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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Tanjung Bungah

Which means flower cape is home to the Copthorne Orchid Hotel where we are to lay our weary heads for a month. Let me be clear, it has seen better days, much better days indeed in the 1980’s it must have been quite a classy joint but now it is most certainly in the sunset of it’s career as an hotel. Quite how the maintenance staff keep the whole thing going is one of those marvels of the world. Nothing has been done to the place since it opened in 1979.

Still it is amazingly cheap for a long stay. The deal is room and breakfast for £32 ( $50 ) a night plus 20%off food and 10% off drinks and laundry. The room is huge

Room 503 Copthorne Tanjung Bungha

plenty of seating area and two double beds. The bathroom is a wonder of old style plumbing and a team of plumbers somehow keep things kind of working though the odd flood does occur.

The balcony view from these long stay terrace rooms set well away from the rest of the hotel is superb

View Balcony Copthorne

Nice to wake up to every morning and with the large patio door slightly open at night you sleep to the sound of the waves breaking on the small beach alongside

Beach Copthorne

Swimming in Penang is not for the feint of heart. You have to be very brave or maybe very foolish. There are thousands of jelly fish waiting to sting you, loads of sea snakes waiting to bite you or plenty of catfish lying in the shallows which if you stand on one will push three or four barbs up through your foot. Still the old Copthorne has a big swimming pool

The Big Pool Copthorne

a few lengths of that and you know you’ve had a swim.

Opposite the hotel is an hawkers food market with loads of different food sellers. The great news is that the price of large bottle of beer ( 660cl) there is 13.5 ringits so we have come down from the hawker stalls in K. L. at 20 ringits to 15 ringits in George Town and now a more manageable price here . It is in fact about £2.15 a pint in UK money which is 70 pence more than we pay in Puglia. The food is cheaper than George Town too with a set  (10 pieces ) of satay at 7 ringits ( £1.30) and two huge bowls of noodles and chicken for 6 ringits.

I am sitting writing this on the balcony and the Lankawi ferry is just going pastLankawi Ferry from Balcony

At night as you enjoy a well deserved night cap the cruise ships sail out of George Town and light up the horizon as they file past and stop to drop the pilot just outside the window it seems.

I am drinking a cup of tea with leaves from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands . In the old days the British Tea plantation owners would come to Penang for R&R away from their secluded lives up on the plantation. P&O my old company sailed ships in to Penang from Britain and often the tea planters would go out to the ships  and visit them. One tea planter was well known by the officers and a heavy drinker to boot. He would often keep drinking and the officer of the watch would drop him with the pilot onto the pilot boat.

One year he was due his 1 years leave back in Blighty so joined the ship put his bags in his cabin  and started drinking heavily in various officer’s cabins and on deck. The officer of the watch unaware he was a passenger ensured he was dropped with the pilot as always and the poor guy awoke the next morning in the pilot’s office while his ship and bags were on their way to Blighty.