#109 - Penang, Malaysia - Monday, 14 January 2019

Once again I am up before the dawn and typing. This time because at dinner time when I went up to my room to prepare for the evening I crashed all night. During the day our entire group had traveled to northwest Penang Island to visit Entopia Butterfly Garden. It was well worth the trip and on the return our driver took us to a food court close to the hotel in Bayan Lepas. Super Tanker, a large covered open-air building, was bustling on a Sunday afternoon and about two dozen individual stalls offered Malay, Chinese and Pan-Asian food. One was even called “Frozen Frogs Westeen Food”, which one member of our party enjoyed Black Pepper Steak from. The rest of us all opted to sample the local cuisine. Like our previous day’s adventure at New Lane Market in George Town, here you grab yourself a numbered table and then cold beers from the drinks vendor before touring the varied offerings cooked fresh upon order. I enjoyed the Char Kway Teow so much at New Lane and headed straight to a vendor stir-frying the flat rice strips in a big wok. I asked for a big plate prepared with duck egg and prawns that I asked be made spicy and five minutes later was satiating my butterfly garden walk hunger with the delicious dish. It didn’t contain the lovely flat bits of sausage that the cook added at New Lane, but I enjoyed this spicier version even more. Mark and Elli had chosen Curry Mee from a different stall and it Looks so good that after I finished my plate I had a second entrée. The Curry Mee was a brothy bowl of both fine white rice noodles and thicker spaghetti-like yellow noodles and contained both tofu and these gelatinous “pork” cubes. On top was a spoon of chili paste and adding the entire thing made it an amazing spicy “ramen”. The first plate was 7RM - less than $2 x and the bowl was 4RM, just under $1! Two cans of Tiger washed down the delicious meal and they were 8RM each so I spent a total of 27RM, currently $6.59. Yep, two entrees and two beers for less than $7. By contrast, the burger and one beer at the hotel is almost 80RM, about 20 bucks. Chicago prices. Local fare is so superior both in flavor and experience and the price amazing. It’s the way to enjoy culture and holiday and not eat substandard and overpriced fascimiles of Western food.

Before our 10 am departure for Entopia yesterday, I practiced using my Macro Diffuser on the hotel’s nature trail with excellent results. Then I took a quick cold shower as any movement in this hot and humid climate makes me a sweaty mess, and met the group in the lobby. When we returned to the lobby five and a half hours later after our outing we all quickly changed to pool attire and cooled off in the refreshing pool. Pools aren’t heated in hot tropical climates as the sun does all the work, but it has been mostly overcast during our stay so the initial leap into our pool’s waters is a bit of a shock. But then it the cool water soothes. Of course, after 8 ringgits for a beer paying four times the price is another shock. The entire beer and cocktail menu is basically 30-35RM so Mark and I opted for two rounds of Singapore Slings (34 ringgits each, $8.31). Then the skies finally broke. As I sipped my cocktails I had been watching the dark skies moving in and a drizzle quickly shifted to torrential downpour with poolside umbrellas being knocked down and displaced. We moved out of the rain for a couple more drinks before everyone went to shower for dinner. That’s when I crashed and didn’t join the group for the evening. Next thing I knew it was 2 a.m. 😴

Our same Indian driver and his van that fits thirteen crazy Brits and one mad American will be picking us up this morning at 9 a.m. I am about to head to breakfast — I’ve been the first one in when it opens at 6 a.m. each morning — and then will visit the hotel nature trail again. I collected a beautiful metallic green male jumping spider yesterday that I haven’t been able to photograph yet. I may have to slow him down with an hour or so in my hotel room mini bar as he frustrated me during yesterday’s photo shoot attempts. Then I’ll shower and meet the group at nine. I’m really looking forward to visiting Penang Botanical Garden and Penang Hill today. Penang Hill is also known as Bukit Bendera, although that technically refers specifically to Flagstaff Hill, it’s highest peak. I’ll describe both destinations in detail during my next blog entry.

#107 - Penang, Malaysia - Saturday, 12 Jan 2019

2 a.m. at the Hotel Equatorial on Penang Island. Time travel to the other side of the globe is exhausting but I am not going to whine about it here. Suffice it to say that I’m now 14 hours in the future from Chicago where I had spent the last few weeks before flying out of O’Hare International Airport, and I’m 16 hours ahead of Arizona where I was a month ago. 16 hours is also how long the flight to Hong Kong was. I had a 12 hour plus layover there and had hoped, optimistically I suppose, that I might leave the airport and do some night photography of Hong Kong cityscapes. That didn’t happen both from being wrecked and due to poor visibility in the notoriously air polluted country where the haze was combined with heavy fog.

i left Chicago Wednesday afternoon, arrived in Hong Kong Thursday evening and then finally arrived on Penang on Friday morning. Passing through Penang,s airport was speedy and I stepped out into heat and humidity that I hadn’t experienced since I was last in Malaysia two years ago. Heat, I know. I spend summers in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts. But the warm bath air is not something I am used to or enjoy much. A hotel shuttle never materialized, and I turned down the guys offering rides outside of the system to get an official taxi. The ride to the business hotel where I am booked for four nights was only about ten minutes. I checked in quickly to my “upgraded” room and changed out of my sweaty clothes into swim trunks and soon was submerged in the refreshing waters of the pool with a cold Tiger lager waiting.

i was the only one at the pool, which has a waterfall in front of a cove with a jacuzzi, koi pond adjacent, etc. It was odd to have the whole place to myself and the staff quickly replaced my empty Tiger glass with the first Singapore Sling of this holiday, which I later followed up with another Tiger and a steak sandwich before finally heading back to my room and crashing.

Meanwhile , a whole herd of mad Nutters from the West Country of England was en route on their own flight to join me midday tomorrow, which is actually today since it is 2 am, and, which is Saturday here. Mark Pennell’s and family and friends should be at the hotel about 24 hours after I arrived.

i said I would blog her every day, keeping a daily diary trip log during our short adventure here on Penang before our group return to Langkawi Island on Tuesday. I hope to be able to make good on that promise. I will have to type these entries on my iPad as I didn’t bring a laptop. Sadly, my MacBook Pro was knocked off a TV table by my stepdad Joel’s almost one year old miniature Dachshund “Buddy” and the monitor no longer works. I have been using an external monitor back in Chicago but obviously couldn’t travel with it. What that means besides typing on a tablet is that I won’t be processing my dslr images until I return to Chicagoland. The images I will post within my blog posts will all be iPhone snapshots and those who use Instagram and/or Facebook are invited to check out my story on both as I’ll be posted many snapshots each day. My actual Instagram feed, which duplicated on Facebook, is reserved for “fine” photography so the feed won’t change until end of the month.

BUT …. 😡 So far the functionality of this Squarespace blog is being problematic when used on the iPad. The normal way I insert photos is not working and I don’t have the patience right now to try to remedy. I was going to add a hotel view photo looking out over mountain bay and maybe a shot of the pool but I am having difficulty. Until after breakfast …