Penang has been raining at nights.

And then in the mornings.

And then in the mornings and nights. 

People around me are coughing and getting a cold and I feel a wave of heat striking me. So upon Bunny's request, I went to hunt for half a dozen packets of coconut water. I always think that my journey home is a usual one. Nothing worth clicking. 

Here was my journey of what I saw along the way, something in Penang just don't change until I looked deeper.

The car that's been my traveling partner since 2006.
Urban Xchange: Crossing Over is an art exhibition 

On First Impression

While I'm not an expert in going to art galleries or even an art critic, I feel, this place seems very down-to-earth and unpretentious to me.

Here's some fast facts:

What: 
Urban Xchange: Crossing Over is an art exhibition 
Where:
Hin Bus Depot Art Centre in George Town, Penang. 
When:
Launched on 21 November, 2014 by the Penang Chief Minister
Who:
Brought together by Hin Bus Depot and Urban Nation, this is works featuring local and foreign artists

Narrow Marrow



A cosy little place with no signage except for this triangular light.

I've been trying to live like a minimalist and then I was reading about minimalist photography. Thought it gels with my current belief and decided to give it a shot. Since I've yet to go to the Hin Bus Depot, it seemed like a good place to start. Time to put my baby Fotis (Fujifilm X100s) into good use.

An infrared attempt on everything Porky.
That final 1km, we just got to take a picture.
The event took place on 16 November 2014, the Penang Bridge International Marathon was something I was looking forward to. The first time to run on the longest bridge in Asia, I am a proud proud Penangite. As I had only managed to participate in 2 running events this year, the PBIM 2014 was definitely one of the big bang highlights as the year comes to an end.
There is this stall along Carnarvon Street (kind of like beside the famous fried oyster stall) that I sometimes patronize. They are very traditional. The stall is run by an aunty. I like this place because it's fresh and it's nostalgic. Money can't buy nostalgia. It just seems more precious each day knowing that maybe there would be no successor to the trade.

I've been eating kuihs like this all my life.
A stall along Carnarvon Street selling traditional kuih.
While black and white photos are alluring and timeless, it's hard to ignore the colours of Georgetown. Handpicked 15 shots of what I think were the best of the crop in my Fujifilm X100s. 

Trishaw and man.
My self-actualization need was buzzing so I had to answer to the call for art and creativity. Bought the mirrorless Fujifilm X100s back in April 2014 and I barely had the chance to use it and when I used it, I couldn't be gratified because I didn't know how to manipulate it the way I could with Nikon cameras.

As with everything, it all begins with practice. I managed to find a kind soul to walk around Georgetown with me so I can snap some photos with the sleek Fuji X100s. We agreed to put up a post of black and white photos. To be honest, the shots were disappointing, the tone, colour, contrast and exposure were not up to my standard. I blame that I still haven't read the manual. 

Wanting to start somewhere, shots below were edited by Photoshop. Capturing the old world charm of Georgetown, as such moments of awareness. Maybe there could be beauty in a moment so ordinary.

Typical coffee shop scene in Penang with everyone doing their own thing.

On the question whether a dog can smile, the photo above speaks for itself. Luffy, my family pet, my little spoilt brother, is so loved and full of smiles. This was a first shot using the Fujifilm X100s.

Back in April 2014, I was lucky to obtain my first mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X100s. I traded my first love, the Nikon D60, 2 kit lens and a prime lens for this. The process of selling it was not tough with the aid of my friend and also the power of Facebook and Lowyat.net. Selling the Nikon D60 was a sign that I officially step back from the DSLR world. It's a little emo but I have no regrets. Having travelled often, I found it too chunky to carry a DSLR and since the only lens I ever used was the prime lens, I decided to go for Fujifilm X100s. It's small and comes with a fixed lens so flat it's almost like a pancake.

Snapping photos with the X100s these days feels like I'm stopping to smell the roses.

Quite glad that my dog smiles. Does your dog smile too?
There's something beautiful about Georgetown, Penang. Something about the weather, the old world charm and the people. This was one of those rare days, we trotted the streets of Georgetown on a holiday. Must have taken this months ago and just found time to look back to my recent past. How I miss times when I had walked around with a camera.

A big group of us went to Heaven Gate. Considering my gluttony nature, I was quite excited. Worried about traffic jam, I was surprisingly 40 minutes early. So I had a good look at the menu and also the surrounding in Heaven Gate. 

My sensitive ears remembered the music in the background, it was subtle and mellow - mostly instrumental. Considering Heaven Gate is a place for fine dining, the whole atmosphere is indeed quite the place for a romantic date. 

How about a drink first?

I ordered Peppermint Chocolate (RM8.90)  because other chocolates are too mainstream yet I decided that I should go mainstream after this try. 
Heaven Gate's Peppermint Chocolate (RM8.90)  

Soup

Forest Mushroom Soup (RM16.90)

 Salad

Wakame Salad (RM16.90)

Main Courses

House Special Duo Duck (RM58)
Hunter Chicken
Pan Seared Salmon

Dessert

Oreo Cheesecake (RM12.90)

Atmosphere







How to Get There?


Down with a tong-sui craving, we drove to New Lane, Georgetown to hunt for dessert. To our horror, it was close. Our immediate back up plan was Sugar Dynasty at Nagore Road. So glad Sugar Dynasty is now synonymous with tong-sui by now. They have been around for years.

So at Sugar Dynasty, we flipped the menu. There were 40 types of tong-sui's available to please even the most picky taste buds. As a Cantonese, I'm proud to say that my chefs at home are very capable of cooking tong-sui. I would have tasted everything in the menu. 

I chose Ginger Milk!
Jennifer chose Ginger Milk! 

Why?? (Ignore my rhetorical question)

Anyway, we love the Ginger Milk because it proved to be a very effective drink. Both of us sleepless-heads, were relaxed by the hot milk and strong ginger, we were very sleepy which was a good thing.

3 Reasons to Go to Sugar Dynasty

Apart from the awesome Ginger Milk, Sugar Dynasty certainly make a good cosy place to hang out with friends. We had privacy and at the hour we went, there weren't many people. The atmosphere was good. 

When it comes to choices of food and drinks, it was definitely a good alternative to coffee, tea and beer (and possibly healthier too). 

Lastly, the prices in the menu are very reasonable.

Ginger Milk from Sugar Dynasty
I love this Ginger Milk from Sugar Dynasty
Interior of Sugar Dynasty
Interior of Sugar Dynasty
cosy interior of Sugar Dynasty
Sugar Dynasty is pretty cosy. Makes a perfect hangout place for us.

How to Get There?

Coming fresh from the bar at The Joint, we served Apple Cooler last week. 

"What's The Joint?" you ask. That's my cosy almost-luxurious home. 

"What's an Apple Cooler?" you ask.Well, Apple Cooler is what you get when you don't have watermelon to make Watermelon Cooler.

Refreshing is the keyword to this cocktail. Love it so much that I just got to share the recipe.

View from the top, the yellow colour makes it looks like beer but it's not!
I will probably make Apple Cooler again for my friends.

Ingredients

1 liter of apple juice
1 can of dry ginger ale
1/4 cup of Vodka (or more if you wish)
1 lemon (squeeze out all juice and grate the skin into the drink)
mint leaves (I bought a small bag of leaves so I put all the leaves)
lots of ice
organic sugar (very subjective - I added only 1 teaspoon and we thought it was too sweet)

Instruction

Mix everything together and serve. Voila! Immerse yourself into  good life.


Pristine and clear, the turquoise sea that surrounded the 3 touristy islands in Kota Kinabalu bemused me. Much to my regret, I had only 1 hour to spend on the gorgeous island. I had to choose Manukan Island as it is the largest island.

Crystal clear water seen at the Manukan Island
The water is so clean, you can see schools of friendly fish surrounding you.

How to Get There?

I took a bus there. The buses in the city is pretty efficient and reliable. Knowing how to speak Malay was definitely an advantage. Once you get to the inside, you would see many many stalls selling ferry tickets. I bought mine from Aparu Holiday Tours which costed me RM30 to Manukan Island. The charges would be different if you wish to hop around all the 3 islands - that would include Sapi and Mamutik Island.

A young Dusun maiden preparing rice wine at Mari Mari Cultural Village
A young Dusun maiden preparing rice wine at Mari Mari Cultural Village
I was pressed for time in planning my itinerary, clueless on where to go when I arrive in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. So I nicely delegated the itinerary planning to my nice friend, Jay and to my surprise, she was fast at giving me a list of places to head to, Mari Mari Cultural Village being one of the locations. I love the name Mari Mari which means Come, Come. Did my part by checking on Tripadvisor and yup, they turned up to have good reviews. 

How did I book this trip?

Since I only got to check in Tune Hotel 1Borneo at 3 pm. I conveniently booked myself a trip at their tour desk. At only RM150, it included a two-way transfer to Mari Mari Cultural Village. The pick ups are 3 times a day. Unfortunately, I had to join the last show which is held at 6 pm. The driver came punctually at 5:30 pm. 

On the way to Mari Mari, I saw some water villages. Wooden houses built on stilts above what used to be mangroves which are mostly dried up by now - making way for modern living.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Matt (hope I got his name right) our friendly guide. The visitors were from everywhere - Phillipines, Hong Kong, Japan and me from Penang! So Matt explained that there would be 7 types of long houses of different Sabah natives that we will be visiting, namely Dusun, Bajau, Rungus, Lundayeh, Murut.

At Mari Mari Cultural Village

Matt the Friendly Guide from Mari Mari Cultural Village
Matt the Friendly Guide from Mari Mari Cultural Village
In my personal opinion, the long house somewhat resemble a museum that is alive. I think I exercised all my five senses there. During the tour, there were much to offer to the sight, smell, taste, touch and hear.

Each long house has distinctive features. Some are made of bamboos and others of wood. Each house also offered different things to taste from rice wine to honey to pandan leaf drink which was said to have a calming effect to cure hangover. We even got to sample a local delicacy named kuih jala - referring to the net-like look of it. At the end of the tour, we were treated to a simple local meal buffet style. I just had to talk about food first. :P

Dusun Long House at Mari Mari Cultural Village
This Dusun Long House was our first stop. The bamboo construction amazed all of us.
The interior of a Dusun long house at Mari Mari Cultural Village
The interior of a Dusun long house

Of fire, rope, trampolin and hot dudes

"We are the city folks that scream at the sight of cockroaches." - Danielle Fung 

Here comes the irony on who is less exposed to the worldly matters. It was my first time watching how fire was set with bare hands (to my horror, I have lost memory on how it was done by now) and how tree barks were used to make ropes and warrior vests.

Along came another discovery, trampolin made of wood - elastic wood to be precise. Made me wonder how creative human beings could be. This trampolin sat in the middle of a long house and a gift or a ball, I can't recall was placed right on the ceiling. A very high one. And the dudes who wish to marry a girl was supposed to jump up to rip that whatever from the ceiling. Voila, marry the bride! We were told not to jump too high as we were not trained. Hoppity hop, I had much fun trampoling on the trampolin.

Lastly, I wish to make note of was the cultural dance we were treated to. The young men were dressed like warriors with big colourful feathers on their head and quite nude. Visitors were also invited to dance along. This show was quite a visual treat.

3 Things I Learned from Mari Mari Cultural Village

It's  lifelong learning for me. To put my learnings to good use, I shall point out 3 things that I learned from here. 
  1. If you have to go to a jungly place, ALWAYS bring mosquito repellent. 
  2. Life indeed can be very simple. Let's go back to the basic.
  3. Some natives are alcoholics. I like.

Email Booking

A reply from Mari Mari which disappointed me
It's probably silly to add this at the end of the post and you must be wondering why. I have often travelled solo and there are pros and cons to everything so while I enjoyed travelling solo for the peace of mind and not having to wait for my bathroom, sometimes having no one to share cost on transportation sucks.

Here's an example why it sucks travelling alone. I wrote in an email which I obtained from the official website of Mari Mari Cultural Village to ask them how can I go about booking the trip because I travel alone. 

Below is the kind of reply that I received, I was asked to pay for 2 persons!! Furious at their replies, a friend did ask me not to go. I decided not to keep grudges over the person that replied my email. After all, the entire cultural village wasn't made up of one person. It's a collective effort. The experience touring the village was a fun one though I genuinely thought that the admin at Mari Mari could improve on their replies.

The truth was I didn't book from the website since they rendered no logical options to me. Any other tour guides in Kota Kinabalu would be happy to take over the service. So please don't tell me you don't serve solo travellers.

How to Get There?

Unless you rent a car, it seemed quite remote to me. After my tour ended, I was sent back to the hotel. It was pitch black right outside of Mari Mari Cultural Village on the road which no working lamp posts. Don't recall seeing bus stops too. So it's probably best to just get a tour package that includes a transfer back to your hotel.

Food review at lunch hour is my new luxury since working at the remote Batu Ferringhi didn't allow me to travel around for lunch. Ever since, I relocated to Bayan Lepas, food reviews are made possible.

A friend introduced us to Maa Roy Thai at Kristal Point. Truthfully, it's only my second time stepping into a Thai restaurant in my entire life as I used to think that Thai food must be very spicy.

On first impression, Maa Roy Thai looks very local and relaxed. Gave me a feeling like they serve home cooked food. They are pretty thoughtful as there are menus for 1-pax lunch (from only RM9.90) and 2-pax lunch sets at (RM39). They even have menus for a group of 4 and more.

In general, I love most of the food offered here. I'm just going to make life simple by highlighting 5 of my favourites.

Fish

And the first is fish! I've not have fish in the longest time. When this dish came along, I took a bite and I love the taste. It looks a bit jungle-like with lots of vegetables on top of the fish. Yet those vegetables actually complement the taste of the fish. Apart from the fillet, the gravy is very appetizing too. As I am writing, I think I'm falling deeper in love with Thai cuisine.

Mango Salad

It looks like kerabu to me. Okay, I think it is kerabu. We love that that they used ripe mangoes for this. Though the colour of mango is a little dull due to its ripeness, as a whole, it's fresh and crunchy to bite. Peanuts and sweet sour chilli sauce are drizzled all over and lettuce along with carrots are fresh. A perfect dish in terms of taste and colour combination. Healthy too!


Tom Yum Soup

A typical Thai meal cannot be complete without tom yum soup. When asked, my friend who recommended this place said, "The seafood tom yum here is good." Having tried this personally, I need to give the same credit. In the soup, you will see cuttlefish, mushroom, prawns and fillet. Ahhh, tom yum is just too addictive! Wish I could have more but that cute little steamboat caters to exactly 6 bowls of soup - no more, no less. We were amazed by their measuring skills!


Lemon Grass Drink

Firstly, we love their creative idea on using lemon grass as a stirrer. Totally out of the box! But we were concerned about the possibility of those lemon grass stalks being reused. We have no idea.

Anyway, at first sip, it tastes very bland. After a little more, the mild flavour begins to kick in and it feels like a refeshing beverage. If you have gotten bored of lemon tea, try lemon grass tea.


Deep Fried Kangkung

Being more health conscious, I came across recipes like cauliflower steaks and kale chips. I have always wanted to make kale chips but I've never seen kale anywhere in Penang. When I saw this plate of deep fried kangkung, I was a bit taken aback. It didn't occur to me that leafy vegetables can be deep fried like like tempura. This is really crunchy and comes with sweet sour chilli sauce as a dip. Definitely an indulgent dish to me.

Tup Tim Krop Dessert

It's my first time having this and I just have to keep the best for the last! Apparently, a famous Thai dessert which I only just recently found out. I think I can make this myself. It's so simple and captivating making glutton like me a very happy. 

A bowl of chilled coconut milk with some fruits with some sticky texture. Though, I didn't add in sugar, I thought it is already nice in that state. 


With one visit, I've opened my eyes to something new. I didn't put in all the dishes that I ate. Rather, I prefer to highlight the real yums. If you've been there, what else would you recommend?