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All about Penang & more

Penang today is very much an amalgam of the old and the new – a bustling port, a heritage city and an industrial base. Perhaps it has more to offer per square mile than any other place in the world. For sheer variety of locales, cultures and foods, Penang is hard to beat. Here are stories about Penang and more.

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Penang

Nine Emperor Gods Festival © Adrian Cheah

How far would you go to uphold your beliefs? Would you undergo a strict vegetarian diet for nine straight days? Would you walk on fire barefooted or pierce a long spear through your cheeks? Or are you an armchair devotee who would prefer to remain in your comfort zone and observe events from afar? Does the younger generation know what this festival is all about and how many would stop to find out more?

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A memorable 9-course vegetarian dinner at Happy Realm

Happy Realm © Adrian Cheah

Being a food paradise, Penang offers many avenues for full-fledged vegetarians to obtain scrumptious meals. From Indian vegetarian restaurants to Chinese outlets, there is a wider range of food available. During the Jade Emperor Festival (first to the ninth of the ninth month of the lunar calendar), more stalls mushroom all over Penang selling vegetarian delights from rice dishes to stir-fried noodles and from Chinese cakes to Italian pizzas. Furthermore with the creation of faux meats, some dishes are unbelievably "uncanny".

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Coconut water – the perfect tonic for the tropics

Coconut © Adrian Cheah

On our way back from Pantai Kerachut one scorching afternoon, my friends and I were contemplating what to order to quench our thirst after an exhausting hike, aside from the obvious choices of carbonated drinks. After some deliberation, we decided to go with one of nature's wonders – fresh coconut water that is easily available in Penang. Thus, from the exit of the national park in Teluk Bahang, we made haste to the nearest nondescript roadside stall offering just that.

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Comforting ark bak (duck meat) koay teow th'ng

koay teow th'ng © Adrian Cheah

Loh Kei Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng is located at the side wing of the State Chinese (Penang) Association's (SCPA) in Perak Road. The other wing is occupied by Ang Hoay Loh Restaurant.

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Dozo – Japanese avant-garde cuisine arrives at the isle of Penang

Dozo, Penang © Adrian Cheah

You can now add Dozo to your list of Japanases restaurants to dine in Penang. It opened its doors on 1 August 2020 serving fine Japanese cuisine with an avant-garde flair.

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Mouth-watering 3-course set meals at Lumiére Restaurant

Lumiére Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

Lumiére Restaurant is a cozy, passion-led, innovative dining establishment in the heart of George Town (on the same street as the famous Teochew cendol stall off Penang Road). Led by a husband and wife team, Chef Jackson Yee and general manager Eunice, the restaurant focuses on quality ingredients, fresh flavours and eye-arresting presentations.

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Tow Boo Kong Temple – an epic edifice where gods descend on Earth

Tow Boo Kong Temple © Adrian Cheah

This is the most famous place of worship in Raja Uda, and indeed in the whole of Seberang Perai. The intricately designed Tow Boo Kong Temple sited on the northern end of Jalan Raja Uda was built in honour of the Nine Emperor Gods.

Originally set up as just an attap-shed shrine in the early 1970s, the temple was rebuilt to its current scale and grandeur in 2000. The majestic archway was completed in 2009.

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Springy Nyonya Kuih Talam

Kuih Talam © Adrian Cheah

Kuih Talam, a classic Nyonya cake, is still popular in Penang today. Its two signature colours are green and white. The sweetened green base layer is perfumed with pandan (screw pine) juice while the top white layer has a "lemak" (rich) indulgence of santan (coconut milk) that is mildly salty. It is dangerously addictive and a slice is never enough. Maybe that is why nowadays, Kuih Talam is cut and packed in two or three pieces. I also notice that the pieces are much smaller than what they used to be when I was growing up.

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The upside-down tree – Penang's very own Baobab

Penang's Baobab tree © Adrian Cheah

According to African legend, the Baobab wanted to become the most beautiful tree of all. When it realised that this was not possible, it put its head into the ground, so only the roots pointed heavenward. Another legend holds that when the Baobab was planted by God, it kept walking, so God pulled it up and replanted it upside down to stop it from moving.

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Hachiban Izakaya, more than just a typical Japanese pub

Hachiban Izakaya © Adrian Cheah

Located at Jalan Kelawai, Hachiban Izakaya serves more than just sake and pub grub. "Hachiban" means "No. 8" and "Izakaya" stands for a casual venue to chill out after work for drinks, similar to that of an Irish pub or a Spanish tapas bar.

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A sumptuous dinner at Kaze Japanese Restaurant, Penang

Kaze Japanese Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

Dining out to celebrate Mother's Day on 9 May 2021, the eve of the third Movement Control Order (MCO) in Penang, was more than a chanced opportunity. The MCO was later announced to have been extended to the entire country stretching till 7 June 2021. It has been a while since my family and I visited a restaurant in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. We felt it necessary to be rather safe than sorry. However on Mother's Day, although filled with trepidation, we went to Kaze Japanese Restaurant at Promenade for dinner.

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George Town World Heritage Site: The story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang

By Mark Thompson and Karl Steinberg with photographs by Adrian Cheah

George Town World Heritage Site: The story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang

Walk between two of George Town’s most famous landmarks with this illustrated guide. Discover the story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang and explore some of the community’s fascinating characters, customs, architecture and events.

For as long as it has existed, George Town in Penang has attracted travellers and settlers from across the globe and is a true confluence of cultures. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to enchant visitors with its traditional charm and its well-preserved historical townscape.

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