Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Photos from the Penang Botanical Garden

When you are in the Botanical Garden, peel your eyes and look out for those not-very-noticeable byways. Unless you have an inexplicable aversion to adventure, or a natural ability to get lost.


During the last trip there, we discovered one that seemed to lead very deep inside an "uncharted" area (well, at least, "uncharted" to our knowledge of the Botanical Garden). And it totally piqued our curiosity, so we went down the path...

At the end of the path was a water-lily pond (or was it lotus? I forgot).

Sorry, I can't show the picture of the water-lily pond here... I must have accidentally deleted it or something... anyway, if this has piqued your curiosity, why not head to the Botanical Garden and see if you can manage to find this secret passage to the water-lily pond.

At the end of the path, we found another path branching out somewhere... but there was a limit to our sense of adventure, so we did not go down that byway...


One of our favorite parts of the Botanical Garden has got to be the "Wedding Garden".

OK, we don't actually remember the official name of that separately fenced part of the garden, but we (my wife and I) both agreed that this small garden-in-a-garden looks perfect - almost custom-made - for a garden wedding, so I'll just call it the "Wedding Garden".

Now, here's the "walking-down-the-aisle" part:

If this is a garden wedding, you will find the priest at the end of this "aisle", under the shade of that pavilion...

"Ready with your ring?"

"Er... what ring?"



Though the atmosphere is absolutely perfect for garden weddings, you cannot have a large reception there, because you'll have only limited space for chairs and what-nots. But that (the smallness of the pavilion and all), I think, is part of what makes it so dreamy a place for wedding receptions:

Looking back toward the "aisle" whence the bride is coming... and lo, there's my wife walking toward me, escorted by her cousin:

The "Wedding Garden" was not new to us... but during this trip, we found something new (new to us, at least) behind the pavilion: another small garden all by itself!

The "secret garden in a garden-in-a-botanical-garden":

After relaxing for a while in the "secret garden", we came out via another path of the "Wedding Garden":

Along the way, I was reminded of perhaps another reason why I wanted to recommend the Botanical Garden as part of the itinerary of the trip my wife's cousin was planning:


Although I say it very often, and throw it around freely as an advice, but I don't always remember "to stop and smell the roses". The Penang Botanical Garden has always - again and again - been a reminder to me that it's time to heed my own advice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Penang One-Day Tour - #7: Botanical Garden (Part 2)

As I mentioned before, the Botanical Garden still managed - from time to time - to give me new surprises.

Either that, or I haven't really been paying attention during earlier trips. :-p

During this recent trip, as we were going along one of the main paths, we stumbled across a secluded path that led off the main path into a nice and cool spot shaded from the scorching sun outside. It felt almost like a half-forgotten path in a forest, and for a moment, we had a thrilled sensation as if going on an exciting adventure...

The stone path was a bit slippery...

It was actually quite dark - and very cool - in there, but these pictures depict the place to be quite bright, because the camera was in night-mode (longer exposure).

The path led eventually to beneath a bridge that we had crossed earlier. There was a flight of narrow stone steps (not seen here) that will return you to the surface world.

What a wonderful thing it would be to bring along an easel and spend a whole afternoon there dabbling in watercolor...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Penang One-Day Tour - #6: Botanical Garden (Part 1)

I can't say exactly what it was that made me feel that I must recommend the inclusion of the Penang Botanical Garden into the itinerary my wife's cousin was planning for their society's one-day trip.

Perhaps it was the sad realization that it is arguably the last place left on Penang where we can catch a glimpse of why Penang was once referred to as the Garden State.

Whatever the reason, for me, personally, the Botanical Garden seems always to have some new surprises that I had yet to discover...

In the next picture, on the slopes, two couples were having their wedding photos taken that day. Under the hot sun. With full makeup. In stiflingly warm clothes. What pain and horrors we visit upon ourselves in the name of romance...

When we turned the next corner, we discovered... (to be continued)

Penang One-Day Tour - #5: Khoo Kongsi

Since we were targeting tourist attractions in Georgetown, another good place to include in the itinerary would be "Khoo Kongsi", especially if you are really into both history and architecture.


It looks like a temple, but strictly speaking, it is an ancestral shrine, for the Khoo (邱) clan.

The most remarkable thing about the architecture of the place is, IMHO, definitely those countless elaborate stone carvings.

They mostly depict mythical creatures or legendary figures, or, as in the next picture, one of the "24 stories of filial piety" (二十四孝).

Even the beams overhead are richly adorned with carvings and decorations.

The stone walls of the main hall are carved with figures from a legend that I was not familiar with.

Even the walls of the corridor behind the main hall are decorated with stone carvings.

Needless to say, all of these works of art are the creations of skillful artisans in Mainland China, imported to Penang by the Khoo people at the turn of the century. There appears to be a story regarding their struggle with the British Customs Officials when trying to bring in these stone carvings and the materials used in the building of the shrine; but you will have to pay a guide to tell you those stories. :-)


The location of Khoo Clan Ancestral Shrine is unfamiliar even to some Penangites, because it is kind of secluded. You will have to know which byroad to take to get there. As you can see in the next picture, it is a one-way street that leads from that road (I'm very bad with road names) near Little India that has a lot of Indian-owned jewelry shops.

Penang One-Day Tour - #4: Fort Cornwallis and 'Air Nyor'

When my wife's cousin mentioned that they intended to include Kek Lok Si (a famous temple in Penang) in their itinerary, my first reaction was, "What for?"

I mean, no offense to all the Buddhists out there, but I'm quite sure all you REAL Buddhists will agree with me that the temple is now more a "shop" than a temple. And besides, which other attractions will the whole bunch of them go see after coming all this way to Ayer Itam? At that time, the Penang Hill Cable Car was undergoing a major repair, and there was no other way of getting up that hill except by foot or 4WD.

So, I tried to persuade the guy to cancel Kek Lok Si from the itinerary, and make Georgetown their afternoon stop instead. "There are tons of tourists attractions in and around Georgetown, all practically within walking distance of one another!" I said. And I lied not.

First, you must go to Fort Cornwallis. I mean, man, you are in Penang! Of course you should get to know the founding history of the Penang Island. And what better place to do that than Fort Cornwallis?

And if you are really into history, after Fort Cornwallis, you could always follow up with a tour of the State Museum, which is just a 5-minute drive away.


But what was unfortunate for us on that day was that the fort was closed for maintenance - only on that one day, and we were so "lucky" to be wanting to visit it on that day. :-(

So, we had to content ourselves with just taking a few pictures of the exterior. But I reiterate again and again to my wife's cousin that he MUST include this destination in his itinerary, and he was at last persuaded.


While taking pictures along the outer wall of the fort, we came across a van selling drinks, and what particularly attracted me - and I was already beginning to feel rather thirsty - was the fresh coconut juice. So we approached the van and I said to the hawker, who is a Malay--

"'Bang, bagi air kepala* tiga."

There was a very brief moment of shocked silence all around. Then everyone bursted out laughing.

"Maaf, maksud saya, air kelapa." I hastened to correct, though already too late. (*'kelapa' = coconut; 'kepala' = head).

Still laughing, the hawker said something to the effect of "I'll be darned if I were selling 'kepala'" while he prepared our drinks.

Then he taught me that, instead of risking making the same mistake again next time, I should use the word "nyor" instead of "kelapa".

Well, at least, for that mistake, I learned a new word and everyone had a good laugh. :-)

Dumbo: Gourmet Extraordinaire - #11: La Mian

During the one-day trip mentioned in the previous three posts, we stopped for lunch at a lamian (拉面; not sure whether I should translate it "pulled-noodle" or "stretched-noodle", ha-ha) restaurant somewhere along Lorong Selamat (off Macalister Road). I forgot the name of the restaurant, but there is (as far as I know) only one restaurant specializing in lamian along that road, so you can't mistake another for it, I'm sure.


The chefs prepare each bowl of noodle on the spot, behind a glass panel through which you can take pictures of the whole process (just don't expect the chefs to pose for you, especially when a lot of customers are waiting eagerly and hungrily for their victuals).

It was said (and I was willing to believe it, judging from their accent) that these chefs are actually hired from Lanzhou in China, a place where I was led to believe that practically everyone knows how to make their own noodle (Maggi, Mamee, Cintan, etc. will never find a foothold there).


I tried to take some pictures of the noodle preparation (pulling) process, but my, the chef was so FAST, I managed only to take five consecutive shots, and the thing was done and over with.

First, one strand became two:

Then two became four:

Four became eight, and so on...

The action was blindingly fast!

And before you know it, off goes the noodle into the boiling pot of water.


I do not know if it is the best lamian in Penang, but I would definitely recommend it. The soup was nice (ox bone soup, simmered with their "secret herbs and spices"), and the noodle, as to be expected of all au naturel handmade noodles, is smooth and refreshingly tasty (after a whole life of chemical-laced noodles, what better word to describe this than "refreshing"?).

Another nice thing about this restaurant is that it will not burn a hole in your wallet. The three of us spent less than RM30 (if I remember correctly) there. In comparison, let us take I-Dragon (at Queensbay) for example. A pastor, my wife and I once had our lunch there, and it cost us a total of about RM80. Ouch.

But I would not recommend the dumplings. The skin was a bit uncooked for me. The filling is nice, but unless you can be sure to ask the chef to cook the dumplings a bit longer than they are wont to, I would avoid this dish.