Posts Tagged ‘museum




I’ve been going to San Agustin Church within the historic and cobblestone streets of Intramuros, Manila since my wonder years. My parents used to take me and my siblings to 30 churches every Holy Week back then, and their list included San Agustin Church. But it took more than 30 years before I set foot in its museum.


One sunny afternoon, I had an urge to revisit  Quiapo and headed to Intramuros with the intent to experience San Agustin Museum. It was my first time to see the church with its old peach paint removed. I wasted no time and asked one of the bystanders of the museum’s location, and to my surprise, the entrance was just a few steps from the right side of the main church door. I know no reason why my parents didn’t bring us inside San Agustin Museum; I haven’t inquired but it’s no longer important for the time already came for me to discover and explore the museum myself.


With only PhP 100 current admission rate for adult (PhP 80 for senior citizens, and almost half the cost for students with IDs),  every centavo was worth it!

I don’t know about you but I know some people don’t entertain the idea of going to museum. Perhaps, they’re not fascinated with history, heritage, arts and things of the past, or totally not interested with some places without life. Unlike them, I am easily drawn to anything significant; or anything of my interest. Probably, it’s really to each his own.

Immediately after the admission counter and the turnstile, a huge lifeless bell greeted me. It was simply labeled with a laminated paper that states, “A 3,400 kilogram bell, taken down in 1927 from the belfry of the San Agustin Church damaged by the earthquake of 1863.”

I was warned that photography without flash is only permitted at the hallways and not inside exhibit rooms. Good enough! I obliged of course.


Every step I took seemed a stroll back in time. Isn’t that amazing? (surprising? exciting? hehehe!)

Most of the items in the hallway at the ground floor are for sale; from paintings to wooden sculptures, most have tags with fixed prices for those collectors and patrons of the arts.

The concrete staircase and its ceiling, en route to the second level almost took my breath away! I literally uttered, “Wow!” several times and left me in awe for few minutes. It was like setting foot inside a century-old dungeon or a castle, or felt like I was ascending the steps of Hogwarts with Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid and Snape about to greet me with magical spells! Very theatrical and cinematic!


Then I found the displays and stained glass windows at the second level even more amazing!

From the scale model of San Agustin Church, to small brass replica of galleon ships, paintings, priest vestments and whatnot, to the restricted noise of young students who were having an educational field trip with their teacher, I took everything in as a visual feast! Every corner appeared picturesque to me!

But the highlight of my visit to San Agustin Museum was admiring the choir chamber and the church’s ceiling to my heart’s delight! I found logical reason for my one hundred Philippine pesos entrance fee for I have not seen the ceiling’s painting this up close! Wow! Wow! Wow!


The intricate carvings on the solid choir seats was beyond wonderful! Imagine, these were done creatively decades ago!


Behold. The ceiling of San Agustin Church done in trompe l’oeil.

A quick glance at Wiki, trompe l’oeil (French for deceive the eye) defined as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that depicted objects exist in three dimensions.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I just hope and pray that proper restoration shall be done to those dilapidated areas.

Other than my appreciation for the ceiling, the pipe organ also a caught my eyes and my lens.


From the choir loft, I completely understand why San Agustin Church remains to be a favorite venue of Sacrament of Matrimony.


Of all the paintings inside the exhibit halls and corridors, I figured out my favorite. It’s called, The Family of the Virgin Mary, 234.3 cm x 173.3cm (92″ x 68″), Oil on Canvass, tagged as 19th century, Araneta collection.

More must-see-display on the ground floor…


There’s a door from the museum that leads to the church itself besides the church’s main facade.

My two hours inside the San Agustin Museum may not be as entertaining as watching a blockbuster comedy, love story, action or fantasy films, but my appreciation of my heritage, religion, timeless treasures of my country was heightened tremendously.

“In 1993, San Agustin Church was one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines. It was named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976.” ~wiki.

San Agustin Church & San Agustin Museum | General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila | website :




Memories of not so distant past. Singapore Food Trail, Singapore Flyer.

En route to board Singapore Flyer.  Photo taken by my lovely wife, Tina.

Years before 2010, I never expected to experience Singapore, neither I thought I’d set foot on one of the most expensive cities until chance made it possible to go in and out of the Lion City a few times over with Tina and Gabby  for holidays, because of its proximity (if that’s the proper term for 1 hour ride via plane or 9 hours via bus on a night trip) and accessibility to our current home (and work) base in Penang. We’re grateful for everything and appreciate all the lessons and memories we’ve collected, all the flavors we’ve tasted, even more thankful for the people we met within the past trips.

The Helix Bridge, patterned after DNA, viewed on board Singapore Flyer. May 24, 2013, Friday.

Singapore has been so inspiring! :)

Who would’ve thought that a small fishing village would become what it is today?

To see her from the top at 360 degrees for the second time was nothing short of wonderful!

It was drizzling when we boarded Singapore Flyer last 05/24/2013.

Isn’t that baby too cute to pass as Gabby’s little brother? hehehe!

We reached Singapore Flyer via taxi cab from Orchard Road where we met our good friend, Gina who’s based in Singapore for 3 years now. She generously waited for us at Jollibee Lucky Plaza from 10AM to 12 noon because we arrived at ibis Hotel on Bencoolen a bit later than expected from our 9-hour-bus-ride from Penang. After we feasted at Gina’s Jollibee lunch treat, she even accompanied us to Singapore Flyer that made our kamustahan even longer. We bid goodbyes and promised us she’ll find time to visit us in Malaysia soon. We like her so much because despite her accomplishments on being an IT-expert in Singapore, MBA-certified from ADMU, US-Registered Nurse and all, she remains humble in every sense of the word and so fun to talk to. More like the Lion City, Gina’s inspiring! :)


Before Gina left that Friday-Holiday (Wesak Day) afternoon, I went my way to the counter at Singapore Flyer to collect our iVenture Cards. We were fortunately invited by iVenture Card Singapore and were provided 2-day-See-Singapore Unlimited Attraction Pass package to sample in all the theme parks included on their list. Details of iVenture Card, its packages and inclusives on my blog post HERE!
By availing iVenture Card See Singapore package, you’ll enjoy savings because it’s truly value for money, and will delight in the volume of choices and absolute convenience.

Gabby posing as unofficial endorser of iVenture Card. Pwede? :)

Just before boarding the capsule, inside Singapore Flyer, the kid found a paradise.

Thank you, iVenture Card Singapore!

After our 30-minute-Singapore Flyer-flight, we trooped to the ground level and I led Tina & Gabby to Singapore Food Trail. I liked it the first time I saw it last year when I was invited to attend Singapore Blog Awards. The food court was impressively patterned after famous streets in the city with replicas of hawker stalls selling local must-eat. It was still early to have dinner so we opted to have something to beat the bipolar Singaporean weather. I thought Tina & Gabby would like the Ice Kachang and Ice Ball and they did but not the Bird’s Nest Drink I bought for them. At least we try to sample something local whenever we go somewhere. It’s best to travel using all of your senses. :)


After the almost obligatory bladder break just before we head to the next tourist spot included in the iVenture Card See-Singapore package, I randomly spotted a very fascinating and charming corner inside Singapore Food Trail. It was a small but quaint area where all the memorabilia and treasures of the recent past were beautifully installed. No fees needed, it’s a free visual treat! We were happy like kids who first saw playgrounds and playmates! :)

Vintage bottled beverages.

Old school cam. Just gorgeous.

AM-FM Radio.

Caption not needed.

Soda/Softdrinks wooden cases.

Turn table, baby!

Cash register, the coolest we saw!

No typographical error, please! hehe! Thanks to evolution, blogging was born!

And many more eye candies…

We found happy moments between Sinagpore’s past, present and future on board the capsule of Singapore Flyer and inside Singapore Food Trail.

Everything was made cost-effective and easy with iVenture Card See Singapore Package; thank you very much!

Happy times in Singapore.  May 24-26, 2013.

*While this is a sponsored blog post, the words are all mine unless quoted, and were never influenced by anyone.

*This family staycation in Singapore is made possible by :

iVenture Card Singapore | website :

and ibis Hotel Singapore on Bencoolen | website :

This post is a part of Singapore Blog Series : May 2013.



9th June 2012, Saturday. If  you must know, Gabby already joined an educational trip back home when he’s still in his pre-school years, so this one’s his second but his very first in Penang. Despite the fact that I have already been to the itineraries before, Tina and I made sure that we attend to our son’s because it’s one way of spending quality time with him. It wasn’t only Gabby and his schoolmates, a few parents and teachers who enjoyed their field trip; Tina, my mom and I also had fun! Oh, yes, the entire family was there! It was an absolute breather from our routinary work-home-work-home-life during weekdays and there’s no brighter day than seeing our child happy. Moments like this are non-negotiable.

Everyday, there’s a ton of things to be grateful for. The weather’s fine and we received little acts of generosity from people who have a ready hand even without asking. We didn’t need to call a cab to transport us from our place to Gabby’s school as both his school’s Principal and his service van driver offered to pick us up. The day was too perfect to start by breakfast in one of our favorite food places, Old Town. After filling in our tummies, we took few steps towards Gabby’s school and hopped on the tourist bus.

There were two itineraries for this field trip : The Penang State Museum and Fort Cornwallis. I have been to these places before but not with Tina and Gabby. Going back to places rich in heritage, history and cultures with family and schoolmates is definitely a learning experience. And as for Gabby and the other kids, they were given a task to complete before lunch; answers to the questions on the “quiz” provided can be all found inside the museum. Hats off to Principal Jasmine for doing such! :D Going through the display in the museum became twice the fun!


A lot of things in this two-level museum can easily fascinate anyone. Although it’s filled with things that Malays, Chinese and Indians of Malaysia’s history used in ages, present generation including our kids can relate to them. Case in point, those luggages and trishaws for traveling, and children realized without saying that their tablets, smart phones and other gadgets would have not been brought to market if these things of the past had not been used.

TYPE ko ito, what about you?

It also houses a modest but beautiful collection of art pieces…

In the Peranakan or Straits Chinese chamber, one of the highlights is an intricately designed Wedding Bed…

And an authentic photo of a Peranakan couple taken on the day they tied the knot…

The Penang State Museum also has interactive sections that Gabby and Tina tried…While watching them play congkak or what we call back home as sungka, it made me wonder how many children nowadays still know how to play or at least, care to learn these games amidst online games and applications available now?

Photo-ops is a must in a field trip…

The group proceeded to Fort Cornwallis, in Esplanade, Penang; it’s the largest standing fort in the entire Malaysia.

If you’re Filipino or someone who has gone to Manila, this would make you feel like it’s Fort Santiago, although I would proudly state that the forts in the Philippines are far better built and preserved.

History and Wikipedia stated that Sir Francis Light initially took possession of Penang Island from Kedah and built the original fort. At present, his monument stands proud near the gates of Fort Cornwallis. The fort is one of the favorite tourist spots in George Town, it’s also used as a venue for cultural shows, and a park where most prenuptial photos here have been taken…

On a much lighter note, Fort Cornwallis became my family’s venue for kulitan (*insert english translation here*…google it if you please)…

When the clock turned into lunch time, we all had to go back to the tourist bus and head back to the mainland to wolf down one of those kiddies’ favorites, McDonald’s…

Because of work (for Tina and me) and school (for Gabby) during weekdays, we only get to spend more quality hours together as a family every weekends, so activities like this that promote family bonding, learning and fun are always welcome! It’s always a priceless treat! :D

How was your weekend, everyone?



Years ago, my only concept of Penang Hill was one of those restaurants that my family and our good old friends sampled at the 5th level of Shangri La Plaza Mall back home. I was completely clueless of Penang back then, more so about the entire Malaysia. I never thought I could bring myself and my family on top of the real Penang Hill one day. It wasn’t really a big deal climbing the Penang Hill via its 73 Million Ringgit newly renovated funicular train however, that Saturday morning when we went up there was one of our best in Penang! We were overwhelmed.

Penang Hill at 6:45AM, Saturday, 31 March 2012.

The longest bridge in Malaysia at 13.5km, Penang Bridge connects Pulau Pinang or Penang Island with the Seberang Perai or Penang main land; it's more stunning at 833 meters above sea level!

Can you spot Komtar, the tallest and cylindrical building in George Town, Penang? With its 232 meter-height, this 65-storey tower remains to be iconic in the island.

A little while later…

Cloudy, according to the online weather forecast that day and it was accurate. At least, it didn't rain. God was great!

still hazy and cloudy at a few minutes past 7AM.

The memories of our little family trips to Antipolo, Tagaytay and Baguio Cities in the Philippines during my wonder years resurfaced as I was  stunned at the breathtaking view 833 meters above sea level.  Penang Hill has an absolutely cooler climate than its lowlands in this tropical Malaysian State. With its 16 to 21 degree Celsius weather, it’s enough for any tourists, locals and expats to be enticed to go up once in a while.

I arrived in Penang, Malaysia some 20 months ago and have been working as a medical lecturer since then. I immediately learned that Penang Hill was closed for much needed renovation of its system and track and replacement of its 87-year-old coaches. The wait for it to be fully operational again took almost a year but Tina, Gabby and I didn’t try to experience the ride and the hill itself last April 2011. Tina felt and still believed that 30 ringgit per pax round trip fare on the train up to Penang Hill wasn’t cheap (current rates for Non-Malaysians and Malaysian tourists are noted at the end of this post). I constantly tell her, family bonding is always memorable and priceless.

“Gelo, Huwag kayong aalis ng Penang nang hindi nagpupunta sa Penang Hill, ang ganda!” (“Gelo, Don’t leave Penang unless you have gone to Penang Hill, it’s beautiful!”) …These were the words directly told to me by one of the colleagues who already resigned from our work last year and went back home to the Philippines with his entire family.  He was definitely right. Penang Hill is really something. It’s one of the must-visit sites when traveling to Penang, Malaysia.

The game plan: I initially thought of reserving an overnight accomodation in a 3-bed-family-room at Bellevue Hotel (which has a rate of RM242 nett or USD 79.45 inclusive of breakfast), the hotel located exactly in Bukit Bendera or Penang Hill boasts of its simple aviary and garden, that offers great views of breathtaking sunset and sunrise. The suggestion was vetoed by my ever loving and practical wife. I easily accepted, supported and succumbed to her decision, despite the fact that I already communicated with the hotel staff via emails, because I felt her excitement and her want to experience Penang Hill too with our family. That was enough for me. :)

The second best option I had in mind which I brought up to Tina and my mom was to go up to Penang Hill on the first trip of funicular train at exactly 6:30 in the morning, so we could reach the summit at still dusk and witness the daybreak after. I was silently jumping for joy when they both agreed to prepare, wake up and be at the ticketing area prior to the first trip!

I laid her all the possibilities and means on how we could get there at few minutes before 6:30AM. We all thought taking a pre-arranged cab from our place in Butterworth, Penang at 5:30AM and head directly to Bukit Bendera was the finest choice over taking the bus-ferry-bus-route. And we’re grateful that we’re not wrong.

Our roundtrip tickets to Penang Hill, punched with holes just before our descent at lunch time, Saturday, 31March2012.

We left our place in Butterworth before 5:30AM and arrived in Bukit Bendera when the gates were still closed. We waited for several minutes until it officially opened at around 6:15AM. Have I told you that punctuality freely flows in our bloodstream? haha! :D

After purchasing our round trip tickets for the 6:30AM first funicular trip for the day, we finally saw that blue-air conditioned Swiss made coach! She was so gorgeous!

And the fingers in two hands are more than the volume of passengers on that trip, there were only 2 passengers and 2 train staff plus the four of us. We occupied the first cabin next to the train captain to get the greatest view of the ascent, I think it’s a must if one gets a chance (The train can be filled with 80 passengers when some would ride it standing). The smooth inclined ride via the 2,220 meter track length was definitely exciting!

There’s no way but to go up! ;)

After more or less 5 minutes (there were no stops during our ride that morning), we arrived at the summit.

The passage through the white tunnel is a sign that passengers need to alight few seconds after.

It was still darkness when we arrived in Penang Hill.  We strolled and I tried to find a best spot to capture the stillness of the dawn. My mom first saw a concrete stairs guarded by an opened wooden gate; we didn’t read its signage that it’s the David Brown’s English Restaurant and Tea House at the Strawberry Hill (yes, the signage reads Strawberry Hill!).  No one was there yet, so we went in. Tina and Gabby followed.

My wife began taking photos and videos using her ipod and mobile phone. I further went up the concrete stairs until I reached the restaurant and garden proper of David Brown’s.

I didn’t expect we would experience how colorful Penang Hill is.

These are the viewing telescopes located in front of the huge signage of Bukit Bendera at the foot of David Brown’s Restaurant.

Take a closer peek at George Town for 1 ringgit (USD 0.32 or PhP 14).

The flora and foliage of Penang Hill that we found in David Brown’s English Garden and Restaurant

At this point, I wished I have a lens and skills for macro photography.

If you must know, the  five petaled brilliant red Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis or to us Filipinos, gumamela, is the National flower of Malaysia.

This is David Brown’s Restaurant and English Garden at Penang Hill. I just wished we were not tresspassing as there were no people when we went here. We didn’t touch anything but only took photos however, tons of it. :)


My beautiful mom at almost 60! ...Strike a pose, mother! hehe! :)

Gabby : “Daddy, piktyuran mo ako!” (“Daddy, take my pictures!”)

Me : “OK!”

Then the kid ran a few meters away from us then ran forward and took a jump on air.  He attempted for a “jump shot” several times and his mom and his grandmother and I we’re all giggling because Gabby’s too chubby to float higher on air. :P

levitation? haha! :)

It was almost 8:30AM and the sun was already up so we left that part of Penang Hill and went on to explore the others. We needed to take a bladder break and we’re glad to see a few steps down the David Brown’s Restaurant a simple tandas or toilet that’s well kept and clean with tissues and liquid soap.

After another stroll, we found a swing.

The swing is located at the facade of the newly opened, The Owl Museum at Penang Hill. It’s an owl-swing actually! hehe! :)

Lola Tessie and Gabby bonding!

Before we headed to to the museum, we needed to chow down first. Good thing that the newly built museum has multi-leveled eateries, drink, desserts and souvenir stations where one gets to fill his/her tummy with the best view in Penang.

fresh air, spacious clean dining areas, fantastic ambience, great tasting and affordable Malaysian foods, drinks and desserts, what more can you ask for?

To me, one has never been to Malaysia when he/she has not yet tasted the country’s National dish or staple food…

Tina and I once again, sampled NASI LEMAK for our breakfast in Penang Hill! Sarap! We liked the dilis so much that it made us crave for more (so the following day, I went to market to buy more dilis!) Good thing was, the sambal (spicy red sauce) wasn't mixed with the dish so we somehow tapered to taste. :)

One of the best tasting Fried Rice we've tasted! The smokey flavor makes it so delicious!

After our simple breakfast, we trooped down the stairs and went to the very first museum in Southeast Asia that pays tribute to and promotes awareness about that nocturnal bird, THE OWL MUSEUM in PENANG HILL. To our surprise, we were greeted by two staff at its entrace who informed us with a smile, that the fees were waived for the reason that they just opened few days back. How lucky can we get? Indeed, best things in life are free! :D

What to see in The Owl Museum? Over a thousand Owl-inspired arts and crafts as masterpieces of creative artists from different parts of the globe.

I liked this paper-cut-out-chandelier; it made me think if it’s owl-inspired too. Perhaps, patterned after the eyes of the owl? Is it? It must be.

The museum is made of a thousand and counting collection of owl in various materials-metals, wood, paper, plastic, porcelain, semi-precious stones and a lot more that came from different countries, however, Tina found out from one of the staff that they’ve yet to acquire something made from the Philippines. There are also paintings and other art works that are owl-inspired. Here are some of those that caught my eyes…

For coffee lovers like Tina and me…

I like this for obvious reasons…


I perceived this owl-metallic art as a knight in shining feather, hehe! :P

I saw this at the souvenir shop. I was almost tempted to buy as it winked at me, haha! but I held on to my very thin budget and it was a success! I just captured him on photo (what a better and more practical option!).

Even the tiniest of the stuffs are oh-so-charming…

Their colors are vivid and bright, the details are eye-candy!

United Colors of Benetton, Owl edition? ;)

One display window has these owls from London, England with title, “Nature’s Gift”. These figurines are made of feathers, straws, twigs, bark and seeds.

Pardon my shadow, these were “flown” from Paris, France…


Owls made of metallic materials and crystals are very interesting too…

Even the flower pot is owl-inspired. This museum is really “owl-some!”


Ladies would be delighted with these owl-themed accessories. I asked Tina to mimic how fashion-celebrity-bloggers whom we’ve met in our HKDL trip recently do it on their sites, hehe!

Modelo na ang asawa ko ng mga kwago! *She'll kill me for this!* :P

More Owl-accessories…

I could have bought a few if these were fridge magnets but they are rings for the girls who are edgy.

Now, children, meet The Royal Owl


I swear, it’s really called The Royal Owl! :) It does look regal!

There’s this corner so called The Artist’s Station where one can sit for photo-op like what Gabby did…

He's working on his materpiece to be on display soon in The Owl Museum in Penang Hill, hehe! :)

But this one’s for real : When Gabby saw a chalk and board (he even asked his grandmother to request for an extra chalk from the staff), his world stopped for several minutes as nothing else mattered but finishing his own masterpiece! :)

Et voila…

Will he become a chef, a hotelier, a restaurateur or an artist? Que sera, sera! :P

Then our seemingly like  never-ending photo-ops continued! We’re picture-addicts apparently! :D

We had fun inside The Owl Museum. Moving on, we walked our way to the other attractions in Penang Hill.

OK, now, kids, say “Taman Kanak-Kanak!”

Taman Kanak-Kanak

Taman Kanak-kanak in Bahasa Melayu (Malaysian language) simply means Children’s Playground (apparently on the photo, right? hehe!). Most communities in Penang (I don’t know in other Malaysian states) have this colorful playground even at 833 meters above sea level! Penang Hill even have its own POS or Postal Office at the hill itself. Impressive, isn’t it?

What’s even more amazing is the presence of PEACE among the diversities here. Imagine this : Masjid Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill Mosque) lies a stone throw away from the Murugan Temple (Hindu Temple); they’re almost located side-by-side and the only structure in between these two different religious shrines is this Taman Kanak-kanak. There’s no obvious tension, neither conflicts between them.

One of the Deity-altars outside the Murugan Temple in Penang Hill.

Ladies and gentlemen, this was one of the 87-year-old coaches that used to run up the hills of Bukit Bendera..

I already rode such wooden tram in San Francisco ages ago but it's not inclined as Penang's. Now with the very STEEP train track in Bukit Bendera / Penang Hill, I would think a thousand times first before hopping in if the funicular train remained the same as this in photo and wasn't renovated. Thank God for technology and innovation!

And then the time came for us to bid goodbye to Penang Hill. It was a memorable weekend morning!

Another funicular train just arrived in Penang Hill. It's the same train we rode downhill.

Tina recorded a video of our descent using her Samsung mobile…CLICK THIS!

Time when we hopped off the funicular. Bye, bye Penang Hill! Till our next visit!

I believe the best time to go up to this tourist spot is either daybreak like what we did or a few hours just before sunset. It becomes too crowded on a weekend, particularly hours past 8AM. Whether Penang Hill is a great tourist spot in this side of Malaysia or not, I know perception of beauty is so subjective but in my humble opinion, anything that’s breakthtaking is beautiful!

After that morning in Penang Hill, I think my family and I look at Penang in more different light. And I have to take back my statement mentioned earlier, it is a big deal to go to Penang Hill. It’s a must-visit place when you’re in this side of Malaysia! :D


Directions to get to Penang Hill -One can take his car directly to Bukit Bendera or preferrably take a 45-minute bus ride from George Town, Penang via Rapid Penang Bus # 204 and hop off the gates of Penang Hill funicular station or take a taxi cab from any areas in George Town which will be more costly of course.  One may also take a 3-hour trek from the foot of the hill at Penang Botanical Garden or drive/ride a 4×4.

Round trip funicular fare for Non-Malaysian tourists : 30 ringgit or RM30 (USD 9.78 or PhP 421) and RM15 for children aged seven to 12. For Malaysians, the fare for a round trip ticket is RM8 per adult and RM4 per child aged between three and 12. Senior citizens and students will enjoy cheaper fares at RM4 per person.  Train Schedule : 6:30AM to 9PM daily unless notified.

The Owl Museum, Open Daily 9AM-6PM. Admission Rates : RM10 per entry, RM 5 for Senior Citizen, FREE Entry for Children below 12 years old (as mentioned, we had no entrance fees because according to the staff at its gate, they just opened few days prior to our visit). 



Never underestimate things from rubbish for you might find gold in them.  I told Gabby this while we walked our way towards Armenian Street in George Town after alighting the ferry from Jetty. The little-big boy, at first was puzzled until I simplified what it means.

I was surprised when our 7-year-old wonder boy is already familiar with the triple R –recycle, reduce, reuse. Apparently, his mom and teachers have been doing their duties wonderfully. Our casual father-and-son conversation became more meaningful when we spotted several used bath tubs now serving as plant boxes lining the street. Whoever thought of that must have been so environmental-friendly.

As Tina usually wants to spend her Sunday at home whenever possible (for she  thinks and I also agree that she deserves a rest before she begins another work week), it was only Gabby and I who went out to the Island primarily to run some errands (we needed to go to a money changer to have our ringgits changed to pesos as we’re going home to Pinas for the holidays, we also had to buy some ingredients for Tina’s home cooked siomai and a few more pasalubongs for our relatives and lastly, I was asked by my lovely wife to bring her old denims for a change of zippers in a repair shop). However before doing all this, I decided to drop by AMELIE CAFE and grabbed the opportunity to expose my kid to something totally different.

that gem in the mirror

Located in #6 Armenian Street beside a famous tourist spot, Cheah Si Sek Tek Tong that we have yet to explore some other time, AMELIE CAFE is a hole-in-the-wall cafe that serves quality Western food in the heart of George Town.

At  first sight, one would not imagine that this tiny food place can provide a charmingly beautiful gastronomic experience. It actually looks like an ordinary carinderia outside, housed at the ground floor of a pre-war building except that its simple facade was made attractively beautiful by those lavish green potted plants and its unique hand-made sign boards express that there must be more than meets the eye. :)

Amelie Cafe is open from 10AM daily except Mondays

Having been an expat for more than a year here in Penang, I completely know that this Malaysian state, particularly in one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, George Town, offers diversities not only in race, religion and color but evidently in culinary department as well. Like mushrooms in the woods, hawker food stalls, restaurants and coffee shops are having healthy competitions despite they thrive side by side.  Food in this part of Asia is more than substantial but a lucrative business too.

With the commercially available kedai kopi like Starbucks Coffee, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf including the popular local kopitiam and the like, AMELIE CAFE, in my honest opinion has greater advantage above all these giants.

It’s edge –the highly creative atmosphere out of recycled materials.

Take a peek at what we had enjoyed inside…

It’s like we entered a hole-in-the-wall eatery-slash-museum-slash-art-gallery. Amazing’s an understatement! :)

No corner was overlooked; even its humble ceiling deserves a glimpse.

On top of the door were tin plates displayed beneath those water plants (I’ve known them as celia as told by my old relatives; we have some at home in Butterworth cut from the jetty/ferry station) placed in old bottles of various branded fruit jams.

What’s great with all of these decors, I think they’re highly mobile as the owners can move them from one corner to the other making the interiors of Amelie Cafe uniquely different in a snap.

There’s only one ceiling fan without unusual look but nonetheless functional.

Must have that detail shot…

i want to take that dog & cat painting home!

On the left side by the door is a table and this wall…

Who says you cannot create remarkable things out of rubbish?

As we stepped inside Amelie Cafe, we found out that it only has 5 small tables filled with mostly foreigners dining their brunch. Fortune was on our side when we spotted an available table located at the end, just by the kitchen. No worries for Gabby and I because astonishingly, smoke from the frying pan is handled professionally. I didn’t mind being welcomed by the gentle wafting scent of the bacon at late morning; it was so welcoming actually! :)

The limited 5 tables with 3 to 4 stools each do not come in set. Even their plates, cups and saucers never look alike but when put together they contribute to ones’ fantastic dining experience.

Don't let the simplicity of the table and stools fool you; the total dining experience here is more than you can imagine.

The finish of the walls, floor and ceiling was not made perfect but it added to its enticing appeal.

We were greeted by Yen, one of the owners of Amelie Cafe. It’s only Yen and her husband, Hung run the entire show at their very quaint food place. The wonderful duo serve as wait staff, at the same time, do the preparation of food, do the cooking and tender the cashier counter and if chance permits, entertain their diners.  Fantastic! :)  I just failed to ask them if they have formal education in culinary or in related fields nevertheless, I think it’s no longer important as they’ve been managing everything at Amelie Cafe smoothly and successfully.

As Gabby and I sat down, Yen handed in the menu…

menu with hand painted cover, made out of cut-out cartons.

She told us, pointing with her thumb (the way Malaysians do it-not the common use of index finger or for us Pinoys, with a pouting lips, hehe!) to the uber artistic dessert menu board beneath the stairs.

After getting our orders, I asked if they have tandas (toilet), Hung pointed towards the back of the kitchen. The kitchen looks like this…

The Kitchen : Everything's prepared and cooked here. Nothing more, nothing less. Isn't it amazing?

These are some of the artworks located above our table. Other than the use of recycled materials, did you notice the recurrent theme?  Mother Nature must be super happy! :)

Can you spot that solitary little fish inside the jar that was made into its aquarium and a plant vase too?

Humor in recycled art : Old wooden planks nailed side by side painted with fish spines and dog bone noted with “meow” combined with “oof oof !” ….Nice! :)

I believe the couple also did all those colorful pieces. And it looks like they’re also responsible designing the whimsical interiors of Amelie Cafe. How many businessmen do their work with complete hands-on?

With all those eye-catching things, waiting for our orders to be delivered and boredom inside Amelie Cafe didn’t become an issue. After 15 minutes, Gabby and I were already sharing these…

I gave him the liberty to go over the menu and choose whatever he wants. He selected carbonara, hazelnut chocolate parfait and chocolate banana milkshake. That was pure carbo-glucose fix!

After that candid shot, my boy asked me to dunk my fork and eat all those crispy cut bacon strips from the pasta because he doesn’t eat bacon and seldom he likes ham. Sure, I replied to him; I became easily submissive with his wish. :)

As Gabby continuously dreams of becoming a chef, a hotelier, restaurateur someday, I told him that putting up a carinderia as gorgeous and attractive as Amelie Cafe would do. Thinking of owning something like this is more than surreal!

Hazelnut parfait was a perfect ending to our mini-brunch. It came with fresh cranberries that Gabby wrongly thought of cherries. The pasta plate was also satisfyingly good, although minimal in serving and less creamy than usual–the taste actually made the difference. And the milkshake?  Refreshingly delicious!

Honestly, the food doesn’t come that cheap compared to what you might expect. The price is comparable to Starbucks Coffee’s. A little more expensive than the common fast food joints. But hey, you don’t get all these visual treats from those commercial food places.

Then the moment of “must sample their coffee” dawn upon me…

The first sip of this cappuccino was for Tina. Yeehaa! :)  I really wished she’s with us with this (another) extraordinary experience.

The table where we enjoyed everything…

Just before ending our meal at Amelie Cafe, Gabby told me that he liked everything he ate and appreciated all things he saw inside.  Like me, he loved all the artworks, all the delightful clutter including the simple presence of that fish solitarily swimming in that old jar.  The sense of recycling old things and turning them into great use rather than considering them as useless junks was reinstilled in his young mind. The exposure brain-washing, I guess was successful! :)



RASA SAYANG, in Bahasa Malaysia when translated to English means A Taste of Love.  And in my vocabulary, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa here in Penang is aptly called in every sense of the word.

The lobby is so enticing, you’ll fall in love in a heart beat…

Located 12km away from George Town, Penang, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa is one of the premiere hotels in this part of Malaysia. Other than the lavish amenities and hospitality that Shangri-La Hotels are known for, this branch offers beyond great expectations.

We experienced something extraordinary that cannot be done justice in words or in pictures.

We arrived more than an hour earlier to the dinner-buffet we reserved at 6:30PM. Waiting wasn’t a big deal because appreciation of the hotel’s facilities was more than enough for us to kill time.

Because it was drizzling, Tina and Gabby decided to stay inside the lounge while I, with a huge black umbrella, took the chance to roam around from the lobby to the beachfront…

It reminded me of Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu where the lush green leads you to the waters however less the expansive lobby where you can view the majestic scenery. This one in Penang doesn’t have an elevated lobby like the hotel in Cebu but nonetheless impressive.

Nipa Huts and benches are found along the uniquely shaped swimming pools amidst the enormous trees and tropical plants. I know nothing of architecture but I noticed how creative they were in guiding the raindrops as they fall from huts’ roofs to a massively charming jar that serves as basin. Have you seen one like this in Pinas or elsewhere? (Ang husay ng alulod!). 

I joined my lovely wife and adorable son for some more minutes of waiting. While Gabby became busy taking photographs of the lounge and his parents, a male staff approached and talked to us.

  • male staff :  Are you waiting for the dinner-buffet?  Do you have reservations, Sir?
  • me : Yup! I did a reservation over the phone a week ago.
  • male staff : Spice Market Cafe gets packed even on weekdays.
  • me : Because of the on-going promotion?
  • male staff : Not only that, Sir but because the food is really good. And for its price, it’s more than reasonable and competitive with other hotels’ buffets.
  • me : That’s great to know. Thanks!

After few bladder breaks at the spotless tandas (toilet)…

and some more snapshots at the facade of the restaurant…

If jeepneys are the king of the road in the streets of Manila, in George Town, Penang are the trishaws. Most tourists and travelers are seen on this wheels, being driven by a local on a tour of one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Finally, at 6:30PM, I confirmed our reservation at the entrance of Spice Market Cafe, was surprised that beside my name on the guest list was the apposition, “recognized blogger”; I cringed and swallowed my saliva! haha! (read : I am recognized only by my family and a few online friends and being known by some may be purely accidental).

Gabby, Tina and I have been to quite a number of eat-all-you-want-food havens but our experience in Rasa Sayang’s SPICE MARKET CAFE was definitely less ordinary….

Located at the main entrance of Spice Market Cafe is Spice Boutique that showcases an interesting display of varied spices and herbs that were sourced all over Asia .

Our 7-year-old kid who dreams of becoming a chef, a restaurateur and a hotelier someday was again exposed to another ground.  However, his nose wasn’t ready yet to perceive an array of aromas and different smell from those spices…

Perhaps, because of their quaint characteristics of being rustic and old, I was silently jumping for joy upon the sight of these museum-worthy kitchen wares and whatnot. I don’t care whether they’re original and vintage or just a noteworthy reproductions, they all looked attractive to me.

Tina and Gabby had their own fascinations while I found myself mesmerized…

Ais Kachang or their version of the Filipino Halo-Halo needs finely shaved ice, thus the existence of this equipment…

My eyes were also caught by a corner where a long wooden bench holds a row of canisters of locally-cooked chips…

We never dined anywhere before where the entrance of the restaurant creates such impact…

To be continued…



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


“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


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