Penang, Malaysia (Palau Pinang, Malaysia)
5 March 2017
Our next day in Penang began with finishing off the half watermelon of the day before and meeting up with Jarold while he ate his dim sum breakfast. Catching an Uber ride to the base of the Kek Lok Si Temple, we took a less travelled way up.
Muar Chee: Malaysian sticky rice balls coated in sugar, peanuts and sesame seeds. Quite delicious, and they were also very cheap from the roadside vendor. Inside a gift shop, Yannick found a packet of coconut dodol (a sweet made from coconut milk, sugar and rice flour) that he had taken a strong liking to on our last trip to Malasia, so he bought a packet. This was in spite of Jarold claiming that it wasn't true dodol unless it was durian flavour! No thank you. In the same store I found some delicious looking dried mango, so procured a packet for later nibbling.
Suddenly one of Jarold's friends Jake turned up and drove us to what was apparently the best Char Koay Teow place in town - a little stall in a hawker centre that had been run by the same lady for forty years.
While there, I had fruit for lunch and was able to try something new: ciku! This soft little fruit tastes exactly like brown sugar. I also discovered that carrot juice in Malaysia automatically comes with added milk, so I swapped my strange concoction for Yannick's (thankfully dairy-free) apple juice.
Pineapple shaped candles were very popular here, and when I pointed out how affordable they were to Jarold, he went off to have a look. That's the last I saw him.
We searched high and low, until we finally found him outside playing with a cat. He always finds cats wherever he goes and I suspect that he's a superhero in disguise (his superpower being super cat radar).
With space still in their bellies, Yannick and the others shared a laksa and some fried radish cubes with spicy sauce while I ate yet more fruit in the form of pineapple and mango.
Then Jake kindly dropped us off at the botanic gardens, where we encountered a few packs of monkeys. Some looked like sad old men slumped on the edge of the footpath waiting for a bus that would never arrive. On our last trip to Malaysia we had visited Batu Caves, where the monkeys are very aggressive and will steal anything they can get their pesky hands on. Here, they largely minded their own business and groomed each other.
We were lucky in that the day was cloudy, so we didn't overheat too much while walking around, and searched for a rumoured secret lotus garden. Though we weren't sure if we had found it or not (no lotus were blooming, but it may have been the wrong season), we enjoyed sharing the packet of dried mango while looking out over a scenic pond where a cute turtle peered at us.
From a roadside stall, Jarold purchased an icecream sandwich as a snack, which turned out to be a literal chunk of ice cream stuck into a bread roll (and the ice cream was sweetcorn flavoured). It's a different sort of place, is Malaysia. As he was munching away, a nearby monkey spotted the treat and made a run at him! Instinctually, Jarold crammed the sandwich into his mouth and the monkey turned away dejectedly. Once he had swallowed, Jarold declared "I came from Batu Caves, bitch!"
Then we began the walk back to downtown. Along the way we saw a huge woodlouse, which Jarold poked experimentally. It tucked itself up into a ball and slowly rolled down the sloped footpath. Soon afterwards we smelled fire and saw that there was some sort of blessing ceremony going on for a car, utilising burning coconuts and petals scattered over the windshield.
Before we had to leave for the airport, Jarold insisted on one more dish for Yannick to try, which was a duck soup from a very popular stall. For dessert they found a cendol vendor and sat on tiny plastic stools while eating. Our time in Georgetown quickly drawing to a close, we said our farewells to Jarold and caught an Uber to the airport. Apparently it's traditional to bring back specialty Penang biscuits to your coworkers after a holiday, so Yannick went around trying the free samples in the airport store to find the best flavours. He accidentally tried a durian one, but felt better after a massage we got in coin-operated chairs. I found it exceedingly weird, but Yannick said that he would do it again in the future. Biscuits in hand, we caught our flight back to Singapore.
Today's post was almost called: Monkey Dreams of Sandwich