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Monthly Archives: April 2015

While we were wandering around in Georgetown, this pink tank attracted our attention. It was sitting outside a gallery called “179 – The Place” which sells a range of artwork, from painting to textile, and antiques as well as modern artisan-made furniture.


We talked to the gallery person for a while as IT was really interested in some funky chairs and an antique wooden box for carrying business paperwork.



The gallery is one long, narrow space lined with furniture and artwork. None had price tags.




He told us that the gallery belongs to a complex of shops, restaurants and bars, and is owned by an Australian lady.


We looked her up – Narelle McMurtie, who started with the authentic Malay style Bon Ton Resort 20 years ago in Langkawi, and now owns also the Temple Tree Resort.


The style of this painting on wood panel resembles those of the famous street art around Penang. See earlier posts about street art in Georgetown here.


Apparently, some profits of the businesses are directed to support the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation –  LASSie, a passion of the owner.


The gallery is part of the complex – ChinaHouse – which has its entrance two doors down the same street. The bar is called Canteen. The entrance is 25 feet wide, typical of the traditional shophouses of Penang.


There was a live band practicing for the evening’s performance. It was 2014 New Year Eve and they were preparing for an event.


The bar was empty as it was in the middle of the afternoon but we could imagine the place filling up with people.


A door at the back leads to the next area of the ChinaHouse – an open courtyard and burger bar.


Here is a plan of the ChinaHouse cut from their web site.

China House_Brochure 010_A08_r3_c3

A photo walkthrough of this complex to be continued in our next post.

The Heavenly Spa is located adjacent to the Westin resort with its own beachfront. One could walk over from the resort lobby in about 10 minutes or hail a golf buggy.
Upon arrival, after passing through the entrance gate, there is a small courtyard where one faces a row of trees, the beach and the sea.
On the left are a series of discreet treatment rooms in a bungalow and a small swimming pool.
 In the courtyard, new Age music is piped in through hidden speakers.  Although it is probably the same type of music we hear in elevators, it did blend in very well with the ambiance here. This was my favorite space.
A gentle breeze caused some leaves to fall and row gently down the sloping roof of the bungalows. Dried leaves rustled on the ground. Birds chirped occasionally nearby. One can become relaxed simply by being there, even without any treatment.
 On the right is the air-conditioned reception.
There is a wading pool with platforms and beds where treatments are administered.
In a lot of places, privacy is a concern with this set up. But here, there was hardly anyone.
Before the treatment, the staff asked guests to select a thought and to focus on it during the treatment. A bit cliché in my opinion.
At breakfast, two different healthful smoothies-juice drinks everyday.
 It claims to be the best spa in Malaysia several years in a row.
We want to go back as soon as possible.

The last stop on our Malaysian trip is Langkawi (浮羅交怡), an archipelago of 104 islands in the Anderman Sea. Situated in the North West corner of the Malay peninsula, it is very close to the Thai border. The Westin resort is located on the main island – Pulau Langkawi, and just about 10 minutes away from the main town named Kuah (瓜鎮), “melon” if literally translated.


We got to the resort a few days later than the booked arrival date, after an unexpected detour to Hong Kong. We called ahead to make sure they did not resell our room.


The resort is somewhat commercial as it has been here for a while. Apparently, it has recently been renovated and is in the process of expanding into a convention center which is under construction behind the resort.


In addition to hotel rooms, they have free-standing villas along the beach front.



The resort did a reasonably good job blending natural beauty with man-made amenities.

westinresort-9Predictable but not obtrusive.


One major feature is the jetty. Hotel guests can reserve it for a romantic dinner or social function. A wedding ceremony was about to be held there on our last day.

westinresort-4Big change in water level due to tides.



The lights were pretty at night.




But the jetty was a bit spooky.


When we saw this notice on our balcony, there was not any sign of the animal.


On our last day, when we opened the curtains, there was a troop of 10 or so monkeys just outside our window.


We have no idea what kind of monkey it was. They are of a different species from the ones we saw in Kuala Lumpur, inside the Batu cave and temple.


They hung around for about 10 minutes and one by one wandered off in different directions.

westinresort-16They were peaceful (unlike the ones in KL) and probably visit the resort regularly.


A mother brought along a baby which was bright orange – there is no way one can miss that baby in a forest of dark green and brown.


So how does the bright color confer a survival advantage to the baby ?


The resort has a spa which is about 10-15 minutes walk away – the subject of our next post.

Street art is actively promoted by the city of Penang as a tourist attraction. Many cities, especially those in Asia, consider graffiti on walls as an eyesore. If you like street art, don’t miss the links to our earlier posts on street art in other cities at the end of this post.


It is not clear how it all started in Georgetown. According to a leaflet put out by the tourism board, several pieces were the work of a Lithuanian student – Ernest Zacharevic – who is an Honors student from Middlesex University in England (and not some punk, disaffected youth, after all this is being endorsed by the local authority).


He is apparently a filmmaker, artist and photographer, temporarily residing in Penang. Many other artists have since added their efforts all over Georgetown.


The most famous piece is probably this one on Lebuh Armenian – Kids on bike. It truly does depict the joy and thrill of riding. A crowd seemed to be there day and night and people were trying to pose in front of it, in the middle of the street, and without getting into each other’s photo.


Several of the pieces incorporate a real object to complete the idea, usually a bike. Some are lit up at night.


Like cute videos on the internet, cats seem to be a popular subject depicted on the walls here.


Cat …


and mouse (just round the corner)


Bruce Lee vs cat (this piece is in extremely poor condition as the surface layer of the wall is coming off).


The leaflet which contains a map and a photo of many pieces can be downloaded at


The leaflet also shows the location of more than 50 metal wire caricatures of people and situations. The pieces are essentially thin metal wires to form outlines of the characters and are installed in front of a light color wall. In my opinion, those caricatures feel like afterthoughts by the local government – they lack spontaneity and authenticity. We did not take any photos of them.


The painted pieces are dispersed all over Georgetown and as a result, encourages tourists to run around trying to find them all.


Some of them are quite hidden and some are not listed. It becomes a bit like a treasure hunt. Silly but fun, and effective to engage tourists.


We remember moments of joy upon discovering an unlisted piece as we turned a corner or when we looked up.


We have previously posted on street art in Los Angeles, New York and Sao Paulo.

On our way to Petaling Jaya (aka PJ, see earlier posts here, here and here), we discussed eating durian, the king of fruits, at length in the car. Neither one of us find the smell of the fruit as offensive or revolting as many people do.  I(Chris) had it before and recognized (but cannot say appreciate) its peculiar and strong aroma. Nor are we fans of this fruit since it is hard to find it in North America and even harder now in Europe. So as dessert, J suggested that we try some durian at one of the stands on a nearby street.


This is how Wikipedia describes the aroma of durian:

The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.

One of our hotels prohibit durian on its premises.


The durian stands are located on Jalan SS2/65 and at the corner with Jalan SS2/24, behind the police station, just down the street from the night market.  Apparently, they are really famous within Malaysia and possibly internationally, as we found numerous references to the stands online.


One of the stands started the concept of all-you-can-eat durian buffet charging around RM15 per person. Our friend J who once lived on a farm and knows quite a bit about durian suggested that we forgo the buffet option as we should try the good stuff. The name durian comes from the Malay word duri (thorn).


We had no idea (although it is not surprising) that durian comes in so many different varieties.  And this is the first time where we saw different varieties being sold separately and at vastly different prices.  The varieties have names like Musang King, XO, Thracka, Jan Tong, red prawn, and various D numbers. The fruits are sold by weight and the rate for each variety changes daily depending on supply and season. The vendors have really done a good job in properly differentiating their products and generating a demand that can command a higher price.


We sat down at one of the tables of “King of the King”, Ah Chun was the manager. On the table were gloves and tissues, and the stand provides water since the flavor is so intense. We do not know of any fruit which requires water to wash it down.


J chatted with the vendors and selected a variety – D24 – for the four of us. Supposedly, each variety has a characteristic taste and regular eaters have their preferred varieties. Our fruit was about 2 kg and the assistant opened it for us in less than 20 seconds.


We wanted to try a sweet one but the first one was according to J not sweet enough. So she returned it and complained, and the assistant opened another one for us.


The taste was indeed intense, onion-like, nutty, slightly sweet, becoming alcoholic towards the seed, moist, soft and velvety. We think the foul smell appears only if the fruit is opened and have been left lying around.


The most popular and thus expensive variety is the Musang King (貓山皇) which had an asking price of RM60 per kg that night. This variety is recognizable by, among other special features, a characteristic star-shaped pattern at the bottom of the fruit. This practice encourages connoisseurship and is a great way to market this fruit and benefits the entire industry !


A popular drink is fresh coconut juice – it supposedly counters the heat (traditional Chinese medicine concept) of the durian.


What a great evening of adventurous eating !


Fried Kuey Teow is a classic Malaysian dish – stir-fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, prawns, eggs, chives and thin slices of preserved Chinese sausages. The Penang style is the most highly regarded version of this dish.  We had this at the open-air food court at the night market, SS2, Petaling Jaya. Click here to see the food court.

We ordered a dish of it from the No.15 stall but we had to wait in line for our order. So I snapped away while the chef prepared our dish.


This is how one can make the dish. Fry the prawns first in oil, quite a bit of oil apparently.


Then add an egg.


Park the cooked prawns on the side of the wok, you don’t want them overcooked or deep fried. Scramble the egg while it is being fried.


Throw in the rice noodles.


Soy sauce, etc.


Then drop in the house-made, magic chili sauce.


Wok action !!!  Keep stirring.


Mix in some chives and bean sprouts, and let the whole lot be cooked.


Done !


It was served on a banana leaf and topped with a couple of slices of dried Chinese sausage.


Using the time data on the photographs, from beginning to end, it took roughly three minutes. It tasted goooood.