So I awoke and got out of bed the next morning only to find that my room mate, Cindy, was not sleeping in the bed next to mine. Won’t get into too much detail here but turns out that she had gotten a mite tipsy after downing 2 beers and got a little loud the night before, demanding food and promptly falling asleep elsewhere before she could even eat it. Nothing scandalous happened though, alright?
Anyways, JD & Jack were awake already that morning despite going to bed around 3 A.M. The original plan was that we were to go for a nice Penang-style breakfast before the interview with the CM. (Oh yes! We got to interview the guy! More on that later!) Unfortunately, due to the untimely little incident with the radiator overheating to maximum levels, things didn’t go according to plan. In fact, quite a LOT of things didn’t go according to plan during this trip…
Thankfully, JD knew a mechanic friend who he trusted enough to fix the problem with the car. Timing was crucial because we needed to get to Komtar for the interview on time by noon. Plus I had to do my hair (hello! Interview with CM lah and some more it’s supposed to be aired on Star Online so must look at least halfway decent, mah!). So JD decided to get everyone to check out of their rooms ASAP. Unfortunately, one of our crew members needed a little longer (an hour to be exact) to get ready – because after all, she IS the Malaysian Dreamgirl, heheh. (Just teasing, Cindy!).
So after the rest of us checked out, we (JD, Jack, Jerry and I) headed straight to Kelawai Road Shell station where we left the faulty Sorento with his friend, Ah Kang. So next time you want to go and get your car fixed, Ah Kang can give you good discount. Beeeesssst price, some more!
With one car down, everybody had no choice but to cram into the “gorgeous” Sorento and headed to Komtar where I had just enough time to go and have a wash and blow – for RM20!!! – at the nearest salon where I had to explain to the lady that no, I’m not Chinese… no, I’m not mixed.. no, I’m not from Penang… no, I don’t want the special hair serum scalp treatment package….
Meantime, Jerry went to pick up Tim & Cindy while JD and Jack went out for brunch. According to JD, the food was terrible. So next time you’re in Penang, you might want to avoid the kopitiam located at the underpass of Komtar where the outstation buses are. Just a word to the wise.
Once we finally managed to gather everyone together, we crossed over to the MPPP office located inside Komtar itself. Unfortunately, our Star videographer wasn’t there yet.
Apparently there was some form of miscommunication – our original interview was slotted for 3pm. And then it was changed to 12pm. The thing is, the videographer was not informed of the new schedule. Poor guy had to rush over immediately (but by the time he arrived, we were already halfway through our interview). Once all that was finally sorted out, we all got our passes to head up to the 28th floor – the Chief Minister’s office…
(Ok, from here on, JD takes over the storytelling…)
We were greeted by a Mr. Ong and were promptly ushered into the Penang CM’s board room which was just like the man and his policies … no frills, thrifty and clean (too clean if you ask me … and that raises my suspicions that he might be a spy for KAOS … but that’s a different story… just kidding!).
Anyway, the Honorable Tuan Lim Guan Eng appears from his chambers not long after we had set up our equipment. He was all we had expected him to be … humble, straightforward, confident and polite – all that just from the first handshake and ‘hullos’.
We soon got comfy and started ‘grilling’ Penang’s current man-in-charge on his day-to-day life which he responded with “Busy! Busy! Busy!” and then moved on to “paradigm shift” and “CAT government”. All that just from our first question “So what’s a day in the life of the CM?”. This goes to show that you can take the man out of politics but never the politics out of the man.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to fully explore (and dig up some dirt on) the CM’s personal life. When he was informed of his day’s busy schedule, he seemed disappointed that he couldn’t divulge as much info as he had wanted to and actually suggested that Dilly & I come along with him and continue the interview in the car! Unfortunately, his schedule was WAYYYYYY too packed for an excursion of that sort as he was to be with 98.8 in minutes, we weren’t equipped (takde portable video recorder) and we weren’t about to drag our tireless videographer along. Dude rushed over from Bayan Lepas for this interview, man!
After his final words for our video cameras, Lim Guan Eng thanked us and promptly rushed off (apologising as he did so) for his other interview scheduled for that same afternoon with our (Chinese) sister station, 98.8. Gathering up our equipment and moving over to the waiting room of “Pejabat Ketua Menteri”, we were greeted with an amazing view. 28 floors up, you get a pretty awesome view of the sea, the Penang Bridge and mainland Penang. Sometimes I wonder why I decided to leave this Pearl of the Orient.
Having sorted out our official duties, the Red FM team decided to have a proper Penang lunch (we’ve been making do with McDonald’s for awhile much to Dilly’s disappointment) and do some major sight seeing. Penang’s changed quite a bit in the 3-ish years I’ve been gone. First things first though … the call of the wild-tummy was too much to overlook and we found our way at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (near Campbell Street) for some good old-fashioned-arse-burning nasi kandar aka nasi ganja.
Let’s see if my memory is as strong as I claim it to be – I had curried sotong, veggie (kobis), fried egg and kuah campur ‘banjir’; Dilly had fish curry, fried chicken and kobis; Cindy had curried sotong and a myriad of other things … so much so that you couldn’t find the rice; Jack had chicken curry and veggie; Tim and Jerry just had ‘sambal ayam’ (sweet chili chicken) but no rice – probably trying to watch their ever growing waistlines. Thank goodness for the cooling Lychee drink … we must’ve ordered like a ton of ‘em!
Having soothed the savage beast i.e. our raging tummies, we decided to check out some touristy spots for some kick-assed photo opps. So off we headed up to the land of beautiful beaches – Batu Ferringgi.
It was a long and winding drive up and with the air-conditioning on full-blast, the girls soon drifted off to a much deserved nap. Since Jerry (who was driving), Tim and myself all formerly lived in Penang, it was an interesting ride up as we reminisced about ‘the good old days’. What surprised us all was the high number of new housing developments in that area. One wonders how Penangites who decide to live up in Tanjung Bungah/Batu Ferringgi will travel to work daily. It’s already congested on the road to the city now! Tim’s suggestion for a monorail line that runs right around the island too might not be a bad idea – he should submit this idea to our new friend Guan Eng (who just happens to be the state’s CM).
Back to our journey up to ‘tourist land’ aka Batu Ferringgi. We had driven all the way up past Miami Beach (which was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami) when we decided that it’d be a better idea to stop over at Parkroyal Hotel (for a much needed toilet break) and also have some fun at the beach.
Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us in the car, Jerry was in need of some No. 2 type relief. So off we headed to the little boys’ room (for Tim, Jerry and me) and the little girls’ room (for Cindy and Dilly).
Oh how I wish I could put in some sound effects here cos words will not be able to fully describe the sheer velocity and decibel count of a certain someone’s No. 2. Long story short, it’s an experience that I’m never gonna let Jerry forget … PFHHHH !!!
With our bladders drained and someone’s stomach content slowly oozing its way to sea, we headed to the beautiful beach at Parkroyal Hotel. It was a hive of activity with sunbathers lapping up the rays, water sports aficionados on jet skis and parasails; and kids building sandcastles. It was the perfect setting for a crazy photoshoot that Tim decided to do. Here’s some of the pics that he got !
After getting all nice and sticky in the humid heat at the beach (and also checkin’ out some snake show at some kid’s birthday party at the gardens next to the pool), we headed back down towards Gurney Plaza mall since Dilly needed to get a pair of jeans while Jack and I needed to pick up the now-repaired Sorento from Kelawei Road (which was a 5 minute drive from the mall). It was nice to just be able to have a walkabout the mall and not worry about schedules and meetings and interviews and concentrate on chilling out. Gurney Plaza is THE place to be around this area so you can imagine the number of people who frequent this mall. Good news for the guys as we had time to ‘cuci mata’ … Penang chicks boleh tahan.
All that shopping and walking got us hungry and since we were at Gurney Drive, it was chow time. So off we headed to the most overrated makan spot in Penang for some laksa (Dilly had mentioned that if she didn’t get her laksa, her foot would be up my ass), pasembur/rojak, ‘muar chee’ (which is a Penang sweet & sticky treat), deep fried chicken skin (MUAHAHAHA … my cholesterol level is over the roof) and ABC.
The hawker area of Gurney Drive has changed quite a fair bit – it’s cleaner and the stalls don’t have their familiar signboards anymore. They’ve all been given their own little standardized stall … which made it a nightmare for me to find the good stalls. Unfortunately, I could NOT find ‘The’ stall and I settled for stall #79 and instructed the stall owners that I wanted 6 bowls of laksa with everything. It wasn’t till the laksa arrived that I understood what ‘everything’ meant – laksa noodles, fish balls, a hard boiled egg and some lousy diluted laksa ‘kuah’. Had dinner been laksa only, I would’ve been in sooooo much trouble. Thank God the rest of the grub weren’t half bad. Still, Dilly wasn’t satisfied and I could half feel her boot up my soft cheeks.
With our tummies filled and our funny bones activated thanks to yours truly (Cindy causing quite a number of heads turning to look in our direction with her cackling and Dilly collapsing to the ground on one knee in a fit of giggles), we headed back to the mall to get the cars and head back to Tim’s hotel (where our bags were). Midway there though, Tim (who was in the other Sorento) calls me up and says to make a detour to … SWATOW LANE !!!! Nirvana of Penang hawker food (for us at least).
So here’s what we stuffed in our faces this time!
Penang assam laksa – fishy excellence
ABC – ice cold excellence
Rojak – fruity excellence
Banana pancake – banana-ee excellence
After significant overeating (and laughing again), the gang jumped back into their respective Red Sorentos and headed over to Traders Hotel where Dilly and I left our luggage in Tim’s room (which had thankfully been visited by the housekeeping crew). It was a welcome respite to be able to use the bathroom in the comfort of Tim’s room as we had been using public restrooms the entire day. Dilly showered, I wiped myself down with some clean wet towels (basically mandi kerbau la) while the rest of the crew were all slouched over some sofa or on the bed.
While we were there recuperating, Tim hooked up his laptop to the power supply and we transferred the contents of the many camera memory cards we had into the hard drive. From the pics we saw, one could say we had an awesomely fun day. A fun but tiring one. It was getting close to 9:30pm and I gathered up my troops (Dilly and Jack) for the long trek home leaving behind Jerry, Cindy and Tim. Tim would stay on for a few more days as he had business to settle in Penang but for Jerry and Cindy, it’d be time they’d use to unwind and probably catch a little shut-eye before they drove South bound. I wanted to get back to KL ASAP as I had plans on Sunday with my brother at the F1 circuit in Sepang for the Japan GT races so tired as I was, I decided to drive home.
It was a rather uninteresting drive back with me at the wheel most of the way from Penang till slightly after Ipoh (while Jack slept) and from then on, Jack took over while I caught forty winks. Thank goodness for Dilly who was an absolute trooper for staying awake and keeping Jack and myself company while we drove.
All in all … it was an amazing trip to Penang for all of us for varying reasons. For me, it was sorta like a trip home as I had spent 6 years there and it was nice seeing the changes and all-too familiar haunts. For Dilly, it was all about the food (as usual) and the sights. For Jack … well, you’d have to ask him yourself cos he’s a kinda quiet guy who’ll only say anything or laugh at my wisecracks when they’re directed at Cindy. While in Penang, I found myself saying “Why did I leave Penang … this place is awesome … the beaches, the food, the party places” … but I gotta say, the moment we saw the Petronas Twin Towers in the distance from the NKVE, we all felt the same thing … it’s great to be home.