Where did we leave off on our fabulous tour with Moses? Oh yes, after Penang Hill we went to LUNCH!
I asked Moses to find a place for lunch where we could have a nice variety of local food. Dan asked Moses to find a place that had A/C. You can see we differ in our priorities! But Dan has a point; it is rather hot in the middle of the day here, and touring around to all these places was making us rather sweaty. Dan in particular needs A/C when he’s eating so he can be comfortable. I need someone else to make decisions so I can be comfortable. Moses came through on both needs.
We sat down and were at the mercy of Moses. He knew we couldn’t handle a lot of spicy food (Malaysians, like Thai, seem to love SPICY food!) so he did a lot of consulting with the waitress lady on what we might like and what could come with less spice. There was a lot of speaking in a different language. We sat there and smiled.
We decided to go for the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” method. So we ordered a lot of small things and we all shared them. Gluten and I do not get along well so I tried to avoid it as much as I could, but inconveniencing others with my special needs and I also do not get along well so I did suck it up and try a few bites of stuff. Moses was none the wiser.
Starting clockwise from the 2 bowls of rice, we had these little things in muffin cups. It had the crust of a very thin pie, with some kind of finely minced meat in them. They were OK. I think they could use a sauce. I didn’t eat a whole lot because of the gluten.
Then you see the roti, which is like a pot pie or french toast thing with something inside. In this case it was pork but they also serve it as a desert with all kinds of yummy things in it. It was GOOD. One of our favorites. But lots of gluten so I only ate a tiny bit.
Next we have some pork sausage, which was really tasty. It had kind of a sweet outer crust and was even better when you dip it in one of the sauces in that white dish with the three compartments. The two reddish sauces were tasty and kind of sweet.
Now the plate with what looks a little like worms but was actually veggies… you are supposed to put those in the lettuce leaves and put in a sauce of your choice. It was OK. My veggie of choice is green and not worm-like but it was OK. However, I do like my food served in lettuce. That’s fun.
Completing our clock of food was the chicken in some kind of reddish sauce. It was good but it was better with rice and a little hard to get the meat off without making a big mess. But the sauce was good.
We still have four (4!) more hours of the tour, but first we had a little business to take care of. After lunch, Moses took us to the Thai consulate, where we had an appointment to pick up the visas we had applied for the previous day. That was a very simple process. Fun fact: if you get to the Thai consulate and find that you are missing copies of this-that-and-the-other-thing that they request of you, there is a very helpful guy in a van just outside the gate. He is ready to print, copy, staple, photograph or otherwise tend to whatever needs you have. And, if the Thai visa people tell you that they need to see an airline ticket exiting the country within the time frame of the visa…? Well, Helpful Van Guy can somehow make that magically happen as well. And no, he does not actually book you a ticket. I’m just going to leave that info right there and let you come to your own conclusions. The lady behind the counter at the Thai consulate had a lot of stamps and staples and she seemed to be very content with all the papers provided by us and Helpful Van Guy.
Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate
Moses then took us to a coffee, chocolate and tea store nearby. Evidently, there is a lot of coffee processing that happens in Malaysia, and they are well known for their “white coffee”, which is coffee that is blended with non dairy creamer and some flavorings. You pop that whole combo in water and presto-chango, you have coffee! At the store they had this great system when you get a tiny little cup and they have all the coffees made, sitting in thermoses. You just tell them the one you want to taste and they give you a sample. We loved ALL of them. They were all so good. I got a coffee blend with mint, which tastes like you are eating mint chocolate chip ice cream while drinking coffee. I’m not sure there is a better combination on earth, other than maybe mangos and sticky rice. Or maybe fries and mayo dipping sauce. Or maybe churros and chocolate. OK, I should stop now.
I bought some coffee, Haley bought some tea, the girls both bought some flavored cocoa and Dan just sat there and sighed a lot. Moses was quite amused. One thing I appreciated is that Moses had no investment in this store. Unlike some tours where the guide takes you to his brother’s restaurant, this was clearly just a place that Moses thought we would like. And he was right! He also suggested we use the bathroom because the next stop was about 35 minutes away. Moses, methinks you are a planner! Anyone who plans ahead on potty breaks is OK in my book. Unless they don’t like cold Junior Mints.
The Spice Gardens
Our next stop was a little bit outside of Georgetown. We went to a lovely place called The Spice Gardens, where you could wander along, seemingly in the middle of the jungle, but actually not too far out of town. We got an audio guide and learned about all the spices that were once prevalent here. Due to Penang’s location in between India and China, it got a lot of visitors from ships on the spice route. After awhile they started planting spices here, trying to get in on the spice game that was doing so well in India. It worked OK for awhile but the audio tour tells us that the British sailors didn’t really have a green thumb so the spices never really became a huge industry and could not compete with the major companies. Nutmeg and cinnamon are still grown here, though, along with a few other spices in small quantities. Interesting fact about nutmeg, in case you didn’t know: the presence of nutmeg in this area has a long and sorted history of intrigue, war and some of the worst trades in human history. For example, the Dutch actually traded the island of Manhattan for a very small Indonesian island that was rife with nutmeg in the 17th century. Talk about bad deals. Wow. But nutmeg, at the time, was one of the most valuable spices in the world and both the British and Dutch continually fought over it. Here’s a good primer on the whole ordeal, in case you’re interested.
Penang Street Art
Our last stop on the Tour With Moses was some of the street art in Penang. Some dude from somewhere painted some really interesting street art around Penang. Moses actually told us who it was and where he was from but at this point we are on hour 8 of the tour and I’m pretty much toast. And you should see the girls! Remember, they have not been in American public school for almost 3 years. Getting them to focus on something for 8 hours is a miracle!
Back to the art… This art really just begs for people to take pictures and of course that becomes a social media thing. So Penang has become well known for this street art. Moses took us around to a few of the pieces around town. I really liked how the artist incorporated real objects into the painting. It was very creative and fun.
And that is officially a wrap on our Tour with Moses. It was a great day, we learned so much and we had a great time getting to know Penang and a bit about life here. If you are ever in Penang, you know who to call for a good time.