The last few months was busy with me completing some new reads, applying for Visa to travel to the States and Canada, as well as flying around the region. First off, there was a trip to Penang (the island) for the wedding dinner of the son of a business associate. The wedding was held in Hotel Equatorial in the southern part of the island on the mid of November. For this trip we spent a night at the Hotel Equatorial and 2 nights at Traders Hotel in Georgetown, the historical city centre of Penang.
Upon arrival on Penang, we got picked up by my uncle who currently resides in the island, and got to see that the while the island is relatively better off than the less developed parts of Malaysia (think Terengganu), the development has been lagging to areas like Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) and Johor Bahru (closest city to prosperous Singapore). My first impression of the city is that it is a clean and quaint little island and has a lot of greenery amidst some of the electronics manufacturing industry. We arrived slightly after 1pm in the afternoon and headed for the hotel which is a short distance from the airport, and it was relatively tricky to get to the hotel since it is located in a hill. The hotel, though is large and has several large scale ballrooms which might explain why the wedding was held here. Architecture wise, an open air atrium fills the central core of the hotel, with four wings housing the rooms spreading out from the atrium. The higher floors of the hotel provides a good view of the island of Penang and one of its most famous landmark, the Penang Bridge, which links the island to Peninsular Malaysia and is one of the longest bridges in Asia.
After the wedding dinner at night, we took a good night’s rest. The next day, my uncle brought us to town to meet some business associates and as it wasn’t yet time for check in, we had breakfast comprising of local prawn mee, curry noodle and kaya toast at the KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak) building. This city landmark is the tallest building in Penang and is beside Traders Hotel, where we will be staying for the next 2 nights. My mum’s Golden Circle Card was pretty useful for the hotel as it was part of the Shangri-La chain. We got a room facing the city and had a basket of welcome fruit in the room. Check in was a breeze in the Traders, same like for the Equatorial with not queues and long waits. After the check in, we walked to a tea house a block away from the hotel for lunch.
With our stomachs filled, it was time to settle down to business. As we export a sizeable volume of our coffee beans to roasters in Malaysia, we took this opportunity to visit our customers in building up our business networks in the region. With some of the contacts we are visiting located in Butterworth, we took a ferry across to Peninsular Malaysia, as we are in the city centre which is closer the ferry terminal rather than the bridge. The area around the ferry terminal is also full of the colonial buildings which made Georgetown charming and allowed it to gain UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. The ferry is a nice way to travel out to Butterworth as it provides passengers a view of the city skyline of Penang and the Penang Bridge by the other side. All in a 15 minutes ride.
The rest of the afternoon was thus taken up in visiting various coffee bean and spice grinders in the region, and it was interesting to see the various types of industries dealing in coffee and spices, from general merchants and traders to small home based industries to large scale organized food and ingredient manufacturers. For our return trip to Georgetown, we travelled via Penang Bridge. To end the second day in Penang, we had a nice dinner at Gurney Drive, one of the more popular tourist spots offering a diverse range of hawker foods from grilled seafood, noodles, rojaks, snacks and desserts. Large similarities of the hawker to Newton Circus in Singapore, albeit with this place being slightly less hygienic.
For the last day we were in Penang, we visited some local traders and merchants based in Georgetown and was invited for lunch at a traditional yet popular eatery in Penang. This place offers traditional Hainanese food and was one of the memorable dining experience in town. In fact the proprietor of the place was even interviewed by some international newspapers. For those keen to visit the eatery, the place is known as Shin Kheng Aun and is located along Chulia Lane in the heart of Georgetown. In the afternoon, we had some free time which my parents and me chose to spend it in the lobby lounge at the Traders while grabbing some light snacks. Dinner for the day was another invitation by another business associate and it was at another Chinese restaurant, and with this dinner, it basically wraps up my Penang trip, since we had an early morning flight the next day. Overall while I didn’t had the time ti explore much of Penang’s sights, there was much to be learned on the commodities trade in Penang and I had a rare glimpse into local life and business! For a comparison of the 2 lodging choices, I would have to say the Traders Hotel is the better of the 2 with is central location and better rooms. In fact the rooms at the Equatorial is pretty run down. The only factor helping the Equatorial is the balcony in its larger sized rooms and facilities which lend the Equatorial a resort-like feel.