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Taking the longer journey to Penang

MALAYSIA | Wednesday, 19 September 2012 | Views [704]

After chilling out in the Cameron Highlands for a few days, drinking tea and enjoying a break from the humidity of the city - we decided to head for Penang (pronouced Pin-ang here) for some legendary food and so we could be closer to the water. We took a long distance coach from Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) which ended up being a mini bus to Ipoh and then a coach to Butterworth which is the last stop on the mainland before Penang. Penang is actually an island off the coast of mainland Malaysia, but its not far in distance and you can see Penang from Butterworth station. Even though our coach was actually crossing the bridge over to Penang, we decided to catch the ferry across and as luck had it - we got on the ferry just as the sun was setting which made for a beautiful 15 minute ride across to the island. I would recommend the ferry ride (Butterworth - Georgetown) to anyone, and its nice and easy once you reach Penang to jump on a bus or taxi to your destination. 

Georgetown is the main city at the port of arrival and although it seemed busy and crazy, its an amazing place to explore. We thought Singapore was a great mix of cultures (Little India, Chinatown and Muslim Mosques) but Georgetown takes it to a new level. It was our first experience of seeing Trishaws (bikes with 3 wheels and a passenger seat on the front) on the roads amongst crazy taxi drivers and plenty of scooters and motorbikes. You've got old colonial buildings, forts with old cannons, Malay mansions, mosques, Chinese temples, Little India streets and streets and so many outdoor places to eat. Sensory overload.

Our Penang food dreams conjured up images of colourful street vendors, hawker markets and exotic choices for every meal and it didn't disappoint. Although I was sick for the entire time we were there, Ant managed to enjoy a variety of Penang's best - including Penang laksa (sour, spicy, very soupy), Cendol (bright green cold spaghetti mixed with ice, coconut milk and sugar - served cold like an ice-cream), Char Kway Teow (rice noodles with seafood and a smoky black soy sauce) and Satay sticks (cooked on open BBQ's in the markets). 

By far our best food experience (thank goodness I was feeling better by then!) was on our last night when we ventured round to Gurney Bay Drive Hawker centre which held a reputation as the biggest and best food market in Penang. The phrase "spoilt for choice" doesn't do this place justice. There were literally hundreds of small stalls selling everything and anything you were prepared to part with your Ringitt for. 

The must have experience of Gurney Bay Hawker centre for us was definitely our new hero - only known to us as "Rojak-man." We'd tried Chinese Rojak (a fruit and veg salad covered in a sour tamarind and sugar sauce with peanuts and chilli) in Singapore but "Rojak-man" specialises in the Indian version which is known as Pasembur here. Ingredients are a little different (Indians use potato, egg, cuttlefish); sauce is similar; but its all in the presentation with "Rojak-man." Playing loud Bollywood-esque music with a 60's disco feel, "Rojak-man's" stall was packed with both locals and tourists waiting for his magic. Upon ordering, he chants "ROJAK" in time with the music and proceeds to chop all the ingredients for each Pasembur salad in sync with the music. He then covers the salad in his tamarind sauce whilst spinning and shimmy-ing along to his disco tunes, with a huge smile on his face. Really magic. The Rojak was AMAZING and for days after, Ant and I would just look at each other and start chanting "Rojak" and try to recreate the shimmy of "Rojak-man" at random times - what an individual. 

Penang and "Rojak-man" - we will definitely be back! 

Penang Sunset as we travelled across to Georgetown

Penang Sunset as we travelled across to Georgetown

Tags: ferry, pasembur, penang, rojak

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