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Cheng Beng - the Festival of the Tombs

Cheng Beng © Adrian Cheah

History

The history and practice of Chinese religious and cultural festivals go back a long way, some even beyond the span of written history.

Over the years, the traditions associated with these festivals are handed down from generation to generation within communities, with very little changes introduced. The only difference found in a festival celebrated in two different countries would be cultural ones.

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PIA St. Patrick's Festival 2020 at Straits Quay, Penang

PIA St. Patrick's 2020 Festival © Adrian Cheah

St. Partick's Day was celebrated in Penang on Saturday, 7 March 2020 at Straits Quay with a host of activities including the Shamrock 5K Fun Run and electrifying live performances. Here is a pictorial essay of the dynamic festivities organised by Penang Irish Association and photographed by Adrian Cheah.

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Penang's very own Arcadia in the clouds – Penang Hill

Penang Hill © Adrian Cheah

Penang Hill is the state's foremost hill resort. Although it was originally called Flagstaff Hill, the locals have always affectionately referred to it as Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera. At about 830 metres (2,750 feet) from sea level, the temperature on the hilltop is considerably cooler than the nether lands. On regular weekdays, the hill is pretty quiet and can serve as a recuperative getaway, far from the madding crowd and city heat.

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Hills and Heritage of Penang – the durian experience

Flowering Frenzy

durian flowers © Adrian Cheah

After a very disappointing 2017 for seasonal fruits, 2018 has certainly started off with a bang. As if making up for last season’s low yield, most of the durian trees around the Balik Pulau area are flowering with a vengeance. Barring weather calamities, we should see a bumper crop starting - a bit earlier than usual - in mid March 2018. The hot and dry weather the past months plus all the storing of energy from the low yield have caused this explosion of flower buds.

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Fraser’s Hill and Lewis J. Fraser of Singapore

R. H. Hale
Design and layout by Adrian Cheah, ACEK Creative Solutions

Fraser’s Hill and Lewis J. Fraser of Singapore

When the name Fraser is mentioned in Singapore, most people ask ‘you mean Fraser & Neave?’ In this case the answer is ‘No’.

The author’s rigorous historical research and superb narrative skills bring to life the fascinating story of the relatively unknown pioneer, Lewis J. Fraser. Born in Singapore in 1841, Fraser became a well-known and popular businessman there. But fickle markets and financial difficulties in the early 1880s resulted in a high-profile court case which brought his commercial downfall. Fraser was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment.

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Colourful onde onde ubi keledek recipe from Madam Lily Wong

Onde onde © Adrian Cheah

Nyonya kuih are colourful Asian sweet cakes that are popularly served for breakfast and afternoon tea and as snacks anytime of the day. The selections are many and varied, available at morning markets and food courts throughout Penang.  One such type is the explosively delicious onde onde. 

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Savoury Or Kuih (steamed yam cake) recipe from Madam Lily Wong

Or kuih (yam cake) © Adrian Cheah

Or Kuih is a mashed steamed yam cake garnished with fried dried shrimps, shallot crisps, spring onions and diced chillies. The cake is light and flavourful, best eaten with chilli sauce or "ti ciau" (fermented sweet soy sauce). Delicious yam cake must be soft with the rich taste of yam chunks.

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Time always for Laksa

Penang Laksa © Adrian Cheah

Penang Assam Laksa is amongst the best known and loved of hawker fare in Penang. A bowl of steamed spaghetti-sized rice vermicelli is first generously garnished with finely sliced vegetables including onions, cucumber, red chillis, pineapple, lettuce, mint and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds).

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Ah Leng's supreme Char Koay Teow

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow © Adrian Cheah

Taste is very subjective and since Penangites are spoiled with choices, their discerning palate is indeed well tuned to great food. Should you wish to see them enraged and in full disgust, just serve them a plate of something ordinary, or if you dare, something horrible. This only goes to illustrate how passionate they are about food especially the local delicacies.

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Irama Dining, the rhythm of a fresh and modern dining experience

Irama Dining © Adrian Cheah

Penang is truly a food paradise. One can find almost everything under the sun here in this tropical island including good Malay food. Dining at Irama is a game changer for me. The strong, aromatic and distinct Malay-style cooking is combined with the rich flavours of local herbs and spices. The food presentation is masterful and the dining room is tastefully elegant.

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Madam Hong and Cheng Beng Festival

Cheng Beng © Adrian Cheah

There are some who believe that traditionally, the task of performing Cheng Beng rituals fall on the family of the eldest son, followed by the next in seniority and so on. The eldest son is thus entirely responsible in ensuring that the rituals of ancestral offerings are carried out properly.

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PIA St. Patrick’s 2020 Ball at E&O Hotel, Penang

PIA St. Patrick's Ball 2020

On Friday, 6 March 2020 PIA celebrated the 20th St. Patrick’s Ball in Penang with a delectable 5-course, sit-down dinner. This was PIA’s first ever Black Tie affair and it was packed with entertainment all night long including the Inspirational Irish Dancers from Singapore, Dram Band and ‘Elvis’ (Greg Traynor) from Ireland.

Here is a pictorial essay of the vibrant festivities photographed by Adrian Cheah and Frankie Yap.

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Batu Ferringgi – a beach for lovers and dreamers

Batu Ferringgi © Adrian Cheah

I came to Penang for the first time only last July after spending time over the years in Hong Kong, China and India, but mostly in Indonesia. Being a lover of beaches I headed for Batu Feringgi on the north coast and settled at the Parkroyal Hotel. In Indonesia the beaches at Kuta on Bali and Paragtritis on Java have been ones I have always returned to.

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The Habitat Penang Hill: a pocket history

Authors: Keith Hockton, Marcus Langdon
Design and layout by Adrian Cheah, ACEK Creative Solutions

The Habitat Penang Hill: a pocket history

This handy, illustrated pocket guide tells the rich history of Penang Hill’s early bungalows as seen from the historic trail of The Habitat Penang Hill. It is not only an invaluable guide for those intending to walk The Habitat Penang Hill’s historic rainforest trail, but also a useful keepsake for locals and visitors to Penang.

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Ireland ~ Penang: Bridging Friendships 

Maggie Territt and Barry Leddy
Design, layout and photographs by Adrian Cheah, Neo Sentuhan Sdn Bhd

Ireland ~ Penang: Bridging Friendships

They came, as long ago as the mid-ninteenth century from all parts of Ireland, the Emerald Isle, with exotic names like Clare, Laois, Cork, Mayo, Mallow, Antrim and Tipperary. They numbered among Penang’s first overseas settlers and during long voyages by sea, suffered untold hardships. Some came for fame and fortune, some simply for the adventure, but many did so, fired by their desire to help open up unknown parts of the “new world” and to impart both their knowledge and faith.

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Acar Chee Ya Hu (pickled mullet fish)

Acar Hu © Adrian Cheah

This is one of my mum's favourite acars. She has been making this for as long as I can remember. It is such an appetising dish when served with a bowl of steaming white rice.

Like other Nyonya acars, this dish is a combination of sweet and mostly tart flavours. However, the other ingredients, like onions and garlic still impart their individual aromas. The deep-fried fish absorbs the gravy and becomes succulent and moist.

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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 moving.

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Alana and The Secret Life of Trees at Night

Book One
by Keith Hockton
Illustrated by Winnie Cheng
Design and layout by Adrian Cheah, ACEK Creative Solutions

Alana and The Secret Life of Trees at Night

Trees are magical.

Trees tell stories, love, walk, dance and sing and have done so for thousands of years. When you start to think a tree is just a tree, think again, for at night their world comes alive and they get up to all sorts of secret tree business.

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A traditional signboard maker in Penang

traditional signboard maker © Adrian Cheah

In this day and age of colourful and animated LED video billboards, digital displays for advertisements and other fancy forms of signage, one does wonder if there is a place, still, for the traditional, hand carved signboard – the sort of signboard that is found in some Chinese homes and business establishments.

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A mini reunion at the Book Sandwich Café 

“When it comes to crafting a dish, each mouthful is meant to be savoured, like how it is when one reads a book. There are many layers to be explored and with every bite, we hope to bring you a surprising burst of flavour.” – The Book Sandwich Cafe

Book Sandwich Café © Adrian Cheah

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