Thursday, March 06, 2008

Penang CNY Trip '08 (I)...槟城农历年之旅08.......ペナン春節の旅08..

Hi All....

Back in Sydney after my much-needed break back in my hometown of Penang Island, Malaysia.
Was back for CNY (thats Chinese New Year) for the first time in 2 yrs. Met up with relos, some after many yrs ( in fact one cousin whom i've not seen for 10 years!!) got red-packet money, ate, ate, and ATE...god i miss cheap and not to mention delicious Penang food...assam laksa (this is different from the more famous 'Singapore laksa' sold in Singapore and Australia, and far more superior!!), char koay kak (heaven, i tell you:)), soybean milk, malay curry sotong n ladiesfinger w/h rice (my MUST-have everytime i am back in Penang and one of my all-time favourites in malaysia), not to mention the delicious italian pasta at belissa row, Japanese 'gekikara' ramen at Yataimura, kaya bread with ice lemon tea at Ipoh Old Town Kopitiam....and too many more to mention...

I also went to visit many places which have sprouted out of nowhere in Penang since Aug 2006 when i was last back..indeed, even small-town Penang has changed markedly since 1 1/2 yrs back....like there are so many apartment blocks now, especially the luxury kinds, like this one along Gurney Drive which is where my mother's old neighbour whom is 80 something year, stays now (she used to be extremely poor and sold eggs at the markets but of her many children, her two sons are now multi-millionaires and the eldest son has bought a bungalow and this high-end apartment for her, it costs RM 1.8 million (roughly A$550,000) and this isn't including renovations yet!) and another one called 'The Mayfair'. There is also Wawasan Open University which has this amazing architecture, fusing in a heritage protected mansion with a taller modern glass panelled building behind it...it was incredible really, i mean the architecture is simply one of the best i've seen and something i didn't expect to see in Malaysia (i'd expect this kind of fusion of heritage buildings with modern ones more in places like Europe i admit!!) and this univ wasn't even there in 2006!!!! Then there is which is Penang's newest shopping mall akin to KL's Midvalley Megamall...and 'G' Hotel which is this new hotel with the coolest lobby i've seen in Penang (its so classy, i was blown away, i expected something less impressive in penang, i guessed i underestimated the class of penang..haha..the lobby is something similar to what you get in the west) and not to mention the new wing (the high-end branded goods wing!) is due to open later this yr as well....

For those whom live in Penang or travel bck often, the development in Penang may not seem impressive, but for those of us whom reside overseas or whom seldom travel bck, Penang has indeed changed significantly...

The development was not only on the island, which is where historically all the development has been, but it has also extended on to the mainland....in fact, one of the unexpected marvels of my trip bck was visiting 'Autocity' this one-stop car and entertainment shopping district in the middle of practically nowhere ( the developers were clearly taking a big financial gamble by placing the entertainment centre near the highway with no residential area nearby)...the place was pretty high-end with nice fancy restaurants serving up thai, korean, chinese, western,etc as well as had coffee bean, starbucks (???), and even a big Haagen-Dazs cafe...now who said mainlanders couldn't afford Haagen Dazs?? (this is what we islanders refer to people living on the mainland, the state/province of Penang is divided into Penang Island and Penang mainland/prai) Now i initially didn't want to visit Autocity as in my memory, ( well the last time i went to mainland Penang was AGES ago) the mainland was always extremely backwards compared to the island, so why would anyone want to go to the mainland when you have all your material comforts on the island?? Well, boy was i wrong...Autocity really was much better many places on the island including the new 'New World Park' complex which again is one of those entertainment/dining areas which came out of nowhere and didn't even exist in 2006...'New World Park' is similar to one of those foodcourt places you find in Singapore, very clean, nicely lit, and hygienic, and it also has a classier section with a french restaurant, new york style seafood place, indian deli, etc..worth a visit!!

Besides all these shopping/eating places, i did manage to do something which local penangites most definitely do NOT do, that is visit touristy places and cultural heritage sites (god, am i becoming a 'foreigner' in my own homeland/hometown?? Maybe, it bcos i've left penang as a resident for too long, 7 yrs?).. i visited the Cheong Fatt Tse Mansion, otherwise known aptly as the 'Blue Mansion' by the locals and tourists alike and omg! the tour guide i instantly recognised was this gay penang guy whom was educated overseas and speaks french...now don't ask how i know, its kinda silly, but i've met him on both trips bck to Penang in '06 and in '08 again...now could that be yuan./fate or just small penang? He's ur typical gay asian male, very built gym body in tight white shirt with sarong pants, talks exquisitely and he can be quite expressive with words too, not to mention having a subtle but sharp tongue (like how he decided to stop talking when one of the guests was on the phone and he said he'll just wait till she finishes talkin)...oh yeah he's also the manager of the boutique hotel located within this historically protected-heritage building... anyways back to Cheong fatt Tse mansion, its really pretty good and worth a visit if u happen to drop by in Penang sometime...

I also went up Penang Hill, the lights at night are amazing, my mother says better than the Victoria Peak night view of HK's scenery..there is now a restaurant up there (yes, with the view!!!) but i didn't get a chance to eat there, it serves western cuisine of steaks, chicken snitzels,salmon seafoods,etc)...and also went to the 姓氏桥 Clan Quays during the Hokkien Jade God Processions on the Ninth Day of CNY whereby there was a procession of offerings to the Jade God...the Clan Quays are where the 海上人家 live (boatpeople, yes we have that in Penang also, not just in Hong Kong! these people are special in that they live together on a particular quay made of wooden planks up above the sea by clan surnames, meaning people with a particular chinese character surname live on the same quay.) It was a nice experience...
I also went to The Esplanade for a visit with my parents on Chap Goh Meh ( the last day of CNY and traditionally known in Malaysia as 'Chinese Valentines'. We managed to come across the official state sponsored entertainment show which was nice, with dances, chinese songs, and even a 'dondang sayang' of one chinese, english, and one malay song by a group of kebaya clad matrons..er..i meant ladies..hahaha..

Also visited Kek Lok Si Temple at night where there was the traditional CNY light-up of the temple which was amazing at night, with all the glittering lanterns and lights on the hill at night....!!

PS: Alot of things occurred on my way bck , but the bad thing was i lost my mobile on the flight back to Sydney which means all my photos of my Malaysia trip is gone now! (Not to mention all my previous photos AND more IMPORTANTLY all my previous videos of the Mardi Gras in '07, the APEC meeting '07 in Sydney and the Comfort Women rally i attended last year!!!)
And also i found out one of my housemates tried to steal my stuff when i was gone tho he didn't in the end as there was first, nothing there worthwhile for him to steal and second, he was caught by another housemate whom informed me of this as my room was in perfect condition as when i left it so i couldn't have known....but despite all the bad-luck, i'm determined to move forward:)
so, now i am looking to move out to another place, if possible in or near the cbd...so if anyone reading my blog has a fully-furnished room to rent or knows someone whom is looking for someone to rent, do let me know:) Thanks k!:)

to be continued....

14 comments:

Michael said...

Hi I'm back too!!!
Re your comment way back (Aussie citizenship), I've gotten used to life in TAiwan, so I finally decided to work on my papers and stay for good. And my boyfriend lives here loh... :)

michael

Michael said...

oh by the way, welcome back from your vacation too...
I visited KL two years ago, but only for an overnight stay. Unfortunately I couldn't find an AMEX ATM that worked, so I didn't have enough money so didn't dare stray far away from my hotel... hahaha... horrible experience...

Anonymous said...

Visited Penang a few years ago, loved the place,the Malay and Chinese fusion. Thanks for the memories.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

michael: i see..so how is the process for obtaining taiwanese citizenship (actually do u have citizenship or pr???) what are the requirements? I am interested in knowing if u dun mind telling me:)

btw, what do u mean u r back too?? i don't know what u mean. where u from?? cos u sound malaysian?

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

anon: You are welcome:):):)

Michael said...

Hi HC,

I said I was back because I was finally able to find your blog again. hahaha~~~ now it's on my favorites list.

As for applying for Taiwan citizenship, these are the main documents/requirements: at least five years of employment in Taiwan, an annual income of 420ooo in the previous year (around S$21000?), and police records from country of origin. The other minor docs are easy to obtain... (e.g. passport, ARC, ...)

Taiwan offers a better health/medical system than the Philippines, and there's a lively gay community here. It's not the best place to live in the world, but I'm now too old to move again... haha.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

kumichael: Yeah, Taiwan has a very advanced national healthcare system which you find only in developed countries..like Japan or Australia. So where are u from? U still haven't answered my ques! Also how old r u? The Taiwanese elections r coming so i guess as a citizen now, u can vote too!

which part of taiwan do u live in by the way??? taipei by any chance?

Michael said...

hi HC,

haha i tot you'd notice that i have compared Tw with the Philippines. I left Cebu City for Taipei at 16 (dat was 21 years ago wen Taiwan was not yet a popular destination for tourists and workers, especially, ...haha) and yes, I live in Taipei, and for the past two decades I have seen Taipei grow into a very very gay-friendly city.

Michael

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

michael: I see..glad to have another filipino reader on my blog, if u've been reading, u must know that i fell head over heels for filipino movies and tv dramas last year..haha..i even watched a few abs-cbn dramas uploaded on youtube and online...

Also, indeed u went to taiwan quite early (although the economy was booming already bck in the 80s when the Phillipines was having economic problems and political ones such as People Power...)

Taiwan has liberalised ALOT in the past decade on gay issues and gay rights..it was already becoming more open in the 90s but from 2000it became even more open, i am proud to say it is possibly the MOST gay-friendly country in Asia, even ahead of Thailand (the thai media is nowhere near as gay-friendly as the taiwanese one as i've watched a few thai dramas/movies and they remind me of taiwanese ones more than 10 yrs bck!)..

i am glad u found something and someone in taiwan that u liked:)

Michael said...

Hi HC,

Haha, you remind me of a Singaporean friend who was also into Filipino movies. He knew more Filipino actors and movies than I did. Talaga!

Do you still have relos in Taiwan? Wen was the last time you were here?

Yeah you were right! The Taiwan economy was already booming during the late 80s when I first arrived here. But to many people then, TAiwan seemed to be not the right place to go for studies, and many friends back home were even trying to dissuade me from coming. What surprised me was that my father allowed me to leave home... hahaha... and I'm really thankful i made that decision back then (although at that time i really had no idea about the difference between PRC and ROC LOL)...

Michael

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

michael: Yep, pinoy entertainment is truly fantastic:)

And yeah, i do have relatives in Taipei, actually half of all my relatives are in Taiwan as my dad is Taiwanese and i do visit from time to time, though not often, the last time was back in 2005!

So u went to Taiwan to study?? Are you of Chinese ethnicity? Cos i know quite alot of SE Asian Chinese went to Taiwan to study in the past before China became as accessible as it is now:)

Michael said...

Hi HC,

Yeah, I'm one of those Chinese-Filipinos who speak Bisaya (the language in the central Philippines), so I'm also called Bis-tik (there, you know one more term). Yeah, my primary purpose for coming here was to study (and of course to learn more about "being Chinese"), but you know you get used to the local lifestyle and the conveniences that Taipei had to offer, and it is even more difficult to adjust to a "lower-"level standard of lifestyle after you get used to all the stuff here. So now I cannot imagine how I would cope were I to settle back in my hometown. Of course I still love the beaches and the food (mmm...), but they pay better here... :)
Do let me know when you visit Taipei again.
Michael

Kloggers said...

What a very interesting blog. The red's a little hard on the eyes though. lol

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

michael: Yea! I'll tell u next time go back to Taipei, we could meet up!:) Also, which part of Taipei do u live in?

kloggers: Thanks for the comment/advice!!