Mind you, quite often the first impression you get is the one that stays with you longest too. A bit like the current environment of accusation for this and that, particularly through social media. If I was to say, for example, someone had a big nose and put it out there on social media. Chances are that that would stick irrespective of the fact that that person may indeed not have a big nose, but a very nice one. That is almost irrelevant these days it seems. What will stick is the 'big nose' comment. You see it in newspapers which may make wild accusations one day then 3 days later print a retraction on page 16 after the obituaries or something. Now I know that I don't have a huge following and that anything I may say will never see the light of day, which incidentally is fine by me, but still I don't really want to have to print a retraction at some later date. So I've waited a bit, just about a month actually, before I address our arrival in Penang.
|Map of Malaysia with Penang to the toppish left|
Penang is an island originally settled by some rascals from the East India Company in 1786 but of course it had a massive history before that which you can find on Wikipedia here (and do please contribute to their coffers as I think they are pretty wonderful. Everything you may want to know is there. I think it's even better than YouTube which in itself is also pretty wonderful). But for us it was the modern period that has the most relevance.
We've wanted to travel more in the Far East as to this point most of our travels have been using Bermuda as a base which has therefore given an emphasis in the west. So we thought that using Penang as a base out here would do the same job for us. In addition Viv's brother Anton plus family moved here something over a year ago and waxed very lyrically indeed about the place so we thought why not.
Penang is about 60% ethnically Chinese, 10% Indian, 20% Malay and the rest is a mixture of expats and other nationalities and races. In fact it is a real hodge podge as even those who are ethnically not Malay are more Malay in many ways than they are their original ethnicity... if that makes sense. And they all seem to get on. Certainly the religions here (and there are quite a few) get on. Practically immediately we arrived came the festival called Thaipusam, a Tamil hindu festival which was a public holiday here -- read about Thaipusam here again on Wikipedia. There are plenty of others too, currently we are in the middle of Chinese New Year, another public holiday.
First of all sight, my goodness what sights to see. Coming from Bermuda, a small relatively quiet little place with few people where everything is ordered or at least compared to Penang it is, the sights were amazing. Many people, huge vibrant colours, absolutely nothing held back or in any way understated....
Today is one of the many days of Chinese New Year (year of the dog) and we went into a shopping centre to find a couple of dragons dancing to the beat of deafening drums and other musical instruments. This troupe worked their way bit by bit around every shop doing their bit of dancing and prancing before moving on to the next shop. Exhilarating, colourful, noisy.... yup.
That leads nicely to taste and there again wow. I'm not sure I have the words to describe the new tastes I have experienced in just about a month here. I thought I'd eaten a lot of different types of food particularly 'curry' but the difference with what Patak, for example, puts out in their Madras Curry paste and what I have eaten here is night and day. And that is all down to the availability of the underlying spices and the methods used in preparation.
|Some staples in this food city: chicken rice and Hainan chicken. Just phenomenal!|
|Street food during Thaipusam|
So summing up, Penang has been an assault on all of my senses, so far in a great way and I love it!
|Gong Hei Fat Choi!|