Penang, Pearl of the Orient

Flew up yesterday afternoon to the Island of Penang on Air Asia. We left from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal at K.L. Airport. There is a new one due to be opened in early May and just as well. The old terminal was appalling yesterday, packed with Chinese New Year travellers ( they celebrate it for 15 days here) and unable to cope. The new terminal is already well delayed and the reports in the paper yesterday said that 65% of it didn’t conform to the basic Fire and Safety regulations here. The Minister stated that they would open it and figure it out later. So don’t light a cigarette if you get to use it when it opens.

No one seems to know why Penang island is called the pearl of the orient but today  a more appropriate name might be the bubble in the developers balance sheet. They have built on almost all the spare land and at night these huge high rises have not a single light on and are clearly empty. It is the same around K.L. as you fly out of the airport. acres and acres of housing without a single resident. When it will burst who knows but surely it must.

We are in Traders Hotel in George Town for 4 nights to have a look around the actual town before heading our to the coast for the long stay part of the trip.

So the pool

Swimming Pool Traders Penang

This is also the view from the bed chair so you are saved that photo. However thank god it is Chinese New Year ‘cos off to the right of this photo is this

Construction by Traders

There are three cranes around it and another building behind it going up. This week it is almost quiet but next week all hell will break lose again. On check in the receptionist proudly said “ah a pool view” and we thought wow. The room looks straight across at the building and you feel you could almost touch it. So from next week city view or nothing.

Given the cost of booze I booked a Club room here. They have a club lounge and free flow drinks 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. The plan was to drink heartily till eightish and then go out to eat thirst well quenched.  Looking at the price of a normal room we had to consume about £15 a night to make it up. An easy task I thought given the high prices.

Traders Club Lounge

This is part of the club area.

However I hadn’t really thought through a couple of key points. 1) that a few other like minded souls might have had the same clever idea and 2) that the Club also does food at that time and places it cunningly almost in front of the self service bar area

Traders Club Loube Bar

The jockeying for pole position as the bewitching hour approached in the club lounge should have worried  me more. It was a little like a sailing race start where you have to cross the line just as the gun sounds or you are either disqualified or at the back of the pack. Clearly others had been practicing their technique and timed their run to the food and booze better. We weren’t disqualified but we were way behind the others.

When I started as a sales Representative with British Airways my mentor told me the most dangerous time in the job was if you accidentally got between a group of travel agents and the free bar and buffet. You would he said be trampled to death.

Last night was as close as I have come to those days. The Chinese and Malays focused on the food and a large group of Brits on the booze. I am sorry to say the Brits would have given the Russians in Vietnam a good run for their money both in quantity drunk and their  physical size. It quickly became clear that the enjoyable part of the evening was not going to be trying to compete which was impossible but more watching the amazing amount of stuff being consumed and the tactics used to complete the task. Bottles of wine were going in just 3 glassfuls and the game was to get the staff to bring more to you not to others. Charm tactics for some, aggressively bashing the empty bottle on the door on the staff kitchen door for others. Bottles of gin, bottles of whiskey went like lightening followed by beer chasers, vodka shots and plate after plate of food. It was a feeding and drinking frenzy . We sat clutching our small Tiger beers lest someone thought they were spare and took them and watched in awe.

At two minutes to eight there was almost fighting as the final minutes ticked down till 6 staff fought their way out and emptied the fridges and shelves of what little remained. By 8.10 the place was empty and snores could be heard from the nearby rooms.

We went out to some stalls nearby to eat. I will talk more about the food in Penang which is superb on another post, last night 12 satay sticks for £1 followed by 2 huge plates o my favourite Penang food Kway Teow  ( a shrimp, egg, rice noodle and onion dish) for £2 and a large plate of spicy chicken legs for £1.30 filled us to the brim. Beer at the stalls is £3 for a large 660cl bottle so cheaper than K.L.

Here’s how to make Kway Teow

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