Penang Top Five: Mark Walker
His poetry, as Mark Walker admits, is a hobby and vividly reflects his personal experiences and things that moved him emotionally. Having been a travel consultant for a small independent travel agency, Mark travels extensively and especially enjoys long train and bus journeys. In the past six years, this 55-year old Scotsman has been in and out of Penang and he’s normally armed with a camera while blogging about the island and Malaysia. Here we record his top five things to do and see in Penang.
Ban Chang Kuih at Kimberley Street
I enjoy exploring George Town’s heritage, culture and cuisine. One great example of this is to walk during the early morning hours on Kimberley Street to find traditional food made as it has been for years at a family owned stall. The man at this stall makes Ban Chang Kuih, the Chinese form of pancake, with peanut, corn or even bananas added. The original version of this pancake is the Mamak’s apom balik made with flour and egg in small clay pots over little fire stoves, not unlike the Chinese version. While the apom balik is rolled and sold in brown paper, the Ban Chang Kuih is folded into two and comes in two forms - the crispy, thin, crunchy type and the thick one, with more 'body' that we usually eat only one, maybe two.
It is so easy to get away from the bustle of George Town or the flashy shopping malls. A mere 45-minute drive will take you over the hill to Balik Pulau. The name literally means ‘back of the island’ and it’s famous for laksa and durian. Driving around this area is a pleasure as you pass paddy fields (the only ones left on the island), typical Malay-style houses and the often-deserted stretches of beach such as the one at Pasir Pantai Panjang.
Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant
This Indian vegetarian restaurant is in Penang Street. They’re well-known for their excellent and pocket-friendly dishes such as Mini Meal or thalli, all of which are served on the same metal tray and usually comprise of a fluffy piece of warm chapati, a cup of curd rice, dhall, potato masala, raita and a dessert for a sweet end. Washing it down with sweet or sour lassi is a perfect match.
China House Canteen & Bar
I often end up on a weekend evening at The Canteen in ChinaHouse. It’s located in a very long shophouse which runs from Beach Street to Victoria Street and is the bar and entertainment area of ChinaHouse with good live music and occasional stand - up comedy acts. There’s no cover charge for the live music and if you don't want to drink alcoholic beverages, there’s coffees and a wide selection of cakes.
Afternoon Tea at Suffolk House
For a nice treat, head on over to Suffolk House for afternoon tea. The atmosphere there is usually peaceful and serene. A good and filling selection of sandwiches, chicken pie, cakes and of course scones, cream and jams are served alongside your choice of tea. Suffolk house was the home to Francis Light and Martina Rozells , built in the 1780's and totally reconstructed and renovated and was given an Award of Distinction from UNESCO.