Archive for July, 2011

29
Jul
11

ONE YEAR

On the same date last year, I left Manila to Penang and became an expat, or as most people from my country would call, OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) or OCW (Oversease Contract Worker). A lot of things changed since I decided to become one of the medical lecturers in this side of Malaysia.

One year abroad reminded me these things :

  1. Love and value my family more; I’m working and living life because of them.
  2. Always keep the faith. God is always with us.
  3. Trust no one except God, family and few genuine friends.
  4. Be more grateful despite of financial difficulties and work hassles. There are more things to be thankful for.
  5. Never waste time on people who discount, mock and malign others. People who consider themselves righteous despite their wrong deeds at work and toward others are truly worthless. Pray for their souls instead.
  6. Keep cool but be tougher.
  7. Disregard what others think. You cannot do anything with their perceptions.  The world will happily revolve without them anyway.
  8. Value time. You cannot buy it back.
  9. Enjoy today but save for tomorrow.
  10. Sleep remains a luxury.

———————

Mamy, Daddy, Tina, Gabby and I will spend 3 days in Thailand beginning tomorrow until Monday. We pray for a safe trip and a good weather. It will be fun, definitely. Have a great weekend too!

 

PS : What post from this blog about Penang do you like the most?

 

24
Jul
11

OUR SPLENDID AFTERNOON AT THE BLUE MANSION

With Feng Shui perfection, this magnificent dwelling that fused aesthetics and opulence was built with the doors fronting the sea and its posterior on a mountain slope, the Penang Hill, described as “house on the back of a dragon” figuratively.

Its front doors have Chinese inscriptions that read, “Dancing Phoenix and Flying Dragons” which, according to Chinese beliefs can only be found in Heaven.  These and more enticed me and my family to listen and enjoy the very engaging one-hour-guided tour at The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion also known as The Blue Mansion.

23 July 2011. Saturday. My initial plan was to bring my family to the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia located in Penang but I guess it had to be rescheduled some other weekend thus, one thing led to another.

The suggestion to pay the Blue Mansion a visit came from one of the Tsinoys I admire, who described himself in his website as “a self-designated life-long citizen and ambassador of Manila”, Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks when he left a comment on my post about our beautiful experience in Yeng Keng Hotel. 

With my parents, wife and our son in tow, I arrived with them at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion with ample time to take photos of its exteriors, prior to our scheduled 1:30PM guided tour.

Located in Lebuh Leith or Leith Street, the mansion site stretches 56,000 sq ft (5,202.4 sq meters) with a total floor area of 33,000 sq ft (3065.7 sq meters).  What’s amazing with Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion isn’t its expectedly vast than usual land coverage but its other remarkable uniqueness. For instance, its lot and its neighbors do not follow the alignment of Leith Street which runs in  a North-East to South-West direction.  This unusual construction was believed to be guided by Feng Shui or geomancy as preferred by Cheong Fatt Tze himself.

With my almost a year of being an expat in Penang, I’d say it is hard to miss this indigo blue structure that can be seen along George Town’s main thoroughfares such as Jalan Penang (Penang Road) and Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street). However, I didn’t have any idea of its cultural and historic significance until my family and I set foot on its courtyard.

with Komtar, the tallest building in George Town at its backdrop.

The entire tour of the Cheng Fatt Tze Mansion was truly worth indulging! The RM 12 (USD 4.03 or PhP 171) per pax rate of fee was nothing compared to the fascination and amazement we’ve experienced. Imagine stepping on the same venue where the 1992 notable Academy-award winning (1993 Best Foreign Language Film) French movie, Indochine that starred Catherine Deneuve and Vincent Perez was filmed. The Blue Mansion is equally interesting as the man who built it.

  

 In Tuxedo and in Chinese Mandarin Suit. The New York Times called him “The Rockefeller of the East”.  Having rags to riches story, with perseverance in his pocket, he conquered himself and had engaged in businesses dealing with pepper, rubber, tea, coffee, tobacco, rice and even opium; eventually became an investor in banks, trader of glassworks, cattle and textiles. He became philantropist and had abundant wives of 8 (of whom wife #7 was the favorite), concubines and hand-maidens.  He had his last will and testament that ordered the Mansion would only be available for selling after the death of his son (1989).  Photo sourced via www.penang-vacations.com

CHEONG FATT TZE

“Arriving penniless from Guandong province, China,to this part of the world at the age of 16, Cheong Fatt Tze grew to become one of the most historic and colorful personalities of the era. “One of China’s last Mandarins and 1st Capitalists”, such was his aura and fame that the Dutch and British authorities ordered that flags be flown at half mast throughout their colonies when he passed away in 1916.  Of his vast empire, Cheong Fatt Tze chose Penang to build the most elaborate of his homes and to raise his sons. It is reputed to be one of two such buildings of this size, outside China and certainly the most perfected.  While the Mansion’s floorplan is essentially Chinese, the overall effect is ecclectic and typical of 19th Century Straights Settlements architecture. Gothic louvered windows, Chinese cut-and-paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles, Scottish cast iron works and Art Nouveau stained glass are among the features to be found in this inspired work of art.  The aura and “chi” of the man pervades the entire edifice.

The dilapidated Mansion was acquired in 1990 with the prime intention of achieving a return to an authentic original form. Traditional materials and methods have been utilized and the end result has been nationally and internationally acclaimed. Winner of “Most Excellent Project” Award at the UNESCO Heritage Awards 2000, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has earned its place as one of Penang’s foremost tourist destinations, a historical reminder of a past era and a man whose dream will live on it the majesty of his home.”  *Sourced from the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown bookmark giveaway at the gate.*

Couplets, such as this door found at the side of the Mansion after its restoration are symbolic as the proverbs, “There is permanence in the rising of the sun and moon.”

The only disappointment I had was the fact that photography’s forbidden inside the Mansion. Nonetheless, I confirmed from our excellent tour guide, Ms. Lyn Fong a.k.a Sally, that once a guest checks in in one of the 16 rooms for a bed and breakfast (or any room or event package preferred), –yes, The Blue Mansion is one the gorgeous boutique hotels in Penang) taking of photos is allowed except during tour hours (11AM, 1:30PM and 3PM).

Chien Nien, or the technique of porcelain cut and paste shard works of art were very prominent in every corner of the house.  The process entails the use of small and colored porcelain bowls, each intricately cut to form a 3D effect on the designs that tells Chinese tales; piece by piece -the work was tedious but wonderfully restored!

We absolutely marveled at these features :  The center of the mansion has the greatest “chi” according to Feng Shui experts. That beautiful spot was surrounded by 4 metal pillars with intricate designs, made by Macfarlanes in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Mansion also has timber filgree paneling with gold leaf gilding which was also painstakingly restored to its full glory.

The walls and the ceilings were perfectly built in such a way that water collected from rain will be running quickly (water in feng shui means MONEY!) and the basin which has 2 openings in the center of the Mansion will let it run out slowly.

In the middle Ms. Lyn Fong’s tour guiding when we were at the center of the mansion and while she was discussing about water and money, I had my widest smile when she told me that I am sitting in one the luckiest spots of the Mansion which is one of the water openings.

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has all the essential elements : Metal, Wood, Air, Water, Fire (fire represented in the house by its generous oil lamps). Its stairs are made of 28 steps (28 in Chinese is good luck) of which the first 3 are made of granite, a good foundation to swiftly bring wealth.

The Mansion has fantastic glass stained windows with pineapple and fan designs to fan-in wealth inside the house. Windows have wooden shutters without nails but close and open with its Yin and Yang designs.

The tiles at the floor of the entire house came from Europe.

Obviously, red is auspicious color in Chinese and not blue. We learned that the Mansion was only painted indigo blue because at that time, almost entire George Town, Malacca and Singapore were painted with the same hue.

The beautiful day is incomplete without souvenir shots even only from its courtyard…

Gabby’s paternal lola and lolo.

If you’re planning a trip to George Town and a pit stop at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, make sure your tour will be flawlessly guided by Ms. Lyn Fong (a.k.a Sally) whose passion to her work emanates to what she does best. Thank you, Ms. Lyn! We hope to see you again in the near future!

Once again, I am impressed with what Penang has to offer.  It seems almost every weekend is a surprise! George Town has been consistent in drowning me and (now) my family in its diverse cultures and colors but one thing is definite, we are not complaining! :)

Tina and I hope that with Gabby’s smiles, he will soon appreciate his early exposures to the influences of this multicultural state, and may his inevitable immersion to such diversities contribute to his being positively.

Visit their website at *The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

19
Jul
11

EVERYTHING JAPANESE AT 2011 PENANG BON ODORI FESTIVAL

16th July 2011, Saturday.  My family and I spent our late afternoon in Esplanade, George Town, an open-space-park by the bay and soaked ourselves in Japanese colors.

As you may know, dusk falls in Malaysia later than other Southeast Asian skies due to its location so the sun was still up at 6PM when the 2011 Penang Bon Odori Festival started.

Drum rolls lorded our ears as a group of Japanese students performed on stage.

Despite its flaws, Penang never ceases to surprise me positively. With barely a year of stay as an expat here, I and my family are constantly soaked in cultural diversities. And almost every weekend, we gain new learnings from this Malaysian state. Familiar only with the 3 predominant races -Muslims, Chinese and Indians, we never thought Penang has a volume of Japanese too, enough to fill an entire park to feature and highlight one of their colorful traditions.

Bon Odori, or dances for the dead, is one of the traditional Japanese dances held every Summer in almost every city in Japan. And the Penang Bon Odori Festival is the largest of its kind celebrated outside the Land of the Rising Sun. This festival is about welcoming ancestors’ souls by beloved families and reminiscing their memories with them. Because of this Japanese Buddhism belief that ancestors’ souls return at night, the Bon dance is performed at dusk.

The Esplanade at George Town that stands by the glorious bay, on its smaller scale, is comparable to our very own Rizal Park in Manila. It was transformed into a merry land filled with booths that offer foods, drinks both Japanese and some local cuisines, and a lot of fascinating items.

Expectedly, the most favored drink with health benefits and perhaps, the most famous export of Japan was there at Bon Odori…

Gabby, ang laki ng Yakult, hindi kasya sa fridge! :D

Family photo-op with those beautiful people dressed in their yukata… *this doesn’t happen on a daily basis in Penang!*

Before they officially opened the program, I was looking for something more than the Bon Odori dance; something like a theme to capture…

It was a challenge to click the cam on their traditional wooden footwear called, geta 

Japanese kids were a bit reserved…

I’ve already done features of Japanese food from sushi, sashimi, takoyaki and even Okonomiyaki

and edgy-anime Japanese hair styles weren’t showcased that much. *punks not dead!* :P

so I shifted my fascination to their yukata, or their casual summer kimono made of cotton , particularly their sashes or obi belts.

I have been fortunate to experience Tokyo last year for 14 days exactly and since then, I’ve developed an appreciation for Japanese culture, arts and tradition. It’s amazing how these people fuse their colors and customs amidst their advancement in technology. I always marvel at the fact that there are always art and substance in anything they eat and wear.

For someone like me who’s fine with a pair of jeans, sneakers or rubber slippers, I wonder how comfortable wearing a yukata is.

Have you worn one? How does it feel wearing yukata?

“The left side of the yukata is wrapped over the right side (commonly reversed with right over left when dressing a body for a funeral) and secured with an obi sash tied in a bow with the excess or with the koshi-himo and traditionally the bow is placed in the back. Traditionally bows in the front represented a prostitute. In private, such as after a bath, the yukata may be simply belted. Yukata are often worn with wooden sandals called geta.” Soured via wiki

So if the bow is tied in front, it denotes being a prostitute, hmmm.. all obi belts I’ve seen in the event had bows at the back.

Even men wear obi…

but apparently, the sash is narrower and the knot is less intricate than in women, of course.

Knotted with creativity…

An art in itself..

Funny how someone who’s wearing a yukata can blend well with someone with the look of Harajuku Street in Tokyo…

They’ve kept last year’s fans and used it again this year.

Looking at their yukata and obi sashes was like viewing a kaleidoscope!

Obviously, there is harmony in diversities…

But nothing is sweeter than a sight of an entire family proudly wearing their tradition on their skin…

The event stretched from 6PM and ended with a colorful bursts of fireworks at 10 in the evening. We left the park at half hour after 7PM  with takeaways of our leftover Japanese foods and just viewed the night skies from our porch at our 10th floor home.

To the people behind Penang Bon Odori Festival, Domo arigato gozaimasu! Terima Kasih! Maraming Salamat po! :)

19
Jul
11

MAMY’S BIRTHDAY @ G CAFE, G HOTEL, PENANG

my wife & kid : just getting lovelier!

All we wanted was to see my mom 3 years after she left for work in Middle East but the good Lord provided more!

I never thought that our family reunion will be in my work place abroad. God works in mysterious ways... In this photo, we missed my 3 brothers- Capt. Mike and his family, Mac & JC. *photo taken by my wife, Tina at G Hotel, Penang*

15 July 2011, Friday.  It’s my mom’s birthday and she decided to celebrate it with us here in Penang! After 3 years of working in Middle East, she’s having her much deserved holiday and we’re having a happy family reunion!

Because Tina and I had less time to prepare for a special dinner for Mamy’s birthday (she requested for my wife’s baked macaroni, actually) due to work schedule, I thought of bringing them to the hotel-restaurant that became one of our favorites in this side of Malaysia  –G Cafe at G Hotel, Penang.

 Cheese, anyone ?
Gabby likes cheese so much that he didn’t forget to sample them.

Hors d’ oeuvres on my plate : some fried dumplings, prawn rolls, fried oysters, beancurd salad & one of my favorites from G Cafe, prawn salad…

I texted Mr. Alwee of G Cafe, the friendliest and most efficient restaurant manager I’ve ever met, to inquire if they offer buffet lunch on Fridays and to make a reservation for 5 (Tina, Gabby, Daddy, Mamy & me).  He responded via phone call few seconds after I sent my SMS.  He often amazed me with his Tagalog words, like “Kamusta?” (How are you?) every time I converse with him. I learned that lunch at their hotel-restaurant on Fridays are only given ala carte but themed dinner is Seafood Barbecue, eat-all-you-want!

I made a reservation for the 5 of us and took my chance of requesting a slice of cake as a little surprise for my mom’s birthday. He told me the cake-request was no hassle and even gave me an offer hard to refuse. According to him, I’ll only pay for 2 pax on the buffet because he promised an invitation to dinner for me and Tina weeks ago after we ate lunch (and blogged about the fantastic experience) at G Cafe.

G Cafe at G Hotel for me stands for Great food & service, Good Ambience, Generous people.

Because it was Seafood BBQ night…

Tender & toothsome : grilled udang (prawns), sotong (squid) and salmon plus choices of dips and sauces — tamarind sauce, tartar sauce, BBQ sauce and more!

The friendly chefs are ready to hand you your choice of grilled seafoods…

Freshest tuna and salmon sashimi, prawns, mussels, oysters to enjoy…

Daddy’s seafood plate overload!

Have you ever tasted a Fish Shawarma? Tina and I loved Beef Shawarma particularly from small food kiosks in supermarkets back home; this variation of shawarma was new to my palate, found it not bad.

Desserts are always divine…

Heavenly pieces on my plate…

Would you say no to a chocolate fondue?

Was so happy to see Tina and Gabby liked it!

While I had fun in a scoop.

But Mamy Tessie had the widest smile that evening especially when Mr. Alwee and his warm associates led by Mr. Arnel, a Pinoy staff, sang the birthday song for her and brought in a huge slice of chocolate cake.

We cannot thank G Cafe, G Hotel, Mr. Alwee and his staff enough; my mom was in wonderland that night! :)

best chocolate cake in the world! velvety, melt-in-your-mouth goodness; my mom wanted to order a whole piece!

Because we’re already full after about 2 hours of indulgence, my mom opted to bring her cake at home. Where in the world would you have a takeaway or take-out or however you put it, in an eat-all-you-can dining? Isn’t G Cafe sweet? :)

As we reached home, another surprise was waiting for Mamy.

A bunch of flowers with a solitary piece of ferrero rocher was waiting at the security post sent by my cousins and niece and youngest brother all working in UAE.

Thank you! You all made Mamy’s day wonderful.

—————————————-

Visit G Cafe and G Hotel when you’re in Penang. My family and I highly recommend it. View their website here –>G Hotel, Malaysia

G Cafe, G Hotel
168A Persiaran Gurney 10250 Penang, Malaysia
Tel +604-2380000
17
Jul
11

BLESSINGS KEEP POURING IN

We’re counting blessings, however simple and remain grateful. 

Dubai and Manila met in Penang

Gabby’s probably the happiest grandchild in the entire universe after his lolo and lola arrived in Penang for an unexpected family reunion. On the first week of July, my dad (who had been an OFW for almost 2 decades in KSA) came from Manila to be with us and watch over Gabby while Tina and I go to work, especially when he goes to school next month. Few days after, my mom who’s working in Middle East followed suit. We’re glad that she’s having her vacation with us after she left for work 3 years ago. 

Lola Tessie's first Rapid Penang Bus ride :-)

Indubitably, no material thing can surpass the bliss of being together. Not even a brand new TV. :)

Happiness of family-togetherness is incomparable to enjoying ice cream.

 

…even to planned trips to neighboring countries.

On top of these blessings, we pray for continuous health and safety. Amen.

14
Jul
11

GEORGE TOWN FESTIVAL 2011 : TAPESTRY OF CULTURES

 I have stated it multiple times that I considered myself blessed for having a chance to work in a place regarded as melting pot of cultural diversities. Fate has been more generous when I was able to bring my family to Penang and together, we’ve been immersed in the vibrant and fascinating colors of Penang.

7th July 2011, Thursday. It was a non-working holiday for us here in Penang for the celebration of the 3rd Anniversary of George Town as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We decided to spend a night in the island just to witness the festivities.

I began the day in Eastern and Oriental Hotel as I was invited to the official launch of 2011 George Town Festival and the book launch of Heritage Trees of Penang.

Breakfast was served at the courtyard of Eastern and Oriental Hotel, George Town, Penang.

At the Grand Ballroom of E&O Hotel, the Chief Minister of Penang officially opened the celebration.

Heritage Trees of Penang, written by Simon Gardner, Pindar and Lai EE May published by Areca Books; Thank you, Areca Books for the invitation!

The event was short and sweet; on the dot and precise. The video presentations about Penang tourism were enticing; brief and beautifully done. Then everyone was led to the courtyard of E&O Hotel for a delightful breakfast.

And yes, the Governor of Penang also graced the occasion.

And just after the launch, I met Tina and Gabby in a mall, ate lunch at KFC and checked in at Yeng Keng Hotel.

In the afternoon, the streets of George Town specifically the laterals of Lebuh Chulia were filled with fun, flavors, colors and a ton of varieties.

In my almost one year of stay for work here in Penang, I have not tried riding a trishaw yet , I don’t feel good riding a manually pedaled vehicle plus it usually costs RM 30 (USD 10) per hour.
 

“George Town’s dancers come alive in this vibrant showcase of movement and music, featuring dance performances by members of local multi-ethic groups such as Indian, Chinese, Punjabi, Siamese and Peranakan communities.”

Here’s that eye-catching cultural overload!  Jai Ho!

Innocent smiles from kids easily melted my worries away.

The rich Malayan race…

THURSDAY 7TH JULY

“Testimony to Our Living Heritage
(All events are free unless stated otherwise)

George Town is a living testimony to the cultural heritage of various ethnic groups that have settled in the Malay archipelago over the centuries. Events on this day feature performances and exhibitions that express our living heritage in art and music, food, language, and religious practices.” via George Town Festival website

I walked inside the Indian Muslim Museum which is located within the compound of a huge mosque and fascination was absolutely free!

Can you imagine yourself wearing this pair?

I found this metal iron charming. Do you notice the rooster design on its upper part?  Nice!

Don’t you wish evolution has brought an automatic flat iron? I do! hehe!

Brass galore!

Then the Malaysian Indian exhibit was also prominent on the streets…

Jasminum sambac or commonly known in my country as sampaguita, our National flower is not unusual in most countries in Southeast Asia including India; beautifully made into leis fit to honor the gods.

Another common in my country and reminiscent of my childhood is this wooden toy called sungkaan in the Philippines.

The Malaysian Chinese community also shared their colorful offerings on the streets of George Town…

Who would have thought I would see the NINJA KIDS in Lebuh Chulia? haha! :)

Then, there were seriously enchanting live musical performances from these kids; simply awesome!

At the age of 34 and a beginner at violin, I find the passion from these kids awe-inspiring!

Notice how young the conductor is?

There were also live-demonstrations of incense making (which I first thought as chocolate sticks, haha!)

I don’t know about you but found this man’s craft the most interesting in that event…

The child in me was silently jumping for joy when I saw his works…

Amazing clay artisty; no details were overlooked! fantastic!

The Muslims exhibited their skills and talents in Wayang Kulit making (remember we went to Kota Bharu in Kelantan and marveled at how Wayang Kulit or Shadow Puppet are made?).

During our family holiday in Kota Bharu last May, we also went to a factory of Kelantanese Batik; that’s why this scene made me smile.

I also went inside art galleries that were opened to public for free and this painting caught my eyes…yes, it’s a framed painting on canvass!

The event also highlighted the unique flavors found in Malaysian dishes, from Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kandar, dimsums , a variety of noodle dishes and a lot more!

My captures were just a fraction of this celebration that’s stretched for the entire month of July. But I believe they were more than enough to prove the reasons why Penang, particularly George Town is one of tourists and travelers’ favorite places to explore.

12
Jul
11

YENG KENG HOTEL : A GEM IN THE HEART OF GEORGETOWN

Amidst backpackers’ inns and travelers’ rooms along the busiest street of George Town called Lebuh Chulia, lies Yeng Keng Hotel  a quaint 19th century old Heritage Chinese mansion that was beautifully restored into a tourists’ haven.

Having a facade with a gate similar to what you see in Chinese temples, it struck me as such initially. I have been working in Penang for almost a year now and somehow, I have familiarized myself with some parts of George Town but passing through Yeng Keng almost every weekend never gave me a clue that it’s a boutique hotel until I read its reviews in tripadvisor.com! haha! :)

refreshing fruit juices as welcome drinks from the warmest & efficient staffs of yeng keng hotel

Months ago, I was looking for a budget-friendly but clean hotel to spend a night with my family as we witness George Town Festival 2011, its 3rd Anniversary after being listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (which deserves a separate post) on 7th July 2011 and fortunately I found Yeng Keng Hotel online. I booked and immediately reserved a room.

The George Town Holiday falls on a Thursday this year, so I filed a replacement work leave for the next day, for us to make it to a very long weekend! Another reason is my folks will be arriving in Penang from the Philippines and UAE over the weekend so it’s logically enough to maximize our days off.

Elegance in simplicity : In one of the 20 creatively restored rooms in Yeng Keng Hotel, we stayed in Mansion Double Room 102 located at its ground floor. Despite its limited space, its Oriental theme made us feel so comfortable and closer to home (read : Philippines!).

Ranked by commenters in tripadvisor.com as number 1 hotel in Penang, Malaysia with surprisingly affordable rates, it lived up to my expectations. Despite the fact that it isn’t a premier contemporary hotel, the unique old world charm of Yeng Keng, complimented by its very homey atmosphere and warmest service from its highly efficient staff are more than enough to comfort and impress anyone. Best of all, my wife, Tina and our almost 7 year old son, Gabby loved it too!

Is it not charming to you? The furnitures and fixtures looked so Filipino! Notice the solihiya headboard on the bed, and the fridge was enclosed in wood and solihiya too (not in photo). We felt so home!

While Tina and I were impressed with the tiny but adorable room, Gabby was too excited to check out his favorite cartoons (read : Our cable TV is still  yet to be installed hopefully within 2 weeks for we just applied days before we moved in to our new appartment).

Mansion Double Room is equipped with a Panasonic Flat Screen LCD TV with 16 cable TV channels & 3 radio stations, a King size bed (very firm which I prefer), toilietries, FREE WIFI (best things in life are free!), air conditioner, a wooden ceiling fan, en-suite shower room with hot & cold water, coffee and tea making facility and a personal fridge.

Tandas (Bahasa Melayu term for toilet) : clean and well maintained. I liked how they provided the toiletries complete with sewing kit, shaving cream and razor packed individually in resealable plastics making it practically clean. Towels are adequate too.

After checking in our room, we decided to view the first floor.

Yeng Keng’s first floor houses some more rooms, huge framed paintings and several lounges that can perfectly serve as sitting, reading areas or just a nook to while away time.

I told Gabby that during my childhood, we had great memories of having family weekends in few hotels and resorts particularly during daddy’s days off from his work in K.S.A, Now that we have him as our own child, I am trying to return the favor to my parents by doing to Gabby what they did to us dearly.

And because Gabby hopes to become a chef, restaurateur and hotelier someday, these little getaways serve also as his early exposure to his dream.

Went down to the ground floor again and saw more of  Yeng Keng Hotel.

No-frill-chic, welcoming, comfortable and unique ambience makes Yeng Keng Hotel a top favorite of the tourists who come to Penang.

the courtyard transforms into an alfresco dining area in the late afternoon

Another best with this boutique hotel is its location; few steps from its gate will take you to a variety of gastronomic delights offered by hawker food stalls and little restaurants. Indulgence is cheap in this side of Penang.

Dinner at Hakwer Food Stalls in Lebuh Chulia (parang kumakain lang sa Recto Ave!) : We had instantly prepared foods upon order --Char Koay Teow for me with prawns and fish fillet + egg RM 5.50, Seafood Mee Soup for Tina and Gabby RM 5, Freshly squeezed OJ, large RM 2.50 and Watermelon juice RM 2 (present conversion as of this posting RM 1 = PhP 14 = USD 0.33)

Because the entire George Town was celebrating its 3rd Anniversary of being one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Yeng Keng Hotel has its contribution to the festivities by serving as a venue for Teochew Puppet Show for 3 consecutive dates, July 7, 8 and 9 at 7pm to 10PM; admission is absolutely free!

a little performer is being prepared for the show

If you must know, dusk in Penang comes late at around 7 or 8 in the evening. So Mr. Sun was still up when the TeoChew Puppet Show started at the courtyard of Yeng Keng Hotel.

tina and i would not mind if gabby befriends those blonde little kids but our little-big boy was too shy to mingle.

Teochew Puppet Show’s amazing; musical score and singing, everything was done live!

Despite the show is delivered in Chinese, music and artistry transcended language barrier.

Like in most hotels, the overnight stay we availed came in with a breakfast buffet..

we sat and dined our first meal for the day last thursday at that little corner.

The spread was so simple yet satisfying. It had the basic local and International favorites for morning meal. I was surprised it’s not ala carte but an eat-all-you-want inclusive of drinks –coffee, tea and fresh orang juice.

bisuits for kids

from a filipino expat to a first-time traveler to penang : must sample local dishes!

Nasi Lemak (nasi = rice, lemak = fat) is a local Malay food usually served wrapped in banana leaf and paper. It has steamed rice or if authentic, rice is boiled in coconut milk making it more fatty enough to last you through the day, comes with chicken in sambal (spicy) sauce, hard boiled egg, cucumber slices, roasted peanuts and fried dilis Upon unwrapping that local dish, I found out that it’s another variety of nasi. With only rice, 3 pieces of prawns and sambal sauce, I spruced my plate by adding scrambled egg and pieces of chicken sausages. Tina and Gabby made their own ham and cheese sandwiches and enjoyed boxes of cereals and cups of yogurts.

We also sampled other local delicacies frequently enjoyed in Penang…most are sweets, made of brown sugar and coconut shaving fillings, while the fried ones are curry puffs and potato filled goody.

After we stuffed our tummies with those from the spread, we took a stroll around the hotel. The driveway to the parking lot at the back of the hotel is lined by greens and blooms which also leads to the swimming pool.

Gabby did not pass the chance to take a dip.

In a tropical state like Penang where the sun is most of the time unforgiving, a swimming pool, regardless how small or big is absolutely welcoming!

On top of Yeng Keng’s charming ambience,limited but useful amenities and facilities, proximity to shopping malls and hawker food stalls and other tourist spots, we liked their friendly and warm service, hats off to their staff! From the manager, Mr. Jacky Chung, who offered an umbrella for us to use before we went out to Lebuh Chulia and reserved us a table and seats for the puppet show, to the receptionist and all staff, they were so efficient and nice with always ready smile to everyone. Thank you for making our stay wonderful. See you around Penang!

Yeng Keng Hotel  -362 Lebuh Chulia, George Town, 10200 Pulau Pinang

Visit their website for more details : Yeng Keng Hotel

PS : For the Mansion Double Room with buffet breakfast, we only paid USD 101 nett for our overnight stay.  I hope there will be many affordable  boutique hotels in the Philippines, my home country, for Filipinos to enjoy without much hassle on the pocket.

10
Jul
11

LOLO BENRUH ARRIVES IN PENANG

09 July 2011. Saturday

We left our home in Butterworth at half hour past 11 in the morning. It was another memorable weekend for my family.

that little golden jeepney arrived in our home in butterworth, penang as we warmly welcomed the one who brought it from pinas!

After knowing that Transformers is only showing on 3D in one of the cinemas here, we decided to pass on the movie because my wife doesn’t want to watch anything that may trigger and aggravates her vertigo. Instead of a movie-date, we immediately brought ourselves to a Chinese restaurant and indulged in some dimsum and noodles for lunch inside Queensbay Mall, the biggest in the island that’s few kilometers away from Penang International Airport.  

We needed to kill time before we pick up my dad who came from Pinas on dependent visa (valid until my work visa expires) via Kuala Lumpur, to continue his being dutiful lolo to his apo, Gabby.

The no-drama-and very casual-reunion at the airport was almost like we just last saw each other yesterday. 

After the meeting, must eat Mcdo! Funny thing was, he’s also treated to Mcdo breakfast meal by my brothers in the morning of his flight right before leaving Pinas, haha! :)

Note to Jollibee : If you can bring your branches to Brunei and other parts of Asia, sa Penang wala pa! We’ll be your very first patrons, when that day comes. Promise!

lolo benruh (ruben or lolo ben for gabby) finally invades penang!

I arranged a pick up service with a friendly Indian taxi cab driver, the same guy who helped us haul and transfer our things when we moved in to our new place a week ago exactly. The trip from Penang Airport (Penang Island) to our place in Butterworth (mainland Penang) cost around RM 70 (PhP 980).

Daddy’s first glimpse of that 25km Penang Bridge….

After that long stretch of magnificence comes another flyover that connects the roads going to Butterworth. The structure mimics the majestic Penang Bridge…

Then the time came to unwrap his 25kg Balikbayan box (yes, he didn’t have any luggage and only brought few of his clothes to accomodate and bring our request).  

Tina wanted something from Pinas for our living room table centerpiece. My brother, Mac bought these balls for us from bazaars in Greenhills no less (tyangge, syempre!).  For the meantime, Tina placed her balls on one of her plastic banana leaf plates until I’ll find something more appropriate.

And because religious articles are apparently hard to find in a predominantly Muslim state…

Gabby's happiest with his first bible.

 More reasons to be happy….  Lapid’s Chicharon, FTW!

Best Package Ever!

Thank you, Lord for all the blessings, big and small. :)

03
Jul
11

WELCOME TO OUR OWN SPACE!

It’s our third day in our new humble abode since we moved in last Friday, 1st July and Tina, Gabby and I are so thankful for having our own space finally! It’s almost indescribable living with just your family; with no other people who have less concern, consideration and sensitivity. The feeling is tantamount to independence, liberation, freedom. Simply surreal! :)

The priceless seaview from our 10th floor unit (11th actually since they have ground floor prior to first). Gabby and I will add more pin wheels to gauge the wind and sea breeze with vivid colors.

You don’t have any idea how I appreciate and value my readers’ comments. When I posted that We’re Itching To Move In to our chosen appartment to rent here in Butterwoth, Penang, I got helpful words from my blog buddies and one of them came from Marga aka Midge, the passionate blogger behind Sybaritic Diversions, whom Tina, Gabby and I met in one of her informative and fun sessions of Chocolate Appreciation 101 in Heavenly Chocolates, she generously shared the essentials to bring before one occupies a new home.

In the same words our late grandparents told us, fellow blogger, Marga reminded me to bring : "Salt to keep evil at bay, rice so that the kitchen/pantry never runs out for food, matches to protect the family from harm, and coins for prosperity."

Superstitious or not, I heeded to Marga’s words for I knew there’s no harm  if those little items will be the first to be hauled.

I was truly overwhelmed with suggestions and pieces of advice to make our personal space as homey as possible. Online friends who mostly I haven’t met are always unselfish to share their ideas. Even on tweeter, fellow blogger-educator and an architect at that replied to my request when I asked her expert advice for free!  Thank you, Architect Reena of Reena’s Thoughts . I really appreciate it.

Here’s a peek to our home in Butterworth…

Dad & son attempt to urban gardening : After I bought some potted plants in the island, I put them in our doorstep and Gabby arranged those pebbles around them. It was our very first father & son bonding in our new home.

Limited space requires you to be creative in maximizing everything. Without being boring but minimalist, our unit is still a work in progress.

the couch where we'll spend lazy hours; it's strategically located facing the porch that offers the view of the bay

 Huggables : we bought some uncoordinated pillows to put life and colors in our living room.

The curtains were bought on sale. From RM 114 (PhP 1596) each, we only paid RM 28 (PhP 392) each.

Gabby’s choice :  Because we love our almost 7-year-old kid, we gave him a chance to put on some decors that he likes. At the console table, there are framed photos, indoor potted plants and our boy’s little things.

While shadow puppets of Rama and Sita made from cow hide and artline inks that we bought from Kota Bharu, Kelantan which we haven’t framed yet stand side by side with our wedding photo, on the other corner of the living room lies another Gabby’s favorite : Plants vz Zombies!

Tina’s favorite area of the unit…

We’re fortunate that in Penang, discounts can get as low as 70-80% off.  Tina bought these electric kettle for only RM 29 (PhP 406) from RM 99 (PhP 1386) and the mini oven for another affordable price.

Old but still at its best : Sharp fridge that came with the unit decorated with our ref magnets

Our fully furnished 3-bedroom-2 toilet & bath-appartment (or condo in Manila; flat in other parts of the globe) owned by a Christian Chinese came with a TV set, 3-piece sofa, 3 airconditioning units, ceiling fans for each rooms, queen size beds and a single bed, a dining table, a simple but charming kitchen, a refrigerator; our landlord was so nice to provide us a brand new washing machine. So when Tina is busy cooking, I do the laundry, hehe…

With A Mind of Its Own : We love this brand new washing machine provided by our landlord; it calculates first the exact volume of water per load of laundry before it starts spinning. Excuse our amazement; walang ganito sa probinsya namin, hehehe!

The very first meals were memorable! :) Despite we truly miss having pandesal in the morning, breakfast with Spam Lite, rice and coffee tasted great as we ate as one family.

The lunch with paksiw na bisugo was superb! Do you eat bisugo? :)

Paksiw na Bisugo : best eaten with fish sauce + siling labuyo. Try it! hehehe...

While I only went to the public market which is a bus-ride away and mini groceries downstairs to purchase some more stuffs, I have to give credits and much love to my wife because she exerted extra efforts to prepare our first dinner.

garlic buttered shrimps, beautifully deveined by Tina : one of our favorites!

Udang (the Bahasa Melayu term for shrimps or prawns) is cheaper in Penang than in Metro Manila. The cost here ranges from RM 16 – 25 per kilo (PhP 224 -350) thus enabling us to enjoy it every now and then.

We only invited one of our senior colleagues who also lives in the same building. For almost a year now, she stands as my/our genuine friend, comforter and a nanay-nanayan. She came with her sister and together, we shared our very first dinner. We could have invited another senior-fellow who have inspired me so much about family life, life in general and whatnot but I thought he’s busy enjoying the weekend with his own family. (read : We’d rather keep one or two friends only here in Penang rather than have an entire community who backstabs us; our world will peacefully revolve without them!).

Best Home Cooked Dishes : Kare-kare with Bagoong, Camaron Rebosado and Garlic Buttered Shrimps

At anytime of the day, our porch offers a relaxing view; now we know how it feels like to dwell in those hotels and serviced appartments along side Roxas Blvd back home; the only difference is, it’s a lot affordable here in Penang for the purchasing power of Ringgit is higher than Philippine Pesos.

The coming days will be brighter. As we begin to enjoy our new home, my parents from Manila and UAE will be coming over to share the love and fun with us.  Gabby will continue schooling here in August and the rest, I know will be epic. 

A new chapter of our expat lives unfolds.

—————————————-

 



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