Saturday, April 18, 2009

Penang, Pearl of the Orient

I've been to Penang Island many times in my life. It's one of my favourite getaways. It has a very unique culture, climate and most of all I love the food! However, my latest trip to Penang Island recently was like a maiden visit. Like I've never been there before :)

Here goes the story...

My friend Awang, who's working with MENGO (Malaysian Environmental NGO), a non-profit organisation formed in 2001 funded by the Danish based association to look into matters pertaining environmental issues in Malaysia, he invited me and my friend Jasz to volunteer for Water Day Penang held in Penang Botanical Garden on Sunday, 12th April'09. The event was launched by the Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Mr. Lim Guan Eng. It was the kick start of our adventure in Penang Island.

Getting to Penang

There are many means of transportation, however, we decided to take the challenge of express bus instead of driving. So on Saturday, 11th April'09 at 9.00am we started our journey from Pudu Bus Station with Transnational Coach to Penang. The ticket priced at RM35.00 per person for one way.

We arrived at the Sg. Nibong bus station at around 2.00pm. First thing first, we needed to check in to our hotel in Jalan Kebun Bunga, nearby the Botanical Garden. We saw taxis waiting outside the gate of Sg. Nibong bus station waiting for their prey, I think. True to my assumption, our predicament started thereon.

Penang Taxis

We realised that all Penang taxi does not use meter. The charges were fixed according to zones in regardless of the distance. Waterfall Hotel was only about 10km away from Sg. Nibong and the charge is RM30! The taxi driver explained, it’s their normal practice. No wonder the locals don’t bother to use taxi as means of transportation.

In my opinion, Penang taxi drivers should review their system and learn from KL to get better image from visitors and increase their income in the long run. Being expensive will only give bad image to the industry and eventually killing the business itself. I wonder why they can’t see the logic. So no argument, we paid our fare of RM30 and check-in at the hotel.

The next thing we need to do is to get our lunch. We wanted something authentically Penang. We asked the hotel reception, where we could eat. The answer we get was so cold because they wanted us to eat at the hotel’s restaurant which only served western food! She told us that all eateries are so far away from the hotel. Getting the cold and unfriendly respond from the second person we encountered was not a pleasant experience, but we didn’t want it to spoil our spirit. We still insist in getting the taste of Penang, so we decided to walk.

The walking part was fun. We took the wrong turning where the road was long and endless. We were happy and playful. At the end we hailed a taxi, no choice if we were to make the best of our limited time there. A less than 5km distance to Pulau Tikus, the taxi charged us RM10. We didn’t argue this time knowing very well that it was their culture.

Eating in Penang

We had Nasi Kandar for lunch. It’s very rich and delicious. You have you own pick of the servings from fish, eggs, chicken, mutton, beef and veges. Just name it and it’s yours. I had a kurma mutton with spinach. Umm… yummy as always!

After Nasi Kandar, we checked out an ice-cream outlet. We wanted to taste the ice-cream first before buying, but we were told, we can’t taste it. Not their practice. Huh! Okay, we had to respect people’s way of doing business. No worries, we selected our flavours and off we go to Gurney Drive area.

Walking gives us better view of Penang Island and its architecture. We noticed a lot of new high-rise, high-end condominiums under construction. New shopping malls too. Hmm… not bad as if the economy is booming. The walking and observation part was fun.

We ate some more at Gurney Drive before taking a bus to Feringhi Beach. Let's makan :)

So full with Nasi Kandar and Ice-cream, we want to check out the famous Gurney Drive hawker food centre. We saw these beautiful exotic snails they called Siput Duri, translated 'Thorny Snail' which I thought can only be found on beaches to be made of souvenirs. They were too pretty to eat. A full plate of beautiful snails was only RM10. It tastes great! We ordered some Chinese dumplings and a Yam Cake as well. Both cost us only RM4. That’s reasonable.

Feringhi Beach

Going to Feringhi via Rapid Penang is only RM1.50 from Gurney Drive. We were advised by two good Samaritan of policemen who were having their meals. The bus driver was a kind person. I was accompanied by a good-hearted elderly woman on the bus telling me things about the beautiful beaches of Feringhi and where to stop. We stopped ourselves at the Shangri-La Penang Beach Resort.

The beach was awesome with lots of people and activities. Since it was unplanned, we didn’t bring our swim wear. Nevertheless we had great fun riding on a horse which has a funny name and an attitude, namely 'SAY YES'. Hahaha... We were running in the water, lazing on the sand observing the crowd and finally the sunset. It was a beautiful and special moment for the three of us.

Gifts & Souvenirs

Usually I will buy Buah Pala (nutmeg) or Asams (preserved fruits) as gifts from Penang. However, this time around, I was not interested on those. I wanted something different. We browsed through the Feringhi night market for souvenirs. Most of the items were China-made, nothing authentic of Penang except for water-colour paintings of Penang scenery by local artists and t-shirts. Very disappointing because I would expect trinkets, handicrafts or anything local as we should promote local products as souvenirs to tourists. Finally I bought a dreamcatcher even though it is not authentically Red Indian’s. Someone used to give me one, so I just want to buy one for someone :)

Night Life

We took a cab to the new clubbing area near The Garage. The charge was RM15 from the hotel. It housed a few happening clubs like SS (Slippery Senoritas), Fame, Mois, Momo, Uptown and many more. We tried Momo. Clubbing in Penang was more expensive than in KL. On Saturday’s night, most of the clubs were patronized by youngsters of local Penangites. We took a cab back home at a bargain charge of RM25.

If I were to rate clubbing in Penang in terms of the crowd, pricing and delivery of quality services, it was 6 points out of 10.

Sorry folks :)

Places to Visit

There are many places you can visit in Penang. They have beautiful sandy beaches of Feringhi, beautiful UNESCO heritage buildings which features colonial architecture around the city, toy museum, snake temple, Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill), Penang Botanical Garden and many more to name just a few here.

Since our Water Day was the reason we went to Penang, we had a chance to walk around Penang Botanical Garden. It was beautiful although in my opinion, more can be done to it. It’s not supposed to be named a botanical garden at all. It’s not like Singapore Botanical Garden or even the Putrajaya Botanical Garden. There’s no learning centre or interpretive elements expected out of its name to the visitors. How I wish it could be a place whereby our future generation could learn something from the world of plants. Instead, it’s just like The Lake Garden in KL, a place for recreation activities.

However, I do love some of the trees I found over there such as the Canon Ball Trees, some low big branches trees which I didn't get to check the name and the Tabebuias (yellow coloured flower trees commonly found in Penang road sides).

Like wishing for the stars... but still wishing. I wish the local government could invest more in creating a real Botanical Garden with visitor’s interpretive centre to showcase our wide range of vegetation and create awareness of the conservation and research in the areas of botany.

After the Water Event, we went for a vegetarian lunch. Nice one :)

Then we went to Snake Temple near the Bayan Lepas area. Quite amazing. Lots of green coloured viper snakes coiled around man-made pillar branches passively. Not even a slight movement. It just sit there oblivious of people who came near them. Our friend, Hong told us that the snakes have been charmed by the monk at the temple. But it can also be the incense smoke that made them dizzy and passive like that. I am not sure… not enough time to really research on this matter.

In terms of architecture, the temple has many unique features. From the deity statues, to the bells, and the paintings. If only we had an expert to explain more of their meaning, it would be wonderful. Since we had so little time to catch on our coach back to KL, we made the visit short.

We went for a round to the USM campus. Hong showed us the Twin Towers of Penang. Hahaha… it’s actually a high end condominium with connecting bridge in the middle. Very expensive, it seems. About a million over a unit! I can do a lot of things with RM1mill.

Penang twin tower and Penang Bridge from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) view

Back to KL

So there you go my adventure in Penang Island with two good friends. It really feels like a maiden visit as we went to places we never been before, with means of public transports which gave us a different kind of experience. It turned out to be fun and adventurous :)

If you want something that is not boring, do it differently!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Singer: Gary Jules
Song Writer: Roland Orzabal

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying, are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying, are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it's a very, very
Mad world...Mad world...Enlarge your world
Mad world

Thursday, April 09, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

A mockingbird is a common bird species that can be found in across North America from Southern Canada to Mexico and expended to Hawaii as well. Asian may not be familiar with this bird species. We have lots of crows, pigeons and may be swallows, now that it's been rared for its valuable nests in empty buildings or abandoned houses :)

Back to mockingbird, it is a common bird found in any kind of habitats, be it the forest up to the city. Meaning that it is so very common in America and can be found just anywhere. It is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. (Source: 50 States.Com)

What's so interesting about this bird that makes me want to elaborate? You might ask :)

The scientific name for a common mocking bird is Mimus polyglottos translated as "many-tongued mimic'. Why? Obviously because this bird can mimic other bird's sounds including the sound of insects and frogs so perfectly. You may not tell the difference. It loves to sing, night and day. Some think it's wonderful. Some think it's an annoyance. I think, it's amazing!

Nothing much to say about looks. The bird is gray and boring looking, I might say. However, much to be said for its singing and mimicry talent. More and more came to admire. These are a few examples:

"Oh Mockingbird have you ever heard words that I've never heard" ~ Bob Marley quotes (Jamaican Singer, Composer and Guitarist. 1945-1981)

" No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter the hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real proper question is: Why is it beautiful?" ~ Bertrand Russel quotes (English Logician & Philosopher (1972-1970)

Nature Poem - Mockingbird
By William R. Jantzen

A little feathered angel
perching high in a towering dominion.
Sweet throated messenger,
delivering his sermon
from an array of twigs and branches.
A songster preaching from his leafy pulpit,
awakening his congregation.
He calls to us.
His magical enrapture carries on the wind.
A hermit of song,
yet a choral orchestration of a thousand voices.
His balled comforts the wandering
and the lonely heart.
He embraces the enlightened soul,
bathing in the first light of the day.
A child draws near as lovers pause
and delight in his endless melody.
Awaken to him and listen.
For his joyous song,
lives within all of us.

I love birds. I wrote many postings in the past related to birds, didn't I :)

Back to the real reason of this posting is "To Kill a Mockingbird", a phenomenal book by Harper Lee. GO GET IT NOW!

A one time wonder masterpiece by Harper Lee. Her only book and a proven must read by anyone who likes literature and just anyone who has soft spot for children and anyone who care about the society we live in. You must grab this one and read. You will never regret it.

It took me too long to get into this book because so many books out there to pick from. Sometimes you need a friend to suggest to you to make you read one good book. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of those good books by suggestion because it is an old book written so long ago. First published in 1961. Then made into film in 1962 for its tremendous success. It is now sold more than 30 million copies! It won't sell that high if it's not good, right. So believe me :)

I will not write the synopsis about this magnificent book for I want everyone who loves knowledge to read this book and understand. Harper Lee tells a story from the eyes of a little girl. She brought forward a very sensitive and heavy subject such us civil rights, education system, family institution and racial prejudice into her book with a simple understanding of children.

I must quote this one:

"I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." ~ Scout's father, Atticus, tells Scout and Jem when they told their father that they wanted to learn shooting with a gun.

And this one:

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mocking bird." Ms. Maudie explained to Scout why her father said it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.

'Mockingbird' here is an allegory used as the novel's title and in the story telling to explain good, innocent people who are destroyed by evil. In this book, the metaphor is for Boo Radley and Tom Robinson as they are the mockingbirds of the society they live in. They had been treated wrongly for the crime they did not commit.

Want to know more... please read this book!

Photos Note:
1. Bird photo : State Symbols USA website
2. Book cover photo: Harper Lee.Com
3. Film photo: Harper Lee.Com

Monday, April 06, 2009

Keep the Magic Secret

I love Sundays and Tuesdays because I would wait infront of the TV to watch Merlin, a fantasy series featured in TV3 and Astro Hallmark Channel 702 right now in Malaysia.

Recent episode that really captured my attention was the 'The Labyrinth of Gedref' a story about a mythical animal I always adore, the UNICORN. Well actually not exactly a unicorn story, but related to it. It's more like a curse of a unicorn.

I love horses, and unicorn is like a fantasy ultimate horse of mine. It is a legend or it is a fantasy. Nobody knows. But a unicorn stories will never ceased to enchant me :)

It is said that a unicorn horn has many magical powers to cure illnesses exist in this world. The horn was called 'alicorn', very sought after in ancient time. They say, if the animal did not exist, how come the horn exist. You may read here for more of the alicorn existence. Some extra knowledge for you :)

However, to get an alicorn is not an easy task. You have to capture the unicorn first and the only way is while it lay asleep in the lap of a virgin. Unicorn will only appear to the the purest of hearts, therefore only a true virgin will be able to lure it near and a hunter who lurks behind secretly will shoot an arrow to its tragic death in the name of it's magical horn. Ahhh... No matter how you may twist and turn, retold or rewrite the story, it will always sounds so romantic. Isn't it :)

That is why poets and artists relating unicorn with romantic love.

Back to Merlin. I am a sucker when it comes to epic and fantasy movies. Anything to do with Merlin, King Arthur, The Chalice, Excalibur, Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot, Camelot, Lady of the Lake and especially Unicorn; I shall have an interest towards it. Those who read history and fantasies, will understand :)

In my opinion, Merlin kind of series is very suitable for family watch. It has a lot of moral values that is good to develop children's understanding of good and evil, family and foe, rich and poor. It has all the elements of life explained in an entertaining manner that most of us can understand. Everyone knows that it is a fantasy, but still it is very inspiring and intriguing enough to make you want to watch every episode. I wonder if I am the only one. Hehehe :)

"When one proves he is pure of heart, the
unicorn will live again" - Merlin Episode 11

Note: Pictures taken from Wikipedia, Scifi and Carania Island website page.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Guerrilla Gardening

This is real cool. I would give the news 10 out of 10. I love it! Love it! Love it!

I would say, I first got the video from my friend's blog, Mushtaq Ali, a Marshall Art Guru in the United State. He's an awesome person, which I always admire :)

This is a video about a new revolution of young hearts who wanted to make a difference to this world. A group of people who wanted to contribute to the betterment of our condition of living and who had proven that they have done a commendable thing that should be a great example to the rest of us.

I am truly touched and inspired by this group, Guerrilla Gardening. It was founded by Richard Reynolds since 2004. You may see all the videos of Guerrilla Gardening around the world in his blog. It was very impressive. And a story of an old grandma who picks up rubbish in the park. What an awesome grandma! I am truly impressed. God bless her.

In Malaysia, we may not need to do this kind of Guerrilla Gardening because we already have beautiful greenery all over our cities and town. And our authorities are very strict in terms of the landscaping which we had Landscaping Department under the Town Planner to handle the matter. But still, I support fully gardening in everyone's home and office buildings. We still need to fight the filth. Malaysian needs to be more aware of littering habits like throwing ciggarette buts out of a car window. I just hate that! Most of my friends are doing it like it's just okay because it's the norm. I would rather filth my car, than the environment!

I have written earlier about Malaysian littering nature in this posting. Please have a look as you may learn something from it. But it was written in Bahasa Malaysia, so not all will understand :)

Plants makes our living space more bearable. It soothes the eyes and the soul. Hard to explain but it does that to me :)




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My mind says:

  • If it's not you, who else!
  • Love your country. Keep it SAFE & GREEN...