A Short Guide to Future Posts, or What Have We Been Doing for the Past Two Months?

I wrote before that we’re just living in KL, but it’s an unrealistic lifestyle even by expat standards. We don’t have jobs, for one things. We’re also on a backpacker budget, which means we go to a restaurant and try to spend under 100 MYR, and when we see the credit card charge in USD, it’s about $20. I would say we’ve really been on vacation. Mike would disagree and say that life has been very stressful for him, but that’s just the way he is. Actually, we’ve been procrastinating, but procrastinating by reading and watching a lot of movies and not writing for public consumption. Next thing we know, we only have a couple of weeks left before our Malaysian visa expires. What have we done besides that? I will attempt to actually finish the following posts over the next 10 days or so. Things we’ve done (in no particular order):

1. Attempted to take advantage of our apartment’s exercise facilities

2. Experienced a triplicate of health problems and experienced Malaysian health care (for foreigners)

3. Ventured into Pudu Wet Market

4. Eaten at highly regarded Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese restaurants

5. Eaten at Koptiams and mamak cafes

6. Eaten at Japanese and Mexican restaurants

7. Explored Plaza Low Yatt and Plaza Imbi for electronics and electronic repair stores

8. Explored Sungei Wang for watch repair stores

9. Taken pictures of kolams set out for Deepavali

10. Discovered that Jalan Alor is better than Jalan Petaling

Sri Weld Food Court: An Afternoon Eatery


Mike and I came across Sri Weld Food Court coming back from the post office, and it became our go to lunch place. Of course, it is not immune to tourists, us included, and all of the benefits that brings (English menus and English speakers), but seemed to serve a lot of office workers on lunch break as well. We didn’t run into any rats or cockroaches at this place, just cats and kittens that will beg from you or paw at leftovers in the dirty dish bins.


The court is only active from 11 to 5 pm, so its nicely shaded. The largest stall is for drinks, and you can get anything from pricy Western food to Taiwanese food to traditional Chinese-Malay food such as Hainnanese chicken, “pao” (baozhi) from a very clean hawker stall, and wonton mee.



The place is famous for its nasi lemak and its soup beef koay teow, if you’re into that.





Broadway Budget Motel: New and Shiny

After we had had enough of the Oriental Hostel’s exposed bathrooms and our noisy neighbors there, we moved across Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling to the Broadway Budget Hotel. We had encountered its sparkling environs our first day walking about Georgetown, but it was 70 MYR a night, and 80 MYR Friday through Sunday, so we waited until Monday to move in.


Unfortunately, we hadn’t booked ahead, so we had to pay 80 MYR for one night in a room with a TV, where we watched too many Harry Potter movies and part of Life of Pi. We would have paid the extra 10 MYR for the weekend, but again, failing to book ahead, they ran out of non-TV rooms. Unwilling to pay 90 MYR a night when when we had to move our stuff anyway. Plus, our original budget per night for housing had been for 60 MYR, so we decided to move on.


Pros: very clean and professional, provides toilet paper, soap, and thick towels, air conditioning, includes window, bathroom, wardrobe with drawer and pole (no hangers), a tiny desk (more of a vanity), plenty of hooks behind the door, each floor has own wifi router, three outlets, one of which is universal. Your room is mopped every day. Rooms also include a Keblat, pointing towards Mecca.

Cons: The hotel has Indian concierges, but bargaining is not allowed. The lobby has benches, a TV, and drinks for sale from a refrigerator, but no tables. The outlets are far from the desk, but near a tiny shelf. There is no elevator, and people smoke in the stairwell. You trade away personality and history for the new, shiny rooms.

Also, depending on the room and the weather, your can see great views.



Eating Famous Street Food

Here is a picture of some wonton mee I had today for lunch, from Sri Weld Food Court:


And here’s a picture of some wonton mee I had today for dinner, from New Lane:


One was from a famous food stand, as promoted by a food brochure, and the other one was not. Both bowls were the large size and cost 4.50 MYR. The one I had for lunch was good. The one I had for dinner had more noodles and larger slices of BBQ pork, and came with a dish of sliced peppers in soy sauce, but before I added the soy sauce, seemed a bit bland.

Ultimately, I have to say the noodles from New Lane were a better deal. They filled me up, something that the wanton mee from lunch needed a nasi lemak to achieve the same level of fullness.



Those are famous nasi lemaks, by the way. One is shrimp (not shelled) and one is dried anchovies with part of a salted egg. They are supposed to be spicier than usual. They’re the only ones I’ve had, so all I can is that they are good. The rice was fragrant and the sambas was spicy and savory.

But in terms of taste, even in terms of quantity, there wasn’t that much of a difference. Maybe my sen se of taste just isn’t refined enough, but both wonton mees tasted good. The famous one from New Lane is not much different from the one from Sri Weld, and probably wouldn’t be that much different from the one from Red Garden or a random stand on Chulia Street. The only thing is that Sri Weld is a lunch time food court, while the rest are evening eateries.

I wanted to go to the New Lane stand to prove my hypothesis, but I also wanted to see New Lane at night. The previous time I had been there it had been pretty dead. Saturday night it was full, and some locals had driven cars to eat there. The air was hazy from the smoke and steam coming from the various vendors.


It’s a bit of a walk to get to New Lane from the UNESCO part of Georgetown (south of the Komtor), but it’s less touristy than Red Garden or Chulia Street. The worst part is crossing Jalan Doktor Lee Chwee Leong. I suggest taking Jalan Penang south and then crossing the overpass.


New Lane is called Lorong Baru in Malay. You’ll know you’re there when you see the sign for Sunway Hotel.


Mike can’t stomach most street food, so he bought the ingredients for PB&Js tonight. We’re going to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, where hopefully the food will be less touristy, as in it won’t swing between really cheap hawker stalls of questionable hygiene to really pricy clean places with 5-star aspirations.

China House: An artsy place for a slow meal, or two


I love serendipitous sightseeing the best. China House was one of these. I saw the business card for it while staying at Temple Tree and carried it with me to Penang. So I did look for it, but it’s not something I could have found on Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet. It’s also across the street from a temple I would have visited, but who has time to stop at every shop/restaurant there is?


Actually, I was apprehensive about going in, and hemmed and hawed a bit before going into the expensive-looking cafe. 12 MYR for a slice of cake? Not when I can get a banana roti for under 3. I even consider the 6 MYR slice of ice cream cake at Jaya too dear. But it’s an interesting space–three houses turned into a mini-mall, if you can call a place that only has eateries and an art gallery a mall.

It’s a nice place to go to to escape the heat midday, and soak up a bit of contemporary artwork and traditional architecture. I have to admit I was more interested in the layout of the space than the artwork on the wall.




There was live music that night, there were burgers on the menu at one of the restaurants, and we had hardly touched any of our daily budget, so I took Mike there for dinner that night. We got there just in time to see the sunset through the ruin of a house next door.


Unfortunately the Courtyard Cafe and Burger Bar was closed, so we ordered from the Canteen & Bar, expecting fancy bar portions (i.e. small).


The 12 MYR fries could have been a meal, but they were oversalted. We still ate most of it to taste the five flavors of dip they came with. They were all good, though these same ginger ones were a little strong. Even the “tomato sauce” wasn’t your average ketchup; it had a mild red wine flavor. Mostly, it was fun to identify the sauce and then judge which one you liked best. I think I liked the red wine vinaigrette one. I may try to replicate it someday. It shouldn’t be too hard–just substitute some vinegar for lemon juice when making mayonnaise.


Mike’s Thai chicken buns were pretty small, though pretty good. They had all the spicy creaminess of green curry, but without the curry. I also liked the mint garnishes. My miso duck quesadillas were a full-sized meal though. It came with papaya and corn guacamole, and I thought they were bullshitting me, because it seemed like corn salsa, but the red sweet stuff was actually papaya. Unusually good.


Of course, between the exorbitant drink prices and the salty fries, we drank a lot of water. Also, besides the occasional sightseer, we had the romantic courtyard to ourselves.





I was feeling spendy, and we hadn’t exceeded our budget yet, so I wanted to try one of Beach St. Bakery’s many pricy desserts.


But we were pretty full after dinner, and what we could hear of the band from the courtyard didn’t seem that enticing, so I dragged Mike upstairs for awhile to look at the art gallery. When he had had enough of that, we went downstairs to order a pot of chamomile tea from Kopi C. Espresso to help us sleep. To counteract that, we got a slice of their three-layer coffee and chocolate cake.


The cake was really good. Dense, but soft and moist. And generously layered with coffee frosting and chocolate chips. It’s a cake that’s meant to be savored. Especially while playing math games on your table overlay.


On that note, China House does have wifi. Mike and I used it to look up what bright thing was next to the crescent moon that night (Saturn). But most adults at the place were actually not on their devices too much, which was nice. In the baker/cafe, if the adults were not talking, the were using he crayons to doodle or play games. This is ironic, because I remember when crayons at restaurant tables were for kids. Most of the kids I saw there were playing video games on iPads or taking pictures. What does that foreshadow about our future society?

The Blue Mansion: An Empty House


It’s official name is the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, but googling blue mansion Penang will bring it up. It’s won all of these awards from UNESCO and Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor, so I guess I was expecting too much. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful and historic mansion, and I’d love to stay at their B & B if we had the budget for it, but the tour wasn’t all I was expecting.


I’ve been to the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, so I was expecting something like that. Mike and I had dallied online, so we went to the last tour of the day at 3 pm. Also, it was a Saturday. There were a lot of people, not to mention two little girls, one of which was Upset before the tour even began. But worse than that were the adults on the tour who who ignored our guide and went about taking pictures of the interior. Even if they didn’t understand the English language tour, do you have to be so loud that the rest of us can’t hear the one tour guide?

Much was made of how the tour guides were trained. Or guide was a pro as far as entertainment goes. She told a lot of jokes, and gave some background on Cheong Fatt Tze’s life, the structure of the house, and Feng Shui. But it wasn’t very thorough. I don’t know how practical it would have been with so many people, but we weren’t shown too many specific things about the great mansion.

We learned about Cheong’s life in China, Indonesia, and Georgetown. How he got rich and bought the land in 1880 and took 8 years to build. The main house has 8 rooms, with a gold and wooden divider screen with symbols for happiness, luck, and money. This took 15 minutes of the hour long tour.


We moved into the courtyard where we got an introduction to feng shui, where letting in shui (rain) through the courtyard represents collecting money. As the water slowly drains away, you can slowly start spending your money.

We were shown A photograph of Cheong’s 7th wife (out of 8). She was 17 when 70 year old Cheong married her, and she was apparently her favorite. Though I found later through wikipedia that Cheong raised 6 sons in his blue mansion, it was his youngest son, by the 7th wife, who inherited the house. Cheong put a clause in his will that the house could not be sold until his son was dead.

The only other things of note were that we were shown the colored bowls from which Chinese opera scene mosaics on the balcony were cut, and were given a demonstration of the yin-yang blinds, which are blinds that lock.


Part the thing was, the house was pretty trashed when it was sold, and the family had taken much of the furniture, so there wash’t much household stuff to show. Whatever was left behind was put into a room without much documentation, along with a donated wedding bed and instruments.

The hour long tour cost 12 MYR each, and I’m not sure I recommend it. In addition to the 15 minutes were spent talking in the downstairs lobby, and the tour ended 15 minutes early, with time for you to wander around and take pictures. So if they let you, just wander around and take pictures. I know, I know, it’s all in good cause. They are renovating one of the wings currently, and that takes money.

The best part of the tour was after the official tour, wandering through the B&B office, another tour guide, or at least mansion employee, saw us looking at some photographs and explained them to us. They were of daughter and daughter in laws, mostly. The widow of Cheong’s youngest son, the one who had to wait until he died to sell the house, was only a teenager when she married him. Mike said she looked bitchy in the photos. We also saw the guest room keys.


I wonder about Cheong. He was dubbed the Rockerfeller of the East, but his penchant for fancy houses reminds me of Hearst and Hearst Castle, whose tours I went on frequently as a child. You see this great house and think it was his pet, but he probably had a dozen others, at least one for each wife/family. Cheong had 8 wives altogether, and many sons and daughters. At least one daughter-in-law was a famous actress. None of them were able to continue Cheong’s businesses. I wonder what happened to them.


Learning through procrastination, or, third world first world problems

Now that I’m traveling instead of working, it seems ironic that I seem as busy as ever, even when Mike and I take a day off to do Internet stuff. I’m probably not. I did get to read several books in the past two weeks, whereas when I work it takes me weeks to get through one. I get to sleep in.

Before you get too envious, back to being busy. I still feel pressure. Pressure to see. Pressure to do. Pressure to document. These are outside activities, which conflict with inside activities. Pressure to document past activities. Pressure to get our things organized. Pressure to compile and upload our wedding photos. (And Mike also does our accounting.) These inside activities in turn conflict with the pressure to go outside and take advantage of the good weather (my weather app has predicted rain every day this week, though so far we’ve only been rained out in the evenings).

Well, even though we did a lot today, and then came back to the hostel and did a good deal or inside/online activity, the inbox is never empty. What’s odd though, is all of the things that don’t even make it into the inbox anymore.

I don’t read the news anymore. I don’t watch Ted Talks or listen to music on YouTube. I hardly touch Pinterest. I’m too absorbed in uploading to Facebook that I browse even less than before. Before, these were my sources of procrastination. Now, I have nothing to procrastinate from. Even though I have stuff to do and feel pressure to do them, I pretty much want to do those things, and hence don’t need distraction from them (except when the Internet is slow. Then I check Pinterest to make sure it’s the App and not just the Internet).

I know, this sounds great, and it is. Despite the inherent uncomfortableness of foreign travel, what with not having ready access to good bathrooms or familiar comfort foods, I am enjoying myself. But at the same time, I miss other aspects of settled life. Like procrastination.

I suppose I should mention that I miss being in school as well. A flood of education pins have been showing up on Pinterest as the rest of the world starts the school year. I pinned a lot, but looked at hardly any in any greater depth. Usually I would, but no matter how enticing it is to learn about new ways to teach reading comprehension, it’s never as enticing as when you have 24 papers to grade.

So I learned a lot through the Internet when I had a life that was conducive to procrastination. We can get a lot of stuff done when we’re supposed to be doing other things. I still learn things by walking through Georgetown and reading the plaques posted everywhere too. But I’m not learning the same kinds of things. Here I’m learning about history, art, and cuisine, with some foreign language thrown in (I guess I’m also finally learning how certain social media platforms work), whereas before I used to learn about reading, writing, psychology, social science, ideas–whatever my wiki walks led to.

So, yeah . . . This was supposed to be about how procrastination educates you, but I guess it’s ultimately about how even though I’m wandering through a hotbed of culture too quickly to process, I still miss browsing the Internet.

Daily Meander: Faulty maps and Chinese things

Due to inadequate maps, from google and the many, incomplete and sometimes inaccurate tourist maps Mike and I have, while we will try to set out in a general direction, we’re probably going to spend a lot of time wandering Georgetown. This isn’t a bad thing, since history is everywhere in Georgetown. For every documented restaurant, shop, or historical building, there are two down the street and three around the corner.

Anyway, here’s a brief recap of the day, after a late start and a late breakfast at Jaya:


Saw this street art, commissioned by the city, and made it a mission to read and document any we came across today. The one above is about Chinese amahs.


Got to this fountain and the Victoria Clocktower, and then failed to find the post office, as indicated on the map provided by our hostel.


Saw this crowd of people. Mike said it was an immigration building.


Saw this crow trap near the post office truck. The crows seemed quite upset, so maybe they had just fallen in. After some investigation, we saw that they was no way opening large enough to fly or walk out of, but there was an opening at the top of the middle dip of the cage from which they could hop in to get the bread. Once in though, they would be too low to hop out and the opening is too small for them to fly out. I would say it’s a way to trap and kill crows, but the tub of water in the corner indicates someone wants the crows to live. Maybe we’ll visit this again later. Also, apparently I am more interested the the plight of crows than people outside an immigration office. But I guess the crows seem more helpless. Also, they made more noise.


Finally found the post office south of Downing Street, not north of it, and mailed off two more thank you notes. 2 MYR to the U.S., but only 1.4 MYR to Taiwan, if anyone wants to know. Also notice the Western Union.


I was pretty hungry by then, and saw and smelled Subway. Is it cheating to eat at Subway when they have their local special? We still decided against it though, because it was too pricy.



In the end, we found Sri Weld Food Court, at the end of Lebuh Bishop on Lebuh Pantai, which I suspect will become a lunch staple. We just got drinks though (notice the comparably cheap beer). I didn’t feel like eating anything too spicy, and most of the shops were cleaning up (it was around 4 pm). Mike and I saw how thoroughly a steamer was cleaned and decided that it was definitely safe to eat the baozhi/pao there. I’ not sure why they were packing up. Maybe a different set of vendors set up for dinner.

We also found Little India, after failing to find it on Wednesday, due to same map. Mike calls it the Disneyland of India, considering there are no limbless beggars. It’s filled with sari and jewelry shops, Indian restaurants and hawker stalls, the sound of music, and the smell of incense. The map puts it north of Lebuh Cina, but it’s mainly on Lebuh Pasar. I didn’t take any pictures, but it is, coincidentally enough, behind the famous Hindu Mahamariamman Temple:


Right across Lebuh Chulia we saw the Teochew Temple, another pseudo-destination. It’s the cleanest Chinese temple Mike and I have ever been to. No ash darkens its ceilings.


We tried to press onward, to some other art galleries I wanted to visit, though it was getting late and starting to sprinkle, but someone started burning plastic, and the smoke was pretty thick downwind. On our way back to the hostel, we saw this sign:


and decided to stop. Considering all I had had that day was a banana roti, milk tea, and some almond milk, I was pretty hungry. Yeap Noodle seems like a fairly famous family-run noodle shop, and reasonably priced. I found my dumpling soup noodles surprisingly flavorful. Mike found his fried noodles surprisingly bland, but the was soy sauce on the table. Juices were only 1.8 MYR, when they are usually 3 at other places, so I think this place may become a staple as well.

I guess I miss soup noodles in general, but Chinese food in particular. I haven’t for awhile, not in Taiwan and not in the U.S., where I ironically ate a lot of Southeast Asian food.

Muntri House and Muntri Mews: historical cousins


I booked Muntri House for the heritage. The pictures online were gorgeous, and they did not lie.


After a smooth ferry ride from Langkawi to Georgetown, I made the mistake of taking a cab that charged us 20 MYR to take us a mile to our hostel, but hey, I was tired and carrying a heavy backpack, and hadn’t looked up where the hostel was in relation to the ferry dock. Also, the guy spoke Chinese. I don’t know why that should matter.

The staff at Muntri House were very accommodating. A guy came up to help us with our bags as soon as the cab pulled up, and the old man of the family explained to Mike that it was going to rain, while Mike and I debated whether the small, swooping winged things were bats or swallows (swallows).

Because the old man’s English was limited, because Mike is obviously White, and because I wasn’t sure if they could understand Mandarin, I spoke English to the young man of the family. He checked us in and took me to see the room. Tis included a journey up the stairs, where shoes were not allowed, though they adorn the wall along the stairs.


The room, like AB Motel, was windowless and modest in size. The walls were thin and the door was difficult to open and close. It lacked the attached bathroom, refrigerator, and powerstrip of our room at AB Motel. But it was clean and well decorated and I felt more at home in it immediately. Mike liked it too.


And that was before we discovered that the Internet actually worked and was accessible from our own room. Of course, our noisy neighbors and having to go down the hall to use the shared bathroom dampened our comfort somewhat. Especially since leaving our shoes downstairs made it difficult to shower with shoes and one or both sinks were take up by those doing laundry.

The Muntri House is very well maintained. Someone was always sweeping or wiping in the lobby, which featured tables for breakfast and socializing in general, as well as a fountain, fish, and a caged bird.



A tour came by at one point to show off the house, sometimes referred to the Heritage House.


The surrounding shophouses seem just as historical though, and the sidewalks of Jalan Muntri are paved with beautiful tile.




The real appeal of the place are the shared spaces, sans the bathroom. I went around just taking pictures. The old man seemed proud, asking me if the house was, “Beautiful?”





It sure is. Too bad they were all booked up with Chinese tourists and we had to move the next day.

It was late by the time we went out to search for dinner, and it did, indeed start to rain, so we walked I across the street to Muntri Mews Cafe. There’s no relation, besides being on and taking the name of the street. Food was pricier than we were used to, about 20 MYR a dish, but neither of us had had a proper lunch, so we splurged on pricy drinks as well.


Notice the napkin? Muntri Mews is 馬車房 (mǎ chē fáng), or literally “horse car room,” a stable or garage, I guess. I thought Muntri might just be the phonetic translation of mǎ chē, or the Cantonese equivalent, but it is actually someone’s name. So I guess mǎ chē fáng means mews. The road certainly seems to be filled with Chinese history.

I finally tried beehun soup, and didn’t like it any better than I usually liked vermicelli, though the soup was nice.


Mike got Nasi goring, forgetting it was fried rice, but his dish turned out to have lots of extra goodies.


Well, traveling wears out of willpower because of all the decisions we have to make, so I think we can be excused. Besides, the atmosphere was nice.


W & O Cafe, Oriental Hostel: the grandfather of backpacker hostels

Look at all that natural light. After our crepuscular rooms at the AB Motel and even Muntri House, it should do a lot of good towards resetting our circadian clocks. If only I hadn’t stayed up until nearly 4 am last night, until the dawn light was filtering in.

We moved from Muntri House down the block to the Oriental Hostel yesterday. It is not on booking.com, though it seems to be associated with Star Lodge, which is on Tripadvisor. It was also obscured by its cafe, the Western and Oriental, a clever play on the famous Eastern and Oriental Hotel (it was such that, when I googled the Western and Oriental to see if they had an attached hostel, google autocorrected for the Eastern and Oriental instead). But there is, indeed, a hostel attached to the cafe, and it seems just as historical as Muntri House, if less decorated.


Of course, to see what period the house was built, I’ll have to check the facade, like so:


It’s also cheaper (50 MYR/night), but that is because there is no air conditioning. Hostels do seem a bit more expensive here. It’s difficult to find one with an attached bathroom, much less a refrigerator, but all hostels an arrange for bus tickets and phone cards for you, though possibly at an inflated price. The W & O cafe is pretty pricy, relatively speaking. The only thing that is a good deal is the beer. It’s the cheapest Mike’s found so far (6 MYR), though still much more expensive than in duty-free Langkawi.

The manager told Mike the reason the beer is cheaper than at other places is that they smuggled it from duty-free Langkawi. He’s friendly and speaks good English. A lot of the boarders at the Oriental, he claims, are regulars who design websites (hence reliable wifi and desktop computers available for 2 MYR an hour) and/or are doing visa runs. In any case, there are more Western expatriates than mainland Chinese tourists. I guess that explains why they don’t feel they need to have an online presence. Also, why he has available rooms when booking.com says it’s busy in Georgetown. Also, why he let us have a triple room for the price of a double. Also, why he offers a lower rate if you stay a whole month.

It’s tempting.

Edit, Sept. 9th:

We left the Oriental hostel today. Our fellow guests were a bit too loud and the bathrooms were a bit inconvenient. Also, we’d been there nearly a week, so I didn’t mind moving so much. I liked Muntri Street, but I think it’s time to explore more of the other side of Pitt Street, even if it’s only half a mile away.

Pros: (you) can be loud, it has history (before there were hostels, in the 60s, hippies would cMp out on the floor for 50 cents), The manager is friendly and informative, the maid works hard, there is cheap beer, there is a nice common room/cafe (though besides the beer, I wouldn’t recommend anything), and things are flexible. That was the kicker. I don’t know if we would have stayed so long if hadn’t been upgraded to a triple and had to stay in an actual double.


Cons: (other guests) can be loud, including sitar and didgeridoo players, only one shower, open roof bathroom, and otherwise in need of maintenance


But I’d like to end on an optimistic note. I guess the hostel, which has been a hostel since before there were hostels, is like a creaky grandfather, set in his ways. But he has personality.