Friday, December 11, 2009

National Heritage Act

World Heritage Office took an initiative to organize a forum by inviting officials from Warisan HQ to come over and give explanations about what constitute a heritage and to explain about National Heritage Act and what kind of benefits of stakeholders get when their sites are listed.

We were invited to KOMTAR, on a Sunday morning to allow more people who were interested to come over and listen to this discussion.

I put up some of the main points here on this Akta Warisan Negara page.

YB Lim Guan Eng, our Chief Minister came over to give his thoughts too, and kept reminding us that Penang still had not got its RM20 million allocation fund as promised by the previous Prime Minister.

National Heritage Act

Friday, November 27, 2009

Art exhibition in Penang

With numerous private art galleries around George Town, new collections are being displayed from various artists, local or from abroad.

Jin Xiu art gallery currently plays host to a collection by Charles Chauderlot. The title is "Penang Memories in Ink".

It features twenty art work revolving around heritage buildings in Penang, as well as day-to-day activities around the city.

It is open till 11th December 09, the photo here does not do justice to other excellent pieces done by the artist. Go and see it live yourself.

Penang Memories in Ink

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nyonya Cooking Class

Now is the time for you to learn how to cook like a real Nyonya.
Nyonya Tan Bee Lee is coming especially for a cooking session at Tropical Spice Garden.
Don't miss out this opportunity. It will be held on 17th December 2009. Sign up early to book your seat!

Nyonya Cooking Class

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nyonya food in Penang

Penang as a food haven needs no introduction. One cuisine in particular is Nyonya food. Usage of local herbs and spices as above is abundant. Recipes are guarded jealously. The Nyonyas fight during family get-together who can make the best dish during a cook-out.

Whatever it is, this cuisine is really popular despite its dying culture. Read more here at my heritage site about Nyonya food. Also, you can learn how to make a Nyonya lunch with a real Penang Nyonya on 17th Dec 09. She will come as my guest cook at Tropical Spice Garden. Contact me for more details.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Melaka Bandar Bersejarah

Last week I was invited to join SEGI college tour guide students on an educational tour to Melaka. We also went to Kuala Kangsar, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

These students were prepped so that they could practice talking in a tourist bus. They also needed to know hard facts and fun stories related to the places they visit.

I had fun in Melaka. Three hours walking tour definitely was not enough.

This page illustrates some of the things I learned.

Malacca Heritage City

Tourism Day

7-8 November 09 were designated as Tourism Day by Tourism Malaysia. On these two days, the event was held at New World Park.. this place used to be vibrant in the 60's and 70's but now it has been given new life. New food court and event area were built. Also, Tune Hotel also made its mark by building its Penang branch next to this place.

Other organizations also participated by setting up their booths there. Most of them were from the tourism industry: hotels, places of attractions, services.

I am happy and proud to be invited as one of the guest chefs to this event. (I am not a chef, I don't wear tall hat), but it was a big honor.

My two sessions were 30 minutes each. In the first session, I mainly talked about Malay spices, its usage, methods of storage and grinding. I also mentioned quite a bit the usage of spices in traditional medicine, modern cosmetics and also ancient rituals. This was capped by a short demonstration how to process coconut to get fresh coconut milk.

Even the locals were surprised to see how much coconut milk could be squeezed manually using my technique.

On the second session, I talked about fresh local herbs, and showing each ingredient, I described their properties. I made a simple kerabu (Malay style salad) that was very delicious even though a tad spicy. Here is the some of the action captured on video:

If you would like more tips, visit my food web site or contact me to sign up for my cooking class at Tropical Spice Garden.

Cooking traditional food class

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heritage City of Vigan

Vigan City is a case study presented during the last heritage conference in George Town. Participants were given a thumb drive with all Power Point presentation files so we could all go home and study. I did my study and came up with this page.

Vigan City

Sunday, October 18, 2009

World Heritage Sites in Asia Pacific

China and India lead in the number UNESCO of World Heritage Sites they have in their countries. There are 899 sites in total and the number is increasing. A lot of cities are submitting dossiers so that they can qualify. They have to fulfill at least 2 out of 4 criteria set aside by UNESCO. Especially OUV (Outstanding Universal Values).

Cities with heritage sites at their disposals can expect significant growth in revenue in terms of inflated real estate values, as well as becoming a major tourist attraction.

However,after obtaining the title, it is up to the people themselves to make or break this commodity. They have to upkeep their standards because UNESCO officials will come visit again after three years. The title can be taken away if the criteria is lost or not met at this time.

That is why the debate is still going on. How much development can we allow?

We discussed this and more at the recent heritage conference.

Read also part two, sustainable cultural practices.

My regret is that there should be more participants in this conference, a lot of educational organizations simply skipped this.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clan Jetty

The clan jetties are part of Penang Heritage Trail even though they are not
being advertised that much. if you want to see how fishermen in urban area live in Penang, this is where you should go. The people make do with what resources they have.
This community thrive even though a lot of younger people are moving away from here.

Here is my observation.

Clan Jetty
Penang Heritage Trail

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heritage House Tour at Loke Mansion

Still post-conference topic even though in a less serious tone.. here it is, the tour at Loke Mansion. See also China Tiger, a handiwork of the current tenant of the mansion too.

Loke Mansion
China Tiger

Monday, October 12, 2009

Suffolk House gets a UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Disctinction.

Suffolk House played host to the closure of the two day heritage conference. The event was nicely concluded with the award presentation by the representative of UNESCO to Penang Chief Minister.

Guests were treated to a dinner reception and for the first time had the opportunity to roam around the massive building.

Second day of the conference report
First day of the conference report

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Penang International Conference

The two day conference entitled: The Economics of Heritage Revitalisation, organized in collaboration of the state government and several NGOs in Penang was a huge success. We got to learn a lot from other countries' case studies how their own World Heritage Sites were being managed and developed. The keynote speaker was Dr. Tim Curtis, the head of culture unit of UNESCO in Bangkok.

Besides the speeches and the talks, participants were treated to site visits as well as lavish dinner banquets at Pinang Peranakan Mansion and also the newly restored Suffolk House.

For me, it was a very educational experience and I will write an extensive report in due time.

The UNESCO award presentation to Suffolk House was the perfect ending to the conference. Everyone involved left with a sense of accomplishment and pride. I believe for the next conference, George Town should be able to present its success story but we need first to work very hard to come up with a way to measure our progress in a more systematic manner.

Penang International Conference Report (Part 1)
Penang International Conference Invitation Page

Monday, October 5, 2009

Iqra the garden of wisdom exhibition

I was asked by several people if I got paid for blogging or if I get monetary compensation for putting people together through my web sites. The answer is YES and NO.

For example, Equatorial Hotel Penang put up an Islamic Art exhibition last month in collaboration with USM's Tuanku Fauziah Museum and Gallery because their F&B Director, Mr. Abdul Rahman Ahmad, came across my report on Iqra' The Garden of Wisdom Exhibition held at Queensbay Mall last year.

I am very delighted today to find in my mailbox a very nice Thank You card from Mr Hasnol J. Saidon who is the Director of the Museum. Mr. Abdul Rahman, on the other hand, handed out a complimentary Ramadhan buffet for me and my children. We were also sent home by the hotel limo when I was expecting an ordinary taxi. THAT experience is beyond any monetary value, I suppose.

I find that the education level in this country is sadly lacking. Lecturers and teachers are more interested to make extra money elsewhere than concentrating on their teaching profession. As a result, students with money to burn with extra tuition classes are the ones who become tops of the class.

The museum, tries to fill the gap by holding free exhibitions at rural schools. This effort is very much to my liking.

Back to the question, by consistently writing this heritage web site also, people who are Who's Who, active in heritage issues are taking notice of my work. I am being appreciated by getting a complimentary seat to attend an international conference this week regarding sustainable tourism practices. Can that too, be measured in monetary value?

Guess not.

Iqra at Queensbay
Iqra at Equatorial Hotel
International Conference on Heritage

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

This was the last study tour of interpretation tools workshop organized by Penang Heritage Trust.

Sheer opulence, pure luxury of the grandest scale and very well maintained and curated too. That was my first impression.

Each corner of the mansion is adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful antiques.

However, we were brought later to the family temple by a senior guide, Mr. Yeap who gave an interesting story about the man who initially built this place: Kapitan China Chung Kweng Kwee.

Needless to say, I got excited to see the spacious kitchen! I will post more, now is the time for the beach ;-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hari Raya a major festival for the Muslims

Hari Raya just opened its door. The month of Syawal is going to be celebrated for the whole month. After a month of fasting in Ramadhan, it is the time to rejoice. The highlight is of course the first of Syawal.

Everybody had been busy shopping for the big day. Little India in Penang saw a hive of activities, especially those shops selling dates and spices.

The day itself is celebrated by visiting friends and relatives. This is the time for the ladies to show off their cooking skills. Homes where the best food are to be found would have a long list of guests coming and going.

Open Day is organized throughout the month. The children are the happiest, counting who has the most "duit raya". Green little packets which contains money.. similar to Ang Pow during the Chinese New Year.

This year, the celebration is a bit subdued.. it could be for a number of reasons.. However, from the news I got from friends and members of my family, it is a special day to get together and catch up with each other.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. Maaf Zahir Batin.

Religious festivals in Penang.

Little India in Penang.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Merdeka celebration in Penang

2009 marks the 52nd anniversary of the birth of my country, Malaysia. Back then in 1957, it was known as the Federation of Malay States, together with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore withdrew from the Federation in 1963, and the current Malaysia was formed.

In Penang, the spirit of Merdeka is hardly seen, as far as I am concerned. Is it only a Malay thing? As I could see a few odd Malay cars draped in the National Flag, and some Milan buses too, uncharacteristically sported the flags all over their windows. Some Malay houses did have the flags as well.

However, I know a lot of Malaysians in Penang, whatever their races, celebrate Merdeka in their own ways. At Queensbay, there was a galore of cheap sales and to cap it, there was a nice firework that could be seen from my window last night. People also took the opportunity to travel in this three-day weekend which also marked the last of the school holidays.

A group of cyclists rode their bicycles around the city center to promote healthy living and a closer step towards a greener Penang. It may seem like a small effort and hardly make an impact but still... it was done in Merdeka Spirit.

At Little Penang Street Market yesterday, despite the threat of the rain, a big crowd gathered to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and be entertained by performers. Some of them did sing some songs dedicated to Malaysia.

At Fort Cornwallis, there is an old flag pole overlooking the sea opposite the Esplanade. A navy sailor and his mate, 52 years ago, brought down the Union Jack from this flag pole when we achieved our independence. A big celebration was held at the Esplanade. People from all walks of life thronged there to see the event. Have you seen this photo before? Maybe not. So, here it is, for your viewing pleasure.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan yang ke 52. Happy Birthday My Malaysia!

Little Penang Street Market
Last year's report on National Day Parade in Penang

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spice Walk with members of PHT

Every first Sunday of the month, Penang Heritage Trust organizes a site visit to its members. This time, we did not have to go far at all, just following a trail in Little India and finishing off at China Street which also makes up the squarish part of George Town that makes up Little India.

Our guide was Teresa Capol, who is also a restauranteur (she and her husband own Eidelweiss, which serves German food). The theme was Spice Walk. In this part of Penang, the tour would not be complete without a lecture about Chinese temples or clan houses. We stopped at several prominent ones at Penang Street and also dropped by at the Mahamariamman temple at Queen Street.

The highlight of the walk was to a newly restored home which will be turned into an exclusive bed and breakfast at China Street. The owners graciously served tea to everyone of us and let us meander around in this fabulous property.

After the visit, a few of us drove to Kampung Buah Pala, to see the situation there. The people of the village actually were having a festival at that time. I have been reading/listening about this controversial piece of land for many months now and finally managed to set foot on it and listen first hand to the plight of the people there.

So basically, this tour was a very fruitful one. Walking tour coupled to a visit to a successfully restored building, capped with with a supposedly a living heritage site being threatened by development.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Penang 1st anniversary as a UNESCO heritage site.

The whole month of July was full of events to celebrate the first anniversary.

I was busy with my pet project: cooking traditional food class at the Tropical Spice Garden. Hence no post for the last seven weeks!

Anyway, I walked the whole streets of the heritage enclave to collect all twelve stamps to fill up my heritage passport. That was for the night of 25th July 09, when the whole city was alive with street performance at the Street of Harmony. We also got to see a variety of local food being offered.

What a night!

Cooking traditional food class
Tropical Spice Garden
Heritage Passport

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Penang Books

I have been very busy for the last three weeks that I hardly have time left to write new posts here. However, I wrote several new pages on the heritage city web site and the Pickles and Spices site to promote new things.

For the heritage city web site, I did three book reviews. Books about Penang that I found really worthy to be read by a larger audience. Two of them were the results of Koh Tze Yin, who has also a publishing house.

The other is a book by Johny Chee, who incidentally also published his own book.

The three books are:
1. Penang Passion (a cook book complete with tales of Penang food) by Koh Tze Yin.
2. Nostalgic Penang Journal (a hardcover coffee table book which is perfect for a gift or your own private collection) also by Koh Tze Yin.
3. A Tapestry of Baba and Nyonya Poetry by Johny Chee.

The books are available for sale online.

Go and check them out.

Penang Passsion
Nostalgic Penang Journal
A Tapestry of Baba and Nyonya Poetry

Monday, May 25, 2009

Penang International Dragon Boat Race May 09

This event was much smaller than the one held last August. Nevertheless, the spirit of the participants was infectious. Teluk Bahang Dam once again played host. Against the spectacular scenery, paddlers huffed and puffed to push their boats to the finishing line. As usual, there are some winners and some losers. That is sportmanship for you.

I enjoyed watching the teams prepping up for their turn to compete. The spirit of teamwork and camaraderie was abundant. Dragon boat racing is a total team effort. Even the seemingly easy job of the drum beater had the purpose.

It is heartening to know also, Teluk Bahang dam only allows this sport to be held here. It is because dragon boat racing does not give much impact to the environment. After all, the water of the dam will go to our household pipe. This catchment area is also home to many fish and the forest surrounding the dam has many animals including the majestic eagles. We spotted a few huge ones yesterday patrolling their domain.

Read the full report
Read last year's full report

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Youth Park in Penang

I just love Youth Park. It is one of my favorite places in Penang. It is cool, green, clean and beautiful. It is safe for children to run around and splash in the pools. It is great for youths to go and create a lot of noise as much as they want. The best thing is, it is free for all.

There are jogging path, football pitch and jungle trekking trail and manicured gardens, among others.

There is also an indoor gym and an outdoor one. A huge selection of playground toys too for children.

It is on the way to the Botanical garden, just after the Indian Waterfall temple. Oh yes, this is where I recorded the Silambam demonstration on video a few weeks back.

Let's go to Youth Park
See Silambam Demo

Chinese Dragon Boat in Penang

This competition is here again at Teluk Bahang Dam on 23-24 May 2009. The event that I attended last year was a blast. It was exciting and full of energy. Penang does have what it takes to hold an international sports event of that standard.

Everything was properly organized, there was enough space, enough public toilets, enough food and drinks. Transportation was also provided using RapidPenang bus, right up to the dam.

It was my first time visiting the compound of the dam. It was spectacular. You can bet I will not miss to attend the Chinese dragon boat racing this weekend.

Chinese Dragon Boat Racing in Penang
International Events in Penang

Tell us your Penang Stories

Every visitor who comes to Penang mostly will return home with memorable thoughts about their holiday. Or, the events that they came to attend.

Penang Heritage City web site would like you to submit your stories. Old or new. Happy or sad.

Childhood memories, or rave about the particular food stall that makes you drool whenever you think about it.

Here is the first submission. You may leave your comment or create your own stories. Pictures are welcome too. The more the merrier.

Thaipusam in Penang

Share us your stories about Penang

Penang Events

Walking tour from Stewart Lane to Muntri Street

I had several hours to kill yesterday. My daughter forgot her lunch box. So I went to the city center early and grabbed my camera too. After delivering the much appreciated food to her, I left and explored George Town, yet again, on foot.

Every time I walk the street, I enjoy it very much. Despite the beating afternoon heat, it has always been pleasant for me. I took many pictures of the shophouses, some are nicely refurbished, some are still in their original conditions but still decent looking. Also, I encountered some blocks which were in deplorable state with trees growing right into them.

I used Stewart Lane, starting from the Kuan Yin temple, and followed the lane, even between two blocks of shops which seemed to be haphazardly built, the alley being dubbed Boat Alley. It was a very dirty alley. Later, I chanced upon the old headquarters of the PHT. The touristy signboard was still there. The whole block seemed to be very quiet.

When I reached Muntri Street, I shot lots and lots of photos. I seldom come to this part of the city but here, I found a lot of hidden treasures. I took over a hundred photos at Muntri Street. Fantastic shop houses, and also houses, clan temples and association houses, even an old private Chinese school.

I ended my solitary tour when I reached Penang Road. Here the atmosphere took a busier tone. I crossed over to reach Transfer Road and came across another derelict row of shop houses. This time the whole block seemed to be invaded by the wild fig trees.

I wondered who the owners of these shophouses were. Would they continue to fall in ruins? Or would someone with enough funding will come and rescue them? Only time will tell.

Read about PHT.
Shop houses in Penang

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Living Heritage Award

Our heritage can come in many forms, the tangible ones like the buildings and the traditional clothes or intangible ones like humans practicing dying arts. In order to honor outstanding individuals who are dedicated promoting their dying art, Penang Heritage Trust and HSBC bank create a special fund to award these people.

Read on about some of the recipients of this award here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Esplanade and heritage schools

Yesterday when I went to pick up my daughter, I noticed a helicopter on the lawn at the Esplanade. This surely was a rare sight, too bad I did not have my camera with me to record it. I wonder what it was for, most likely it was a TV station aircraft for aerial coverage.

Anyway, the Esplanade as always a pleasant place to be. Besides the majestic Town Hall and City Hall buildings, on the other side, there is Fort Cornwallis. It is supposed to be the stronghold of Penang even though it hardly played its role to resist any invasion attempts since it was built.

My daughter goes to Light Street Convent, the oldest school for girls in South East Asia. The buildings are old, the gnarled trees have been there since the days of Francis Light. There are two old wells there, dug during Light's time to supply the residents of the area with fresh water.

I have a lot of materials about the school yet to be published. It is always pleasant to set foot in the school compound, there is a sense of peace in there, after the noisy schoolgirls left for the day. Visitors are allowed after 2 p.m. It has its own trail that you can follow to trace the history of the school.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Retail therapy in Penang

Almost everyone I know loves to shop, especially the ladies. We go for retail therapy and window shopping at every opportunity. Penang is never short of stuff to buy. Whether it is antique furniture, paintings, clothes, electronic goods or beauty products. We have numerous night markets, sidewalk bazaar and also flea markets. Shopping malls with designer goods? Plenty.

For lively and colorful experience, head to Little India. For cheap clothes in bulk or wholesale, go to Campbell's Street and Penang Road. Hmm, what else? To get electronics gadgets, go to Prangin Mall.

If you crave people watching and want to see and to be seen, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Place are the venues you want to check out. After getting so tired with all the walking, simply rest and sample the local food at any hawkers' center or restaurants.

I went to the Queensbay Mall today to get some groceries and to settle some chores. I love it as this place have banks and post office too. While window shopping, I saw a photo exhibition about last year's Penang Bridge International Marathon. I also noticed that for this year, this event will be held on 22nd November 2009.

In order to encourage more people to register early, the organizer has some incentives. Please check out my report from last year to see the link to the official marathon web site.

Shopping in Penang
Penang Bridge International Marathon report 2008

Penang Heritage Documentary by RTM

Last January I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Mr. Harjit Singh Hullon from RTM. He would like me to be their guide when they shoot some footage meant for overseas satellite broadcasting about heritage buildings in Penang.

I happily obliged and spent three days showing locations to the crew which were worth filming for the documentary.

We covered Penang National Park, the Heritage Trail, Little India, Street of Harmony and also the intangible aspect of heritage like day to day lives of normal folks at the market, at the temples, etc.

The skits have not been processed yet as we speak but I will keep you posted. It would be nice to see the web site name rolls on credit at the end of the show.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The history of Tupperware

Hmm, Tupperware in a heritage blog? Sounds very unlikely, eh?

Hey, don't run away yet! Let me tell you the story. In 1963, Tupperware was introduced to Malaysia. It became instant hit when home parties were conducted to sell the products. You probably remembered when your grandma hosted a Tupperware party at her house. Tonnes of food, lotsa laughter and plenty of ladies having fun playing silly games.

Now, you probably still use Tupperware which you buy from your office mate who brought the catalog to your workplace. Tupperware parties are getting rare but the legacy of home cooked food brought in that colorful plastic containers to school or office still remain.

I built an intensive mini web site about Tupperware, you probably would be interested to hear about the history of this revolutionary product.

Check it out here:

The history of Tupperware (complete with a 1961 commercial to promote the products)

Silambam Nilaikalakki demo at Taman Belia, Penang

Last week on Tuesday, I had the honor of witnessing a demo by members of Silambam Nilaikalakki performing their skills. I shot a lot of videos and also photos. Master Anba was there to supervise the movements that needed to be recorded.

All these were very new to me. I know very little about martial arts let alone Silambam. After a week, I collected the material and did a bit of research to come up with two preliminary pages. It is far from complete yet. I need to know more about this art.

Here they are:
Silambam Nilaikalakki in Penang
Photo and video page of Silambam Nilaikalakki

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Official Opening of World Heritage Office by Mr Lim Guan Eng Penang Chief Minister.

Today is an auspicious day for Penang heritage enclave when the former Penang Heritage Center is now officially declared as World Heritage Office. Despite pouring rain, the ceremony ran smoothly as scheduled.

As one of the guests, I was happy to see quite a few familiar faces there. Mr. Lim Guan Eng, our Chief Minister started the ceremony by giving a speech. In his speech, he touched on the fact that despite the status of George Town as a UNESCO historic city, Penang is number four from bottom out of all the states in Malaysia in terms of funding received for approved restoration plans.

This is a pretty sad thing, we are hoping that the federal government will see the undying spirit of the people of Penang in preserving our heritage and thus increase the funding in due course.

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, we witnessed the CM signing the plague officiating the opening.

The center was nicely decorated with a lot of new exhibits on display, including classic tiles used for roofing and also flooring for the shop houses. Those surely attracted my attention very much. We were also told that RM20K was allocated to buy books and other journals to add to the archive at the center.

There were also slide shows and some videos published especially to promote this World Heritage City Program. Other places under this program are Borobudur in Bali and Lijang in China. Hopefully one day Penang will stand as tall as these famous places too.

See the full page about World Heritage Office in Penang

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kokeshi Dolls at Penang Museum

This exhibition has been going since 27th February 09 but only today I got the time to visit it. Its last day will be tomorrow, so.. who knows when we will have the opportunity to see these dolls from Japan again.

Hmm, almost the whole of first floor is dedicated to this show. Here you get the information about the dolls, history, the artisans, the process of making them.

There are 11 distinct regional variations of the dolls on top of many types of toys which are made out of wood in Japan. Then, these are divided into traditional style and also modern style.

I learned quite a lot from this exhibition. It is always a delight to see fine work of art.

Kokeshi dolls are wooden dolls which are created especially in the Northern Island of Honshu. They have been around since the Edo period. Modern version which are more complex are now created by Japanese artists as pieces of arts. The traditional wooden dolls are however very simple, streamlined and always depict a feminine feature, with just the head and the body.

The dolls have three basic shapes which tell you how the neck and the body are joined: either gooseneck jointed dolls, stub jointed dolls or one-piece doll.
These basic shapes of course have their regional variations too.

The dolls are always bought by visitors as reminders of their visit to the resort spa villages where they are made, in Northern Honshu. A simple art form which started as leisure activity by Kijiya (woodmakers) in Japan is now part of their rich Japanese heritage.

Visit Penang State Museum

Silambam Training at Youth Park

I told you last week, I attended a silambam training at Taman Tun Sardon. Since Master Anban wanted to create more awareness about this art, we arranged for a full costume training at Youth Park (Taman Belia) yesterday afternoon.

Taman Belia has always been my favorite place since childhood. It has a lot of recreational option to the public. When I was a young girl, it was a place where people went to exercise and played the roller skates. Now, there are several pools for children and also a big arena for extreme roller-blading sports too.

The Youth Park also is a good example of how good Penang is at creating a truly wonderful park right next to the city center. It is beautiful with nice landscape and exotic tropical flowering shrubs.

Anyway, with four silambam experts showing off their skills, I was truly impressed to see them in action. All of these were recorded in many photos and some videos.

I have to take some time to edit them and also write a full story. Will keep you posted.

Penang Heritage Center is now World Heritage Office

Well, I have been meaning to visit this center for over a week now and finally I found the time to do so. As I was wondering about the new signboard outside the building, I asked Mr. Osman. According to Mr. Osman (a member of the staff there), since George Town is now a designated UNESCO Historic City, it is compulsory for the city to have a center to co-ordinate programs, disseminate information and also being the base for everyone to converge regarding heritage issues.

Not that Penang Heritage Center or Penang Heritage Trust has not been doing most of the above but this new center title is a UNESCO requirement. However, the daily business of this office is still 100% controlled by the local people.

Tomorrow, there is an official opening scheduled by the Chief Minister and I was invited to attend the ceremony. I will report the event to you in due course.

Oh yes, I was glad also to hear that Mr. Osman told me many people called the center from the information they obtained from my Heritage City Website. They got the phone number from the page I made a few months back. They also specifically asked for Mr. Osman by name. This shows that the Penang Heritage City web site is a really effective one in promoting heritage issues in Penang.

I enjoyed the free shuttle bus ride. In order to go to this office, take the MPPP Free CAT bus from KOMTAR and stop at Carnarvon Street bus stop. Cross the road, you will see the building.

Penang Heritage Center is now World Heritage Office

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Penang beaches

Today being Sunday, I decided to leave my cellphone and my computer for half a day. We went to the beach by bus. Took 101 RapidPenang bus from KOMTAR to Batu Ferringhi at only RM2.00/adult. Actually you can get a good view from the bus as it is higher up than most vehicles on the road. The winding road shows off the horizon beautifully.

What I did not like to see was some parts of the hills were being cut off drastically to build high-end real estate. Now, the rule is that no one can develop anything above 200 feet above sea level. However, money talks, greasing the palms of some officials can take you quite far.

The kids had a good time as always at the beach. They spent hours swimming, playing around, collecting shells and just being children. We are lucky to live where we can easily go to the beach for a swim at anytime we want.

It had been raining for the last few days and there was a lot of debris in the water. This did not dampen the fun in the least. I have a lot of experience with handling young children while traveling. You can read my story here when we went to Pangkor three years back.

Other than Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah and also Teluk Bahang are the famous beaches in Penang. These beaches have a big concentration of touristy hotels as well as high end property. A lot of expatriates make these beaches their homes.

There are a few other beaches which are rarely mentioned: those at Penang National Park in the area of Teluk Bahang. Pantai Kerachut and Pantai Ai Ling are some of the better beaches here.

These Penang beaches are not that far from George Town, they are part of Nature Heritage of the island.

Now that you know about them, why not go and take a day off to discover these hidden gems?

Have fun in the sun at Penang beaches.

Penang National Park
Pangkor vacation with children
Retire in Penang by owning real estate here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shop Houses in Penang

There are over 2000 units of shophouses in George Town alone. The style ranges from early shophouses to modern. My favorite style is easily "art deco", which was all the rage in the 1920's up to the 1950's.

Features of an art deco building includes: clean vertical lines, a flag pole, free of clutter of any elaborate stucco work like eclectic style of the previous era. It is easy to clean and maintain. Some have Shanghai plaster finish on the exterior wall instead of painted plaster finish. Colored glass windows are dominant.

Shop houses in Penang are being used as private homes, shops and also restaurants. Some are very well maintained and such a delight to look at. Shop houses have air wells, which are indoor courtyards to let air flow naturally. This helped to disperse heat build up before air-conditioning was invented.

A lot of these shophouses are sadly in such a bad state and need extensive repair. Since most of them are privately owned, the local council cannot do much to enforce the owner from leaving their property in ruin. On the other hand, there are also council's property which are not properly managed as it involves a lot of politics to get anything done quickly.

Shop houses in Penang
Glossary of shop houses features

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Silambam stick fighting martial art in Penang

What do I know about silambam stick fighting martial art? Basically nothing except that it is an art form using a stick for self defense. I am so ignorant that I first thought that "Kolattam", which is a performance using sticks and drum and guided by a leader with whistle is actually a form of Silambam.

Kolattam is a dance performance during special festivals, we see it a lot during street festivals and also at Indian temples during special ceremonies.

All these confusion was dispelled when I attended a Silambam Nilaikalakki training at Taman Tun Sardon in Gelugor tonight. Master Anbananthan explained to me in brief what actually silambam is. It is not to be confused with other martial arts, it is pure in itself and very original. It is an art, not a sport.

I will make time to study this art in more details by observing more sessions like this.

A good web site about Silambam Nilaikalakki
done by a student of Master Anbananthan

More about street festivals in Penang

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Events at PISA and around Penang

PISA (Penang International Sports Arena) is a venue for holdings events in Penang; be it concerts, food expo, PC Fair, political rally. It has a separate Water Sports Complex too; an Olympic standard lap pool and also a diving pool.

Last weekend,PISA played host for the quarterly PC Fair organized by PIKOM. The crowd was maddening. I braved through it to look if I could get a better deal from another ISP.

It was like a crazy auction house, too many "special offers", too many promoters, too many people jostling for the best deals. Some booths even have girls wearing skimpy anime style costume to attract customers.

It was sheer madness. I do not think I will go for another PC Fair again.

By the way, last month's International Food fair by FoodEx was another experience. It was quite pleasant. A lot of variety of food, from around the states in Malaysia and also neighboring countries like Thailand. Tables were scattered under the shades of the trees in the compound. It was a nice event.

Speaking of events, on 25th April this Saturday night from 6-11 pm, do not miss Vasakhi festival at Fort Cornwallis. It is a Sikh religious festivals. There will be ethnic Sikh food and also traditional entertainment.

See you there!

Calendar of Events in Penang 2009
Religious Festivals in Penang

Monday, April 20, 2009

World Heritage Office at Carnarvon Street

A few days ago I mentioned that Penang Heritage Center signboard had been taken down. Today I saw a new sign at the building. It now says: "World Heritage Office" -- Pejabat Warisan Dunia.

I made a mental note to actually visit the place myself to see what the new title means, who are working there, etc, etc. The center is located at the corner between Acheen Street and Carnarvon Street.

Carnarvon Street is a busy place. This is where you will find old stationery and book stores, art supply shops, baking supply shops, nice kopi tiams and even shops to prepare for a traditional Chinese funeral.

A few weeks before Ching Ming, the rows of shops here sell many items for prayers made of paper. A majority of Chinese here are Taoists, and according to their religion, during the ten days of Ching Ming period, ancestor worships have to be properly carried out. They will visit the graves, cleaning them and offering many items such as food and also mock worldly goods made of paper. The date is set on 5th April annually but the worshipers have the option to make the trip within 10 days of the actual date.

Anyway, Johanna is going to have some extra activities at school and I will have the time to visit the former PHC tomorrow. Will keep you posted.

Public transportation in Penang

Public transportation in Penang now has improved quite a lot since the introduction of RapidPenang bus in middle 2007. It is a local bus service that covers almost the whole island and also part of Seberang Prai.

I am a regular user of this service. Since I live very near to Sungai Nibong bus terminal, I have the advantage of being in the main route from the airport to George Town. I prefer to take 401A (Airport-Jetty-Airport) and 401 (Balik Pulau-Jetty-Balik Pulau).

It is also affordable, only RM1.50 for an adult from the Jetty to Sungai Nibong bus terminal but sometimes they charge RM2.00 for foreigners. Compare that to RM25.00 that a taxi would charge you for the same distance.

The buses are usually in good condition and the drivers are mostly pretty safe drivers (there are some exceptions though). Trust me, since I use these buses on weekdays to fetch my daughter from school daily. I know.

The other alternative for the bus is Milan (also runs in the same routes), the yellow rickety buses. I cannot say that the service is 100% bad because there are some decent drivers here too. Especially the older ones who are more responsible and run the buses more or less on schedule. If RapidPenang is not available, I will take Milan, but only those with open air windows. The closed ones have almost non-existence air-conditioning and you would be cooked raw in our hot Penang air.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Street of Harmony

It is no longer a secret that when UNESCO sent its representatives to see whether George Town deserves the Historic City title, beside the old buildings and architecture, the delegates loved the Street of Harmony.

What is the Street of Harmony? Basically it is Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, a stretch of about 2 km that starts from Kapitan Keling Mosque to St George's Church. In this street, four major religions have their houses of worship practically next door to each other in harmony. All the more so, it is one of the oldest streets in Penang and has been the venue for many street processions.

I recently got an email from a reader of my web site: Why there is no extensive report yet about Sri Maha Mariamman temple in that street? So I answered: the web site is still a work in progress. I am in the process of collecting enough information to build the pages relating to this historic building.

By the way, I participated in Thaipusam procession this year for two days. I saw so many things that I had never seen before. The report is also still being compiled, together with tonnes of photos.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pulau Jerejak as a heritage site?

This island on the east side of Penang is the longest island around the area. It is shaped like a tear drop and is only about one nautical mile from the east beach of Penang near Queensbay. It got its name from a convicts' jail and a leper colony which were housed there (at different locations).

Jerejak literally means "iron grille".

Despite its not so glorious past, you should be thankful that after the last convict and leper being shipped out, the island was left as it was for many years. Tropical jungle and wild animals, especially sea eagles and birds flourish.

Now, however, it is sad to see that even from Penang, one can see that the northern hill slope of the island is being denuded. I heard that they are building a water reservoir at the peak.

Why is this necessary? It is pretty near to Penang itself. Wouldn't across-the-channel piping be sufficient enough to supply the island with water? What kind of asylum this time that the authorities are planning to build?

I feel really disappointed. After all, having lived here almost my life, the island has been very special. it is big, solid and beautiful. Old pre-war buildings left behind sadly were being looted for precious scrap metals. Erosion caused by the construction of the new water reservoir results in untold damage to the jungle and also marine life.

This island should be gazetted as a National Park as part of our heritage. If the people who are in charge think about the future, instead of their own pocket, we can hope that the fate of Pulau Jerejak will not fall victim again so that only selected few can have their golf courses or their marina there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Roti benggali and Mamak roti

People in Penang are familiar with the scenario of an Indian bread man peddling his bread and homemade kaya for as long as we can remember. This is another reason why food in Penang is so unique.

They usually come out about 5 p.m. till 7.30 p.m. announcing their arrival with the sound of "ting ting" made with knocking a piece of metal against a makeshift inverted metal bell.

This is where you get roti benggali, white bread with thick brown crust. The inside of the bread is pure white and fluffy like cotton. We eat it by dipping it in thick spicy soup, chicken curry or using a spread mix of butter and kaya.

Reputedly, there are only two traditional style Indian bakeries still doing it this way; one is at Transfer Road (Victor's Bakery)and the other one is at the junction near Dato' Keramat Police station.

All mamak rotis get their roti benggali supply from these two places. If you find it difficult to get it, a visit to a Pelita Nasi Kandar chain in later afternoon will not disappoint you. Roti benggali is served there with many kinds of thick spicy soup.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Heritage Trail in George Town, Penang by bus.

Starting from 1st Feb 09, there is a new shuttle bus service that runs through major attractions in the city center. It is run by MPPP City Council and the local bus RapidPenang.

The route takes about 25 minutes to complete and two main stations are at Weld Quay ferry terminal and KOMTAR.

How do you know if the bus stop is part of the route? Simply look for the signboard installed and also on the tarmac marked as "SHUTTLE"

Locals as well as tourists take advantage of this service. It is enjoyable besides being free.

Along the way, you will be able to see the Esplanade, the Court House, the Museum,
Street of Harmony and also Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower.

So, look for the bus marked with MPPP Free CAT. CAT means Central Area Transit, and Hop on for Free!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Malay customs and culture in Malaysia.

In Malaysia, the Malays are the majority race. In each of 13 states, the customs somewhat differ from place to place. However, some of them have common grounds; like shaving baby's head ceremony and circumcision ceremony.

In Negeri Sembilan for example, a lot of rituals are influenced by Minang customs, the Minangkabau clan who came from Sumatra dominate this state. In Penang instead, some practise are mixed with Hindu beliefs because of inter-racial marriages that occur within the people here.

Malay customs in the northern part of Kedah and Perak, for example, have a lot of Thai influence.

So you can say that there is no one true Malay customs to be followed. It is up to the individual to practice it the way that he finds most convenient, depending on the location and also surrounding people.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Penang Heritage Center moved?

Everyday, I pass through Carnarvon Street to pick up my daughter from school. This week I notice the sign board for Penang Heritage Center has been taken down. I have to go and investigate what is going on.

Now there is a small sign saying Penang Tourism Information Center instead.

Hmm.. I know that the building that houses the center does not belong to the government but instead being given to the public for use by the owner.

I will let you know soon. Hopefully tomorrow I can find out the details.

Wedding photography contest

What could be more romantic than getting married or later on having your honeymoon in a historic city? Think Venice and Paris, and most brides would go oooh and aah!

What about George Town? The romance of the place beckons.

Last weekend (April 11-12 09), a photography competition was held at a few places at the city center including Beach Street and also at Fort Cornwallis. The subjects were brides in wedding dresses, with the historical landmarks in the background.

I am sure the event is a good platform for many amateur photographers to sharpen their skills.

Initially, heavy downpour over last week made many people anxious, alas, Saturday and Sunday mornings were bright and sunny that everything went smoothly as planned.

Here is a result of the shooting session done by Jeff Ooi, Jelutong MP at Fort Cornwallis.

Preservation of heritage buildings.

If you look at Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, you will see a very fine example of preservation effort. The team which did the work tried very hard to emulate building techniques that were used 100 years ago.

Old materials were recycled, authentic organic paint was sourced out and even some of the artisans were imported from China to rebuild the Blue Mansion ruin.

This resulted in first grade restoration which won numerous awards. The building is now part boutique hotel, part museum and also a perfect venue to hold theme events for a small group of people.

Spend some time to see a bit of history about this mansion.