Saturday felt like the best possible experience in Penang, but as I ‘oohh and ahhed” over it, my local friend kind of shrugged. He’s lived here his entire life and everything is now common place. It reminded me of growing up near the beach and wonder why people would possibly want to visit my city. But here, I am the tourist. And Lion Dancing is still amazing, anytime they give free chocolate is great, and Chinese temples are stunning!
Our band of four set off to the Cheong Fat Tze Mansion but had missed the last tour so made do with a tour of the Chocolate Boutique. (Tough break.) A quick tour provided an overview of the chocolate and coffee-making processes and ended at their gift shop, where samples were given. And not just one or two, but about 10 different chocolates, all great. Most interesting to me were the “fresh fruit” options. Packaged and boxed through some confectionary magic, they included mango (fantastic) and durian (ick!) Other options included dried fruit, various nuts, and milk and dark chocolate. In thanks for the free samples, we purchased dark chocolate espresso beans. While not cheap, definitely worth it, with the perfect chocolate to bean mix.
We wandered and ended up at a local eatery that had great prices and an eclectic offering of organ meats. James ordered brains with minced pork and noodles. As I write these words, my face is grimacing to remember. Don’t worry, I’ll share! His noodles arrived and the sizable chunks floating in it looked exactly like brains do. He broke it into smaller pieces and white oozed between the two pieces. The image made me ill and forced me to look away. And YET, as our meal was winding down, I tried a tiny bite of the brains and my mind was not changed about how gross it was. The texture was like eating squishy fat, sorry again reader. Our friend encouraged us to try the century eggs, with green yolks and brown ‘whites’. I tried to look past this but his description of them being “rubbery”, when I prompted for taste, couldn’t convince me. Perhaps some other time (never).
Don’t worry the rest of the afternoon was in no way gross!
Instead, all yucky memories were washed away with the Armenia Street Fair which overwhelmed my senses in a good way. Various booths decorated the streets, sweet pancakes were cooking, and English songs were being belted out. ‘Proud Mary’ was being sung by the guitarist and percussions kept time on metal containers and pots. It sounded great! (Albeit odd to hear in Malaysia.)
My sense of touch was next engaged as henna was lightly applied to my hand. The woman delicately manipulated the paste to create spirals and a peacock that she said represented happiness. The process certainly made me smile for I’d wanted to get henna since our Krabi trip.
We moved on to the Khoo Kongsi clan houses. Turning the corner to see the temple made my jaw drop. It was beautifully ornate and huge! I was in awe of the details of the roof and all of the bright colors. We grabbed seats as the cultural dancing was about to begin and enjoyed the traditional dances, like the Lotus and Harvest Dance. The dancers were adorned in neon colors which I previously would not have associated with traditional Chinese dress but there it was! (They had those colors back then, right?)
With enough dancing and peeking at the architecture, we returned to the street. Our friend pointed out the Lion Dancing, ON STILTS, and again my jaw dropped and I rushed to get closer. The costumed dancers jumped and balanced (one on top of the others shoulders) on the tall stilts that had since appeared on the street. The loud percussions and cymbals were also present and we melted into the crowd of heads titled back to see the performance.
With its completion, we headed out and I babbled about how much I loved Penang while my friend shrugged. Just another day for him! I told him to move somewhere boring for 10 years and then he’d appreciate it (certainly worked for me!)
He led us to the lively Red Garden, a collection of 30 hawker stalls of all different nationalities. At the dinner hour, it was very crowded with a mix of locals and tourists enjoying a variety of dishes and drinks. We did our part to sample a variety and ended up with Malay and Indian food (me successfully not ordering pizza). I gave Laksa another shot, a fish soup, and have to officially say it was the last time. It is far too fishy for me. The other dishes were more successful and I finally tried a bite of an oyster omelet, a popular local dish.
Our time in Penang is winding down and the city adds itself to the list of places I will miss the moment we leave. Malaysia does make it very easy to retire here though…hrmmmm.
More pictures from the day –
Places visited –
- The Chocolate Boutique –
- Free tour but chocolate is quite good so could be expensive!
- Coffee, ice cream, and other snacks also offered there.
- at 22 Lebuh Leith
- Hon Kei Food Corner
- Rated highly across food sites, serving brains, century eggs, noodles, porridge, etc., at a good price. I would absolutely recommend the spring rolls.
- at 45 Kampung Malabar
- Khoo Kongsi – www.khookongsi.com.my
- Open during the days for a small fee.
- We visited for their last Saturday of the month event, “An Evening of Lights at Khoo Kongsi”, which is free and includes cultural performances.
- at 18 Cannon Square
- Red Garden Food Paradise – www.redgarden-food.com
- Food stalls! An awesome place to try a variety of cuisines: Malay, Indian, Philippine, Taiwanese, Korean and/or Western varieties at a decent price.
- In between the Chocolate Boutique and Cheong Fat Tze Mansion: at 20 Leith Street