Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Mon 16/11
The family’s gone and left us in their haunted house. There were 15 of us here over the weekend, and now they’re all gone we miss them.

Atik’s all excited though. She’s the housekeeper, and even though we speak more Bahasa than she speaks English, at least she’s got some earthly company for a change. Oh yeah, plus she’s going home to Medan on holiday for the first time in ages. Not that you’d know or anything.

Sembilan malam lagi! she exclaims (nine more sleeps – roughly translated), while attempting a classic Michael Jackson move and failing, somehow managing a Peter Garrett impersonation instead.

Tue 17/11
The house sits in a quiet part of Sungai Petani, which is about a 40 minute ride to Penang on the E1. Or, when you’re sick of the E1 like we are, a something minute ride on the back roads.

And across on the ferry. Which is optional (there’s a big bridge). And slower. And yes, Lucas still hates ferries, but it suits this morning’s back roads mood.

Penang is all about the Chinese. Well, a lot of it is anyway. Like Ipoh, it has a distinctly Chinese feel, the streets lined with old shop houses, clan houses and temples. And gold.

The Chinese are second only to the Indians as the world’s largest consumers of gold (see children, education can be fun).

And a large chunk of it covers their temples and clan houses.

Most of which are built with materials and plastered with bits and pieces transplanted from mainland China. Trendsetters weren’t they?

Later, templed out and before the rain sets in, we take the bridge back to the mainland and up to the house, a patiently waiting Atik and her ghosts. The ghosts are shy creatures, but the same can’t be said for Atik.

Delapan malam lagi!

Wed 18/11
It rains a lot in Kedah. Another useful piece of trivia, viewers.

Tujuh malam lagi...

Thu 19/11
We were told we’d like Penang. Actually it was more like You will luurve Penang! Or Pinang, as the locals pronounce it.

And so we do.

Although the food, which everyone all across Malaysia raves about, is not as spectacular as its reputation. Ok maybe it is a notch above, but we figure its mainly because they try harder here, not because there’s something magic in the water. Then again, its possible we’re just Philistines.

Oh by the way, that’s a photo of the world’s only railway station built for a city with no railway.

You’ll thank us for these tidbits one day viewers.

Enam malam lagi...

Fri 20/11
We’re not sure how anyone does any business here. Nobody ever calls back. Ever.

“If you can just text us your bank details, we’ll pay the 700RM straight into your account.”
Sure, no problem.

A day later...

“Can you please send us through the details so we can have the parts couriered to KL?”
Ok, I’ll be right on it.

Two days later...

“Fuck it, we’ll just go back to KL and pick it up ourselves.”

Francis Light Esquire, establisher of settlements in Penang and Adelaide is buried here. We’ve got a photo of his gravestone, but this one’s more interesting.

Lima malam lagi...

Sat 21/11
Its raining again. House-bound, we sit around doing some planning for Thailand and catching up on the blog, while the ghostly figure of Atik moves from room to room.

It must be incredibly lonely for some of these immigrant workers. Malaysia has a huge underclass working as maids, housekeepers, security guards, gardeners, plantation workers, construction workers, and countless other unskilled jobs. In a country like Oz, some of those jobs pay quite well and aren’t necessarily filled by immigrants, but doing that sort of thing here usually signifies that you’re an Indonesian, Philipino, Nepalese, Indian or Pakistani and pretty much bottom of the heap.

Singapore and Malaysia would grind to a halt without these people, who in return enjoy a better quality of life than in their own country, and usually manage to send money home to their families. Still, its a helluva price to pay.

Empat malam lagi...

Sun 22/11
Its a rainy overcast day in Penang but an even rainier one in Kedah, from which we’ve managed an early escape.

We admit we don’t get places like Kek Lok Si. As far as Buddhist temples go, its way up the grandiose end of the spectrum; a huge, multi-tiered complex which sits in the shadow of a monstrous bronze statue of Kuan Kin – goddess of mercy. Donations go to help pay for the construction of an equally monstrous 16 columned roofed structure to house her.

It all seems a bit pompous, which isn’t the Buddhist way at all, and we can’t help thinking of alternate uses for that money. Maybe others agree; the 16 columns were supposed to be cast in bronze, but the reality of pre-cast concrete is pretty unmistakeable.

We get soaked again on the way back to the house. Thanks a lot Kuan Kin.

By the way, what do you do when its raining, you’re house-bound again, and you’ve exhausted the stack of 90s magazines in the cupboards? Watch the entire Dr Dolittle collection on DVD of course. Alas, the Eddie Murphy Straight To DVD Collectors Edition was missing but its ok, we don’t want your pity viewers.

Tiga malam lagi...

Mon 23/11

The Chinese are a superstitious lot. Its great to see them in action at a busy temple, shaking their sticks, throwing blocks of wood on the floor, ringing the bell, burning incense.

The smoke from which can get incredibly thick at the Sisters of Mercy temple in Penang.

But the whole process is stage-managed, and we’re assuming the whole supply chain is controlled by a few people. Who knows where the money goes. But there’s lots of it being splashed about and it seems to alleviate the consciences of whomever is doing the splashing and the burning, so who cares?

Well ok, its not exactly carbon neutral.

But a lot of cute little birdies get set free. Oh wait, they were bred into captivity in the first place. Doh!

Back in Sungai Petani and marooned at home for tea again, Atik takes pity and offers us some of her Maggi omelette which, for the benefit of our less culinarily educated viewers, consists of a bit of omelette floating on top of a bowl of two minute noodles. Its the thought that counts.

Dua malam lagi...

Tue 24/11
Rain rain go away.

Satu malam lagi...

Wed 25/11
Kosong malam lagi.

Atik’s on the first plane to Medan this morning and is beside herself. We could probably stay in Kedah indefinitely, but we’re off today ourselves. Back to KL, Thobrani and Sharifah and the rest of the family, and finally some bike bits. We’re kind of disappointed the ghosts didn’t show. Maybe the Hell’s Angels jackets scared them off...

1 comment:

  1. Still catching up. How many more have I missed ???
    Love yas N