Saturday, March 31, 2012

Penang 2011 - E&O Hotel

The E&O Hotel in Penang has the same storied history as Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Both are important social institutions in the Colonial hey days, and they have played host to some of the most eminent dignitaries and celebrities of the era.Douglas Fairbanks, Rubyard Kipling, Sun Yat-Sen and Somerset Maugham are just some of the famous personalities who have stayed at the E&O.

In those days, most locals probably couldn't even set foot on the front lawn. It is great that today anybody can walk straight into the lobbies without a second glance from the uniformed doormen who still stand duty at the main entrance.

A stroll along the seafront at E&O is both nostalgic and romantic.

The owners of both the Raffles Hotel and E&O Penang have felt compelled to capitalize on the fame and heritage of their properties by building large extensions to the original buildings, and I feel that the huge extensions have not done the original buildings much favour. In E&O, the only original part left is probably the entrance wing and the lobby.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Penang 2011 - George Town White Coffee

In recent years quite a number of cafe chains have cropped up throughout the country capitalizing on Malaysians' love for street food and instant service. One of the most successful is Old Town White Coffee and it is a formula that has been copied all over. At first glance this George Town White Coffee outlet at Komtar Walk looked exactly like an Old Town outlet - even the lettering and colour scheme looked the same. But this is the Penang version - not the Ipoh version.

The interior is very nicely done and it looked like a pleasant enough place for a light dinner. We ordered some of the Penang staples to try.

First came the Assam Laksa. You could see from the presentation that it was made without much care - and the taste confirmed it.

Next came the Loh Bak. Again it looked like a distant cousin of the real thing - and tasted worst.

The "Ju Hoo Eng Chai" sauce was just salty.

The Prawn Noodle fared a bit better, but still paled in comparison to most of the road side stalls.

It is a pity that they could not produce food of the same quality as the decor. Otherwise they would have a winning formula in their hands.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Penang 2011 - Lone Pine Hotel

Lone Pine Hotel was apparently the 1st proper hotel in Batu Ferringhi, so it has an interesting history. It has been taken over by the Eastern and Oriental Group, and now converted into another modern and stylish resort. They have retained the original bungalow style accommodation near the beachfront, and inserted a new five-storey long block for the new rooms. The design is quite minimalist and like many recent resorts - dabble in some eco-sustainable themes. Here I am glad to say that these are quite well integrated into the overall design concept.

The minimalist design combined with lush landscaping creates a modern yet cosy atmosphere.

The nice swimming pool.

The older wings facing the beach.

The resort has direct access to Batu Ferringhi Beach.

The design lends itself really well to the beautiful location with its mature casuarina trees lining the beachfront. A nice beach, beautiful trees against chic whitewashed buildings - what more can you ask for.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Penang 2011 - Chew Jetty

Being an island, it was natural that many of the early Chinese settlers in Penang were fishermen. They built their homes on stilts along the shores of the island, and for community and safety reasons those who came from the same areas in China tend to settle together. These became what is commonly known today as the "Clan Jetties".

There are eight of these jetties along Weld Quay in George Town. The largest and most well preserved of these is the Chew Jetty. The residents are descendants from the Xin Lin She Village of Fujian Province. It is not a museum, but an actual living community that is still growing and changing. You can still see new houses being built, and their resourcefulness is evident in the way they built the foundation for the buildings - bascially using just plastic buckets as permanent formworks for the concrete footings.

The temple that protects the residents right at the entrance to the jetty.

Entering into a different realm.

New houses are still being built - with very simple but effective foundations.

A visit to one of the Clan jetties is a must as this is a glimpse into the history and culture of the Chinese immigrants of Penang. It is also very picturesque and full of photographic opportunities. Early morning or late afternoon would be the best time to visit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Penang 2011 - Snack at Famous Penang Road Teochew Chendol

It is good to see that some of the Penang street food stalwarts have outgrown their origins and moved on to bigger things. If they are able to maintain the same food quality and taste, they should do very well. Not every one likes to enjoy their favourite snack under the hot sun - especially if you have a few kids in tow.

While wondering around Penang Road, we came across a new semi-open air food court in front of Komtar. A big sign on top of one of the shops annouced proudly "Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol". It being a very hot day and we were looking to rest our feet for a while, we dicided to go in for a snack. It turned out that besides chedol and other iced desserts, they also served food. So beside ordering the iced chendol, we ordered the Assam Laksa as well.

The Chendol was just OK. It did not have a rich enough Gula Melaka (palm sugar) taste that we like. The chendol was also more of the soft and soggy type which is not our usual preference. I think our own Kuching chendol can easily give it a run for its money.

The kids had the Ice Kacang with 2 large scoops of ice cream which they were slurping up with relish.

The big surprise was the Assam Laksa. It was really good and one of the best we tried on the trip.

We wanted to go back for a second helping of the Assam Laksa but unfortunately time did not permit. You must give it a try if you are in Penang.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Penang 2011 - Yeng Keng Hotel

Yend Keng Hotel is another stylish boutique hotel that has opened recently. It is located along Lebuh Chulia - right inside the core conservation zone. So it was surprising that they managed to make so many changes to the original buildings in the redevelopment. Maybe the buildings were already too dilapidated to be saved.

What is interesting about Yeng Keng is the Impressive Entrance Archway from the street. There is a forecourt before the main building. On the left of the forecourt is the in-house restaurant, and the left of the main door is a lobby. Everything was quite cleverly laid out to get maximum exposure.

Past the main lobby - the rooms are all in a 2-storey block. This part of the building looked like is was completely new.

On the side of the new accommodation block there was a small swimming pool. Sandwiched between buildings - it nevertheless looked very cozy and pleasant.

Yeng Kang Hotel looks like a really nice place to stay. Located right within the heritage zone - it would also be a great base from which to explore the historical centre of Penang.