Star Date:  October/November 2014



Hello Dear Family & Friends!


"Salaam Halekum. "

The response:  "Halekum Salaam"

(May the peace of Allah be with you.  Muslim greeting. )




"Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards."
(Fred Hoyle (1915 - 2001) British astronomer, mathematician)


"Walk your talk".   Malaysia, specifically Penang, creatively, busily and colorfully goes about its business, a living example of religious and cultural respect and tolerance.  Cultural diversity at its finest.  Hardly a week goes by without a religious holiday or cultural event.  Everyone benefits from the various cultural holidays declared and observed by all, regardless of their ethic origin.  Chinese, Malay or Indian, they are all descendants of their grandparents or great grandparents who immigrated here, bringing with them their culture, foods and dress.  When asked they all proudly say they are Malaysian, yet speak their ethnic language fluently.

A lively port, this Pearl of the Orient, has had many cultures sail to her shores over the last centuries.  Humans lived in present day Malaysia as long as 40,000 years ago.  With few documents in history it was the Chinese who first recorded trading in Malaysia, followed by Hindu traders bringing settlers from India.  The Peninsula consisted of many separate small kingdoms, always warring with one another for power.  In the 1500's the Portuguese captured Malacca and in 1641 the Dutch bumped them out as the top European trading power.  Wit the new title they inherited the battles with the neighboring kingdoms.  The British wanted a piece of the action, and in 1786 the sultan of Kedah, looking for help against the Siamese to the north, leased the island of Pinang to the English East India Company.  Borneo was under the Muslim rule of Brunei.

Malaya, Sarawak, and North Borneo was under Japanese rule from 1941 to 1945.  After the war ended ethnic rivalries thwarted attempts at independence and instead the immigrants were encouraged to work in the tin mines and rubber plantations.  Malays comprised 50% , Chinese 37% and Indians 12%.   With language and cultural differences, mainly between the Chinese and Malays,  independence wasn't realized until 1957.  Politically and in big business, disputes between these two groups continue to this day. 

In 1981 Mahathir was elected and led Malaysia for the next 22 years, until 2003.  In 1991 he launched his “Vision 2020” program to propel Malaysia into the ranks of developed industrialized nations by 2020. Despite some economic set backs in Asia, Malaysia has continued to attract foreign investment and to develop as a major center of electronics manufacturing.

With the government civil servants mainly Malays, Chinese in business and development and Hindus in small business, it seems all share in the wealth.  Mahathir wanted to build a country built on freedoms for all.  We will see if his dream is ever realized.

And so we can share with you our fun multicultural days spent with our Chinese friends, Clarae and son Boon, from Butterworth - across the bay.  We met Clarae and Boon in the airport in Kuala Lumpur.  Boon was restless after a long flight from Japan and for some reason we decided to shoot a rubber band at him, as had been a game at home when the kids were growing up.  He laughed and we continued to play until boarding the flight.  Fellow travel enthusiasts we have developed a close friendship. One such intercultural day we visited the homes of Chinese friends in the morning, toured St Anne's Christian Church built in 1867, then in the afternoon were invited for lunch at a Muslim wedding.  Later we went out to a Muslim village or 'kampong' in the country, Permatang Tok Bidan.  There we were warmly welcomed into the original wooden home of the Awang family, ate sweet potatoes served with coconut and rode motorcycles through the rice fields.  What fun!  Everything seems to revolve around food, great food might I add, so after stopping for Chinese vegetarian dinner we went to a market just in time for a dragon dance and parade, which we gladly joined in.  An Indian somosa on the way to the ferry we were fat and happy and filled up to our eyeballs with fun, food and culture.

The following weekend we returned to experience the magnificent New Tow Boo Kong Temple rebuilt in 2000 for RM7 million.  This very classy temple has a remarkable front prayer hall, sacred prayer hall and inner courtyard. Celebrating Nine Emperor God's Festival it was decorated to the hilt complete with thousands of lights, 6 ft tall incense sticks, a fountain to throw coins in for good luck.  They had Chinese opera, a fire ceremony where enormous woks full of medicinal herbs and oil were cooked over fires, and hundreds of food stalls marked with yellow flags proudly stating they were vegetarian only.

Later we heard of a procession or lighted parade with god's descending and putting men into trances.  Not to be missed, we stood with our jaws dropping as lighted musical floats went by followed by the uncanny skewering ritual where men pierced their cheeks with 8 ft long aluminum poles and suspended lights and even boys bikes on them.  At the intersection they would dangle strings of exploding firecrackers from the ends of the poles as they spun around to music.  If that wasn't enough men had 6-8 hooks in the skin of their backs pulling 6 ft high paper mache images on wheels behind them.  Home after midnight we were buzzing from the noise, excitement and cultural festivities.  In over 4 hours we didn't set eyes on another foreigner in the crowds.

For the 9 days of this celebration the Nine Emperor Gods who dwell in the stars, descend to earth and possess the spirit mediums, putting them in a trance.  Supposedly no pain is felt from the piercings or any scarring left.  Nine days of vegetarian food highlighted with opera shows showing respect to the Gods.  Also there is spear skewing, the making of herbal medicine, and a fire walking ceremony.  On the final day there is a procession with a boat carried on the shoulders of the devotees; to the ocean to sail the gods back home. 

Several weeks later was Deepavali, the Hindu "Festival of the Lights".  Amidst blaring music in Little India I bought a Happy New Years sign in Hindi for our door and decorated our place with strings of white lights.  One of the largest celebrations in the Indian culture; lights, fireworks and loud music ring in the New Year.  Oil lamps are lit in the homes for thanking the gods for happiness, knowledge, peace, and wealth.  We were invited along with Clarae and Boon into the home of their Indian friends and were treated royally to a specially prepared vegan Indian feast.  Thinking back over Christmas and New Years and Thanksgiving at home I guess food feasts were the center of activities also. 

We reciprocated by inviting our friends, Clarae, Boon, Ms Goo, Chea and Ooi to visit our luxury condo we had rented at Miami Greens for the month.  Like living in a fancy resort in the sky we swam in the pool, went down the water slides and enjoyed the views of the ocean and monkeys in the forest to the side.  A day in Penang involves Christians, Buddhist, Muslims, and Hindus all interacting and while they maintain their cultures they don't seem to notice the differences.  As the saying is here - side by side, but different.  Maybe it is side by side but really all the same!

Interesting/funny signs reminding us we were in Malaysia: Pest Pecker (Pest Control), Tit Bits Gift Shop, Dum Camera Shop, Visa application asking Number of wives, Malaysia Red Crescent instead of Red Cross,  Wifi line discouraging unlicensed users, "Get-Your-Own-Internet", "Park in our driveway but your car won't look the same when you return!"   Hawker stand offering only deep fried necks, gizzards, buttocks, heads or feet of chicken.  Don't miss the wide array of choices at the Red Garden food stalls:  Roasted frog, gizzard curry, dried squid, eel stew, happy dim dim, deep fried octopus, and on and on.  Exotic food never heard of or imagined is available in Penang and all tasting great.  Thank goodness for all the standard Asian fare for us 'newbies' and especially the vegetarian Thai place in the corner!  A lot can be said of Penang and Malaysia in general, but boring or bland isn't one of them.



And so it goes.........................................Next a welcome visit with family and friends on the Big Island of Hawaii and a look at Laos.  Until then Keep Smiling and let's contemplate a trip into space as our next adventure.  After all it's so close!!!  Take care and Keep in Touch!



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:


1 US Dollar = 3.64 Malaysian Ringgit

Ramadan is super busy, expensive and best to avoid Penang (around July annually).  Also book far ahead for the week of Chinese New Years when prices also rise.

Planning a train trip?  check out tips on most of the trains in the world.

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.  Their Tunes Hotel looked interesting to check out. 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: 
Good Neurologist:  Dr Samuel
Good spine specialist:  Dr Cheok Chee Ye -(Nurse oi wan)
Good OB/GYN : Dr Zokhumi Poey


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 1 block from Ferry to Butterworth.  New hotel, friendly helpful staff, clean and cool.  Owners get cheap on wifi, etc but staff works hard to help.  Book on  Quiet in middle of block, upper floors (#403-404 405 406).



Hotel Mingood:
164 Argyll Rd, off Transfer Rd. phone # 604 2299922  Clean, quiet (get a room off the street.  Very helpful, friendly staff, basic but remodeled rooms.  Cheaper rates obtained by booking through Agoda, etc

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 (prices 65rm and up)
Email:  Phone # 604-2626 378 Say "Hello" to Owner Aun .  Robert also.  Reasonable rates.  Discount for week or more.

Traveler's Lodge 75 Munthri , same owners, Just down the road - give them a try until the Star opens up - bigger rooms  (prices all going up - quoted 85rm - less by week.)

Muntri Branch Clinic: Lam Wah EE Acupuncture Clinic:  Across from Star Lodge,   36 Muntri St
Monday-Fri 9-12 - 2-5pm Wed half day.  Get there by 4 at the latest and bring your passport.  Great doctor - Heng Swee Hoon.  She is gentle but remember Chinese acupuncture is designed to help you not coddle you. 40rm with a bottle of Chinese herbs. Phone # 604-261 8570

Acupuncture clinic 71 Munthri. - a few doors down from the Star Lodge on Tues and Fri evenings only

Tuesday there was no acupuncture because of  the Koran Bee [the national contest to see who reads the Koran best].  Never assume a business will be open.

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 for better price than walk-in.

Or try 3 star YES Hotel next to Mingood Hotel on 60 Transfer Rd.  They had a special when we checked ($33) or try  Get a room back away from the road, towards Mingood.  Newly remodeled.  phone # 04-2266 501  email:

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
email:  They will give 10% discount if you live here.

2 other shops around the corner IE Organic - compare prices between shops  All great to have available in Penang.

Other veggie restaurants near downtown:
Across from the blue and white main Police station - between Transfer Rd and Penang Road.  Ee Bang -  Chinese Buddhist Vegetarian Buffet.  Fresh, extremely flavorful food best from 12-2 and again 5 to 7  Closed Sundays.  And Chinese New Years for a week - as are all other Chinese establishments.

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.

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.

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. No msg which is a relief. Next to the Indonesian Embassy.  Take bus #101 to Gurney Plaza then walk a block

Idealite: 3rd floor Gurney Plaza 3F-60
Let Yuhn Shu give you royal treatment.  Excellent veggie restaurant with a wide variety of choices  Open from 10-10
Any of their mushroom dishes are tasty - tempura mushroom a great choice.  Specials Mon-Fri 3-6  phone#604-226-7296

The Twelve Cups,
Arcade Beach St.  Good wifi, a/c and friendly staff.  Sweet fresh orange juice.  In the same arcade as Subway.

Far from the action in Air Itam - (better to stay in Georgetown)
Permata Sports Complex/ Hostal -  LinTang Paya Terubong Satu
Tel # 604 826 1699  room #20  It has loud Kareoke but clean comfortable rooms.


























































































































New Tow Boo Kong Temple.

Intricate carvings fill the inner temples.

We joined in a neighborhood parade with this dragon
drummers and kids with paper lanterns.

Chinese Opera at its best.

Large 8 ft joss incense sticks burn during Chinese
temple celebrations.

he uncanny skewering ritual where men pierced their cheeks with
 8 ft long aluminum poles and suspended lights and even
boys bikes on them

Yes, they really pierce their cheeks!

The god's descend and put men into trances and supposedly
 it doesn't hurt.
 Yes, those are steel hooks in his back!

On the final day of the 9 Emperors Festival there is a procession
 with a boat carried on the shoulders of the devotees to the
ocean; to sail the gods back home. 

Happy Divali! Portraying scenes from the Mahabarata.

Beautiful little Indian dancers.

We were warmly welcomed into the home of an
Indian family for Divali.

The home was colorfully decorated for the Hindu New Year
with lights, candles and alters.  We shared a tasty Indian
vegetarian meal together.

Three different cultures - side by side but really all the same.

A little Chinese princess watching the young Indian girls dance.
Indian restaurants are full of Chinese people eating and vice versa.
Everyone enjoys each others cultures in Malaysia.

Magnificent Muslim Mosques throughout the city.

We would walk by the waterfront nightly and enjoy conversations
with the local young people.

We were invited to a local Muslim wedding.


What a sweetie!

We spent the afternoon w
ith this lovely, welcoming
Muslim family in their village or 'kampong' in the
 country, Permatang Tok Bidan.


We shared tea & sweet potatoes served with fresh coconut.

A couple of bikers!

Later we rode motorcycles through the rice fields.  What fun!

We took the bus around the island of Penang for 12 hours
one day.  We visited fishing villages, the National Park, farms,
 small towns and the other side of the city, near the bridge.

Home from school.

Saint Anne's Church founded in 1867.

A Burmese temple.

An intricate Thai temple.

The front view from our luxury condo, which surprisingly
for the month, was the same price as a guesthouse.

The side view from our 16th floor condo looked into
the jungle; full of 3 types of monkeys, colorful birds,
a Hindu temple and giant 2.5 foot long squirrels.


These little guys were our favorites!


Our good friends, Clarae and son Boon, Ooi and Ms
Goo.  Who is that clown in the back?

Off to the pool and waterslides!

Strange creatures crawled out of the pool!

My 59th birthday celebrated with friends Lynn and Elmo,
who have since moved to Sri Lanka.

Another new friend
Yuhn Shu.

Funny and interesting things remind us we are in Malaysia.
No cameras, no helmets but guess the third sign?
No durian - a strong smelling fruit, supposedly an




Back to Homepage