July 10, 2016
We woke up this morning and looked at the calendar. Exactly one week until we’re home. So crazy! We read that Sundays in George Town are very quiet so we had a leisurely morning ourselves. We’re both getting a bit of a cold, so today is mostly going to be a rest day for us as well (I guess that’s our sign to come home soon).
Tim was feeling better today and even ate some breakfast. We got there around 10am and breakfast ends at 10:30am. The staff in the restaurant aren’t very friendly or personable. They don’t acknowledge you or even break a smile. The clock inside the restaurant is also 5 minutes fast, so at 10:25am, the attendant started unplugging and turning off the appliances and then turned off the lights. There were about 5 tables still eating, so this was pretty rude and unprofessional. They should really change the clocks in the restaurant.
We’ve been catching up on Suits (on Netflix) over the past couple of weeks, so that’s what we’ve been doing while resting. It wasn’t until around noon that we headed out for the afternoon. Our main attraction for today was to visit “Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul“.
Penang Road restaurant was about 8 minutes away from our hotel by foot and away from the heritage area. When we arrived, we found a crowded looking alley with people lined up at the teochew chendul stand. It was a bit confusing because they have a cart outside with the chendul and then a whole lane was made up of their restaurant stalls. We walked down a bit further to get char koay toew (6 MYR = $1.95 CAD) and sat down to eat it. When we were sitting and eating, staff kept coming up to us asking if we wanted chendul. It was only then we realized that all the stalls belonged to them too.
The row of stalls had many of Penang’s specialties, so you could check off a lot of Malaysian dishes at one location. There was no way we would be able to check off all the food on the list in just a few days, but this was a start. I saw an Assam laksa (aka Penang Laksa) stall closer to the beginning of the alley and was interested in trying it. I’ve only ever had Singaporean laksa (curry based laksa), which is more popular and common at home than this one. I know there are some restaurants in Vancouver that serve Assam Laksa, but they like to warn customers before they order it because it may not be what they expect – with that warning, I never ordered it. Since we’re in Penang, the birthplace of this type of laksa, I wanted to try it.
While I was waiting for my laksa to come, Tim went to the Penang fried chicken stall and got a thigh and a wing (6 MYR = $1.95 CAD). As with other hawker’s markets here, we ordered at the stall and they found us. We had a few waitresses on occasion asking people if this was their dish – they should have a numbering system like Red Garden. The Assam Laksa (4.80 MYR = $1.56 CAD) was surprisingly good – but has a very fishy smell (so if you don’t like fish you shouldn’t eat this) and is sour and a little spicy (more like a tom yum broth than curry). There was a lot of ingredients in the soup and when you watch them pour the soup into the bowl, they scoop the soup and then drain all the liquid out but hold in all the “junk” in the bowl (repeat a few times). Tim’s chicken was good and I liked the sweet and spicy dipping sauce they gave with the chicken.
After we were done our mains, I ordered a chendul (2.70 MYR = $0.88 CAD) from one of the waiters. I know they have a few different options to choose from but since we weren’t near a sign or a menu, I just showed them a picture of the chendul from my food pamphlet. The chendul the waiter brought us was a coffee flavoured ice with coconut milk, green pandan “noodles”, and red bean. I can see why people like having this dessert in hot climates, it’s very refreshing! But the ice also melted in a couple of minutes, so you should eat it really quickly.
After lunch we walked back into the heritage zone and saw how dead the city was. Even more so than the two previous days, more businesses were closed on Sundays. We walked down a street called “Love Lane”, which was close to our hotel, which had a bunch of Chinese association buildings and schools. All the businesses were closed but all we could hear through the closed doors were the clanking of Mahjong tiles. I wanted to take pictures of all the Grandpas sitting around playing MJ but as I peered through the window, someone would always see me looking.
We spent the rest of the late afternoon watching Suits and resting up since not much was open and we didn’t want to push ourselves too much and be more sick over our last week away. Being away for 4 months, it’s impossible not to have rest days or else we would’ve burned out a long time ago. This last part of our trip has been more “go go go” since wanted to see a bit more during our SE Asia leg. Looking forward to Phu Quoc and just being able to fully relax and not feel like we have to see anything.
For dinner we decided to go back to the food vendors on Lebuh Chulia where we went on our first day here. Since it is Sunday many of the vendors that are usually there were not. Only about half of them were still set up today.
Tim got a Hokkien “bak chang” (sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves or a “dung” in Toi San) which he was craving since it looked and tasted like the Taiwanese ones rather than the Cantonese ones I’m used to (he ended up ordering a second one after he finished the first). I ordered Penang style chee chur fan (rice roll with hoisin) and a small order of wantan mee. We grabbed a seat and the beverage station at this particular group of vendors was a fruit juice stand. The lady came around and asked if we wanted something to drink, so we shared a guava juice.
The juice stand looked like it was made up of a Mom, Dad, and their middle aged daughters. We sat at a table close to them and it was entertaining watching the Mom (boss lady) bark at everyone about the orders. They spoke Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin interchangeably so it was hard to follow. I could understand bits of the Cantonese (mostly just the names of fruits) and Tim could understand most of their Hokkien and Mandarin. Hokkien is the same as Taiwanese but in Penang they speak Penang Hokkien which is slightly different.
We’re leaving Penang tomorrow and heading back to Vietnam. Our flight to Ho Chi Minh is at noon, so we have to leave George Town around 9am. The hotel is going to book us a taxi and they advertise a ride to the airport for 50 MYR = $16 CAD. This is a bit more than coming here on the airport vouchers but it’s safer to pay the hotel than go in a metered taxi in Malaysia.
Steps today: 7,000