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The Island of Penang, Malaysia

Author: BJC
Email: BJC49@telstra.com (More Trip Reviews by BJC)
Date of Trip: February 2001

The one thing I like about Penang is that, unlike Bali, if you say “no thankyou” to a stall holder or trishaw driver they accept it and leave you alone, we never felt threatened or intimidated.

On food, we ate all over the place, trying something different each time, and the food reflects the different cultures such as Indian, like a very nice Rogan Josh, and yummy vegetable and meat Samousas with sweet chilli dipping sauce, both just hot enough, but not too hot for our tastes.

The Malay food was as delightful as we remembered it from 6 years ago, the mixed Seafood in the shell for starters, the deep fried Calamari with a Thai shredded Mango Salad to die for, so good we went back another night and ordered something else but had them supply a small plate of the salad as well.

Mixed Satays to start, then pan fried fish in garlic butter, and a baked fish topped with a seafood mornay sauce of prawns and crab meat and grilled cheese, as you can imagine it was awful, but I managed to eat it all and only good manners stopped me from licking the plate!

Most restaurants on the strip are a delightful, and as with all places we ate, the service and attention to detail is outstanding, the little things like complementary garlic bread to start with, iced water topped up every time you took a drink, and often a complementary plate of fresh fruit pieces after your dinner to cleanse the pallet. Then there are the little surprise finds, such as the Galaxy Barbershop, at the end of the little group of shops that are just alongside our hotel, a nice young Indian Barber, providing a very good haircut, beard and eyebrow trim, to exactly the length and style, number 9 of the 50 or so style photos displayed in the window, and reasonably priced at 25MR, I am always delighted to find such services.

On shopping for bits and pieces, there are a number of good “convenience” stores up and down the strip, the one over the road from our hotel supplied all our needs, cans of Indian Tonic Water for our G&T, cans of various flavoured Iced Tea, a vast array of “nibbles”, as I call chips and nuts, with a variety of flavours and textures.

Also most provided a laundry service at 5MR per Kg, which is cheaper than the cost of the power, water and laundry detergent we would use at home, and same day service if you get it in early, or next morning pickup if put in at night, couldn’t fault it, and most hotels supply an iron and board, however as I ate so well, the tightness of the cloths over the expanding body tended to have them selfiron!

In summary, we had a marvellous week in Penang, and it met and exceeded the number one on our list of what makes for a great holiday, which is we felt very safe and comfortable within our environment, none of the constant looking over your shoulder, Penang is such a relaxed and friendly place to holiday.

The local Restaurants and Cafés are excellent and their service first class, the food is well prepared, tasty and good size portions, drink prices are ok for beer and soft drinks, spirits average and wine we found expensive, having said that we loved eating out and about, all I can say is go forth, eat and enjoy.

If like us you dine early at night, like 7 - 7.30 pm, and then want go shopping, be aware that some of the Stalls on the Buta Ferringhi strip don’t start setting up until 8.30 to 9 pm, so take you time over dinner!

By the way many stalls have lots of very nice paintings, original watercolours and some oils and acrylics, however there were lots of prints, so be careful when purchasing watercolours, the starting price is normally the best indication of an original or a print, if in doubt ask, we found most to be honest traders.

Take the opportunity to get out and about soak up the atmosphere, the culture and the history, Penang is a safe and friendly place, also the beautiful fauna and flora and the birds.

One of the joys in the late afternoon was to sit on our balcony, and watch the beautiful Golden Eagle family, mum and dad teaching their young one to use the updrafts along the front of the hill opposite, to gracefully circle upwards and then to power dive down as if to pick up their prey.

Also a pair of magnificent White Sea Eagles, who also used the updrafts to gain tremendous height before heading out to sea to fish, both sets of Eagles lived in the trees near the top of the hill opposite our hotel, and it was such a joy to watch them, as they are so graceful in flight.

I hope you also enjoy Penang.

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