Trip up North

Last week  we decided to make a trip up North, to celebrate Aric’s birthday. A 4D3N trip, staying overnight in Kuala Sepetang, Gunung Jerai and Georgetown.

Kuala Sepetang, or Port Weld as it was originally called, has recently become a popular tourist destination. We arrived at lunchtime on a Saturday and were amazed by the large number of tourist buses. There are now two “boutique” hotels and we had booked a room in the Happy 8 Retreat , located above a fish processing factory and a seafood restaurant.

Port Weld

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The reviews for this hotel are rather mixed, the decoration of the rooms and the use of recycled materials is appreciated, but the walls between the rooms are paper thin and there are some complaints about the service. We were lucky, not many other guests, so we could sleep well. We had a room with a view of the river, you can spend hours there, watching the busy traffic.

Here is a video, taken from our balcony

We were just in time for the famous curry mee of Kuala Sepetang. After our siesta we walked in the village. The new bridge makes the other side easily accessible, fortunately not yet very developed.

For our dinner we went to the Tepi Sungai restaurant, also located above a fish processing factory. We had mantis prawns, lala shells, spikey snails, vegetable and tea for RM 61

The sunset view was priceless and free of charge…:-)

One reason to visit Kuala Sepetang was that I would like to have a look at Kuala Sangga, a small fishing village at the mouth of the Sepetang river. We saw  many tourist boats coming in and out and expected that at least a few of them would go to this village. Mistake. Most tourists come for the fireflies and the eagle feeding, not many are interested in the (tiny) village.

After an interesting “fusion” breakfast we continued our trip to Gunung Jerai. As an alternative for Kuala Sangga, we decided to visit the Hindu temple complex of Bukit Batu Pahat, on the slopes of the mountain. But first of course lunch…:-)

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I had read about these temples, but never visited them. The Bujang Valley where these temples are located is considered the richest archaeological area in Malaysia! But many Malaysians have never heard about it. Why? Could they be neglected because this part of Malaysian history predates Islam and the Malacca Sultanate?

Expecting the complex to be a bit rundown, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in mint condition. The museum with information about the excavations and some artefacts is interesting. The Bukit Batu Pahat temple is in situ, the others have been relocated. And there is even a small waterfall, more a cascade.

Only a few visitors, not surprising as the site is badly signposted. Merbok is the nearest larger village. The complex is really worth a visit. And free of charge!

We had booked accommodation in the Regency Jerai Hill Resort, near the top of the mountain. A winding road leads you to the resort at an altitude of almost 1000 m above sea level. From the resort and from our balcony we had a fascinating view of the rice fields and the coastline of Kedah.

Here is a video, taken at the resort. We are just below the clouds

We had booked a puasa promotion, RM 230 for the room including 2x dinner and breakfast. During puasa (Ramadan) Muslims will eat only after sunset, and we thought it would be polite to follow that rule. Muslims will also not eat after sunrise, but for our breakfast we did not follow the rule…:-)  English breakfast!

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Also here we had something on our program. There are quite a few waterfalls on the slopes of Gunung Jerai and one of them is located not far below the resort. Just before entering the resort, you will see a path with cemented steps going down. In about half an hour you reach the Alur Naga fall. A vertical fall in a romantic surrounding. On the way back I noticed a swarm of bees/wasps, my enemies. I managed to pass  without disturbing them. There were also leeches, I don’t mind to give them a free lunch..:-)

Here is a video of the fall

Our last destination was Georgetown. My friend Joe Yap had suggested a heritage hotel in Armenian street, Straights Heritage. They have only two “suites” and we had booked the Phoenix suite, on the second floor. It was like a dream, the most beautiful place where I have ever stayed.

It would have been nice to stay in our “mansion” the rest of the day and relax, but we also wanted to taste Penang durians! We met one of Aric’s friends and went to a stall in Bayan Lepas, where we tasted a Red Prawn durian. Yummy. After dinner in the New Lane hawker center, we went back to our suite and enjoyed the luxury.

Our program for the last day consisted of two parts. Joe had told us about a Christian cemetery where one of the graves had a sculpture of a dog, resting on the tombstone.The Western Road Cemetery was easy to find, but it was much bigger than I expected. Fortunately the caretaker could point out the grave to us. Legend has it that the dog visited the grave of is master after the latter had passed on, and continued to stay at the grave.

Nearby the cemetery is one of our favourite Laksa restaurants, the Taman Emas Coffee shop, where we had an early lunch. Last stop was at the Penang War museum, another suggestion of Joe. It is located at Bukit Batu Maung, where in the 1930’s the British built a fortress to protect the island against the Japanese army. It was a huge complex with cannon firing bays, barracks, tunnels etc. Manned by British, Malay and Sikh soldiers, each group in their own barrack, with their own cook etc, of course…:-) The fortress fell because the Japanese attacked from the land side and not from the seaside…. Like not much later Singapore.

After the Japanese had taken over, it became their army base. And after years of neglect it is now a museum. Steep entrance fee, RM 20 for locals, RM 35 for foreigners. Overpriced. You can also play war games (paintball) or follow ghost tours…:-(. Nevertheless still interesting, you can crawl through tunnels, climb escape ladders etc.

Not far from Batu Maung you can enter the second Penang bridge back to the mainland. The bridge is 24 km long with many curves. Interesting

Second bridge

It was a very satisfying trip, full of variety

Penang Food

When you are not interested in food, you can skip this post..:-)

Penang is a paradise for foodies. Do a Google search for “Penang food paradise” and you will get many pages with hits. Our last trip to Penang had the Murals as destination and the Thaipusam festival, but of course also FOOD! Here is part of what we had during our stay. Makan Non Stop..:-) For my non-Malaysian followers: Makan = Eating in Bahasa. The traditional welcome greeting  when you arrive at a friend’s or family house is: Sudah makan? Have you eaten already?

Penang Food

On our way to Penang, we had dinner in Nibong Tebal at the Law Chang Kee restaurant. Famous for its Crab Porridge and its Boiled Baby Octopus. Don’t say aargh, the octopus was delicious. We paid RM 38 for our meal for two..:-)  That is about 8-9 Euro.

We arrived in our hotel quite late, but after a shower we decided to have an evening walk. Visiting some of the murals, and ending at the China House, really a surprise for me. Beautifully renovated old houses with a marvelous selection of coffee and cakes! Really worth a visit…:-)

The next morning we had breakfast in a mamak stall near to our hotel. A friend of us, living in Penang, had suggested it to us as possibly the best Roti Chanai in town at Transfer Road. It was crowded and basic but very VOF (Value for Money)

For our lunch we had planned to go to Balik Pulau for the Assam Laksa, But it was not our lucky day, the Chuan Hong stall, Aric’s favourite, was closed. So instead we had to go for Mee Rebus, in a nearby stall, also not bad.

Assam Laksa closed

Mee Rebus

I will not mention all the other places we visited during our trip, only the last one. It is the HUG restaurant in Jalan Hutton, also quite near to our hotel Mingood. Basically I am a hawker food lover, no fancy restaurants. So when a friend suggested the House of Udang Galah , my first impression was: too posh for me. But looking at the menu,  the reasonable prices and the positive review of my friend, we decided to give it a try.

What an enjoyable evening we had! Excellent service, and good food. Only problem was that we ordered to0 many dishes, you should go there with a bigger group!

Dinner at HUG

Here a few more pictures. We had Scallops as a starter, Seafood soup, then Peking Duck (first the skin, then the meat), the Udang Galah, and a combination of four vegetables. Finally we could not resist the temptation of the Baked Red Wine Syrup Apple as a dessert.

After this delicious (but also expensive!) dinner, we decided to skip the next day’s lunch at Pulau Aman. We will keep that for a next visit. First have to loose some calories…:-)

Penang Street Art

Since 2012 there is one more reason to visit Penang, besides the food and the cultural heritage. During the Georgetown Festival 2012, the young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic has painted a number of murals, which have become one of the major tourist attractions. Here are two very popular ones, a combination of a painting and an existing object. These two are floodlit during the night, which adds to the atmosphere.

Boy on a Bike

Children on a bicycle

The next morning we visited the rest. This one is called Wushu Girl and can be found at Muntri Street. Tourist arrive with taxis or on rental bikes to take pictures.

Wushu Girl

Tourist attraction

And this is The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler (Penang Street)

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Trishaw Paddler

Here are two more. But only the left one, called Reaching Up is by Zacharevic! In quite a few places you will find now similar murals by others, a clear proof how successful the concept has been.

Reaching Up Unknown artist

The artist is becoming popular all over the world. In Malaysia he also created works in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. And of course the (in)famous one in Johor Baru, depicting a lady and a robber, both in Lego style. JB has Legoland and reputedly a high crime rate.

Johor Baru

The JB town council was not amused and had it removed within a few days. Ridiculed of course by many, amongst them the Penang council. Art should be respected and free! But when Zacharevic decorated a pothole (which had been there for many years), framing it as a painting, the council acted quickly, and filled the pothole…:-)

The pothole as painting

No more there

During our visit of Penang an exhibition was opened of (new) works by Zacharevic. We were eager to visit this exhibition but found the door closed..:-(  We could only peek through the fence. The exhibition opens from noon to 8pm daily until Feb 14. Free access. Maybe we should go back to Penang soon.

The exhibition building

A peek inside The exhibition theme

To find the locations of the Zacharevic murals, you can now install an App on your smartphone! For the other murals you must just walk around Georgetown which is a pleasure in itself. Here is a collection of pictures. The town council has placed a large number of decorative metal wire signboards in the historical center. And a bit outside the center you can find the famous UBAH bird. UBAH means change in Malay, Penang is governed by the opposition, so this bird is both art and a political statement.

Two more reports will follow, one about Penang and its food, the other one about Thaipusam,

Anniversaries

On April 14 it was fifteen years ago that Aric and I met for the first time. And on April 17 it was my 69th birthday. As  Aric would be diving in Sabah on that date, we decided to celebrate both anniversaries a week earlier, in the Eastern & Oriental hotel in Georgetown. The E&O is one of the grand hotels of South East Asia, established in 1885, a few years earlier than the equally famous Raffles hotel in Singapore.

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We had booked a suite, of course not cheap, but we enjoyed the luxury…:-). We spent most of the time in our suite, went only out for food. Aric had an app on his iPhone that made it possible to take several pictures and then combine them into one. Here is the interesting result

Two times us

A detailed report with many more pictures can be found here: Fifteen Years. Back home, on the eve of my birthday and before Aric left for Sabah, we had the traditional birthday cake.

Birthday cake