Penang Top Five: Nadiah Hamzah
Filmmaker Nadiah Hamzah has travelled a long way from New York University - studying Graduate Film Program - to her island state in Penang. After reliving her passion for films in the Big Apple, she reminisces on what she enjoys and remembers best about her hometown.
1. Kampung Teluk Tempoyak
Despite being spoilt for choice, there's only one place that I would go to for my ikan bakar (grilled fish) in Penang - and that would be in Kampung Teluk Tempoyak - a quaint fishing town situated just at the southeastern tip of the island. There is an open complex with a food court concept with many stalls to choose from. They say Pak Hassan's stall serves the freshest and the best ikan bakar (with the most awesome, mouth-watering accompanying sambal) and I fully agree! If you come early, you'll avoid disappointment - and also get to enjoy the brilliant waterfront view during sunset while feasting over a tantalizing array of ikan bakar, grilled prawns and chili crab - just to name a few.
2. Chowrasta Market
One of my favourite haunts in Penang would be Chowrasta Market. The ground floor houses two sections - the wet and dry markets. If you're undaunted by the live chicken stock and enthusiastic jeruk-sellers - venture up to the first floor where you'll be greeted with stalls selling colourful clothes, shoes and accessories. Walk in further and you'll arive at the treasure cove full of hidden literary gems - ceiling high stacks of second hand books. From literary classics, modern novels, school textbooks, even back issues of KLue (circa 2000 right up to the last physical issue in 2010) - it's all here. Spend some time browsing or ask the helpful store owner and chances are you'll definitely go home with a precious find or two.
Lately there has been an upsurge of boutique restaurants, cafes and hotels from recently refurbished colonial shophouses in George Town. One that clearly stands out is ChinaHouse. It occupies three shophouses with facades facing both Beach and Victoria Street - all in all, an impressive space boasting almost 16,000 square feet. Take your family out to Sunday brunch, or take your date out to a romantic dinner - there's a little something here for everyone, just pick one of the many food outlets available that serve up all day breakfasts, lunches and dinners. My top pick? The Beach Street bakery with it's delectable array of divine, delectable cakes. I'm still dreaming (and salivating) over the slice of Salted Caramel cheesecake I had months ago.
4. Restoran Sup Hameed
On a rainy night, nothing beats having a bowl of comforting chicken or beef soup infused with spices and herbs. Opt to have it with soft Bengali bread for a fuller meal. This section of the town has alos turned into a bit of a cultural mish-mash as of late, so with the locals, foreign tourists and clubbers (at those hours) all set against the backdrop of colonial shop houses along the three streets of Penang Road, Love Lane and Muntri. Some of these are still quaint kopitiams, old hotels, fancy pubs and boutique budget motels that are quite an interesting, amusing people-watching places. I have to say, I've been more inspired to write stories for my films here more than anywhere else.
5. Air Itam Dam
Being a homebody while growing up, I've never really been to Ayer Itam Dam right up until middle of last year for work! Although the drive up is a bit daunting with its steep curves, the scenery of the dam that's so many metres above sea level is quite a sight to behold. Besides Youth Park and Botanic Garden, I'd say the jogging track here with its curvy uphills, is perfect to work off the calories after a weekend of gastronomic indulgence, that's for sure!
Air Itam Dam