Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Penang Day 2 - Journey Home

Easter Sunday, 12th April 2009. It was not the sound of peeling church bells that brought me out of my slumber. Rather it was what sounded like the whirring roar of a chain saw that did. It was 7:30am in the morning, 30 minutes before my phone set alarm was supposed to go off. Nevertheless, despite the night long drone, I was simply too tired to pull myself out of bed. Instead, I buried my head under the pillows, ignoring the snores of my travelling companions and tried to catch as much sleep as I can before the inevitable alarm sounded.
Getting up is hard to do... ;)

By 9:00am in the morning we were on the streets of Penang again, heading down Penang road to look for a place to have breakfast minus Valerie who had made an appointment to meet a friend at Wesley church for Easter mass AND Wen Chieh who had chosen to join his friends for breakfast at a mamak stall. Passing by Chowrasta market near the police station we had thought of going back to the shop near the famous cendol stall for breakfast. We found out that we were too early. The equally famous asam laksa stall owner at the shop telling us that business here only starts at 11:00am.
The old Odeon theater on Penang Road

We ended up on Kimberley street instead, a crowded junction with four shops jammed with Penangites signaling it as a good place for us to fill our growling tummies. Here, along the roads are stalls selling chee cheong fun, har mee, apam balik, mee rebus and char kueh kak.

Chee Cheong Fun and Char Kueh Kak at Kimberley Street

Having had our fill, we moved back to Chowrasta market where apparently I was the only one interested in the wares this wet market has to offer. Well known for its stock of pickled mangoes, ‘buah pala’ products, prawn paste and rojak sauce, I bought my share, intending to distribute them to my parents and grandmother when I reached home.

Chowrasta Market

That done, we returned to the hotel to pack our bags before checking out at a little bit pass 12:00pm. In between, the guys and myself had a few rounds of ‘chor tai tee’, my bad luck looking as if it is improving when I won my first two rounds of the game throughout the whole trip! :p For lunch, I proposed to go to the field near Dato Keramat Police Station where another famous asam laksa shop was located although before this we had to fulfill Henry’s quest to get himself ‘charged’ with dragon balls. And not just any type of dragon ball mind you, Henry was looking for these special dragon balls made only by the Him Hiang bakery in Penang.

Seeking out to find the Him Hiang bakery was not difficult for our GPS except that when we did find it, it was closed. Not giving up easily, we made a few more rounds in the general vicinity, Henry not convinced that the bakery we found was probably the only shop Him Hiang has in the area. Dennis suggested Ghee Hiang, another bakery selling these mysterious ‘dragon balls’ comparatively similar to the one Henry is seeking and located not far from its major rival but when we arrived there, we found out that all its stock of ‘dragon balls’ were finished.

Noting Henry’s zealousness in finding these ‘dragon balls’ I was at this point somewhat curious to have a bite of this stuff as well. Secretly, I was also hoping that he finds this ‘secret’ Him Hiang shop for me to grab one box for myself.

The elusive Him Heang Dragon Balls

Luck was not with us and after a few more rounds, Henry gave up. We went to our lunch venue instead, finding out that the asam laksa shop wasn’t open yet. We went to this food court located right next to the ‘padang’ itself.

Here they served lok lok, yong tau foo, asam laksa, cendol, ais kacang and char kuey teow. We were smarter now and chose to adopt a strategy of ordering just one plate of something, sampling it and if we found it good, ordering some more. :) I personally ordered a plate of char kuey teow, my nasty experience yesterday making me determined to find one other stall in Penang that cooks better than even this hyped up place everybody is talking about. With this dish being the ‘standard’ in Penang and with innumerable stalls selling it all over it shouldn’t be a difficult task. I was correct. The char kuey teow here tasted very good and at RM3.00 per plate, it’s definitely no ‘rip off’. Letting everyone have a taste of it, almost everyone agreed that it was a notch better than the ‘famous’ one in Lorong Selamat. :p

Ais Kacang and Char Kuey Teow at a fraction of the price!

We were at Kek Lok Si after lunch, the asam laksa served at the old market at the foot of the temple a beacon for some of us who had chose to reserve their stomachs for it while at Dato Keramat. We were also supposed to meet Wen Chieh and his friends there as well but miscommunication ended us not meeting up until we finished our tour of temple.

At Kek Lok Si Temple

Despite many years into construction, the grand pavilion that is to shelter this giant image of Kuan Yin at highest point of Kek Lok Si temple was not yet complete. Accessing this pavilion requires a ride via tram which costs RM2.00/person one way, proceeds of which will go to the temple construction fund. Nearby, a shrine to Kuan Yin offers visitors RM30 to buy a roof tile, write their names on it and donate it to complete the roof of the pavilion. I decided to pay RM2 to buy a few joss sticks for me to offer my respects to the compassionate bodhisattva. I also offered my heartfelt thanks for granting me this opportunity to visit the shrine especially after that potentially deadly accident in Cambodia, a week earlier. Once finished, I stopped by at the gift shop, purchasing two paper folding fans to present it to my grandmother which I was sure she would like it.

The Bodhisattva surrounded by scaffolding

We finally linked up with Wen Chieh and his friends at the asam laksa stall. Despite its much hyped about reputation, I found the laksa a tad bit bland whereas Ai Ling commented that the soup was too cold. Somehow that spicy, fishy taste that is the signature of this dish is missing. My grandmother (who is from Bukit Mertajam) cooks way better laksa than these guys. Nevertheless, its price of RM2.20 per bowl sounds reasonable compared to the outrageous RM8.00 price tag for the char kuey teow at Lorong Selamat. :p

Kek Lok Si's famous Asam Laksa

With our second lunch dealt with, it is really time to go home and to bade farewell to Wen Chieh's friends who had opted to stay another day in Penang (where do these youngsters get their money nowadays? :)). We still had to first gather up our 'wayward' travellers though and for that we went over to Jalan Lahat near the old Rifle Range to pick up Selina who had spent the two days with her family back at her home. Next on the list was Valerie, who joined up with us at Swettenham Pier in Georgetown close to the Ferry Terminal.

In the ferry, at last!

No Penang trip would be complete without a ride across the straits to the mainland in the ferry, or at least that was what I thought. Somehow the rest weren't as enshusiatic about the ride but being the 'organizer' (and the driver) has it's priviledges. :)

Group photo... before we forget to do so... ;)

We crossed the straits without much incident except for the one occasion where my car decided to annoy the heck out of the other people in the lower deck when it blared its alarm, other than that it was a relaxing trip with us taking a few group photos to commerate the trip and savouring the gentle sea breeze. Once across, we drove towards the North-South Highway aiming our sights for Ipoh which we will stop by for dinner.

Dusk greeted us as we arrived at Ipoh's Onn Kee Restaurant, serving no other than Ipoh's famous (boy I have already lost count how many times I have used 'famous' throughout this trip :p) 'nga choy kai' or for the more 'cultured', bean sprout chicken. :) Earlier, there were howls of protest when the suggestion was made to go to Lou Wong Chicken Rice shop instead. Not being a fan of monopolists ;) I didn't make much of an issue about it and agreed to the protests. :) All I wanted was to eat Nga Choy Kai... anywhere is fine with me :).

Ipoh Nga Choy Kai

Onn Kee is also where I discovered how deep fried my brain was, failing completely at my mathematics when it came to calculating the division of costs on each of the travellers. I hope it's just a desperate deficit of sleep and not the hard knock on the head in Cambodia that is the cause of my deteriorated cognitive abilities... :) Fortunately, Audrey was around to iron things out and saved my chesnuts from being burnt further.

At the nearby biscuit shops, I hopped in to grab two boxes of biscuits along with a few tidbits for the office. Valerie and Selina did the same, while Kam Keong and his entourage decided to head directly for TTDI after the one last try to have a taste of 'Rabbit' Tau Foo Fah failed when they found the shop was closed.

Rabbit (?) Tau Foo Far

The journey back was continued with Dennis at the wheel, I taking up his offer over Valerie's. ;) It rained heavily from this point onwards. At length, there was a brief scare when the fuel indicator showed that we were almost empty but our combined faith managed to power the car enough to reach the next nearest petrol station at the Tanjung Malim rest area. Filling up with petrol and heaving a sigh of relief in the process we finally arrived at the Trail Trackers HQ at close to 10:30pm.

Linus and Henry

Linus was there to greet us and absorb the trip's highlights and I took the opportunity to 'absorb' Henry's SLR photos as well. He belatedly found out that he was featured in my blog about the 2nd day in Endau Rompin and I guess he must have read it when I got an sms later from him declaring himself, King Henry IX a.k.a. Henry the UrTentGonnaGetSoakedByRainAgain. All in good humour I hope :).

God Save the King!

And so ends another trip for this weary adventurer. As I hurtled down the familiar highways back home, I couldn't help missing the warm comfort of my bed with the Sandman as my company. Until next time.


  1. Your writings are so much better than your photo skills hehe... Keep up the good work!

  2. Hahaha...tat's what u guys been doing while i disappear for a moment...the pic tat we just woke up looks funny with 2 guys scratching their backs...hmmmm o.0

  3. Haha Wen Chieh, you have an eye for detail! :) I missed that one! Jack, that's why I need you to be my photographer. Our Director of Photography was absent! :p