This week I’ve been visiting Penang with some friends from my home town. We’ve been enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that the city has to offer
I was looking back through my blog at older posts and I have realised that I don’t do half so many posts as I used to. I also realised that I don’t post about a lot of the same stuff that I used to. I’m sorry about that. But if you guys want more variety in my posts please let me know. If you’re happy to have updates about my life in Kuantan let me know. If you want a mix of old and new let me know.
So on Friday this happened:
I also had a great night out with some new friends. Then on Saturday I had another great evening with some other new friends. Gosh I’m being vague. Let’s just say that it made up for the fact that I missed out on Australia Day celebrations due to gastrointestinal upset.
There are so many ways to spell Pau using the Roman alphabet. Bao, Pao, Pau, Bau… it’s pronounced somewhere between pow and bow (as in bow wow not bow tie) and I love it. I love it’s pillowy softness and the silky “crust”. I love the different types and the close resemblance they have to my face, all round and white. I love the hot bready first bite before you get to the delicious middle filling. I love nibbling at just the filling before I eat the bun and filling together. I love to savour the deliciousness and stuff my cheeks full of the squishy goodness, like a squirrel preparing for winter. I love that it costs RM1.20 for one of these round puffs of delight. And I love that, if I had to, I could eat them all day everyday!
I was a bit worried that Kuantan wouldn’t let me leave. The weather is well into monsoon season. Friday night the storm was so loud it woke me at 4am practically shaking the building. A storm like that would’ve grounded me for sure if it happened when we were to take off.
I do love the rain, it brings a coolness to the air and very large puddles. I love driving through deep puddles and having the water crash up against my window. I’ve been thinking about this ad from years ago every time it rains.
The rains are definitely in Kuantan, thankfully I’m not. For three weeks anyway!
This weekend I have been very social. The closer my trip home for Christmas draws the keener the desire to shop becomes. Actually, in all honesty, it’s the pre-Christmas panic that’s driving the shopping but it does allow me to spend time with some friends.
Friday night was the International Ladies of Kuantan’s Christmas dinner. The Scot and her husband, The Engineer, invited me to join them and I met a lot of nice and interesting people. Probably my favourite new person was honorary Aussie, Muriel*, she really made me laugh. We had good food and The Scot even showed the crowd a few steps of her national dance. They’re so kind to include me. I also got to meet a new lady in town, Ze Russian, I kept bumping into her around the city, including Sushi King and the supermarket, so when I saw her at the party I waved to her as if we were old friends. It was almost destined that we would meet. I feel very blessed to have made friends with a few people here.
Saturday night, The Mathematician, our friend, Rae, and I went to the night market at Telok Cempedak near my place. I needed to scope out the place to start making some very important purchases. Christmas presents. There’s only 2 weeks left until I arrive back on Australia’s fair shores and I want to be laden with presents for people! We also ate at the night food stalls and had a delightful evening gas-bagging and giggling. It’s so delightful to be shopping and chatting with new friends, as though I’ve known them all my life. Four short months ago, perhaps even four short weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought it possible or probable.
*So named because we bonded over her love of Muriel’s Wedding and getting Toni Colette mixed up with Minnie Driver.
When I was younger I was a little bit more adventurous. I enjoyed festivals and rallies and protests, as any young student socialist/activist/hippy/liberal/journalist would. Despite this I’ve never been a huge dare devil. I like quiet and peaceful activities like knitting and reading, occasionally listening to a podcast. As I’ve gotten older this love of the indoors and quiet has grown. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete introvert, but neither am I a full extrovert. I sit happily in the middle of the spectrum, enjoying quiet solitude and the occasional party. Which is why I was able to travel around Europe mostly on my own. It is also why I was able (only just) to put myself on a plane and move to Malaysia.
Unfortunately it is also why I’m a little bit scared about dining out or exploring on my own.
Here are three reasons why it’s difficult for me to venture out:
- Until one month ago I was solely reliant on the generousity of others or cabs to get about. A trip to the supermarket was a large hoo-ha.
- Unless I have a specific purpose in mind the idea of strolling about in this heat and humidity is awful.
- It’s bloody scary out there! I’m the odd one, no matter what I wear or how I walk I’m still obviously not from around here.
This week I said “Enough! I am brave and strong and true!”
- *I marched myself out of the house and down to the satay house, Satay Zul and I ordered in English a takeaway! Huzzah! Not so scary after all are you counter man!?
- *I waltzed into the furniture shop and wandered happily until I got to the lighting section where I met Uncle U.
Uncle U: What are you looking for?
Me: A lamp.
Uncle U: This is the right place.
Insert minor chit chat about Australia and weather and my length of stay etc.
Me: I like this lamp.
Uncle U: Well I can give it to you cheaper than the price.
Me: Really? (I still don’t know how to haggle)
Uncle U: Yes. 200 Ringgitt.
Me: That’s great. That’s 40 Ringgitt off.
Uncle U: Do you want a yellow or white globe? They’re 10.
Me: Yellow. I think you know my friend, T.
Uncle U: Hmm? With the goatee? Yes! I know him. The light globe is free!
Me: Are you sure?
Uncle U: That’s how we work in Malaysia. We give friends and friends of friends discounts!
That’s right, I accidentally haggled. Plus I got a lamp!
- I ordered Chinese take away, alone at the local Chinese restaurant.
- I drove passed my “city limits” into unknown territory, finding both the state mosque and the bus station. I even managed to drive myself home without the GPS.
- And tonight, I went on a date, with myself. I took myself to a western restaurant, alone and ordered steak! I sat alone, I ate alone, I paid alone. It was wonderful.
These things that I took for granted in my home town were alien and scary in a new place. I’m glad that my quest for adventure can be quelled, at the moment, by a trip to a restaurant on my own. I don’t know what I’ll do if I start needing a bigger hit. I don’t see bungee jumping in my future.
Mondays The Mathematician and I go and get lunch from a variety of different places. One of the first places she took me was to Lot 66. Here we had what is now know as the best Chicken Rice in Kuantan. And while the food court is open air and has no air conditioning I am happy to suffer under a fan for this very tasty food. After all I never really remember how hot I was, just that I had good food and good company.
I’ve been on a food lover’s binge this week. Many people would be jealous of the amazing delicacies I’ve eaten and watched other people eat. Oh alright that’s blatant exaggeration! But actually I’ve had a few good lunches this week with some good people!
First up The Mathematician and I went for lunch on Monday to a great café near Lot 66. She’d heard about it from her sister because it was owned by her sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin or something. Anyway we ate Nasi Lemak (which translates as Fat Rice!) and I drank a new favourite beverage of mine, the Iced Milo. Nasi Lemak comes with chicken and/or a boiled egg! It’s very, very tasty!
On Wednesday, after driving around to get my parcels from the post office and set up cable in my apartment The Scholar and I took a turn past an alluring Japanese restaurant called Hana Mizuki. I begged for him to take me there and we decided that we would go on Friday. We went and had the best meal. I ordered the sushi set and The Scholar ordered tempura, udon noodles and beef that you cook at the table. The sushi set came with sushi, sashimi, miso, salad and chawanmushi. I’m so glad we went.
And today I finally got my fill of Indian curry. There were four dishes and some rice served on a banana leaf and we ordered some prawn and chicken curries as well. The food was delicious but eventually the spice got a little too much for my poor mouth. I can eat any amount of wasabi with no worries but the long lasting sensation that comes with curry really affects me. I went with The Scot. We had a great time eating and chatting. She’s a lovely lady and she’s been all around the world.
All up a very good week I would say!
Here in Kuantan monsoon season has started. The sky has been leaking giant raindrops all over the city. Trees have fallen and the sea has been looking very irked. But despite this life goes on although in a much more dramatic way. It seems that with the shift in weather, so too comes the shift in lifestyle.
At the weekend I went and bought some essentials, like this new quilt cover set and a new upright broom and dust pan for when I break glass. I looked at a lot of things in the same store and finally found a gas lighter gun that I can use to light my stove with. Rice cooker, it’s back to rice for you! But now I need to update my pots and pans. Alas starting all over is a tough job.
I couldn’t resist this little dust pan set. It’s so adorable. There are times when I get so caught up in day to day life that I forget that I’m not living in Australia and then I find the above in a regular department store and it’s: “Oh, yeah! I’m in Asia!” Especially when the packaging is in delightful bubble font Japanese characters.
KTran, awesome friend, sent me a package that contained the above, plus some 30+ Sunscreen. Oh Banana Boat! You are so good! Isn’t KTran great for sending me this? It also forced me into finding the post office/parcel collection place and so now I can send the pile of post cards I have sat on my table.
That’s all for now.
I arrived in Kuantan in the middle of Ramadan. The fasting month for Muslims. It’s unfortunate because all the restaurants are closed. But soon after, Hari Raya began. The month long celebration of the end of fasting. I was invited to celebrate with some people. It’s very exciting to be included.
The food was amazing. The first day of Hari Raya and it was a huge feast. People were coming and going the whole time I was there. I ate curried just about everything and drank a delicious guava punch. The whole idea is that people eat for the whole day right after Ramadan. One ad for Hari Raya said “This is our reward. We just eat and be happy.” How can anyone not love a celebration like this? And everything was so delicious.
I’ve moved into a lovely little apartment. It’s one bedroom and has some plumbing issues but it’s nice and has air con! I’ve had some problems with cooking, because the gas elements aren’t self lighting. I nearly lost both eyebrows! I’m now using the rice cooker to make my meals. The ones I have at home anyway. There’s a pool for me to swim in and a gym, to work out in. My bedroom window looks out over the South China Sea and the balcony has a view of the gardens where wild pigs roam in the evening. It’s possible that there is an illegal dojo in the flat above me! All the crashing and banging and crying out!
I’m addicted to this drink they have here called 100 Plus. It’s like Gatorade but fizzy and not as sweet. It tastes a bit like fruitsaline, you know that powder stuff you have when you’re young and sick and need to get rehydrated. It’s bloody good.
Something that you’ll love about MY is that they add la to everything. It’s like a verbal exclamation point. OK-la?! Hurry up-la! Chinta-la (means love).