5. The driving. Actually, I think this makes the top of the list for things most people don't like about Penang, but we've managed quite well. Being a former British colony, drivers in Malaysia drive on the left hand side of the road. That's the easy part. The hard part is getting used to traffic rules that are treated like guidelines. For the first few months, anytime we got into a car we were sure we were going to die. The roads are narrow, people drive fast, and there are motor scooters that zoom in and out of traffic with abandon. But, after you figure out the rules, some great things happen. I have learned when it's okay to drive on the wrong side of the road. It really is okay - and I do it every day on my way home from work. Jennifer has learned how to stop traffic in order to make a difficult right hand turn (which is as hard as a left hand turn in the U.S. for all you Yankees out there). So, in the end, we've figured out how to get around Malaysia quite efficiently. We'll have to re-learn to drive according to the rules once we get back to the U.S.
This is a typical street scene in Georgetown. Buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians all seem to manage to get where they need to go, for the most part anyway. Driving in Penang is like walking in a crowd. You just move your car in the direction you want to go and use whatever space is available to get there.
4. The Pulau Tikus wet market. Pulau Tikus literally means "rat island". It's where the locals do their shopping, or as they call it, their marketing. You can buy everything there. It's really like a Wal-mart, only the people are very friendly and the food is extremely fresh. The produce is amazing and the selection can't be beat. The meat is about as fresh as it can get - fish and chickens are slaughtered onsite. You can also buy kitchen gadgets, spices, bread, milk, sunglasses, jade, batik sarongs, and just about anything else you could possibly want. It's truly an amazing shopping experience.
Here is Craig with Jennifer's favorite herbalist where you can buy basil, lemon grass, and the occasional pummelo.
One of the great secrets of the wet market is the food near the back. Here is one of our favorite food vendors helping us welcome Jennifer's parents, Craig and RaNae, to the wet market.
3. The cultures. Penang is such a wonderful blend of Asian cultures and each one has retained its unique heritage. You will find Indian, Chinese, and Malay cultures living in harmony with influences from England. In Georgetown there is a Chinese Taoist temple, a Hindu temple, a mosque, and a chapel from the Church of England all within a few minutes walk of each other. Each culture is so coloful and unique, and is respected by the other cultures. Everyone wears a traditional punjabi suit for Diwali, folks wear kabayas for Ramadan, and red with gold is the norm during Chinese New Year. I heard more "merry Christmas" wishes in Penang from locals than I ever heard while living anwywhere else.
This is Jennifer and Craig near the entrance to the Khoo Kongsi in Georgetown. This is a clanhouse built by the Khoo family. The Khoo family emigrated to Penang from China, and is one of the wealthiest in the region.
Here is Craig getting a tour of the Masjid Kapitan Keling, one of the oldest and largest mosques in Penang. It is a five minute walk from the Khoo Kongsi.
Here is Craig on his World Religion field trip visiting a Hindu temple with his class.
2. The food. Food in Penang is fabulous! There is such a rich blend of flavors and spices and cultures that make for an eating paradise. We have many favorites, including chicken rice, curry mee, wonton mee, tofu fa, koay teow th'ng, black pepper squid, curry puffs, and more. We try everything we can - and we are always finding new things or new restaurants. One of our favorite places is called Song River. The food there is excellent, and it's quite popular with locals and foreigners alike. There are no menus, and the head waitor/cook will take your order when he's ready. He's told us that he's been cooking for thirty years, so if we don't want to wait twenty minutes then we can leave!
Here is Jennifer's brother Aaron, his wife Leticia, and Leticia's brother Chris eating at the famous Fisherman's Villiage, also known as the End of the World Restaurant. The black pepper squid that Aaron is reaching for is unrivaled in its tastiness.
Here is Jennifer at another famous eating establishment. This one is literally built in an alley just off Campbell Street in Chinatown. Their specialty is toast with kaya. Kaya is a creamy spread made from coconuts. The bread is toasted over wood coals in a make-shift oven made from an old metal drum.
1. The number one thing we love about Penang is all of the wonderful people we meet. We've made some wonderful friends from work, church, school, and just from walking around. People are so friendly and happy here. When we walk into the wet market each of the vendors greets us with a huge smile and a boisterous hello. They love to chit chat with us and with Craig about everything from family to politics. Shop keepers now offer a special price if you mention that you know Jennifer. We've made some wonderful close friends from all around the world, including the United States, England, Scotland, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Malaysia, and more. Craig's school principal is from Wales. We love all the friends we've made here. We feel a strong connection to the community and while we miss our friends and family back in the U.S., we have lots of friends that we're thankful to have met on our adventure in Penang.
Here is Craig with some of his best friends, Liam and Willa. They are all decked out in their school uniforms. Sometimes Craig gets to play at Willa and Liam's house, and after a few hours when it's time to leave Willa always complains that she never got a chance to play with Craig. So cute!
This is Jennifer and I with some of our good friends from the U.S., starting from left to right: Shawn, Sarah, Nina, and Dan. We were at the company's annual dinner at the E&O Hotel.
This is Craig with his friends from the Hinton family. The Hintons really took us under their wings when we arrived and helped us get settled. They even brought us pillows and towels the day we arrived so that we could have a shower and a nap after the 20 hours or so of being on an airplane.
This is Dallas, our friendly produce guy. He is always so happy and cheerful. He works in the Pulau Tikus wet market and knows Jennifer and Craig by name.
Here is our church branch during last year's Christmas pagent. The church members here have all welcomed us to Penang and helped us feel right at home.
We don't have enough space to post pictures of all of the wonderful people we've met here, so please don't worry if your picture isn't here - we still love you!
Thanks everyone for reading our blog! We don't get many comments, but I know that you are all reading. We'll keep posting about our adventures in Malaysia!