#Cameron Highlands #Penang #Malaysia (continued): It’s Malay-ville, Jake…

Sunset at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

Sunset at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

The problem is that Penang has the smallest meal portions of any place in the world that I’ve yet seen, absolutely ridiculous, hardly worth the money effort or time, for anything stir-fried in Chinese woks, that is, not made up in batches like the Malaysian and Indian curry stalls frequently known as ‘economy rice’, maybe derives the minimalist system from its rep as a hawker haven and night market, where nibbling and walking are part of the game, but when I sit down park my butt I’d really like to fill my empty belly, too, you know, otherwise I’d rather just go buy a loaf and some PB & J…

Which is exactly what I do, since I can, haven’t had one in months, inspired by scams science and supermarkets, factor portion size on to already not-so-cheap prices and you’d do better than the Penang hawker stalls in any Chinese fast-food-joint in LA, everyone looking at everyone else’s plate here like perverts in the public bathroom glancing around to see who’s got the biggest noodle, you might do better if you speak Chinese dialects but I wouldn’t count on it…

Hotel/Bar/Club in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Hotel/Bar/Club in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

The backpacker tourist strip in Georgetown has now upgraded to ‘flashpacker’ status and extends from Chinatown toward the beach, connecting the once dilapidated Chinese commercial strip of Campbell Street and the hotel strip of Jalan Penang with Little India, with some zigs and zags via Lebuh Chulia, so maybe that will give the developers pause, but I doubt it, depends on the bottom line, since the flip side to ‘location location & location’ is ultimately ‘rent rent & rent’ in this game of high-stakes poker, may the best man win win win, and winner take all…

Ice kacang in penang, Malaysia

Ice kacang in penang, Malaysia

Georgetown is not the same city as the last time I was here seven years ago, doubt it will be the same seven years from now; more than any place I’ve ever been Malaysia seems like a theme park caricature of itself, not bad, mind you, but funny and scary at the same time, so you can go eat ice kacang over at Lebuh Keng Kwee, its traditional home, or go a block away to a fancy mall with twice the price and a road sign from that same alley to remind you of your childhood a block away…

Park in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Park in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

But Genting Highlands, aka Resorts World Genting, is the ultimate, a purpose-built ‘hill resort’, inspired by the Cameron Highlands, but entirely fake, for entertainment only, as if Mt. Rushmore were to combine with Disneyland, form a government, call it America, and put it in the classrooms, combining geography with literature with science and the rest is history, stay tuned…

The real Cameron Highlands is a bit nicer, a strip of development and agro-biz icing the hills beyond Ipoh that orang asli once settled now relegated to second-class status and subsidized health-care for their trouble, the choice hilltop locations now reserved for well-paying tourists from near and far all looking to beat the heat of the lowlands…

Parasailing at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

Parasailing at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

It’s like a different world up there with pines and ferns sharing spaces and metaphors, cool and rainy like Pacific Northwest, complete with Seattle syndrome Nirvana endgames and friendly people united by rain hardship and the holy grail of industry, old world green new world gray, groups held together by visions of sugar plums, consumer goods and the saving grace of tourism…

And there are always beaches, Malaysia blessed with loads of them, half the country detached from the mainland, in fact, lost in the Pacific to become half of Borneo by the vagaries of history and circumstance, then dozens of little ones famous or not Langkawi and the like, Perhentian and others, Penang itself only the biggest not the best, complete with empty hotels and unfulfilled dreams, Batu Ferringhi “’Farang’ (foreigners) Rock” not bad considering its ease of access with para-sailing speedboats and the like, Thailand still hours and miles away for the traveler and the businessman looking for some true R&R…

Chinese Cemetery, Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

Chinese Cemetery, Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia

So where does Malaysia ultimately rank on Uncle Hardie’s travel-meter? Pretty high, in fact, not bad, not cheap, but not so expensive, either, Islam lite keeps most prostitution off the street but beer coolers still well-stocked, nice if your last name is kill-a-brew, not my main vice, no the thing I like best are the water fountains with boiling water or cold straight from the spout, great for the tea-drinkers and caffeine addicts among us…

So you can go haggle with the peddlers on Petaling or go pedaling on Penang, plenty to do and it’s all clean fun. But as for me: Where to next? Good question. Maybe it’s time to get lost in Laos. Maybe it’s time to make a movie. Maybe it’s time to do something different. Maybe it’s time to go somewhere new. Maybe it’s time to go ‘old school’. However it plays out, there may not be WiFi there. Stay tuned. I’ll be back.

Advertisements