Saturday, 17 August 2013

No Penang Curry in Penang

Driving along the main highway towards George Town, I’ll admit that my first thoughts were where to find the ultimate Penang curry.

A staple offering on any menu in a Western Malaysian restaurant, we grew up salivating over this dish.

We hadn’t even been out of the airport for longer than 15 minutes and already I was scanning the street food vendors fighting for space on the pavement, trying to spot those magical words: Penang curry sold here.

Instead heading in the direction of George Town I felt like I was cruising past a real life Tinseltown, staring at high rises decorated with brightly coloured lights dangling from balconies, hanging from windows and shining for attention on dismal looking apartment blocks.

Wandering around George Town itself, you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. Aside from accepting your definitely in Asia therefore need to watch both sides of the road like a hawk each time you cross it, the colonial British architecture is noticeable everywhere and a photographers dream to capture on camera.

Chatting to our new mate in the hostel who, when not talking, preferred to keep his eyes shut whilst sitting at the reception desk, didn’t really unearth any amazing stories into why the famous curry couldn’t be found in Penang. I guess that’s because Google is the new storyteller these days….

Interestingly most of the street food vendors that line Lebuh Chulia every night, a throbbing area of activity and the main hub for eating in the area, all sell the same kind of mainly Chinese food, Char Kway Teow. We did spot a stand selling Laksa and the odd Mee Goreng. 

Our not long enough two days we had here (now that is a mouthful to say), did feel like we were acting the role of the typical tourist, ‘ticking off an invisible list of things to see/do.'

That included a trip out to the Keh Lok Si Temple, recognised as the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia and well worth the interesting bus trip out there.

Around the Esplanade we found Malaysia's answer to Banksy and hagglers taking the opportunity to cash in on the talented graffiti. you can never have enough variations on notebooks with different cover pictures.

From there we found ourselves walking and holding our noses towards the Chew Jetty. Adeptly named after the surname of the Chinese family who first live here, the UNESCO Heritage site still holds the history together of how the first Chinese immigrants to the area lived. Wooden houses sit up awkwardly on stilts made up of anything really; cement filled plastic buckets, wood, brick, all layered on top of each other to support a home. Those who still live in them today have opened a few home stays and there’s a few tourist shops in what you’d imagine were peoples living rooms. Human life in the area is rife, so don’t expect smelling fresh sea air and hearing the seagulls chirping. Walking away from the main ‘tourist drag’ of a wooden alleyway I felt like I had more examples of this made obvious. It did make me wonder if the area is ever discussed from an environmental point of view or just kept as the picture postcard World Heritage site.

Toodle pip x 

Street Food along Lebuh Chulia.

The annual turtle congregation at Keh Lok Si Temple.
Keh Lok Si Temple.

Keh Lok Si Temple.

Esplanade graffiti art.

Chew Jetty.

Chew Jetty.

Holding the house up high, Chew Jetty.

Backyard living, Chew Jetty.

Little bro enjoying a close shave, Little India, Penang.