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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.

An unforgettable birthday bliss – indulging in avant-garde dishes at Maple Palace Chinese Restaurant

Maple Palace Chinese Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

When choosing a venue for her birthday celebration, my daughter Jean immediately suggested Maple Palace and it is easy to understand why. Located in the heart of George Town, Maple Palace Chinese Restaurant goes beyond traditional boundaries, offering avant-garde dishes that redefine Chinese cuisine in terms of both flavour and presentation. Under the guidance of owner Loy Tan and his skilled chefs, the restaurant's innovative techniques and use of authentic ingredients create an unforgettable and mouth-watering dining experience that leaves a lasting impression.

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The Sari: Queen of garments

sari © Adrian Cheah

The amazingly versatile sari (or saree) transcends mere fabric – it embodies the rich heritage of traditional South Asia women (and a few men) in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It is also a garment that covers all, yet is revealing, enchanting yet unassuming, serene yet sensuous. The sari, with its six yards or more of artistry, is a masterpiece of contradictions, seamlessly transitioning from workwear to leisure attire to a symbol of opulence, all within its elegant drapes.

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Wayla Kin Authentic Thai & Western Cuisine – a hidden gem in Penang

Wayla Kin © Adrian Cheah

Wayla Kin Authentic Thai & Western Cuisine is situated in the Old Frees Association building along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Here, the tantalising aromas of Thai cuisine beckon you to savour the likes of tom yum seafood, coconut crab curry, Thai green curry, fried sea bass with fish sauce (pla tod nam pla) and stir-fried glass noodles with acacia and prawns, just to name a few. It was my good friend Audrey Lim who introduced me to this hidden gem and ever since, it has held its place as one of my cherished Thai dining destinations in Penang.

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Penang Confidential – A Fascinating Glimpse into a Bygone Penang

Author: Mike Gibby
Cover design and layout by Adrian Cheah

Penang Confidential

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Mike Gibby, the author of "Penang Confidential", on three of his previous books. Each time, I have been impressed by his dedication to meticulous research and his passion for bringing his books to life. However, "Penang Confidential" stands out as a particularly exceptional and thorough work that exemplifies Mike's constant dedication to penning a gripping narrative.

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Exploring Mexican flavours at Holy Guacamole

Holy Guacamole © Adrian Cheah

Worldwide, very few cuisines can boast of a longer culinary lineage than Mexican food. Some believe it dates back as far back as 9,000 years to 7000 BC, beginning with its presence in indigenous communities such as the Mayans and other Mesoamerican civilisations. Throughout millennia of refinement and influences from various sources, including indigenous cultures and the Spanish colonisation, Mexican's rich food culture is today loved and enjoyed by millions all over the world. Incidentally, Mexico is also among the very few countries worldwide to have its cuisine being listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant – the friendly gastropub at Straits Quay, Penang

Healy Mac’s © Adrian Cheah

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant has a winning formula with a successful chain of gastropubs in Malaysia (one in Penang, one in Ipoh and four in Kuala Lumpur), Indonesia, Spain and Ireland. Having to do more than the luck of the Irish, it is hard graft, dedication and desire for constant improvement that the owner Liam Healy and his team have managed to establish an authentic Irish identity for his gastropubs since 2009.

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Deepavali – Celebrating the Light

Deepavali  © Adrian Cheah

Squatting at a corner of King Street amid the human bustle of Penang's Little India, Manickam P. sorts through a giant pile of fresh green banana leaves.

Clad in baggy khaki shorts and a sweat-soaked singlet, he seems to take no notice of either the automobiles that incessantly purr past or the hundreds of human apparitions that mill by him. The elderly odd-job worker certainly has his work cut out for him nowadays.

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The elegant Nyonya kebaya – wearable art that knows no seasons

kebays © Adrian Cheah

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is an oft-quoted maxim about the importance of adapting oneself. Whether or not this bit of wisdom was known to the early Chinese immigrants to Malaysia, some of them eventually married the local folk and adopted Malay customs while remaining quintessentially Chinese in belief and philosophy. The result of this union was the Chinese Peranakan (more commonly known as Babas and Nyonyas), a unique cultural hybrid with a cosmopolitan persona that flourished for centuries throughout Malaysia.

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A Balinese Feast of Tradition and Taste at Nona Bali

Nona Bali © Adrian Cheah

Bali, an island province of Indonesia, lies at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, nestled between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. This picturesque island is famed for its vibrant culture, rich tradition of art and spirituality, intricate architectural structures, breathtaking rice terraces, pristine sandy beaches and its delicious cuisine.

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Monsoon Poems

Author: Yin
Cover design and layout by Adrian Cheah

Monsoon Poems © Adrian Cheah

I had to lay out 45 poems within a 104-page book for a good friend, who pens under the pseudonym Yin. When I first received the draft, I could not put it down. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, stirring up a well of emotions. As I laid the last page down, I could only marvel at the depth of love Yin had for this late wife. I quickly grabbed my phone and congratulated him on an amazing book. I also told him that I would consider myself extremely lucky if I could love my wife as much as he loved his.

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The Han Jiang Ancestral Temple of the Penang Teochew Association – linking past and present

Teochew Temple © Adrian Cheah

You cannot miss the building. Nestled among rows of old Indian Muslim carpet stores, jewellers and eateries, the ancestral temple of the Teochew Chinese stands out with its pronounced Chinese architecture and imposing doors featuring twin larger-than-life Chinese warriors in full regalia. This silent and formidable pair with their red faces and weapons, frightening to foes yet welcoming to members and visitors, have been standing guard to the temple's peaceful interior for more than a century. Their presence recalls to mind a rather popular Chinese tercet: "Like the spring rain to a lotus blossom, thou art welcome; come, rest within".

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A mouth-watering paella set lunch at Hola by Javu

Hola by Javu © Adrian Cheah

Hola by Javu established in November 2021 is a tapas bistro located at Tanjung Point, a stone's throw from the Chinese Swimming Club. The elegant spacious interior overlooking the tranquil beachfront of Tanjung Tokong is ideal for one to enjoy some Spanish treats. On a visit, my daughter and I shared the scrumptious paella set lunch, a true value for money priced at only RM59 nett (available only on weekdays from 11 am – 5 pm).

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