Horse Still Galloping

Chinese New Year ( for the year of the horse) has always been well celebrated in Penang. Long before the central government started moving Malaysians and muslims to the island to  “balance” the population it seemed to go on and on and whatever “balancing” has done the holiday has now extended to 15 days in length, so two more days left.

We can expect plenty of firework displays tonight and tomorrow and the big event today is when unmarried guys go to the Esplanade to throw an orange into the water that apparently will mean this year they will meet and marry a girl.

Co-incidentally  this festival happens on St. Valentine’s Day which is also celebrated here  though certainly not in the way it has gone in the West where restaurants are booked months in advance and prices jump .

It amazed me when living in India how so many holidays were “adopted” and taken even though the Christian element in India in percentage terms is so small. An Indian civil servant ( they take all the holidays) works just 136 days a year. It seems Malaysia is the same

More and more Malaysian women are now wearing the burka rather than just the traditional headscarf. Indeed the government is keen that restaurants and hotels provide separate eating areas for women so they can take the face mask off and eat normally out of view of men. No such niceties as yet here at the old Copthorne. At breakfast the veil has to be discretely lifted and a morsel popped in before any male can get a look .

Not a wildly romantic dinner then for St. Valentine celebrations . Mind you if this separate area comes into being then it will be even less romantic won’t it. “You pop over there darling and enjoy your meal , I’m off to watch TV with the boys over there see you back at the car. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day ”

What seems very unfair at the hotel is the Malaysian guy in swim shorts and loose t shirt in the heat while his girlfriend or wife is fully dressed and then covered with a black heat absorbing  burka and then asked to walk down the beach with him with the sun beating down

All these black burkas always remind me of the old joke about the guy who runs into the pub and asks the landlord how tall are penguins. About this high says the landlord. Oh christ I must have knocked down a nun.

We are in separate part of the hotel to most of the guests, kept in the main for long stay types like us.

Cliff Rooms Copthorne

six floors with seven rooms on each floor and overlooking the small beach

Little Beach Copthorne

The annexe also boasts a small garden with a few bed chairs and umbrellas and over the weekend we take refuge there. The old Copthorne discounts like crazy at weekends to encourage occupancy from the local populus in Kuala Lumpur. They also turn a blind eye to numbers in the room so it is not unusual for eight people to be bedded down . Most are kids and the noise from the children’s pool is unbelievable. The garden area is an haven from the din. What makes Malay children so badly behaved I wonder. Unbelievably parents will often bring their three or four kids down to kiddies pool and leave them there while they go back to the room to watch telly. Maybe that is why they are badly behaved now I think about it, no parental guidance at all.

Very kindly once a week the garden gets sprayed to stop mossies and bugs . They were doing it last night and have a look at the machine they use

Mossie Killer

I tell you what it reminds me of

I don’t think I shall bother with the orange throwing this year. By chance I saw it 3 years ago and it really is a bit of a mob scene to be honest.

I was at the Esplanade the other day when trotting around the colonial piles. Just away from the sea is the large grass area where in Colonial days the British played cricket

leather on Willow Penang

As I walked over it, the area where the old pavilion was is still visible and I’m sure I could here in the wind cries of “hows that” and ” jolly good shot old boy” .

Tonight rather than cricket balls the locals will be bowling oranges.

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Old Age

I picked up my newspaper this morning and read it’s contents over a cup of tea before setting off up Pearl Hill. Pearl Hill is 500 feet above Tanjung Bunga beach and the dear old Copthorne pile It used to called Mount Davina after the wife of Stamford Raffles but it got changed. I walk it most mornings along with about 30 Chinese locals who get exercise while wallking up to the Chinese temple perched atop the hill. I will take the camera up one morning and get you some shots. The views are tremendous and there are still plenty of monkeys up there too.

However I walked with a certain spring in my step this morning not because it was a pleasant fresh morning which it was but because of what I had read in the paper.

Now those of you with working kids will love this article headed five tips on” Planning for your Parents” and you will all want to either be Chinese or hope that China invades the world fast.

Planning for your parents is all about planning for their old age and there are five key actions to be taken . (Brilliant)

1) Start talking about it early and make plans early. Your parents won’t want to talk about it ( rubbish I would love to !!) so you need to get things out into the open. Get them over their embarrassment about getting old.

2) First thing the children must do once the subject is broached is invest in a good medical insurance plan for their parents. ( Oh, I love it yes, yes)

3)Plan for the worst, your parents might be healthy now but be prepared for the worst case scenario . Children must plan to save enough money in case their parents develop a serious illness to cover all their parents extra costs not included in the insurance package.

4) ( now your going to love this one!!) Plan for the Best ( oh the joy) Children should not plan just for their parents to have a roof over their heads in old age  and an income just to get by on. Your parents will need hobbies and want to enjoy holidays as well. This should be borne in mind when putting money aside. ( Ah, that Queen Mary 2 world cruise is looking good )

5) Make your plans their plans. If children are thinking of buying a house make sure it is big enough to house your parents one day. Buying medical ? include you parents on the scheme early. Joining a club ? invite your parents to join on your membership.

No wonder I sprinted up the hill laughing and no wonder all the elderly Chinese I walked behind or passed coming down had a rather contented look on their faces.

Curry night tonight across the road at the Passage Though India. There are plenty of Indian residents on the island in fact far more than I remember 3 years ago. Maybe immigration has turned a blind eye or indeed encouraged them in as they do much of the more menial tasks that neither the Malays nor the Chinese want to do . Indeed the Chinese can’t as they are busy doing the five points above and need to be making lots and lots of cash

the British first bought Tamals from southern India to the country to work on the plantations so the idea is not new. In George Town there is an entire area called

Little India George Town

and it really is just like being in Madras

Sarees George Town

the colours the spice smell and the sarees are so different to the rest of George Town. Every other shop is belting out the latest Bollywood song and has copies of the newest block buster Bollywood movie on a pirated DVD.

Indian Shop George Town

After 3 years of working  in India and travelling around the entire country I love curry and as Passage Though India is brand new let’s hope it is good. It will however probably be dry as not only the muslim Indians but good Hindus do not drink alcohol . However the Sikhs most certainly do.

Up in the Punjab one time when travelling to do a presentation with the Punjab agent we stopped for lunch a small place on the road to Jalandhar . After an excellent lunch of lamb roasted in a tandor oven and eaten sitting on the floor at a low table using your fingers, we were invited to join a fairly raucous group of guys at a table nearby. They had their second bottle of scotch on the table and were busy working their way through it whilst the first now empty lay on the floor. I stayed on beer but spent an entertaining two hours chatting until one of them staggered to his feet and announced he had to go to work. He was on in the theatre in 20 minutes he said. An actor ? I asked one of his companions at the table after he had gone. No a surgeon at the local hospital down the road, he replied. ( The indians like the british call the O.R. a theatre ).

I told our driver to drive very carefully for the next 2 hours. I didn’t want to end up in a crash and be carried back to that hospital.

By the way ” all Sikhs are called Singh but not all Singhs are Sikhs ” Useful to know that isn’t it.