Penang – Weeks 3 & 4

Weeks 3 and 4 have flown by here in Penang – this region keeps growing on us, it is a wonderful spot….

Watching the All Blacks play The Lions at an Aussie pub in Malaysia

It’s pretty awesome to be a super proud Kiwi in New Zealand, but even better outside of NZ. We had missed seeing the second test against the Lions so we were pretty keen to see the deciding match live. We found an Irish bar and an Aussie bar not too far from us at Straits Quay that were both going to be showing the match live, so we headed down there in the early afternoon. Very strange to be in 35 degree heat, early afternoon and watching rugby being played in the darkness of New Zealand. We decided to check out the Aussie bar first, The Shed, and we found ourselves a nice spot outside, under the shaded terrace area, right next to the marina and settled in for a few hours.Watching the All BlacksWe ordered a few drinks; a couple of soft drinks for the kids, a pint of Calsberg for 18 MYR ($6 NZD) and the first of my ‘2 for 70 MYR’ ($23.33 NZD) cocktails. The place started to fill up; we had a few Lions supporters inside the main bar, a couple of ABs supporters and a mix of others. It was a nice atmosphere and didn’t get too crowded. I always find the Haka and National Anthem emotional, but today’s was extra strong and a little bit of longing for family and friends and ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ tugged at me. I’m sure most of you know that the game ended in a draw, as well as the series, and while it wasn’t the outcome we would have preferred, at least it wasn’t a loss.

Colonial Penang Museum

While on my way to the Thai Embassy one morning to submit our visa applications, I walked past the Colonial Penang Museum, it looked pretty interesting and had a large Trip Advisor banner across the main fence that was recently dated in 2016. So I did a little research that afternoon (4.8 star rating on Facebook from 76 reviews, 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor from 219 reviews & #5 in the Top 10 museums in Malaysia for 2016), found a 10% discount e-voucher and put it to the family to take a visit here the following day before going back to the embassy to collect our passports and visas. The entrance fee was minimal, even before the 10% discount, adults 30 MYR/$10 NZD and children 5-12 years 15 MYR/$5 NZD. The museum is a house that was built in 1901 and originally a British Administrator’s house. The museum founder, Jasmine Tan, has a stunning collection of items that showcase the unique lifestyle of both the British Administrators & the wealthy merchants during the 18th-20th centuries. We were greeted on arrival, removed our shoes into a basket and began our tour with our wonderful guide, Tim. He gave us plenty of information as we moved around the rooms seeing some very unique pieces; one being a piano that is one of only two left in the world (the other being in London).Colonial Museum_1We saw pieces from all over the global and we found it very interesting; some of the items were in fantastic condition and showed the opulence with which these people had lived. The boys had fun finding hidden animals or animal parts (mostly things like lion’s paws) within the furniture and Tim was great showing them secret compartments in some of the furniture. Our shoes were waiting for us as we exited and we headed out to explore the outdoor area and the extremely large tree house. The grounds could do with a little trim and tidy up, but it appears they run this little gem on minimal staff and have a really good, local museum here.Colonial Museum_2

Jurassic Research Centre

During our family research on the Penang region, our family’s dino enthusiast, Lincoln spotted the Jurassic Research Centre and it immediately went on the list. This facility is one of many in “The Top” at Komtar Tower (Penang’s tallest building with 65 floors), however “The Top” isn’t actually at “the top” of the tower and Jurassic Research Centre was on level 5 in a building next to the tower. We couldn’t quite work that one out but anyway…. We thought we might be spending a few hours with the dinosaurs so decided on an early Yum Char lunch at one of the well reviewed restaurants, Tai Tong, which also happened to be close to the tower. When we arrived around 11.30am the place was quite full but we managed to find a table near the street. Lunch was delicious with most of the “aunties” who pushed the carts not speaking a lot of English, but as well tuned Yum Char diners we already had a pretty good idea of what we were getting and again, nothing disappointed.Tai Tong Restaurant_PenangNext it was a short walk to Komtar Tower and the dinos. The entrance way and outside the research centre looked promising and there were plenty of dinosaurs that could be sat on (and paid to move if you so wished) – we also had high hopes based on the ticket prices (adults 58 MYR/$19.33 NZD and children between 90-130cm 48 MYR/$16 NZD).Jurassic Research Centre_1What they had inside and out was very well done, but it was compact and we were in and out within the hour (and we had definitely not rushed through). Logan and I were a little disappointed but the boys really enjoyed it and they have the youthful bliss of not being concerned with price:quality:time ratio that we rate and compare activities on.Jurassic Research Centre_2

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple

Soon after we arrived in Penang, we spotted an interesting looking structure in the hills across from our apartment building. After a bit of research we found that this was the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple (also known as Waterfall Hill Temple) and there was a little climb of 513 steps up to the main temple. After the 272 steps up to Batu Caves in KL, we decided to extend ourselves and visit this temple as well.temple-from-our-apartment-e1500990991938.jpgWe decided with sunrise being around 7.15am at the moment that we would venture up there early to get a slight reprieve from the morning heat and a different view of the area. The gates to the temple open at 6am and this is generally the time Lincoln wakes up, so we enlisted him to be our alarm on this occasion. We were out of the apartment and in an Uber by 6.20am and after a little issue with finding the entrance to this particular temple (there are a few in this same area) we started our ascend upwards.Waterfall Hill Temple_1The hilltop temple has a seven-storey (21.6m) tall main tower and the views from up there were stunning. As the sun rose we got a whole different perspective and tried taking some photos using the remote access shooting function on the Canon via the iPhone – some came out alright and some were trial and error.Waterfall Hill Temple_2We spotted a few monkeys up near the temple but definitely not as many as Batu Caves. As we reached the bottom, we saw a few more coming down from the hills and a man appeared and gave us some bread to feed them, so that was an interesting experience for us all as well.

Botanical Gardens

After the early morning start to reach the summit of the temple we were in need of some sustenance, so walked along towards the direction of the Penang Botanical Gardens (also know as The Waterfall Gardens) and found a little spot for some breakfast. After this we continued into the gardens and wandered through this space for a couple of hours. These gardens were established in 1884 by the British and the 29 hectare location was formly a quarry site. By this stage it was a little after 9am and the mulitple garden roads and shady spots were busy with people excercerising, doing yoga or simply enjoying a walk. There are a few enclosed speciality houses (Fern, Orchidarium, Cactus, etc) that are open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, so we missed seeing these but there was still plenty on show. Braxton spotted the sign up towards the lily pond so we ventured up the tree lined path to a very large pond. We started to spot numerous turtles and we watched them and the fish for quite awhile. We finished up seeing a total of 3 adult turtles and 6 baby ones.Penang Botanical Gardens_Lily PondWe continued upwards towards where we believed the waterfall would be (in some areas there weren’t a lot of signposts) and at the top of the path we came across the first water treatment plant in Malaysia, first constructed in 1804 to service 10,000 people and still in use today. We continued round and started to head downwards, seeing parts of the waterfall along the way. Later we found out that due to safety issues, the waterfall has been fenced off and it can now only be viewed via tour. We came across a few monkeys on this path and one male was camera shy and not too keen on Logan trying to take his picture. We saw quite a few interesting trees on the way out and some fish ponds and water fountains as we exited through the main gates. After a lovely stroll through the gardens for a couple of hours we were out of water and ready for a fresh juice and an ice cream.Penang Botanical Gardens

Pasar Malam Farlim Night Market

This market, with both food and merchandise stalls, is only open on Wednesdays (6pm until late) and are located in a big open field in the suburb of Ayer Itam, about 9-10 kms away from our apartment. When we arrived just before 6pm the markets were in full swing and we started to look around the food stalls, with so much to choose from we started with a few little things first; mini sushi rolls, dim sum, things on sticks, cola chicken, and the like. This kept the boys going and they went to play on the playground while Logan and I had something more substantial – Carrot Cake (not actually a cake as previously discovered) and Curry Mee – both very tasty. These markets seem very popular and it was hard to get a table by this time, so Logan and I had no problems sitting on the grass embankment overlooking the playground and eating our meals. You do tend to spend more on dinner at these types of markets than you would if you went and ordered one meal, but it’s a fun way to spend an evening and you can often try smaller portions of something you might not normally. After eating more than enough, we took a look through the many stalls selling merchandise, pretty much the usual items you see at markets or Chinatowns and the boys had a little ice cream (2.50 MYR/$ 0.83 NZD) to finish off the night.Pasar Malam Farlim Night Market

Breakfast @ Too Soon Café

Rated as one of the top spots for all-day breakfast (open 8am-6.30pm Monday-Saturday) in Penang and serving the famous “half boiled egg” and “kaya (coconut jam) toast” – which Logan was keen to try. Me not so much, as I’m not a huge fan of gooey egg whites. If you didn’t know about this spot or weren’t told about, it would be hard to find or even realise that it was there or what it was; especially if there happened to be no line. It looks like a little alley way that has tables along one side and a bench and fire drum as the kitchen. Breads are toasted over charcoal at the bottom of the drum and the top has a large pot of boiling water for coffee making and eggs.Toh Soon Cafe_1We had driven past this cafe a couple of times in Georgetown, Uber drivers had told us about it and we had also read up about it. There are often lines and while most reviews confirm that the food is good, the wait times and service aren’t always. We decided to try it one Thursday and managed to time it right, arriving just before 9am and only having to wait about 5 or so minutes before a table became free. There isn’t a lot of order to the queue and we nearly had our table snaffled in front of us, but we prevailed and parked ourselves at the table and waited for it to be cleared.

They have a pretty simple menu on display; 4 types of breads (Hainan, coffee marble, wholemeal & chocolate), 3 spreads (homemade kaya, homemade peanut butter & imported butter), egg on toast and half boiled egg. We knew they also had pre-made triangle-shaped parcels of nasi lemak and that there was also coffee on offer. There was a young man who didn’t speak much English that was taking mental orders and accepting payments and we ordered with him (or thought we ordered) chocolate toast for the boys, iced coffees and a half boiled egg and kaya toast. I grabbed one of the nasi lemak parcels and we didn’t have to wait too long for the coffees, which were really nice. The boys toast was next out and they were well and truly ready for it by this stage. The line along the footpath was growing and I had finished my small meal. During the wait we saw another older male, who didn’t seem to actually work at the cafe, selling parcels from a tray he was carrying. We had seen other patrons eating them and they looked like vermicelli type noodles so we decided to give them a try as they were only 2.50 MYR ($0.83 NZD). We unwrapped the plastic parcel and found the larger section containing the noodles, a smaller section of grated coconut and another small section of sugar. By taking a small portion of noodles and dipping them in the sugar and coconut, you got a tasty little mouthful and we later discovered it was a dish named putu mayam.Toh Soon Cafe_2This didn’t take long to be devoured by me, Lincoln and Logan (who was still waiting for his meal). Our young waiter must have realised this after bringing a tray of food out to a table that arrived after us and told Logan it would be “1 minute”…. a few more minutes later and his half boiled egg arrived but no toast. After trying to communicate that we had also ordered toast Logan decided to flag it, he was hungry and there was a few chocolate toast soldiers left he could use to dip in his egg. In his hungry hast he forgot to take the standard ‘food pic’ before diving in; adding the white pepper and light soy sauce, and giving it a mix.

Nonetheless, he throughly enjoyed it. We asked to pay and the waiter came and looked at what was left on our table (dishes and parcel wrappings) and advised it would be 11.50 MYR/$3.83 NZD. This could have been an error but we had no way of knowing as the menu board didn’t show any prices and with the next customers hovering for our table, we paid and went on our way.Toh Soon Cafe_3

3D Trick Art Museum

After our late breakfast and a wander through a nearby market, we headed to the 3D Trick Art Museum for a little bit of family fun. This is a 3D interative museum and we had a 20% e-voucher for this activity, so the total cost for our family of four was 64 MYR ($21.33 NZD). The first few scenes depicted Penang and the local area/lifestyle/culture and then you move through into an array of others. We came across a scene that we were really keen to try, (the room where you can look either very tall or very short) but unfortuntely it was out of action this day. The boys had some fun trying to work out some of the scenes and how to interact with them but they have plenty of staff on hand to help with this (as our artistic direction didn’t seem to be helping), tips on the walls by each scene and the staff will also take photos for you if you all wish to be in them.Penang 3D Trick Art Museum_1The museum is spread out over two floors and in the last two areas, the scenes are quite close together and feel a little crammed in. We were lucky that there weren’t too many other groups in the same area as us at the same time, as you often had to wait to take your photos as you had others crossing through your shot while they were taking their photos. We found some scenes could also do with a little touch up as the corners could be seen in some shots and the floor boards were starting to show through (not sure why they don’t have a flat covering over the floor boards anyway to prevent this) but we spent a good couple of hours here, had a bit of fun and some shots came out really well.Penang 3D Trick Art Museum_2Now we have just over 1 more week left in Penang until say “goodbye” to Malaysia and head to country number 3….

– Paula


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