An eating holiday in PenangPosted: July 25, 2012
I’ve often mused on the fact that travellers and expats have their horizoned stretched beyond the elastic limit.
Our spoilt existence means we can’t quite get back to being the less cynical tourists we once were. We’ve had a little too much rustic already whereas anything “inauthentic” is an easy target.
But then there are places that impress just because they feel real.
We’re just back from Penang, somewhere that as a holiday destination felt like it didn’t quite have enough going for it – but we found ourselves eventually charmed. By that stage we were eating at the same food court every morning and were on head nodding terms with a couple of locals. Noodles for her, French toast for me, a juice and an iced coffee.
Later we lunched (pic above) Malaysia and Indian.
The incredible ethnic diversity aside, Penang seems remarkable for just how unremarkable it was. One of the most liveable places I’ve been to in Asia. I expected something between Hoi An and Luang Prabang. In the end it felt like a less stressful suburb of Hanoi. It’s tempting to use the word “gentrified” in comparison but actually it was the lack of gentrification that made it so appealing.
Regarding the food, it was everywhere. Not just street stalls but people selling it out of the backs of cars or from baskets. Every street didn’t just have stalls it had whole food courts. Lines were blurred between what was steetfood and restaurants. I ate some of the best Thai and Indian food I’ve ever had.
The food theme continued in KL. The sheer density of it was incredible. Strangely the western franchises actually felt like they blended in. Just another layer of food.
Malaysia, if it hasn’t already is going to have a major obesity problem. I’d lost 5 kilos before that having spent the summer on the gym treadmill. In 9 days I put it all back. Everyone seemed to be eating all the time.
I can recommend Penang – as you can see from the pics we did very little but eat but even in such a short time we only scratched the surface of what was on offer.
NOTE: Before heading off on my trip I wrote this for Word magazine. Re foreign franchises rubbing shoulders with local streetfood I think it sits well alongside what’s written above.