I thought about naming this Fun, Fitness & Food in Penang but really, none of that occurred without our dear friend, Onn who brought us into his family, friends, and some amazing experiences with food, fitness, and fun!
Onn & I are high school friends that stayed in touch over the past 30 years mostly via fb but occasionally in person when our paths crossed. I’ve seen him as a newlywed, a father, and a friend; on every facet, he is nothing short of a classic gentleman while also being a kid that loves to have fun! So enjoy this blog ride…
One of the blessings of travel is food. A mere 25 years ago, I recall eating the spiciest pepper EVER at a Penang hawker food stand with my good friends, Eustace, Randall, and Onn’s father. No surprise that my return is just as spicy and memorable only this time we had an expanded familial experience.
The photo above is one of our big nights with our families bonding at Mee Lyn’s restaurant wine bar in Georgetown. We enjoyed a feast this night of steak, bruschetta, and of course churros – the best I’ve ever had! More important are the people in the photo: behind Leticia is Onn, his wife, Mee Lyn, and his father who hosted me 25 years earlier. Onn’s mom is next to Louisa and myself and she can do ropes (more to come in fitness) like you won’t believe! Behind us is Wilson and his wife – he’s a jazz musician that adheres to the classics when he’s not sharing his knowledge of wine. An entertaining night was enjoyed by all.
Before we connected with Onn, we trooped around the historic area of Penang which is pretty cool. Onn’s father eloquently described it as, “The only place where you have a church, a temple, and a mosque all on the same street.” He is absolutely correct and they are not far apart; what’s most impressive is the fact that “these places of worship have never once in all of their history fought nor attacked each other.” And Onn’s father could not have explained it any better – Penang is a diverse and peaceful place. If only the rest of the world understood!
A hawker market is an open area with food stands; think of it as a mini food trucks area with anywhere from 10-25 or more trucks. They started in the 1950s so if you thought the food truck thing is new, then you’re a bit behind. Regardless, you should feel jealous because they are awesome.
Before we met Onn, we went on a hawker search and failed – it was closed! But that didn’t stop us because our mistake discovered Passion of Kerala where we feasted on southern Indian food with our right hands (ok, just me). Then life changed when we connected with Onn. It really started to blur over time, especially with the hawker food, but I’ll give you my best recollection of the dining smorgasbord.
Zealand’s was the sight of our first feast with full family eating around a fast moving round table. To me, it was a reunion seeing Onn, his parents, Mee Lyn, and Wilson – all of whom I had not seen for years. I can only recall some delicious noodles, fish, stews and fried chicken that was extra crispy with Asian spices as I wobbled out! Another highlight evening was what I call the VIP dinner at Green Ocean which included stuffed crab (see photo) and great friends.
The entertainer of the night was none other than Onn who broke a chopstick in half…with a paper napkin!
Mee Lyn’s Georgetown Wines restaurant was the home base for the week. We met friends, family, and many glasses of wine with great food.
Did I mention hawker markets? One morning I hopped on the scooter with Onn to buy breakfast for everyone. The entire trip took 20 minutes and included 6 different food stallsfor noodles, dessert cakes, fruits, and Chinese snacks as well as a speedy ride to the market and back. Whirlwind! The kids love eating sweets in the morning!
Another night we ate out with Onn and friends at another hawker area that really gave us the feel for the eating culture of Penang which is that you get to eat whatever you want quickly! Leti and the kids love pork buns so they got them; I ate shrimp curry noodle. And for dessert, Sebastian and I enjoyed flavored ice with strawberry ice cream on top; you mix it all together with beans and other ingredients at the bottom of the bowl to give it a delicious taste. Are you starting to get the picture? Yes, overwhelming in a gastronomically awesome way!
To work off all that eating, we trained with Onn and learned some awesome workouts. The two highlights are definitely the ropes that I mentioned earlier. Basically, you take a 50-60 feet rope 1-2 inch diameter and use it to workout; sounds easy peasy??? NOT!!! I guarantee in one minute that you will feel the burn! The second learning point was Onn showing the kids how to defend themselves; the only downside was that I was the dummy bad guy that he used as a target!
We also did what many tourists do including the cable car up Penang Hill, Butterfly Farm which is the best in the world, Snake temple, Spice garden, 3D Museum, Peranakan museum, and of course Onn’s family temple to name a few.
And then there was Escape: pronounced like Dory: ehs-cap-ehhh but I’ll let Sebastian share that story for you. Yes, Penang is a truly diverse place for religion, food, and experiences – I will be back only this time it will be less than 25 years from now!
Sorry but carried away with the photos this time around…hope you enjoy a few more to end: