19 April 2015

When I was small I used to go to Penang and stay with my paternal grandmother during the school holidays. I’ve always had mixed feelings about going there. Bored because there’s nothing much I can do for a month. Excited because we will usually go to the Penang Fair at the end of our stay. That was a long time ago when I was small. As I grow older I see a lot less of Penang. And when my grandmother passed away 14 years ago, that was the last time I visited the island. Since she’s gone, I have little reason to visit the place. She’s the only immediate family member that I have living there. I’m not so close with the others.

Fast forward last week, my grandmother had two more sisters — Tok Bibik and Tok Bik Nab. Bik Nab had been ill for some time now and she passed away last Tuesday. As her nephew, my Dad was compelled to come visit. That’s what people usually do anyway. I know he’s in a dire financial situation right now so when he asked me whether I would come along for the visit I didn’t have the heart to say no. So last weekend I took my family and Dad to visit Penang again after so long. I had some idea that going north is expensive. You need 200 ringgit minimum for transport alone if you’re going by car. And that doesn’t include food and other expenses. More if you ain’t got any relative to stay at. Still, I didn’t mind that much since I thought it’s about time I visit my distant relatives again. Plus Tok Bibik is so old now, who knows when will I see her again. I had fond memories of Tok Bibik. She was so nice when we went to her house and stayed there for weeks during the school holidays.

Halfway through the trip Dad told me he had to go back to KL the same evening. Said he had a very important appointment tomorrow with some big shot about a project. I tried to persuade him to stay at least for the night but he’s having none of it. Since he’s so adamant, I can’t do much about it. He’s known for that. We took the ferry which was over an hour late. The ferry service to the island had gone from bad to worse over the year according to the locals. That evening, 3 units of ferry had broken down and we had to wait in line for the 3 remaining ferries to arrive. I swear that’s the last time I’m gonna ever take a ferry to Penang island.

We were greeted by Mak Cik Ani, Uncle Rahman and Uncle Nizam and his family. We had dinner, went to see Tok Bibik and Dad left shortly after. That’s less than an hour after arriving. I hope you better get that project Dad cause I’m somewhat disappointed with you for this. Had he’d known that Bik Nab passed away earlier I didn’t think he’d even come. Anyway we stayed overnight in Lengkuk Pemancar. We’re planning of visiting Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) and a few other places the next day.

Uncle Nizam suggested we visit Road Walk near the stadium first before going to Penang Hill. It’s a little market which sells a variety of goods including food, produce, antiques and other common market wares. I’m not so keen of going thinking that the queue at Penang Hill would be very long if we go late. But we went there anyway since Uncle Nizam insisted that we do. In the end my wife did all the buying while I just look around. Actually it was the kids who nagged her to buy stuff for them. I knew exactly that would happen hence the reluctance to visit any kind of market while on holiday. LOL.

Penang Hill has changed much after my last visit when I was small. They’ve renovated the place and also upgraded the funicular train to a spacious and air-conditioned one. The waiting time is also much shorter and we got from the ticket booth to the top in less than 30 minutes. On a clear and sunny day we should be able to see much of Penang island from up there. Unfortunately it was cloudy and hazy when we got there so there’s not much to see really since visibility is quite limited. We walked around the place a bit and went down about an hour later. Sure there’s a couple of restaurants and an owl museum up there but I’m pretty sure they’re expensive and not worth it.

Next stop we visited the famous Hameediyah restaurant downtown for lunch. Some of my Penang friends recommended that we eat there and I have to say they were pretty good. However my Penang neighbor insisted that Deen Nasi Kandar is even better so I guess I’ll have to try that next time. After lunch we walked around a bit trying to find the Penang Street Art. There’s about 9 of them paintings all over the island but we only managed to find 2 in the hot afternoon sun. Since time is limited and I doubt the kids would manage, we didn’t try to look for all of them. Maybe some day when they’re older or when we are there alone just me and my wife.

So that concludes our short visit to Penang. I wished I had more time to visit and see more places and spend time with my far away family. Maybe next year, we’ll see.

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