotel…haha~~

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