Penang Tourism: Tropical Fruit Farm

I finally got around to doing one of those touristy things that locals never seem to do. I took the tour at the Tropical Fruit Farm. It costs around $10, and so I always thought why should I pay that much to look at fruit. Well, this time, someone else was paying so I went. And I really enjoyed it. Now, I recommend it to others. Here’s a few highlights.

The scenery is gorgeous – in the “green zone” on the backside of the island. Here (below) you can see the reservoir and ocean in the background.

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(Below) We happened upon our first fruit tree – pink guava.

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(below) Our energetic and entertaining guide is showing off the rose apples.

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(below) Passion fruit vines.

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(below) What’s this thing called?

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(below) Coffee – robusta

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(below) Pineapple2016-01-08 14.31.41

(below) Here is the luscious smelling cinnamon tree. Scratch and sniff.

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(below) Acai berry.

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(below) You recognize this one, don’t you?2016-01-08 14.51.27-1

(below) Here’s the nutmeg fruit separated from it’s pink outside which is used to make mace.2016-01-08 15.01.26-1

The tour ends with a tropical fruit buffet and smoothie, which is included in the price. It’s a fun, educational, and delicious tour in the gorgeous tropical hillsides of Penang. I recommend it.



Views from the Top of Penang

Visited the restaurant 59 Sixty at the 59th and 60th floor of Komtar in downtown Georgetown, Penang. So I thought I’d give you a peek at what Penang looks from the top.2016-01-07 13.17.11

(Above) This is the heart of Georgetown – the old quarter – with Butterworth and the Penang Port is in the distance across the water. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Imagine yourself scooting through these maze of streets, looking at the street art, stopping by one of dozens of hip cafes, enjoying the architecture, and stopping for the best food anywhere. This is Penang!2016-01-07 14.00.23

(Above) The main traffic intersection southwest of Komtar. 2016-01-07 13.16.08

(above) Looking southward over the eastern half of the island – south of Georgetown.

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(Above) Looking eastward across the Penang Strait which is part of the Strait of Malacca. The Penang Bridge can be seen in the upper right corner.


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(Above) Looking southeast. Good view of the Penang Bridge in the center, including the suspension bridge in the center. Jerejak Island is in the top right corner. The second Penang Bridge could be seen by the naked eye, but the camera didn’t pick it up.2016-01-07 13.58.55

(Above) Looking westward. The first little hill near the center top is Pearl Hill. My home is on the other side of the hill. The piece of land which juts into the Strait of Malacca is where my home away from home is – the Penang Performing Arts Centre. Heading northward, you’ll leave the strait and end up in the Andaman Sea.

This has been my home for the last ten years. I love it!

My Favorite Penang Eatery

Chuah’s Thai Food. Doesn’t this look absolutely amazing?  It is. I’m here most days for lunch, which typically costs 6rm (or about $1.50). Yeah, what’s not to love. I’ll outline my five favorite dishes just for the heck of it.

chuah thai food

5. Sweet Pork – When you aren’t feeling spicy, this sweet pork with a dark, flavorful sauce is terrific.

4. Green Curry – Soupy based green curry with chicken, beans, chilies, is SO flavorful that you will scoop up every last drop.

3. Long Bean & Pork – a terrific dish with perfectly stir-fried long beans, chilies, lime leaves, crispy pork, and a luscious yellow thick curry sauce

2 Minced Meat w/Egg –  we are turning up the heat on this one. The spiciest dish on the menu if you DARE eat all of the tiny chopped bird’s eye chilies which are added to this minced pork, oyster sauce, and incredible Thai basil. Add a fried egg, put over rice, and, oh my, let your taste buds explode. You will need a drink handy.

1 Padprik Chicken – The top of the heap in flavor and lusciousness! Chicken, red onion, chilies, and Thai basil are the four ingredients. Cooked with an amazing sauce which includes Tom Yum paste, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and chicken broth.

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Honorable Mention: Cashew Chicken – she cooks it with the same padprik chicken base without the basil or peppers – served with green onions and cashews – tasty!

Whenever I do leave Penang, I will miss this place incredibly. I’m afraid to tell you where it is, because it might get even more crowded than usual. And hey, I don’t like to wait for my food. But okay, it’s in Tanjung Bungah, Permai, opposite Tenby School.

The Sky is Choking Us (AKA: Never Take Blue Skies for Granted)

Here’s a photo of our street at the moment.

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Notice those beautifully green hills in the background? Of course not, they are completely covered by a thick layer of smog courtesy of Indonesia.

We’ve had occasional bad visibility in the past from time to time, but I’ve seen nothing like this in my ten years in Malaysia. Today is the worst air quality I’ve ever seen – currently reading 172 on the air pollution index.

Hundreds of fires in Indonesia are currently sending a thick plume of polluted air throughout Southeast Asia. Penang, being quite a bit north, usually escapes most of it, but not this time. The fires are a result of clear-cutting, making way for new farm land. I have great sympathy for the peasants who toil on the land with a meager existence. I understand how the thought of a new field with increased returns could entice them, but when practices threaten the health of an entire region, more must be done. The Indonesian government is working now to put the fires out, but that does little to stop the long-term issues.

I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, which of course used to have the blackest sky in the world back in the roaring steel mill days of Carnegie and Frick. I’m sure the area was still quite polluted in the sixties when I was born, but it always looked clean to me.

I lived in Vietnam for ten years and never saw a more polluted sky than what I’m seeing today. I lived along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for a couple years and enjoyed the clean, brisk air. But seeing this thick smog encapsulate the nation, I don’t envy people who have to deal with these issues on a regular basis. (Beijing, Mexico City, …)

Here’s the current air quality map of the region:

Capture air quality


You might notice that horrendous reading Kalimantan (southern part of Borneo, Indonesia) – 852! The label for that reading is hazardous. No one should have to live surrounded by oppression like that.

I hope the government of Indonesia will take some serious steps to address these issues through education and alternatives for people living in poverty.

For the time being, I’m staying inside, enjoying my air conditioning, and wondering if we will have school tomorrow. I know there are many who simply don’t have the small luxuries that I have.

Never take blue skies for granted.

Another Penang Post

I’ve kind of become somewhat of a Penang junkie, in case you didn’t know. Here’s another link you can check out. A tongue-in-cheek list of 9 reasons why you shouldn’t visit Penang:

I’ll add a few of my own photos as well.

Strange authors hanging out by the sea.
Street art in Georgetown
Nagore Place
A cool gate.

Only in Malaysia

I’ll categorize this night as “Only in Malaysia.”

I took my wife out for dinner tonight as is often our Friday night routine. We went to a small Italian restaurant which we occasionally go to. The parking lot is in a small plaza just up the road from the restaurant. As I was ready to turn left into the plaza, I noticed that in the middle of the road was a massive shelter-on-wheels which is used as part of the daily night market. I brought the car to a stop, but two Indians waved me through. Yes, actually waved me through the narrow metal shelter with a tin roof and shaky metal sides, sitting on large rotating wheels. It was narrow, but I knew I could make it, so I drove through the make-shift tunnel, thinking that I can’t imagine any other country in the world which would have something like this.

After that, we pulled into the parking lot and two different Indians approached and said “two ringgit” for parking. Well, I’ve parked in that lot many times over the years and I’ve never paid a cent for parking. I knew the guys were there to make some money, so I looked at them and told them that I’ve never paid to park here before. They shook their head a little and replied “one ringgit.” I asked under what authority were they collecting money? They brushed that off like they didn’t understand. I then asked them if I they had a receipt to give me, which they didn’t. They knew that I knew that this was a scam. That was enough for me. I gave them one ringgit just so I didn’t come out of the restaurant and have a flat tire. I didn’t, so I guess it was worth it.

My third “only in Malaysia” moment happened when we walked into the restaurant. No one was at the door to greet me. No one was in the dining hall either. We walked further in, and I noticed that there was one person behind the bar with his head down buried in the wood. I yelled, “hello,” which suddenly woke up the restaurant. Workers crept out of walls, and the place quickly came to life. We had a great meal and even a 10% discount.

All and all a night which could (possibly) only happen in Malaysia. Always an enjoyable time!

Looking Ahead: Short & Sweet Theatre Penang Next Week

Next week kicks off the 4th annual Short & Sweet Theatre festival in Penang. I’ve enjoyed being involved in it since its inception back in 2012.

The Short & Sweet Theatre concept comes out of Sydney, Australia which has been holding this open, theatrical competition for many years. The concept has spread worldwide and can be found in diverse places such as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. What makes Short & Sweet enticing is the format: 10 minute plays where professionals and amateurs can work collaborate, experiment, and have fun in a low-keyed setting. It also is a competition with a variety of awards given for best acting, best script, best overall production and so on.

This is the fourth year that one of my scripts has been included in the show. This year, I requested that I would like to direct my own piece for a change, and so I am. I’m directing a script called “Words to Say at the End of the World” – about a mother and daughter who have to figure out what’s really important once “someone drops a nuclear bomb in their backyard.”  Yes, they have 10 minutes to react after the bomb explodes. It makes sense, don’t worry.

I really like this piece and I’m working with two very talented young actors who are just delightful to watch. We’ve been meeting daily to put it together, and we’ll spend a nice chunk of time this weekend perfecting it. Next Monday is the technical rehearsal where we’ll see my lighting scheme for the first time. (I hope it looks good. I doubt it. That’s not my forte.) And then dress rehearsal Tuesday night.

The show runs from Wed Aug 26 – Sat Aug 29 at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. It should be a lot of fun. If you’re in town. Put it on your calendar.

Short & Sweet Link