Star Date:  May 2014
Penang, Malaysia




Hello Dear Family & Friends!


(How are you? Literally What news?  Malay) 

"Selamat datang"
(Welcome - Malay)







“We're all a little weird and life's a little weird. And when we find someone who's weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

(Dr Seuss - Children's author)


Smoke billows from massive incense sticks in front of a intricately decorated Chinese temple; every combination of black and red and gold blending together.  Indian music blares from the shop behind in Little India.  A rainbow of sari's offsets the jammed neon colored shop windows.  Greasy smoke belches out from the local non-vegetarian restaurant into the face of the local sidewalk fortune teller, spurring us towards the sumptuous veggie buffet beyond the alley. Call to Prayer from a large mosque down the street vies for attention 5 times a day.  Only the sunrise loudspeakers are noticed.  Not to be left out, an early century Christian Church reserves its turn for Sunday morning bell ringing.  This spicy, rich diversity all within a 4 block radius.  Tolerance in action.  This is Penang!

The weft of the fabric in Penang has changed but not the warp.  Like India, it is impossible to make a dent - even when running a bus headlong into the very texture of existence.  Life goes on as it has for centuries.  Cultural diversity and some of the best food in Asia makes this a true "Pearl of the Orient."  Everything from crusty old shops to modern mega-Malls are open for your every need.  As if further incentives are necessary a talented City Council highlights regular Thai New Year dance festivals, Chinese Temple light ceremonies with Opera, Islamic Ramadan specials, Christmas lights, and Indian Dewali festivities complete with fireworks.  Old and new, young and old alike turn out to celebrate each group, honoring the other's customs.  Besides when a Muslim gets the day off work for an Indian Dewali Festival who is going to complain?

So we landed years later into our old surroundings.  Hotel quality has improved, prices risen but not much has changed.  A few hours found us wandering the streets amazed at the number of windowless, shared bath budget establishments.  One Chinese place had the shared bath almost a block away, and down a flight of stairs.  Go figure that.  We ended our journey at the Star Lodge in the middle of Chinatown.  Clean, quiet, but basic this was our 'home' for the next few weeks.  Besides who could resist waterfront windows (an open ditch) down a side alley, greenery (a tree growing out of a crack in the tile roof across from the window) with Mrs Wong singing to a full moon?  The day staff and owner are extremely helpful and the crowd of regular inhabitants was diverse - expats on visa runs or long timers hiding away.

Being the 'party animals' we are, if we hear drums or music or see fireworks we check it out.  Might be a parade or a ceremony or?Something not to be missed.  One night we heard fireworks, then drumming and followed it down the dark back alley, past Mrs Wong, and discovered a wild Taoist celebration complete with men going into and being snapped out of trances.  We sat in the back and enjoyed the festivities and before we knew it we had an old Chinese Grandma loading our plate with all the vegan food she had specially prepared.  So at 11pm we partied, in great company!

Staying right in the heart of China Town I was led back into the ancient Chinese healing practice of acupuncture.  Acupuncture is inserting needles in specific points on the body to manipulate the flow of energy or Qi.   In the west a treatment is usually in a quiet room with soft music playing, pictures of serene Buddhas looking down on you. You are always asked, "Does this feel ok?" They want your treatment to be a relaxing experience.

It's all about ambiance.  There was a dubious looking Chinese clinic two doors down, open from 7:30 to 8:45 Tuesdays and Fridays.  Who could resist?  In I walked and discovered I was the only foreigner/westerner in the place.  Just me and a bunch of old Chinese Grampas and Grandmas.  Given a number I paid my $6, collected my 3 day supply of liquid Chinese herbs, greeted everyone with a smile and "Nihau!" and waited my turn.  I was taken to a small room with 4 people already sitting in plastic chairs.  Under the florescent lights the needles protruding from every limb glistened.  Four acupuncturists did the usual tongue, pulse and eye check.  I pointed to several sore vertebrae then they proceeded to talk loudly right in my ear.  In went a needle and they waited for a reaction of pain.  No pain they tried a nearby point.  When they hit the right painful spot I would squeal and they would all smile, making sure to wiggle the needle around a few more times.  There I sat like a metallic porcupine for 20 minutes, at which time they would start wriggling all your needles to get a good energy surge for the remaining 5 minutes.  I knew it would feel good when they stopped.  Not a peaceful, relaxing experience but so 'Chinese' utilitarian that I left chuckling and feeling better.  Traveling on buses and trains around China for 14.5 months had prepared me well.  I became a regular and was greeted loudly and warmly for the next 2 weeks.  Xie xie.  Keep the Qi flowing.

From here we explored Georgetown and the whole island of Penang.  Definite districts exist from crowded local suburbs to ex pat houses to rural farming villages.  Limited land has seen the popping up of high rises, most looking out at the blue ocean.  This allows for views of the Indian Ocean, with a decent price.  If you look carefully you might glance all the way to India or Africa, the closest land masses. We hiked in the beautiful Taman Negara Pulau Pinang National Park, with turquoise waters and bays full of deserted beaches and naughty monkeys.  Joseph likes unique small railways and so we took the vertical ride on the cog railway up to the top of Penang Hill.  Great views and miles of walking through the forested roads made for a fun day with the locals enjoying a Sunday outing.  We just wished we had known about walking down the other side, arriving into the spacious Botanical Gardens.  Going to the gardens on another day we walked for miles through the lush foliage, but skipped the annual World Music Festival, not knowing how we would get back into town late at night.  We met some performers at a similar event on Borneo years back but the slate of bands was much more indigenous in nature. Not to be missed are the Buddhist temples set up by Thailand and Burma; quiet, colorful and unique like those back in their home country.  The old waterfront areas downtown are a trip down memory lane in this century old bustling port city. 

We always shop at the local street vendors and Joseph makes a delicious fruit salad for breakfast.  For lunch we are out looking for our one cooked international meal a day.  Salad at night is a healthy, light option.  Phad thai noodles at the Red Garden Food Court were tasty and authentic.  For the best Indian Food outside of India (and we've been to a 'few'  around the world) we hung out in Little India regularly at Sri Ananda's Vegetarian Buffet.  North Indian, South Indian, buffet or ala carte it was hard to beat.  We became regulars and if we missed a couple of days our friends Rajesh and Deepok, who served tables, seemed worried.  Indians can rival the Chinese in the noise department but just get into the experience.  Lots of fun and laughs amongst the rich aroma of spices. 

Walking the city center of old town is where the action is.  We found quiet small alleys that avoided busy Chulia Street or the noisy boulevards.  Buses are easy to get around on in Penang and #101 seemed to end up wherever we wanted to go.  Someone mentioned organic shops near Pilau Tikkus Market and soon we were exploring Penang's answer to Health Food stores.  In the back of the market, just past the raw chicken tables, is a small stand with organic produce and juice. T.C.K. and his wife are a wealth of health information.  In front of the market are Go Organic and 2 more shops.  Setting up an organic kitchen could be a pleasure here, that is if we had a kitchen.  We just finished circumnavigating the planet over the last 12 years, ending with South America.  As we started around the world again we were on a  recognizance mission scouting where in Malaysia we could hang out for a bit if we obtained the 10 year Malaysia My Second Home visa.  For $30 a year Malaysia welcomes expats and visitors alike - unlike neighboring Thailand and now Indonesia who require regular visa runs or expensive $800 a year visas.  An unbelievably amiable, helpful group of expats is ready to answer questions and the option of making Malaysia a base to travel from is looking more and more a possibility.  I stress a place from which to travel as these nomads are far from wanting to settle down. We still want to go out there, "where no man has gone before."  We have fallen in love with the colorful, wild, eclectic facets of Penang Island.  To quote Dr Seus it's a kind of mutual weirdness.

And so it goes.........................................Next a long anticipated Rest and Relaxation (and Healing) time on the unique Indonesian island of Bali.   Until next month Keep Smiling and embrace the mutual weirdness in us all!  Take care and Keep in Touch!



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:


1 US Dollar = 3.16 Malaysian Ringgit

Try for possible discounts on some of the hotels listed below.  Sometimes when you fly on Air Asia they offer discounts if the hotel is booked at the same time.   Worth checking. also has options - usually starting around $25/night

Penang Adventist Hospital:  Great friendly modern, moderate priced hospital for check ups, etc.  English spoken,
465 Jalan Burma, Phone# =604 222 7200  24 hr Emergency: 604 222 7799
Good skin doctor:  Dr Khoo Siew Swan: 


Little India:

Sri Ananda Indian Rest. across from Woodlands is on Jl Lebong Penang 
Best vegetarian food outside of India

Just down the street
The Leaf Healthy House  11:30-3  5:30-9
Clean, a bit trendy, good prices, AC if the Indian Restaurant is boiling

Seamstress Yuana, 65 China St Little India

Victoria Inn [$30]  just East of Little India and only 2 blocks from Ferry to Butterworth.



Star Lodge,  39 Munthri- Great guesthouse but limited number of rooms.  Basic but clean and extremely helpful staff during the day.  Get a room on the 2nd floor
Email:  Phone # 604-2626 378 Owner Aun says "hello".  Robert also.  Reasonable rates.  Discount for week or more

Traveler's Lodge 75 Munthr , same owners, Just down the road - give them a try until the Star opens up - bigger rooms

New Asia Heritage Hotel [$35 including fees--but not including breakfast]: discovered Dim Sum place we frequented; but a breakfast place starts at 5 am and woke us up both days.

Acupuncture clinic 71 Munthri. - a few doors down

Tuesday there was no acupuncture because of  the Koran Bee [the national contest to see who reads the Koran best].  Ramadan is super busy, expensive and best to avoid Penang

Red Garden Food Paradise:  Great Thai food  Opens at 5pm   A wild local, fun hang out with music/Kareoke at 9pm but be careful walking home at night after dark. (Always/Anywhere)  Don't stay nearby (Red Cabana Inn) if you want to sleep.

Red Cabana Inn [$24 with horrible breakfast]--just off Muntri: nice rooms but the Red Garden next door is an open air night club with loud singing until 2 AM. They hand out ear plugs after your credit card is swiped haha (Thanks for the info Paul & Reese.)

Another option is Hutton Inn, a little more expensive but the upper floors of this old colonial style hotel are quiet as is Hutton JL on which it is located.  Check


Organic shops:  All near Pilau Tikus Market 

#101 bus - get off at Reclining Buddha Temple and walk 2 blocks

LSY Health and Organic Products:   open 7-noon for juice
phone: 04-2291337  T.C.K. and wife very knowledgeable on health

Teoh Chooi Keat   Email:

Go Organic: 7j Marble Arch Pulau Tikus Market
phone: 604 229 4226

2 other shops around the corner ie Organic - compare prices between shops


Other veggie restaurants near downtown:

Lilies Vegetarian Kitchen:  Madras Lane.  From Komtar walk down Burma Rd past Komtar Center (round building) - left on Madras Lane
Award winning, great variety of pure vegetarian food.  Most meals about 5-8 R.

Believe it or not - one of the best places in Penang is the lunch cafeteria of the Penang Adventist Hospital - first floor  All types of curries, Chinese, etc for only about $2









Kapitan Keling Mosque. 


Just down the street an elaborate Chinese temple.  Little
India, with Hindu temples is within a block.
Penang is a shining example of Tolerance.


Chinese Opera.


Hindu temple.




One of the many elaborate Buddhas at the
Thai Reclining Buddha Temple.


We were invited to share a simple vegetarian lunch with these
jolly Thai monks.


Across the street is the Burmese Temple.


Old and new.


View from the top of the pagoda.


A Buddha for every occasion.


The World Globetrotters, still at it 12 years later.


Wandering the alleys of Penang is always a
treat.  Need your rickshaw repaired?


Fun street art everywhere.  They even have a map to find them all.


Fancy a bike ride?


Good thing they put bars on this door, only a 12 foot drop!


An interesting Sikh we met in a side street.


Everyday we would greet the resident Fortune teller in Little
 India.  His bird would pick the cards for his clients.


Three of the friendly waiters at
Sri Ananda Indian Rest. across from Woodlands.  Turn left at the Fortune Teller!


A banana leaf tali
for $1.50.  You know the food is good when the place
 is crammed with locals.  We were usually the only foreigners there.


Best Indian food outside of India!  Totally vegetarian and no


Offerings for the Hindu temples.


A celebration at a poor little tin Taoist temple behind our hotel.
These men were in a trance.   Most temples in Penang are
very elaborate.


At the end of the ritual they 'snapped' out of the trance.


A wonderful couple, Arif & Shahnaz, we met from Karache, Pakistan.


T.C. at
LSY Health and Organic Products, at the back of
Pilau Tikus Market.


The small railway up to the top of Penang Hill.


Great 360 degree views.


A happy couple we talked to going up.


Lovely smiles.


The Botanical Gardens.


Exquisite water lilies.


Beautiful lotus.




Cheeky monkeys follow you hoping for a treat.


The beaches up north are striking.


Negara Pulau Pinang National Park, with turquoise waters and bays full of deserted beaches and naughty monkeys.


Remote little coves with turquoise water and white sand beaches.


A few instructions are always helpful.




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