Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Who will do better for George Town?


Who do you think will do better for George Town's status as a UNESCO world heritage site? The present Penang government under Pakatan Harapan or a would-be Penang government under Barisan Nasional, if they take control of the state in the forthcoming 14th General Election (GE14)?

I read that the Penang Barisan Nasional had, on 15 April, launched its state manifesto, themed “Save Penang: Penang BN Pledges” which outlined six core pledges with 60 initiatives to be implemented if BN were to wrest Penang from the Pakatan Harapan government. Among them is a pledge on tourism and heritage which would:

  • Encourage more direct flights, total stopovers of cruise ships in Penang.
  • Limit sales of heritage building to foreigners.
  • Preserve status of Georgetown as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Create “Penang Food Heaven” zones and improve food tourism activities.
  • Revive, upgrade “ Living Heritage”, Artisan Streets at George Town World Heritage sites
  • Maintain, conserve, Penang historical buildings and create World Musical Fiesta Tour.

In response to these election promises, the DAP Penang chairman, Chow Kon Yeow, today issued this media statement below. I shall leave it to my readers to judge for themselves which side has made their point better:
George Town recognized by UNESCO as an "Good Example of Heritage City Management"
The Penang Barisan Nasional has made several promises on heritage issues in their 14th General Election Manifesto.
As the caretaker State Government, together with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) and Penang Island City Council we like to respond to these issues. We want to reassure Penang BN and the people that we have been recognized by UNESCO as a "Good Example of Heritage City Management" and we will surely do better than Penang BN.
1. To limit the sale of heritage building to foreigners
Data from 2008-2017 indicate that foreigners (non-Malaysians) own 194 premises or 3.5% of the 4,100 Category II heritage buildings within the George Town World Heritage Site. The statistics indicate that the ongoing drastic demographic changes do not relate to the owner’s nationality as much, but more on the attitude and appreciation of heritage property owners towards our shared heritage.
The Penang State Government mitigate these challenges by identifying the root cause, and manage the problems with the most constructive and sustainable strategies. Limiting the sale of heritage buildings to foreigners will not solve the problems as it is not a thorough approach.
In 2017, the State Government initiated the RM3 million Heritage Habitat Seed Fund for the George Town World Heritage Site as the pilot approach in mitigating the ongoing challenges. The fund aims to aid the physical restoration of heritage premises to provide relief on the restoration cost, thereby preventing an increase in the rent charges and maintaining long-term tenancy at the site.
Qualified premise owners will receive an incentive to refurbish or conserve their premises, and subsequently charge affordable rent for 10 years. Both tenants and owners shall agree to conserve the premise according to heritage regulations and will be provided with related training. The Fund provides housing for long-term tenants who have contributed to the conservation of the cultural heritage and Outstanding Universal Values of the heritage site, while ensuring that long-term tenants can remain within the site.

We believe this is a better approach to ensure conservation of heritage properties and keeping long-term tenants in the World Heritage Site.

2. To preserve the status of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
George Town and Melaka were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008 for their remarkable examples of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca that demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences.
Since 2008, the status of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site has been well maintained with the strong political commitments from the State Government. It established George Town World Heritage Incorporated in 2010 to be the one-stop site manager. George Town World Heritage Incorporated has been delivering its mandate and has proven to be one of the best site managers in Malaysia and Asia. It has been recognised by UNESCO Office Jakarta as one “Good Example of Heritage City Management” (Malay Mail Online, 1 March 2018).
The State Government has enacted the State Heritage Enactment and gazetted the Special Area Plan as the main guidelines of management. A Heritage Technical Reviews Panel (TRP) is also established in MBPP to scrutinize all development applications to ensure heritage guidelines are complied with before approvals be given.
The State Government has also engaged in several heritage conservation projects, demonstrating its strong commitment to sustain the Outstanding Universal Values of George Town.

The State Government has also collaborated with international experts in promoting and conserving artefacts and objects in Penang.

3. To revive and upgrade “the Living Heritage” and Artisan Streets in the George Town World Heritage Site
The annual George Town Heritage Celebrations conducted on 7 July has mobilised over 20 local communities to document, present and share cultural heritage topics through themes such as Living Legacies in 2014, Eat Rite: Ritual Foods of George Town in 2015, Mai Main: Traditional Sports and Games in 2016 and Walk the Talk: Oral Traditions and Expressions in 2017

The Penang State Government has initiated the Video Documentation Project on the Artisans and Practitioners of George Town (2015-2017) to document and archive the intangible cultural heritage of George Town. The ongoing Oral History Documentation from 2013 till 2018 has produced at least 111 interviews with the artisans, practitioners and long-term residents of George Town.

The Cultural Heritage Education Programme (CHEP) was launched since 2016 to promote local cultural heritage to the younger generation (aged 10 to 17) through creative educational programmes. This is the only heritage programme offered to school children in Penang and Malaysia.

George Town was also invited as a working partner by UNESCO Category II Centre: The International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP) under the auspices of UNESCO to collaborate on intangible cultural heritage related projects.

There are more constructive and practical initiatives to be adopted by the Penang State Government to safeguard George Town’s living heritage.

4. To maintain and conserve the historical buildings in Penang
Conservation of heritage buildings requires strong institutional commitments, sufficient resources and sustainable human capacity. Since 2013, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) has been conducting heritage conservation workshops for the public to enhance their knowledge and increase public capacity in conserving heritage properties using the proper methods. Through these workshops, we train heritage property owners, contractors, architects and other professional consultants on the principles and techniques of conservation, requirements and guidelines for conservation work, and the documentation needed for the restoration and renovation of heritage premises.

It has also conducted heritage building inventories throughout the state of Penang. Among the projects completed are the Inventori Warisan Ketara Pulau Pinang in 2012, Inventori Bangunan Warisan Ketara Seberang Perai Utara in 2013, Inventori Bangunan Warisan Ketara Seberang Perai Tengah in 2014 and Inventori Bangunan Warisan Ketara Seberang Perai Selatan in 2015. Penang State Government is in the process of getting the consent from heritage property owners before gazetting the property as a heritage building under the Penang State Enactment, 2011. It is only with the active participation of heritage property owners that the conservation of heritage properties in Penang can be sustainable and meaningful.

Conclusion
Since 2008, the Penang State Government and its agencies, together with the stakeholders and communities have committed to the preservation and maintenance of the World Heritage Site in accordance to the Heritage Management Plan. The various initiatives and programme carried out since 2008 has shown great success in making George Town a vibrant, lively and enchanting heritage city.

We believe we can do better for George Town.

Thank you



Sunday, 15 April 2018

Reliving the Westlands days


Met up with some really old school friends for dinner last night. We go back a long way to our primary school days at the Westlands Primary School. That was from 1960 (some from 1961) to 1965. Then we went our separate ways to the Penang Free School, Westlands Secondary School and Georgetown Secondary School. But inevitably like last night, some of us have come together again to re-acquaint ourselves with one another and relive the old times.


Standing: Ewe Leong, Keng Lam and Ong Seng huat. Seated: Lim Seng Huat, Kah Kheng, Oon Hup, Chye Chye, Guan Khim, Lip Chye, myself


Thursday, 5 April 2018

Ban Hin Lee Bank reunion 2018



It was quite incredible. Seventeen years on from from the takeover of Ban Hin Lee Bank (BHLB, BHLBank), we could still find about 200 former staff at the most recent reunion on 10 Mar 2018. This year would have been the 83rd year of the bank's founding in 1935 but sad to say, it lasted only until 2001.

But never mind the old history. What mattered was that there was still so much memories and enthusiasm for the old bank. We had our former chairman, Goh Eng Toon, in attendance as well as Stephen Yeap, Irene Yeap and Yeap Lam Yang all here at the City Bayview Hotel. With a well supported cast that included Tan Kuan Hai and Neoh Choo Kean who were asked to re-enact the fondly-remembered water pistol fight from very long ago. Plus some of the oldest ex-staff in Khoo Boo Hean and Tan Hun Wee who must be edging close to or past their eighties now. Nobody's getting any younger....sigh.

We all had a g.o.o.d. t.i.m.e. playing catch-up at the reunion but I won't be highlighting anyone's pictures here except to introduce my readers to this immensely talented artist. Debbie J Mcintyre was my former colleague at Ban Hin Lee Bank and ever since the bank was taken over, Debbie has found a new calling in life as an artist. But I never knew how good she is until recently.

She lives in Kuala Lumpur, does a lot of drawing professionally and there was this wonderful painting that was showcased at our reunion dinner. She had been preparing it for the occasion but left the finishing touches to be completed on that night itself. If you like Debbie's work, you can view more from her website and instagram accounts, @scribeworks.co and @artbtdebster

[Above pictures were taken by Ng Khye Wai. They originally appeared in the exBHLBankers group on facebook where you can view all the other photos by him and Peter Liew.]







Wednesday, 4 April 2018

PFS student leadership workshop 2018, sessions 1 and 2


My friends and I have begun the 2018 edition of the PFS Student Leadership Workshop at Penang Free School, a four-day programme for selected student leaders from the school. Like last year, we have the commitment from the Headmaster, Omar bin Abdul Rashid, to conduct the workshop not only for the Fourth and Fifth Formers but also the Sixth Formers. For the present, however, we are concentrating on the first group of boys, but we shall be holding another session later in the year when the Sixth Formers come in.

Our approach this year is slightly different from last year's. Back in January or February, one of my friends made a short presentation to the teachers to apprise them of what we do. But more important, we wanted the teachers to play a more meaningful role by selecting the potential participants themselves. We would then conduct interviews with the boys in order to know them better before the workshop. Soo Choon and I basically talked to most of the boys at the end of February, while Lean Kang and I wrapped up the interview sessions with the rest of the boys just before the workshop.

My impression was that apart from the hostel boys who were much reserved and less talkative, most probably due to their difficulties trying to converse in English with us, the bunch who attended the first interview session were quite articulate and quick on their feet. They expressed themselves well. Certainly, the teachers have done a good job in picking them for us!

Unfortunately, I could not attend the first weekend of the workshop for these Fourth and Fifth Formers because I had some other functions that weekend. Nevertheless, I've been told by my friends that the two sessions on Saturday and Sunday went well. We shall have the third and fourth sessions with them later this month. In the meantime, here are some pictures:



We had Lee Eu Beng from the Old Frees' Association coming to observe the workshop in the morning of the first day. As Eu Beng sits in the OFA management committee as a vice-president and is in charge of Alma Mater matters, this workshop was just right to interest him.



Headmaster Omar bin Abdul Rashid came by to address the boys in the morning of the first morning. You could see how supportive he was of the workshop.

Seated on the stage were Umar and Norman from last year's workshop, who had been roped in to help us. Then there was Lim Siang Jin, Loh Lean Kang, Omar bin Abdul Rashid, Prof Tan Soo Choon, Lim Teik Wah and Chegu Syed .







Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Rabindranath Tagore, Wu Lien-Teh commemorative mural



It was back in January that we got to learn that the Hu Yu Seah would be commissioning a painter to put up a wall mural at the association to commemorate two outstanding citizens of the world; the two personalities being Rabindranath Tagore and Wu Lien-Teh.

Why they should be so singled out for recognition was soon revealed when the committee members of the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society were invited to a press conference on 25 Jan at the Seah. We were told that both the Indian Nobel Prize laureate for Literature and our own Dr Wu had each laid foundation stones for the Hu Yu Seah buildings in the past.

On 14 Aug 1927, Tagore had visited Penang and he was invited to lay the foundation stone for the main Hu Yu Seah building. And on 25 Dec 1938, it was the turn of Wu to lay a second foundation stone for an adjacent block in the Seah premises.

Anyone travelling along Madras Lane in the subsequent weeks would not have failed to notice the British painter, Gabriel Pitcher, busily use the front of the vernacular primary school, the SJK(C) Hu Yu Seah, as his canvas. By and large, the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society was invited back to the Hu Yu Seah on 10 Mar 2018 for the official launch of the commemorative mural. Coincidentally, as the 10th of March happened to be the 139th birthday anniversary of Wu Lien-Teh himself, this was a very special occasion that pleased many of us.

For the uninitiated, Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta, India, on 7 May 1861. He was a Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, playwright, essayist and painter who introduced the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature. He also participated in the Indian nationalist movement in his own non-sentimental and visionary way. Gandhi, the political founder of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915 but within a few years, he resigned the honour as a protest against British policies in India. He was highly influential in introducing Indian culture to the West and vice-versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of early 20th Century India. In 1913, he became the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Extracted from a Think City press statement dated 10 Mar 2018.)

Much has already been written about Dr Wu Lien-Teh in this blog but again, for the completeness of this story, I would say that he was born in Penang on 10 Mar 1879 and was educated at Penang Free School and received the prestigious Queen's Scholarship to study medicine at Cambridge University. He is celebrated as "The Plague Fighter" who saved thousands of lives in the north-eastern China in the early 1910s when an outbreak of pneumonic epidemic was successfully halted by Dr Wu, working out of the city of Harbin using new scientific approaches to prevent the spread of the killer disease. He set up the Anti-Opium Society in Malaya and fought against colonial racism. He wrote extensively and was recognised globally. In 1935, Dr Wu Lien-Teh became the first Malaysian to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. (Also extracted from the same Think City press statement.)

The mural was painted by Gabriel Pitcher, an artist from Britain who first visited George Town in 2014 to help a friend set up a solo exhibition and was so charmed by George Town that he extended his stay till today. His work takes him all around the world but he has made Penang his base. Gabriel's work focusses on expressive figurative portraits and he has done various outdoor murals in Malaysia, Indonesia and the United States.

The Rabindranath Tagore-Dr Wu Lien-Teh mural was funded by the Hu Yu Seah in collaboration with Think City, the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society, Penang Gandhi Peace Centre, Ming Art and CanCan Public Art. (Think City is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Berhad and is funded by Yayasan Hasanah. It is a community-focused urban regeneration body established in 2009 to help rejuvenate the heritage city of George Town. It has since established its presence in Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.)






Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Tung Uahn (同安)



So finally, I've completed my Cheng Beng obligations for this year. My wife and I left the house later than usual at just past seven o'clock. Previously, it would be 6.30am on the dot and we'd arrive at the Batu Lanchang cemetery while the sky is still dark. This year, it was bright all the way to Batu Lanchang. After paying my respects to my maternal grandparents, it was the turn of my paternal grandparents at the nearby Siamese cemetery in the Wat Pimbang Onn grounds. Cost of getting people to spruce up the two graves, that is, to clear the area of undergrowth and overgrowth, was RM180. Finally, we went to the Triple Gem temple in Pangkor Road, this time to pay our respects to my parents and aunt. All in, we finished just before lunchtime.

I had one additional objective when doing this year's Cheng Beng. It is common knowledge that Chinese gravestone heads would contain information about the male deceased's district of origin in China. It is a useful way to let descendants know where their ancestors had come from.

I know that my paternal grandfather came from an old district called Tung Uahn (同安) in the Hokkien Province. In fact, the forebears of the present Quah members from the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi (檳城瑞鵲堂柯公司) all originated from Tung Uahn in China. So it was very gratifying - and re-assuring - to see these two Chinese characters engraved on his gravestone. But then, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my maternal grandfather's headstone also featured the same two Chinese characters. So his fore-fathers had come from the same district in China too!

Of course, China being such a large place, it is impossible for me to find out exactly where in Tung Uahn. Their villages could jolly well be next to each other or they could have been hundreds of kilometres apart. Nevertheless, it was sufficient for me to know that both my grandparents were Tung Uahn lang.





Sunday, 25 March 2018

Eusoffe Abdoolcader - a giant among equals


It is not often that I would reproduce in full the content of a news item but in my opinion, this story is so significant as it is all about a unique man who was a giant among equals. Eusoffe Abdoolcader emerged from the shadows of his father, Sir Hussein Hasanally Abdoolcader, to be well-respected internationally in his own right. We won't find such a Malaysian again. Not during my lifetime, anyway.

Of course, we Old Frees, will know Eusoffe Abdoolcader to be an Old Free as well. In his later years after his brush with the constitutional crisis in Malaysia, he would occasionally turn up at the annual dinner of The Old Frees' Association. It was at moments like the annual dinner that he could visibly relax among his Old Frees peers.

In 2011 during the course of preparing Fidelis, the commemorative coffee-table book of The Old Frees' Association, I managed to dig up some nice candid pictures of Abdoolcader during his youth. It really showed him in a different perspective but such pictures, I would stop short of reproducing them here. Not at this time, anyway, but people curious enough should try and hunt down a copy of that coffee-table book.
 
In the meantime, this online story was written by Looi Sue-Chern and appeared in The Malaysian Insight which will be taken offline from 31 Mar 2018, which makes it doubly important that the report be reproduced here lest it disappear forever.

An undated photograph of Dr Eusoffe Abdoolcader from a now-defunct magazine. Eusoffe is remembered as one of the greatest judges Malaysia has ever seen. – The Malaysian Insight pic, March 25, 2018

THE late Dr Eusoffe Abdoolcader, one of five senior judges suspended during the 1988 judicial crisis, was a respected lawyer and Supreme Court judge, remembered by his peers and juniors as perhaps the greatest judge Malaysia had seen. 
Penang Bar Committee chairman T. Tharumarajah described him as an encyclopaedia, a man with the law at his fingertips and a daunting judge to appear before, sharp and strict.
But family friend T.D. Ampikaipakan remembers him as a man with a softer side – a loving husband and a generous friend.
“He was a tough and arrogant man, but on the other hand, he was also a person who would apologise immediately (when wrong),” she said.
The consultant and trainer spoke of how she and her husband became great friends of the judge at a tribute for Eusoffe in George Town organised by the Penang Bar Committee and publishers Akasaa and Avec on Friday.
Akasaa and Avec recently published the book The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth: Judgments. The two-volume work edited by Angela Yap and Ritchie Ramesh contains Eusoffe’s history and his landmark judgments in constitutional cases in Malaysia.
Ampikaipakan met him in 1985 when her lung physician husband, then only 35, attended to Eusoffe’s wife, Haseenah. Her husband made regular house calls to see Haseenah, who had throat cancer and then pneumonia that caused her to need constant supervision and regular medical checks. 
Ampikaipakan, who used to drive her husband to the judge’s house after he finished at his clinic, said they were expected at 5.30pm, and without fail, Eusoffe would be waiting for them, with the gates opened and dogs tied.
The judge, she said, was visibly upset whenever the doctor was late, but did not say anything until the third time it happened.
But after hearing her husband explain that he was held up at the hospital by patients and could help make arrangements for a different doctor to make the house visits, Eusoffe understood and quickly apologised for being angry.
“Slowly from there, the relationship between the two grew. He became very fond of my husband. They used to speak three times a day,” Ampikaipakan said.
She said they saw how lonely the judge was as he faced the challenges of his profession and struggled to care for his wife, who was ill and later became bedridden. 
She said after he was suspended in the 1988 constitutional crisis, strangers would go up to Eusoffe to shake his hand when he went out to dinner with them. 
“He would look at us and said he didn’t know those people. We said it was because they respected him for standing up for what he thought was right. 
“How lonely was the life of a Supreme Court judge because he had no friends. But my husband was a doctor, so they became good friends,” she said, adding that until today her husband still found it too hard to talk about Eusoffe, who died at 71 in January 1996. 
T.D. Ampikaipakan says doctors were afraid to tell Dr Eusoffe Abdoolcader that his wife was dying. – The Malaysian Insight pic, March 25, 2018.
Ampikaipakan related how Eusoffe loved his wife, who was about 10 years older than him. 
After Eusoffe was reinstated, she said, the stress from work started to give him chest pains, and tests revealed that he needed a heart bypass.
Initially, he declined as he wanted to die before his wife. 
“Then he changed his mind, went for surgery and recovered quickly after we asked who would take care of her if he died first. 
“I don’t understand their love. He spoke English and no Chinese. She spoke Chinese and no English. They communicated in broken Malay. I think they had some mental telepathy between them.”
Ampikaipakan said Eusoff, who was almost 70, was even willing to give his kidney to Haseenah when her kidneys started to fail before she died in 1993 in Penang.
“Haseenah was dying and doctors were all terrified of having to tell Eusoffe. I came to Penang and told him to let her go if he loved her. 
“The man cried so loudly. He was losing his soul. It was so sad watching him. She died two days later,” she said.
Each year on her death anniversary, Eusoff took out advertisements in newspapers to print poems he wrote  to her. Ampikaipakan saw the last poem he wrote for Haseenah in Latin without knowing it was going to be the final one. 
“My husband was leaving on a trip to London and Eusoffe had told him to remember to buy him medicated toothpicks and sugared almonds. That was a day before Eusoffe killed himself,” she said. 
Ampikaipakan also described Eusoffe as generous to a fault, frequently donating money to charities her husband was involved in. 
She said before Eusoffe died, he told her husband that should he ever need a lawyer, he would take off his robes to defend him. 
Eusoffe’s rulings set precedents in landmark cases in the Commonwealth, with the British press lauding him as the "Legal Lion of the Commonwealth". His judgments are still frequently quoted in international law journals.
"Work on the book started in 2005. We wanted to provide an accurate portrayal of Eusoffe. He was also one of four Malayans chosen by the Japanese to be an administrator in the country during the occupation.
"Research took us to countries like Japan, the UK and Singapore. That is why it has taken us so long," Yap said.
Eusoffe died long before the government, under prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in 2008 moved to make amends over the 1988 crisis, which destroyed the judiciary’s independence.
Abdullah gave ex-gratia payments to the judges who were sacked and suspended following legal hearings involving Umno, which displeased then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. – March 25, 2018.

Friday, 23 March 2018

The on-going PFS vs SXI debate


I seem to have opened up an old debate about which school was the older in Malaysia: the Penang Free School or the St Xavier's Institution. The official stance and indeed, it should be the only one, is that the Penang Free School is the older of the two, although the St Xavier's Institution may claim that its roots go further back to the weeks following the founding of Prince of Wales' Island. But this is what I happened to stumble on during my research and revealed subsequently, without fear or favour, in my book Let the Aisles Proclaim.

First, this is an extract from from page 11 of the book:
One of the earliest Europeans to follow Light over from Kedah was the French Catholic missionary, Monsignor Domino Arnaud-Antoine Garnault. In November 1781, Garnault and several other members of the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) had found themselves expelled from Siam. Garnault arrived at Port Queda near Alor Star, Kedah, in April 1782 and become the first resident priest of a small Catholic community there.(Note 7) After landing in the Prince of Wales’ Island, he asked Light for permission to build a church. Light was cautious of Garnault’s presence and politics, but tolerated the Frenchman enough to allow him to erect his church about 400 yards from Light’s base, the Fort Cornwallis. In August 1787, this first Catholic Church was completed and Garnault was made its bishop. As bishop, he provided for the denominational education of the children of his parish by establishing a small vernacular school for girls at China Street and a "small college" for boys at Pitt Street.(Note 8)
Notes:
(7) Father P. Decroix (2005). History of the Church and churches in Malaysia and Singapore (1511-2000).
(8) G.S. Reutens (1972). A Short Survey of the History of the Past and Present Buildings of Hutchings School, Penang (1816-1972). Private papers. Reutens was a teacher at Penang Free School and later, appointed as Head Master of Hutchings School which now stands on the former grounds of the old Free School.

Next, I offer the extracts from pages 20 and 21 of the same book:
In the 1823 annual meeting of the Free School, it was mentioned that the boys continued to be examined at the end of the year by the School Committee with the examination starting from the lowest classes and proceeding to the highest class. Regarding the use of the Madras System of Education, the following observations were made:
We cannot but feel great satisfaction that they have been introduced into this Institution and so suited to the circumstances of the scholars that that the happiest effect have been apparent. There is perhaps no place in the whole world where boys of so many different nations and languages are assembled together, and here learning one common language, the English. This circumstance gives a peculiarly novel and curious effect which, is heightened by the great disparity of size and age of the Boys who are placed together in the same Class, the little striplings in several instances having made the progress which has entitled them to instruct and to bear rule over boys twice as big and old as themselves. 
It is however satisfactory to observe, that the value of good education has become much more generally appreciated, and that the religious prejudices which have hitherto kept many Parents from sending their Children to the School, are now fast wearing away. They have now had abundant evidence, that it is far from the design of the Institution to interfere with the religious sentiments of any person.(Note 11)
To accentuate this point further, the 1824 annual report on the Free School reported:
The apprehensions and prejudices of the late Roman Catholic Pastor was supposed to have a very extensive influence in preventing many of his Flock from following the dictates of their own wishes and judgements. The expence (sic) of several years has given an incontrovertible proof, that whatever may be the religious opinions of those who are willing to submit their Children to the Rules of the Institution, those opinions will never be violated. The Children of Protestants are indeed most carefully instructed in the Principals of Christianity … To others the Instruction is, with fidelity to original engagements, strictly confined to the elements of useful Education and the Principles of Morality.(Note 12)
Despite all these assurances, a simmering tension between the Protestants and Catholics burst into the open in July 1825 when Porter was accused by the Catholic priest, Mgr. Jean-Baptiste Boucho, of punishing some Catholic boys for not turning up for service at the Protestant church, an accusation which was later dismissed after an extensive investigation by the School Committee. The managers went on to rebuke Boucho for “the interference of the Roman Catholic Clergyman with regard to the Education of their Children.” The tension continued until the end of the year when the Government, perhaps in an attempt to diffuse the situation and maintain neutrality, decided to contribute 100 Dollars per month towards a new Catholic school in Church Street.( Note 13)  Boucho called his school the Catholic Free School and in defiance of the proffered olive branch, coerced all the Catholic children to leave the Prince of Wales’ Island Free School and join his new establishment. The Catholic Free School was the precursor of the present Saint Xavier’s Institution.(Note 14) This unfortunate incident was perhaps the first recorded cold war between the two rival educational institutions that spilled into the open.
Notes:
(11) Prince of Wales Island Gazette, 14th January 1824
(12) Marcus Langdon (2015). Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India (1805-1830), Volume Two, p. 247. Publisher: George Town World Heritage Incorporated.
(13) ibid
(14) G.S. Reutens (1972). A Short Survey of the History of the Past and Present Buildings of Hutchings School, Penang (1816-1972). Private papers.



Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Singapore's kampong



Although I've stepped foot into Singapore a number of times, I must admit that this was the first occasion that I had gone to Pulau Ubin. This is a small island to the north-west of the main Singapore island and the only way to get there is by a bumboat from the Changi Point ferry terminal. There are bumboats waiting for passengers all the time but one will only pull away when there are 12 passengers filling the boat.


I didn't know what to expect when I took the crossing with my friends but once I had arrived at the Pulau Ubin ferry terminal, I was blown away by the rustic charm of the little village. It was just like being transported back into the 1960s; time having stood still on the island while the rest of Singapore marched into the 21st Century. The closest I could compare this village with would be the backwaters of present-day Balik Pulau in Penang.


But this part of Pulau Ubin was anything but quiet since this was the first place that greeted visitors upon arrival. Bicycle rental shops lined both sides of what was supposed to be the main street. Restaurants and sundry shops too. And the obligatory Chinese temple and an accompanying stage.





We just walked away and took the direction of a tarred road towards the Chek Jawa visitor centre, passing by this small altar worshipping the Ma Chor deity. After a while, the tarred road gave way to well-worn dirt trails. Monkeys were a-plenty. Bold and completely unafraid of their human cousins. My friend's wife had her plastic bag containing unfinished food snatched out from her hand. Soon, we decided to arm ourselves with sticks to chase the monkeys away should any stray near to us. Wild boars too. We saw boars crossing the dirt trails. "Just stand still and allow them to move off," my friend advised me. But what if they are moving towards us? "Then start praying hard and hope you don't shit in your pants," he replied. Very practical.






Soon we arrived at the Chek Jawa visitor centre, housed in a double-storey Tudor-styled building which was once a holiday home for a British official about 80 years ago. Who was he? I don't know. Nobody seemed to know. From there, we walked further to the Chek Jawa boardwalk. Unfortunately, with time not on our side, we forewent the chance to walk out into the sea and had to retrace our steps to the visitor centre.


Walking back to the ferry terminal, we took a different route, slightly longer, that passed by the incredibly serene, submerged Balai Quarry. Another photo opportunity here. After this small detour, the trek back to the ferry terminal was relatively uneventful. No more boldly brazen monkeys to shoo away, no more wild boars to hide from but we saw a monitor lizard scampering away in the undergrowth, and no more dodging the bicyclists. Arriving back at Changi Village, it was time for .... food. We were famished!




Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library


Whilst in downtown Singapore, I took the opportunity to visit their National Library Board building in Victoria Street. First stop was to the basement floor where the Central Library was located.

My main objective was to pass along to their Central Library two copies of Let the Aisles Proclaim. I had felt that it was very important that Singapore possess the book as the history of Penang Free School is so closely intertwined with the history of their Raffles Institution itself.

That done, it was also an objective to visit the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Asking around, I was informed that my destination should be the 11th floor where I could seek access to the digital archive of the old Singapore newspapers. There are, after all, certain newspaper stories which cannot be accessed online from the Web and can only be referenced directly from their resident computer terminals.

The resources here were impressive and the staff very helpful. All in, I must have spent some two hours on this floor and was rather reluctant to move on. The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library is definitely worth visiting a second time and perhaps more often too.



Monday, 19 March 2018

We remain hopeful



When I learnt that my friend, Siang Jin, would be going down to Singapore this month to make a fund-raising presentation to friends and acquaintances who so happen to sit in the management committee of the Old Frees' Association Singapore, I had vowed to go too to assist in the pitching.

That they were also in the OFAS management committee was so much the better, in my opinion, because this meeting presented an excellent opportunity to let the Old Frees there learn of our activities vis-a-vis the Alma Mater in Penang. After all, the fund-raising would be for a worthwhile intention: the on-going leadership workshop that we were holding for the Penang Free School student leaders,

Therefore, on the 15th of March, I flew south and met up with Siang Jin and the OFAS management committee at the latter's monthly committee meeting. Siang Jin made most of the talking while I added some words of support to fill in certain blanks.

Do you think we succeeded? Yet to be seen. Pitching is always a work-in-progress and there's more work to be put in. But I remain hopeful. I'm sure some of our Singaporean friends will respond favourably. After all, it's for the school.



Sunday, 18 March 2018

Four months to deliver



I arrived back home from a four-day trip from Singapore this afternoon to find this parcel on the table. "It arrived last Friday," my wife told me. So I ripped it open to find that at long last, my copy of Eric Berne's Games People Play had arrived.

I had almost given up on it. The book was ordered from Amazon.com on 17 Nov 2017 and despatched two days later with the delivery estimated between the 12th and 16th of January 2018. How wrong they were! I waited. And waited. And waited. The weeks passed after 16th January but I was too busy to inform Amazon.com that I hadn't received it yet.

Just a week ago, my wife asked me about the book and I told her that it could have been misplaced in the post. Such was the risk nowadays. "I'll write to Amazon when I get back from Singapore," I had assured her. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw the parcel on the table. All in, it had taken four months, almost to the day, to arrive at my doorstep.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Manuel Gottsching's E2-E4


I guess it must have been close to 20 years already that I first bought this compact disk, E2-E4, by Manuel Gottsching. I was wandering around the now-closed Ampang Park shopping mall and came across the disk in Love Music. Mesmerised by the cover AND the title, I had bought the disk without any hesitation, such was my interest in everything chess.

I must add that I wasn't disappointed with the music. Basically, an electronically generated sound that did not grate onto the ear in terms of melody or intensity. Much unlike Steve Reich's compact disk, the fascinating but monotonous Music for 18 Musicians, which I also possess. (I wouldn't mind owning that record too, by the way.)

And recently, the opportunity arose for me to buy the vinyl record version of the same Gottsching compact disk. Again, without any hesitation after immediately seeing its availability on one of the facebook groups that I am a member of.

The album arrived yesterday. And I placed it on the turntable late last night. Shiok only, I must say. Again, the melody leapt from my speakers. But I noticed a slight difference in the music between the two formats. The record was about five minutes shorter than the compact disk. One of the tracks was six minutes long on the CD but only one minute on the record. That accounted for the difference. Other than that, no difference to the ears.

Oh yes, I must add that the record version came with rather lengthy interesting liner notes that described how Gottsching came up with the concept for the music. And how Richard Branson played a part in it. The compact disk version had nothing!


Side One: Ruhige nervositat (Quiet nervousness), Gemassigter aufbruch (Moderate start), ... Und mittelspiel (...And central game)
Side Two: Ansatz (Promise), Damen eleganza (Queen a pawn), Ehrenvoller kampf (Glorious fight), Hoheit weicht (HRH retreats), (Nicht ohne schwung) (With a swing), ...Und souveranitat (...And sovereignty), Remis (Draw)




Thursday, 8 March 2018

Take Five on fontana



I had posted this picture to one of the groups on facebook, of which I was a member. This picture, as can be seen, was of a seven-inch 45rpm record that featured The Dave Brubeck Quartet playing Take Five on the A side and Blue Rondo Ala Turk on the B side.

This record was passed on to me recently by an old friend who was giving away his old music collection. "Left behind in the house by my late father and also my siblings when they went off to live overseas," he told me. "You can have all of the records if you wish," he continued, which I thankfully did. All 96 pieces of long-playing albums and a handful of 45s. This one was among them.

Soon after I had posted up the picture, a quick-eyed member of the group responded with an interesting message, "I checked and the main release was on Columbia, so I guess that particular record is rare. What is unfortunately rare is how few jazz recordings made it to 45s. That tune was originally on the "Time Out" album in 1959, but released on 45 in 1961 and became a surprise hit."

Maybe it's not so rare after all. Columbia, which was a major US label, couldn't release their records under the "Columbia" label in the UK and the Commonwealth countries because EMI, the major label in the UK, already owned the rights to the "Columbia" name there. I do have several old 45s that featured the EMI "Columbia" label.

So Columbia (the US company) went into an arrangement with Philips UK to have their catalogue pressed under the Philips-owned "fontana" label for the British market. This convenient arrangement went on from the late 1950s until 1962 when Columbia finally launched the CBS label and started releasing their own American recordings outside the US under "CBS".


Thursday, 8 February 2018

Thieves amongst the civil servants


One of my old friends took a flight out from Penang to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon, enroute to England with his family. I know him very, very well; having known him since our primary schooldays at the Westlands Primary School. My friend is very frank and outspoken, and never once would I ever doubt his words. Today, while passing through the Immigration checkpoint (but I believe it is the Customs that are manning the scanners at the airport, isn't it?) at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, he encountered a very unpleasant experience. Here is his story to his old school mates:
It beggars belief! I was about to lose my Tumi case (nice), skilfully snatched away by immigration officers at Penang Airport’s departure.
I had accidentally stored a power bank in my checked-in luggage. After being in departure, I was asked to go back to check-in and retrieve it. And on my way back, I let the Tumi bag go through the Immigration scanner. I was held back (to delay) by another officer, who ordered me back twice, again through the scanner.
When I got back to retrieve my other stuff, i.e. my belt, passport case, phone etc, I couldn’t find the Tumi bag!
The officers all looked blank - ahead of me was a European man who was putting his belt back. He looked at the female officer who was watching the screen, pointed openly to her that she was the one who took the Tumi bag. She gestured negative, but he continued, persisted in fact, and said that another officer from the adjacent aisle then came over to her and took the bag away. All quite fast.
I then looked over and spoke loudly: "Who took my Tumi!"
Then another officer at the other aisle lifted the bag up in the air and gave to me.
I then thanked the European who winked at me, his back facing them. He said he saw it all. It was very slick, he whispered and walked off. I stood there and stared at all of them.
Isabelle, my daughter them pulled me away to catch our flight to KL. Hey, it just happened, I would have preferred dinner with you guys! Really, thieves amongst Civil servants! Be careful indeed.
Yes, be very careful indeed! Thieves amongst the civil servants. Who would have thought?


Sunday, 4 February 2018

Seeing in the New Year


I stirred from my bed at five o'clock this morning. Reason was because today is the start of the new Chinese luni-solar calendar, and I wanted to be up and about when the sun supposedly crossed the 315th degree celestial longitude into a new solar term at 5.30am. We term this occurrence as Li Chun (立春) or Jip Chun in Penang Baba Hokkien-speak.

Half-an-hour for me to get myself wide awake, but enough time for me to prepare a new piece of decorative red paper with the Chinese character 春 (Chun) for sticking onto the family rice bucket. I would also fill up the bucket to the brim with a new packet of rice to signify abundance. There's nothing religious about this practice at all. It's all very cultural and traditional.

Anyway, as I was mentioning earlier, Jip Chun signifies the start of a new year according to the luni-solar calendar. This is why many households here practice putting up red banner cloths across their main doorway on this day which is 12 days before the Chinese New Year festivities actually start on 16 Feb 2018.

As for me, I do not follow this trend as I would prefer to put up the red banner only after I have made my annual worship and offerings to my ancestors before the old year creeps out. This year, the worship will fall on 11th February. I shall carry out the worship in the morning and only then in the afternoon, will I be putting up the red banner.




Thursday, 1 February 2018

A review of Let the Aisles Proclaim


My book, as reviewed by Areca Books last year. 

Let the Aisles Proclaim can be ordered from the Areca Books and Gerakbudaya bookshops in Pitt Street, George Town, Penang or directly from The Old Frees' Association in Northam Road, Penang.
Product Description
Let the Aisles Proclaim commemorates the once-in-a-lifetime Bicentenary celebrations of the Penang Free School (PFS). The title was taken from one of the most recognisable lines of the PFS Rally, which was composed in time for the Sesquicentenary celebrations in 1966.
“More than being a chronological documentation of the history of Penang Free School, Let the Aisles Proclaim pays fitting tribute to the men and women who have passed through the portal of the Penang Free School and the institutions that are closely connected to the School itself. Let the Aisles Proclaim is also about the School’s long traditions and proud heritage, and bears testimony to our competitive spirit. We take inspiration from the successes of Old Frees and apply them to the Frees of the present. This book, therefore, commemorates our once-in-a-lifetime Bicentenary celebrations. Penang Free School has thriven through 200 years and we, the members of Society who have passed and will pass through the School, are confident that she will still progress through the next 100 years.” ― Dato’ Haji Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, the Chairman of both the Penang Free School Board of Governors and Bicentenary Committee    ​
In the last 100 years or so, there had been various attempts by Penang Free School to document her long and rich past. While these early attempts did provide brief accounts of the Free School’s progress and achievements since its establishment in 1816, the finer details of the School were often overlooked in the effort to compress the rich history into a form concise enough to be appropriate as an overview. As a result, many of the historical details were lost or forgotten with the passage of time.When the Bicentenary Committee first decided on a long-term literary project to chart a more comprehensive history of the oldest English school in South East Asia, as a commemoration of Penang Free School’s 200th anniversary in 2016, the onerous task fell on the book’s author, Mr. Quah Seng Sun, to dig deeply into the past and take a fresh look at the School’s long history. Let the Aisles Proclaim, the story of the first 200 years of the Penang Free School, is the culmination of at least an 18-month work. The author’s love for his Alma Mater shows in the efforts that he had put into this diligent research. Although this is probably the most ambitious essay ever written to date about Penang Free School, the complete history can still never be told fully. But for the Old Frees of either gender, the present generation of Free School pupils, the local historians and heritage conservationists and any reader with a more than casual interest in the school’s history, this tome represents the new point of reference for all future works.
About the author: Quah Seng Sun studied at Penang Free School from 1966 to 1972. After a short spell as a newspaper journalist in his home state, which sparked his life-long interest in writing, he worked in the banking industry for 24 years and then in an Internet-based recruitment company. After his retirement, he returned to his passion of freelance writing.

Monday, 29 January 2018

51 belly dancer favourites


Another gem from the stack of records that was given to me by a fellow Old Free. This time, the music is appropriate for a spot of belly dancing to reduce the waist line. Well, at least, MY waist line! This is a record from the 1960s, in glorious monaural sound instead of stereophonic.

But the sound is good and clear, and gives an opportunity to determine whether my equipment is well balanced. Other than my own ear test, I ran the output signal through the Audacity application and the sound wave came out practically identical on both channels. What more do I say? What more can I ask for?

Here are the album notes on the back cover:
"In the last two or three years the ancient art of bellydancing has had a tremendous resurgence in the United States. The craze has swept through major cities across the country and shows no sign of abating. Prompted by this renewed interest in oriental and exotic music, we present for the first time ever, fifty-one tunes for your enjoyment.
"The selections collected here represent the outstanding dance music from Turkish, Greek, Arabic, and Armenian sources .... and they couldn't be performed by a more capable or authentic orchestra than that led by Abdul Ahmed, foremost leader of oriental and exotic music in the Far East."
But it is strange that on the front cover, the leader of the orchestra is mentioned as Gus Vali. Surely there must be a mix-up somewhere although this in no way detracts from the excellent music. Excuse me, it's making me want to get up and dance again....


Side A: Medley #1 Turkish & Greek (Kashlarin inge inge, Erzurum, Delilo, Beyruit, Adanaly, Verisario, Itya, Golfo), Medley #2 Greek & Turkish (Yelakaiki, Nina nay nay, The canary song, Fiyeh fiyeh, Oglan oglan, Danny lo lo, The Maharajah, Moustafa, Vatikiotissa), Medley #3 Israeli (Hava nagila, Shalom alechem, Dayeynu, The tailor, And the angels sing, X'll take two, The peasant dance, Bei mir bist du schon)
Side B: Medley #1 Turkish & Arabic (Tamzura, Shee, Marinella, Arabamin atlari, Gelin gelin, Ishtar, Marmara, Rampee), Medley #2 Turkish (The procession of the Sardar, The wheat song, Sirun archik, Timuraga, Kara biberim, Dontor, Hos Bilezik, Tin tin, Birini, Yavrum), Medley #3 Arabic (Farfara, Uskadar, Konyali, Habon gonda, Shishkabob, Lookoomi, Arabic delight, Lorge, Bachelerde)




Friday, 26 January 2018

A P Ramlee record


I was given a precious stack of very old, dusty and sometimes mouldy records yesterday by a fellow Old Free after visiting him at his office in Pulau Tikus. "You might as well take everything," he told me. Among them was this gem of an album by P Ramlee, called Gelora, Jeritan Batin-ku dan Lain2. This could be a pirated copy (Donald Trump would likely call this a fake) although I can't be totally certain. The label looked suspect, anyway, despite the All Rights Reserved warning. But who would care if it sounded okay, which it certainly did after it went through my record-cleaning process.


Side One: Dari masa hingga masa, Jeritan batin-ku, Gelora, Tudong Periok, Di-mana kan ku-chari ganti, Malam bulan di-pagar bintang, Resam dunia
Side Two: Mangapa pilu saja, Hanyu di-kau, Sri bunian, Ma'af kan kami, Menchecheh bujang lapok, Malam ku bermimpi, Di-mana suara burong kenari



Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Penang hawker food update 2018


My, how fast has three years flown by. I last updated the information on this story on 3rd March 2015 and today is already inching towards the end of January 2018. Methinks it's time for another update.

On the third day of Chinese New Year  in 2014 -- the second of February that year, actually -- I was alerted - pleasantly alerted - to a news story carried online in the British newspaper, The Independent. Many people would know what I'm referring to. This was a news story that recommended my hometown, Penang, as the Number One place to visit in 2014 for local street food. Although 2014 had come and gone, Penang still remains as THE place to visit in order to taste the best street food around. Indeed, my home State is the food capital of Malaysia, no denying it.

I just realised that 11 years have passed by since I first wrote a rather comprehensive story on Penang's famed hawker food. (An update was done five years ago but with this recognition from The Independent, I must always try and bring my own recommendations to the fore.) Now, I know that my preferences are still far from definitive but in my opinion, they are still comprehensive enough.

At that time in 2007, the article was simply an update of an even older webpage on Penang food that I had originally created in 1996 or 1997. In all probably, it could have been the forerunner of all the food blogs in Malaysia or Singapore. Today, there are multitudes of people writing about food. I don't intend to go down that road again.

Nevertheless, I would like to think that I should attempt to update my 11-year-old story every now and then for my own satisfaction. In my own way, in my own style. More so as during that interlude, George Town has become a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. Therefore here goes, call this the SS Quah Penang Food Award 2018, if you like. [Disclaimer: All these are still my own opinion and nobody else's. If you disagree with me, tough titties, I say!]

A quick intro to anyone who is not yet into Penang food: Penang is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia, Singapore and overseas. The first thing that people do when they cross the border by land, sea or air, even before they check into a hotel, is to ask: "Penang food, where, ah?"

Ais Kacang. Not many stalls can beat this well-known outlet at the New World Park. They used to be "anchor tenant" at the New World Park Hawker Centre but since about a year ago (maybe longer), they decided to open their own premises. Originally, the owners used to operate from the roadside at Swatow Lane for decades until the New World Park was finally rebuilt and they moved in. Along with the relocation, the prices of their ais kacang naturally increased too. But the stall continued to be well patronised, especially by the lunchtime crowd. The ais kacang comes with the usual sweet red kidney beans (large ones!!), attap nuts and sweet corn, all covered with shaved ice and laced with rose syrup, brown sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk. For a bit more indulgence, ask for ice cream and sliced fruits like bananas and papayas. The Ais Kacang stalls in Lorong Selamat also serve similar irresistible versions. Over on the mainland, I find that the Ais Kacang stall at the nightly Sentosa Food Court (there are several but you should head for the one with the red stall lights) in Bukit Mertajam, corner of Kulim Road and Jalan Sentosa, serves a version with the smoothest and finest shaved ice. 

Apong. Originally cooked by Indians in small claypots over charcoal, most apong stalls now use small metal woks over gas fires nowadays. To me, this is not so interesting anymore and the taste is somewhat different. But it's still possible to find apong, the old fashioned way at the coffee shop at the Burmah Road/Moulmein Road junction (same coffee shop selling the Hokkien Mee described below). Available in the mornings until about 9am, after that,habis!

Apong Balik. Quite different from the Indian apong described above. The batter contains more eggs, lots more eggs, thus making the final cooked apong balik soft and fluffy. The most memorable stalls are along Burmah Road, just outside the Union Primary School. The Apong Guan stall is run by Ah Guan while Apong Chooi is run by, well, Ah Chooi. Figures, right? Anyhow, they are brothers who went their own separate ways a very long time ago after some family disagreements. And both decided to establish themselves on this road, hardly 20 metres apart. Apom Guan is definitely more popular but his brother's version is almost indistinguishable. For an alternative version, try the morning stall at the Pulau Tikus Lane-Kuching-Burmah Road junction.   

Bak Moy. It's more than moy (or broth) that the hawkers sell. Normally, I'd go for the mee suah. But no matter whether its moy or mee suah, the hawkers that used to sell at a roadside stall in Jalan Kampung Malabar, off Penang Road is quite well known. It's worth waiting 30 or 40 minutes just to enjoy a bowl.  It is to be noted that the stall has now shifted its operations to a shop further down the road, called Hon Kei. Business continues to be good but personally, I feel its standard has dropped a bit. Another bak moy stall, but one that is lesser known, is located in a coffee shop along New Lane. (A word of warning: don't get confused with the roadside stall that sells chee cheong chok. This bak moy stall in inside a coffee shop.)

Banana Leaf Rice [entry added on 17 July 2014]. This is of ethnic South Indian origin and comes served on a banana leaf with a standard serving of two or three types of vegetable dishes and papadom. You can usually choose between fish, chicken and mutton as a main dish or if you prefer, go vegetarian all the way! One of the oldest banana leaf rice restaurants is the Veloo Villas Restaurant in Penang Street. It's now my choice for traditional Banana Leaf Rice whenever I'm in the financial district of George Town, ever since the owner of the Shusi Restaurant, which I had been a regular customer for at least 20 years, decided to call it a day. Shusi is still operating but under a completely different management. Nearby is the Sri Ananda Bahwan Restaurant and the food's cooked by real Indian nationals. So, it is about the closest you'll ever get to authentic Indian food cooked by authentic Indians. However, if I'm around Glugor at lunch time, I would head to the Passions of Kerala in Minden Heights. The Passions of Kerala also have a branch at the New World Park in Burmah Road/Hutton Lane but being located there, the prices are more expensive and you'd generally be expected to pay at least RM4 more per person. 

Char Koay Kak [entry added on 17 July 2014]. For one of the best plates of this dish, you must go to MacAlister Lane. You can't miss this stall. You'll see it immediately on the left side of the road as you turn into it (it's a one-way street). Also, the ones at the Jelutong market are quite alright. For alternatives, you can try the stall at the junction of Burmah Road-Tavoy Road but I tell you, it's not that great. In the mornings, the stall at the SuperTanker food court in Taman Lip Sin. In the evenings, I have been surprised pleasantly by the palatable quality at the Taman Pekaka coffee shop, which is fried by an Indian lady! There's also an excellent roadside stall along Presgrave Street at night. In the morning in Bukit Mertajam, the stall at the Sri Sentosa Coffee Shop is run by the rudest and most despicable pair of hawkers that I've ever come across (actually, the wife is the culprit) but their version is actually not too bad.

Char Koay Teow [entry added on 17 July 2014]. Too close to call but my votes for the most expensive char koay teow would include the stalls outside the coffee shop at the MacAlister Road-New Lane junction, the one at Lorong Selamat and one other outside the Kimberley Coffee Shop in Kimberley Street. Mustn't forget the Ah Leng char koay teow in Dato' Kramat Road too. Yes, you get big delicious prawns but you get a huge bill too. Also, beware of the pieces of fried lard that's mixed into the fried koay teow. They're crunchy and give a distinct taste to the food but it's too oily for people watching their cholesterol. You can also try the roadside char koay teow stall that opens in the afternoon near the Anson Road/Siam Road junction. I'm told there are two or three excellent stalls at the Cecil Street food court and the best one could be the fryer that goes around barefooted. BTW, do give the Two Sisters stall in MacAlister Road a real miss. Serious! It's an over-hyped stall and they can even cheat you over an egg. I used to watch them fry three plates together and use only two eggs. Huh! Over at Chai Leng Park on the mainland, there is this same hardworking hawker that fries at a corner coffee shop opposite the wet market in the mornings and the Great Wellesley food centre (previously Chai Leng Park's only cinema) in the evenings, and I like his style of frying! In Bukit Mertajam, the specialty seems to be char koay teow with duck eggs. There are two roadside stalls to try this BM version: one is at the Kulim Road-Jalan Maju junction and the other is located next to the taxi stand in Jalan Pasar. However, if you want a better quality duck egg char koay teow, you must go to Wei Xiang Restaurant along Jalan Alma. Good for supper fare as all are opened only at night.


Curry mee [entry added on 6 Mar 2013]. When I was young, this dish used to be called curry mai fun but somewhere along the way, it has been shortened to curry mee. No matter, because this savoury soup dish is long a favourite with both Penangites and visitors. The one stall on the island that comes to my mind has long established itself at the coffee shop at the junction of Lorong Seratus Tahun and Nanning Street. It is still drawing in the crowds especially during lunchtime. Parking, however, is a real headache. [Update (28 Apr 2014): I just discovered a nice curry mee stall called Tuai Pui Curry Mee in Kimberly Street. The stall operates from a coffee shop about 50 metres from the Carnarvon Street junction. Wholly recommended.] Over on the mainland, connoisseurs of this dish will often direct you to a shop along Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth. They used to operate a stall beside the road but as their business grew and development overran the area, they relocated eventually to a shop some distance away. Their curry mee is rather expensive but business is still as roaring as ever in the evenings. As for me, I frequent either the stall at the Ng Yam Huat hawker centre in Jalan Ciku or at the Taman Bukit hawker centre, both in the mornings in Bukit Mertajam. Don't try the other curry stalls in this town; they are all so hopelessly yucky.

Chendol, a dessert to cool down your hot days, made with green pandan-flavoured noodles and large, red kidney beans in coconut milk, brown sugar and shaved ice. There's a very famous stall along Keng Kwee Street, a side road off busy Penang Road. There's another not-so-famous one directly opposite it. If you want better service, try the less famous one. The quality is absolutely the same, so I dunno why people keep going to the other side of the road! I'm told that the stall at the Cecil Street food court is also excellent.

Chicken Rice. This seller used to have a stall tucked within a small coffee shop at Kampung Malabar but has now gone Big Time with his own shop in Cintra Street, called Wen Chang. A very popular place and I do not see any reason to disagree with its popularity. Friends from KL used to come by just to taste a bowl of the rice first, before diving into the chicken. On the mainland, the nightly chicken rice stall at the Kuan Nan coffee shop is one of the best around: the softest chicken meat I've ever tasted and even the breast meat is very tender!

Fried Oysters. Too oily for my liking but if cholesterol washes off you like water washes off a duck, you can try the stall at the Seng Thor coffee shop at the Carnarvon Street-Kimberley Street junction. Its reputation goes back decades as the business was handed down from father to son.



Hokkien Mee. I don't know why Pulau Tikus seems to be one of the better places for a bowl of Hokkien Mee - noodles served with eggs, small prawns, meat slices, bean sprouts, kangkong in a spicy prawn stock and sometimes coming with generous chunks of choice pork meat, pork ribs, pig skin, chicken feet and small intestines - but if you are around this area, do try the stalls at the Sin Hwa coffee shop and the Swee Kong coffee shop, both along Burmah Road. Be sure to go early as their food is usually sold out by 8.30am or 9am. You may also want to try the stall at the Burmah Road-Bangkok Lane junction but only at the last resort, mind you. But Pulau Tikus is not the only place on the island to try Hokkien Mee. Opposite the entrance into the Kuantan Road market is a Hokkien Mee stall that has been around for decades. I know it has been around since the 1960s (the original hawker was my neighbour) and the business has now passed down from the father to his son. The stall also sells Loh Mee where instead of the prawn soup, you get a thick brown gooey gravy made from tapioca starch and egg. Best taken with their chopped garlic in vinegar for a special tangy experience. In the evenings, head to the centre of Presgrave Street and search for the Hokkien Mee stall that's set up in one of the houses. On the mainland Penang, the place I'd go to is located behind the Tua Pek Kong Temple in the middle of the town. The stall opens in the mornings but sometimes I see them selling in the evenings too. There's also a very good stall in a coffee shop at the junction of Jalan Rozhan and Jalan Seri Impian 1. Then there is the Sri Sentosa Coffee Shop at Lorong Maju Jaya 1 in Bukit Mertajam. Go try the Hokkien Mee with their extras.

Koay Chap. There are many Koay Chap hawkers in Penang but the only hawker worth mentioning sells nightly from a stall in the middle of Kimberley Street. Just look out for the stall operators. You can't miss them. All of them are quite plump and round, no doubt a living testament to the quality of their own food. On the mainland, the stall at the Fresh Food Court in Nangka Road, off Song Ban Kheng Road in Bukit Mertajam, is worth a visit.



Koay Teow Th'ng. One of the better ones I've taken is at the Chai Leng Park market. Stall No. 14. It's served with slices of pig entrails, meat balls and minced meat. At night, I've been frequenting a stall along Kimberley Street quite often. Location is that short stretch of road between the Kimberley Street-Rope Walk and Kimberley Street-Cintra Street junctions. You can order pig intestines and chicken feet as side dishes. I'm told that there are some fabulous stalls in the morning at the Cecil Street food court too.


Mee Goreng and Mee Rebus. The stall at the coffee shop at the Burmah Road-Bangkok Lane junction serves acceptable Indian mee goreng and mee rebus. I wouldn't call the food good; just acceptable. There's also one at the Mamak food court at Gurney Drive, claimed to be from Edgecumbe Road originally. For the more adventurous, try the Mee Kuah Ketam along the Kulim Road in Bukit Mertajam on the mainland. It's just before the junction to the Bukit Mertajam Country Club. This place is packed in the afternoons, except Fridays when it's closed!

Nasi Kandar. Unfortunately, nasi kandar is too commercialised today and many of the old-style Indian Muslim sellers are no longer around in the land of its origin. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the stuff they cook. Nevertheless, among the most well-known is a place called Line Clear, in a lane off Penang Road, although its operation is now clouded by controversy over family disputes. One of the quaintest characters there used to be one of their elderly workers who could speak to you in Hokkien or Cantonese, depending on your inclination. But he is no more there. My current favourite is the stall at the Melo Cafe at the junction of Bishop Street and Pitt Street. The stall has been around for more than 60 years and it serves very traditional fare. If you have wheels, go to Jelutong on the outskirts of the city and zoom in to the Deen Restaurant along the main road. The nasi kandar there is as original as they come. By the way, I wouldn't patronise the shop known as the Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar. On principal, I would avoid that place because I feel their prices are too high. In Bukit Mertajam, there's this Nasi Kanchah Mamu along Jalan Rozhan. Worth a try, I tell you!


Pancake. Originally, there were two pancake stalls in the financial district of George Town. That was in the 1970s until perhaps 1990s. Then redevelopment of Beach Street and Union Street took over, and the two stalls were forced out from there. Nowadays, I can only find one similar stall in the mornings at the Kim Sun coffee shop in Macalister Road. The lady says she is the last in her family to sell this traditional fare. Nobody else seem interested to carry on when she stops eventually. So try her sliced banana pancake while you can. It's ultra delicious but perhaps a bit overly wicked too, seeing how she is generous with her margarine. 


Penang Laksa. People say the stall in Ayer Itam is the best but don't you ever believe it. It's one of those over-hyped hawker stuff. The soup smells heavenly but tastes quite bland. For me, I would prefer the stall along Lorong Selamat. It's garnished well and the Lemak variety is the best I've ever tasted in the city. If you have wheels, Balik Pulau town is the place to go for Penang Laksa. The stall at the Kim Seng coffee shop on the outskirts of Balik Pulau town is very authentic. They are one of the original Penang Laksa stalls over there; the one that's now operating at a nameless coffee shop (but I'm sure that it must have a name) in Balik Pulau town beside the outdoor carpark is the new pretender. There's another stall at the Chuang Heong coffee shop across the road. You can also search around the Balik Pulau market food court for Stall No. 26.


Po Piah. The best on the island so far is at the Padang Brown food centre. If you are on the mainland, do go the stall that's inside the one-storey coffee shop at the junction of Jalan Bunga Raya and Jalan Pasar in Bukit Mertajam. It's only available from 3pm until everything runs out! Others? I'm not very impressed but these two stalls makes me go crazy thinking about the po piah!

Rojak
. Never had a strong liking for rojak but I'm quite partial towards this stall in Bukit Mertajam that's curiously called Rojak Orang Hitam Putih. Don't know why it's called that way, but the stall's located within the same coffee shop where you can find the Po Piah that I've described above. P.S. While you are there waiting for the food, order the local coffee. Now, that's my type of coffee: thick and delicious and guaranteed to keep you abuzz better than any expresso!

Wanthan Mee, or Tok Tok Mee from the sound of sellers knocking bamboo sticks together to draw attention to their ware. What used to be my favourite stall on the island is located at the first coffee shop you see on the right-hand side as you turn into China Street from Jalan Kapitan Kling mosque. It's available from 7am daily, except Sundays. On the mainland, one of the stalls at the Seberang Jaya food court beside the Seberang Jaya wet market is worth a try. Especially, try their curry wanthan mee for a refreshing difference! Another wanthan mee stall of note on the mainland is in the Tai Kar Lok coffee shop at the Jalan Rozhan-Jalan Impian junction almost diagonally across the road from the TESCO Bukit Mertajam outlet.

Yong Tau Foo. The only authentic Penang yong tau foo stall is located at the Padang Brown at the Anson Road-Perak junction. Others are poor imitations and there's really no competition for this stall. Try it for a memorable lunch or tea.