A Pride and Prejudice death stare, old girls and spunk rats…….

It’s spring and with this lovely season comes the bonus of day light savings.  How wonderful to think that every day from now until April 2019, a rebellious sun will defy its own bedtime to linger longer in these beautiful Newcastle skies.

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Hello spring…….

It has been an exhausting few weeks which accounts for my tardiness in writing this post.  I have been distracted and made somewhat distant by things designed to break your heart in a thousand tiny ways.  Perhaps I take too much time trying to make sense of my world knowing I am often looking for explanation where there is none.  Yet amongst the chaos and uncertainty, there have been some wonderful moments of kindness, a few short road trips, the deeply bonded gift of lasting friendships more precious to me than all the stars in the darkest of nights, plans afoot and ocean waves.  Procrastination and inspiration it seems, make for strange bedfellows!

There is difficulty in acknowledging I have also been a little stressed of late.  I have come to realise though, it is not the stress which is most wounding but my reaction to it so given this, I have taken to drinking water laced with apple cider vinegar shotted with turmeric and ginger along with green smoothies.  They are by no means pleasant elixir’s, but learning to be a responsible adult by looking after oneself and eating healthily is ………all well and good until it hits 10 pm and there’s no gin or dark chocolate left in the house!

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I know my best does not come easily.  It takes an awful lot of work yet I still very often fail spectacularly when it comes to looking after myself.  There is no pride in saying that, its just the hand I have been dealt just as it is no secret that I often make poor decisions (some nutritional and many under the influence of gin) when what I really need do is permit myself a little self compassion.  Such a simple desire but as with most things, it is easier said than done but I’m working on it.

 Seal Rocks……..

Occasionally when I post my photos, I am immediately transported back to the early 70’s.  Sharing my photos reminds me of a time when a relative or family friend who had just returned from an exotic holiday (and yes, Surfers Paradise was a wildly exotic destination in the 60’s and 70’s!) would turn up in the evening with a projector under one arm and small rectangle boxes filled with Kodachrome slides in the other.

There is no doubt many of these nostalgic old images have been lost forever yet I still remember that large bulbous glass lens so hot to the touch, those tiny coloured slides, the whirr of the projector and the beam of light which I always thought was made of stardust.  Little did I know back then, the gossamer haze which fascinated me so was nothing more than dust particles floating in a beam of artificial light.  But one can dream a little when you are lost to a more innocent time of abandon.

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A collection of slides, the precious ghosts of someone else’s memories…….

I woke early one morning, grabbed my nipper board and underwater camera and headed up to Seal Rocks, a small coastal settlement on the mid north coast of New South Wales.  Surrounded by state forest, Seal Rocks is little more than a scattering of houses and a stunningly beautiful beach.  Unpretentious, this spectacular part of the world is achingly beautiful and somewhat isolated which is why I love being there.

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 And on this day, as luck happens, the beach was completely deserted………..with the exception of a few locals.

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This was one of those near perfect days where the aquamarine water shimmered with sunlight and schools of small fish.  While sitting out on my board, lost in thought and watching for distant whale spouts a fin, not half a metre from the front of my board sliced through the calm.  My heart raced like that of small deer and momentarily I wished I had worn a brown wet suit, then a pod of exquisitely winsome creatures broke the surface………

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I think I reeled off about one hundred and one photos in the space of a couple of seconds but these gentle creatures were far to quick for the old cameras aperture.  I slipped from my board and dived deeply to watch these most beautiful of aquatic mammals swim above me and then as quickly as they had appeared…….. they were gone.

I climbed back on my board and wonder-stuck, just lay there.  As the wind began to pick up and the chop gathered I turned and paddled back to shore.  After dragging the nipper up the sand, I stripped out of my wetsuit and stood for a while letting the warm sun flood my soul and dry my hair.

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This is about as close to a selfie as you are ever going to see of me…….x

Dry and happy and in search of coffee, I walked up the pot-holed gravelly road to the small general-store-come-post-office located near the headland.  I could not smell that unmistakable aroma of freshly ground beans and once inside, could see no espresso machine.  I skulked around looking at the kitch on sale, flicked through a local tide book and tried to find a best before date on a packet of twisties before casually asking the woman behind the counter if they served coffee.

She looked up from the paper, slid her readers to the end of her nose and eyeballed me with a death stare to rival Julie Bishop.  Suddenly, I felt as though I was standing before the most priggish librarian ever imaginable while holding a stack of trashy Mills and Boon and asking if she knew who wrote Pride and Prejudice!!

I took her reaction to be a resounding NO! on the coffee front.  I said something off the cuff which actually made her laugh and just as I was about to leave the store, she offered me a cup of instant.  I wandered across the road and sat on the grassy knoll of the headland nursing my mug of graciously accepted Pablo thinking how I lucky I was to be in this place which I loved so much it actually hurt my heart.  My alone time, sitting on that greenest of grass was nourishing and I have to say the coffee was also pretty darn good although I am still not sure if was the coffee itself or the location.

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How’s that for feigning charming ignorance!  Of course it was the coffee……. 🙂

Buoyed by the strong bitter brew, I started on a walk up to the Sugarloaf Lighthouse.  Constructed in 1875, this magnificent structure standing watch over the Pacific Ocean, is the perfect place to watch for migrating whales.   I often crave the silence of solitary walks and the walk to the lighthouse, on a track which winds around She-Oak, Black Wattles, Gymea Lily and towering Gums, resonated like a tuning fork with me as all was blissfully quiet save for the occasional call of the Green Catbird.

Once at the lighthouse, life takes on an ordered simplicity.  Everything is white, neat and deeply tranquil.  These buildings are not just dazzling white plaster, glass and wrought iron as each building, beautifully preserved, has a story of humanity attached to them.

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I enjoyed this day so much.  It was one of those ‘spur of the moment’ days where everything just seemed so perfect in its allowance of me to not lose perspective over how truly fortunate I really am.

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Possibly my most favorite sign ever!  Oh be still my aging childless hipster heart…….

This is just a little of what happened on this precious day and how wonderful the dolphins, you will have to imagine for yourself.  Leaving Seal Rocks was difficult and I won’t pretend otherwise but believe me when I say it is one of the best places on earth.  Just watch for old girls and spunk rats and for the love of Pete, don’t ask for coffee.

Footnote:  This was my 155th published post. Who would have thought……..xx

The Honey Badger, ‘Where the bloody hell are’ we going and a final snapshot of Georgetown Penang……

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What a week this has been in Australia.   Our farmers are continuing to battle through horrific drought conditions, our cost of living is on a perpetual trajectory and power prices (at an all time high) continue to soar.  Our indigenous population are still dying at alarming rates from very treatable and preventable conditions such as diabetes and our aged pensioners are treated with equal contempt.  We have a less than impressive report card when it comes to homelessness, unemployment, suicide rates, environmental and human rights issues, poverty, deaths in custody, housing affordability and healthcare yet what happens as our nation continues along in crisis?  Well, our elected representatives choose to ignore these issues and seize yet again upon another opportunity to demonstrate their indignant lack of grace with apocalyptic antics more cringe worthy than an episode of The Bachelor Australia!

While the Liberal party went about punching kittens and themselves, the Labor party trotted out snarky Little Back Door Bill and his handy side-kick Fibbersek.  With the warring escalating among the Libs, Back Door Bill and Fibber-Mac-Fib-Face toured the nation handing out sample bags (he’s not known as Showbag Shorten for nothing) filled with just as many false promises of a fair go for all Australians as the Liberals once did.  Cluster bombed with images of Bill and Fibber kissing babies, massaging the feet of Carmelite nuns and manically smiling while tucking into sausage sandwich’s – and why is it politicians always seem to grapple with the very simple act of consuming food – it was enough for any of us to wonder why we were ‘sweatin like a bag of cats at a greyhound meet’ because quite frankly, none of these pollies can get their shit together!

Due to a lower than low Judas act against one of their very own, it came down to a two rat race.  As the rolfing continued under Labor Party policy, the two remaining Liberal party heavy weights simultaneously hatched more devious Janus faced plans all while applying a little acupressure of their own – apparently in the Liberal Party, acupressure is also known as bullying!  Dutton, the scurrilous dirt-bag who opposed same sex marriage, who encouraged a boycott of the very long over-due apology to the Stolen Generation and a climate change skeptic along with Morrison, the evangelical conservative who also voted against same sex marriage and who opposed a banking royal commission were left to battle it out.

Ultra-conservative-far-right Scott, who happily claims to the creation of Lara Bingle with his backing of the ‘Where the bloody hell are you’ ad campaign, eventually won the leadership. He also lists his interests as ‘the church’ and please note.  The Church he refers too should not be confused with that amazing indie/new wave Sydney band of the 80’s who produced the playlist of peoples’ lives with songs such as The Unguarded Moment and Under The Milky Way.  I guess I missed the bit where his interests involve the welfare of the nation so it does beg the question, where the bloody hell are (is) Australia headed ScoMo!

Now if you thought another leadership spill wasn’t enough to further anoint us as a laughing stock on the worlds’ political stage, ScoMo’s first undertaking as Prime Minister was to invite Trump to our shores.  Nice one!  Actually, that was second thing he did.  The first was to mansplain while pointing through the lens of a camera to deliver those well rehearsed words ‘we are on your side’ .  He also declared former Prime Minister Turnbull to be ‘a dear friend’.  Really! Like that shits going to fly so let me clamsplain it to you Scott because believe me, we have all had that ScoMo friend in our lives and asking us to think you are on our side does not instill confidence in you and nor does it fix our nations problems!

Australians are pretty weary with the rabble who inhabit Canberra and five Prime Ministers in five years should be a very sobering wakeup call to anyone. It would also be safe to say most of us are now more interested in whether Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins uses Redkins Curvaceous Ringlet Anti-frizz Curl Perfecting Lotion on his locks or whether he was referring to Julie Bishop when he said ‘You’re as tough as woodpecker lips’.

And just for the record, my hopes rested on the woman with one of the most fabulous earring collections of the nation rivaled only by Michael Hill himself.  Julie Bishop, tough as woodpecker lips, would have been the perfect model of PM grace, decency and decorum not only because she has an impressive earring collection but because she bloody well deserved it.  How was it the peoples choice was over looked as PM!  Perhaps, like the sweetly natured Cass on Bachelor Australia, Julie was also cruelly and sorely duped by the master manipulators and bullies who surround her.  I have a feeling however, their outcome is going to be no where near as bad as ours and if Australians aren’t ‘Sweatin’ like a gypsy with a mortgage’ then something is seriously wrong.

In a beautifully gracious moment, Julie Bishop resigns in killer red heels…….

This was never about our country and its people!  This shambolic spill, despite decades of multiculturalism, an increasing presence of women and Indigenous people to politics and the rise of an egalitarian challenge was entirely about those segregating self-indulgent privileged male Anglos of a certain age looking after themselves and the bastardry they have created.  And all said and done, if their actions over the past few weeks do not further highlight their discriminatory, ageist and sexist views of our ever evolving Australia, then nothing will.

Well Malcolm, you were correct to think Australians would be rightly appalled but we are also fed up because we know we and our country deserve so much better than we were handed last week.  And is just me or does anyone else think replacing Malcolm with someone who is about as popular as a dose of herpes really the right thing to do!

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‘Don’t worry Australia.  I can bloody well sack them all’………..

Final snapshot of Georgetown Penang…….

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Best travel tip:  You can always warm a croissant with a hotel supplied hair dryer.

Best political tip:  Educate yourself on all parties and make your vote count in the next federal election –  18 May 2019.

***Best tip for all refugees and asylum seekers:  List occupation as Au Pair and list your advocate/referee as Gillon McLachlan.

Footnote – Quotes in blog post by Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins:

  • sweatin’ like a bag of cats at a greyhound meet
  • you’re as tough as woodpecker lips
  • sweatin’ like a gypsy with a mortgage

 

Fact: There is monkey business in Penang…….

Winter has well and truly settled itself in around Newcastle.  Some days this city seems empty when the rawest of cold hits but I somehow like those often deserted and sunlit streets.  This is a city I love and have come to know well.  A city of unrestrained chaotic redevelopment both good and bad, of near perfect days and complicated nights and best of all, a place of infinite possibility.

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And with these wintery days came a bug which saw me struck down enough to seek the haven of my bed.  It seems it was one of those ‘take a breath and slow down’ bugs.  The sort of bug we sometimes catch which insists with its coming, take some time you got this.  Really you do. 

While hold up in bed sharing my comfy real estate with the little cat for good company I longed for the ocean, read a couple of pages of some old books, willed myself to feel better and sipped pale green teas.  I scribbled some notes, ran a little mantra through my head every now and then, slept, and slept, and slept some more.

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Fact:  I like monkeys.  I like them very much!

There was no reasoning for this but I woke early one morning and decided I wanted to see a monkey.  And that my friends, is not a statement you will hear me say often if I can help it.

I find monkeys incredibly endearing but years ago I had an encounter with a pretty scary monkey in Ubud which, not wanting sound too dramatic, is an encounter not easily forgotten (and that was well over 20 years ago).  And no, before anyone jumps to conclusions I did not feed, get too close, entice, smile at or do anything to elicit his very grumpy monkey attack.

But as I said, I like monkeys.  Not only are these charming creatures wildly photogenic, they are also complex and fascinating little souls of deep intelligence whose courage is only matched by their reverence.  And so very much like us, they too also experience a range of emotions from love and grief, happiness and compassion, trust and fear to surprise.  They are entertaining – NOT in an horrific circus way – and they are curious and mischievous.  They can also be, as anyone of us could, opportunistic, vain and a little aggressive……… as I was about to find out again.

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Adorably sweet…….x 

Hailing a cab, which is scandalously cheap in Malaysia, it was off to the Penang Botanic Gardens.  A stunningly beautiful and peaceful oasis and home to both the Long Tailed Macaques and the Dusky Leaf Monkey.

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I came across my first monkey within moments of alighting the cab.    It was a good start as the monkeys seemed mostly content to just sit about minding their own business, groom each other, look incredibly cute, snuggle their young (even more incredibly cute if that were possible) or eat what they had foraged from the trees.

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Unconditional love…….x

Serving as a big green lung for Penang, the Botanic Gardens are lovely with walking  tracks, trails and paths which take you through lush rain forests, around clusters of bamboo, past lily ponds and waterfalls, over old bridges and around topiary trees and the very peculiar Cannon Ball trees.  As it is also home to the monkeys, you get to see them in their natural environment, climbing trees and structures, playing, living in their family groups, interacting and being highly social.

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There are signs posted everywhere throughout the gardens requesting you DO NOT FEED the monkeys.  It’s not good for them and it is not good for us as it makes the monkeys trusting, dependent and in turn aggressive.  Remember, these are wild animals.

Fact:  It is my fate to have to occasionally spend time around stupid people!

It seems there will always be the one or two who completely ignore all rules or signage and case in point was the person who on this day who not only fed the monkeys (in a self-absorbed act to attract more monkeys around him for his #shit-for-brains photo opportunity), but then teased the monkeys by withholding the food to make them jump.

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Fact:  Monkeys do not tolerate stupid humans!

Now I had a couple of things to tick off my fabulous-to-do-list-for-the-day which also included Monkey Tree and Monkey Beach.  I know, call me theme predicable on this day but I never do things by halves, yet facing off against a small pack of very pissed off marauding monkeys led by the least jolliest of alpha males I had seen all day was certainly not one of them!  I somehow knew too I was about to re-experience a particular moment.  You know that moment.  It is the moment where you realise you are in a new, exciting and undiscovered place yet the experience you are about to have has an old familiar ring to it ……….and not in a good way!

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As a ranger approached #shit-for-brains, the monkeys legged it………in my direction.  Quietly, I stepped off my intended path and although I kept my eyes downcast I kept them well and truly on the wily old jackanapes who was leading them.  This alpha male wasn’t quite done with humans just yet as he did, after all, have a score to settle and he wasn’t about to lose face either with his dedicated band of monkey followers.  Plus he probably now viewed all humans as nasty food withholding, self centered pricks and thoughts of exacting a little monkey revenge would no doubt top off his morning.

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He changed direction and picked up a speed while heading right toward me.  Then, as expected, came the very familiar and not easily forgotten raucous screech.  A banshee like scream that will chill your blood followed by the baring of large, sharp yellow teeth.

Fact:  Monkeys are no longer cute once you see their teeth!

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I rest my case…….

This was going to be a make or break moment but I knew I had to be the one to decide the outcome of this confrontation.  Being 157cm I managed to pull myself up to an intimidating 160 cm, I know, super daunting to a monkey (I hoped) and just as impressive to me as I was wearing flats a the time.  I stood my ground and faced him down while unfurling my hands to show open palms, my years of watching David Attenborough doco’s finally paying off.

He showed his teeth again, loped forward then stopped.  We looked at each other for a moment almost considering our next moves then he slowly turned and stalked off leaving me with an impressive view of his monkey overlord arse.

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If this little dude had thumbs there would be serious snapping………

And me, well I owned it.  I walked off feeling pretty chuffed.  I think I may even have high fived myself or at the very least skipped.

I did actually skip……… and it was in the direction of the strongest cocktail available on the island of Penang!

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Truth:  GO SEE MONKEYS in the wild.  They are brilliantly amazing 🙂   Just don’t be a stupid, inconsiderate human jackass when you do…….x

Please note:  incredible ‘monkey baring teeth’ photograph taken by A. Wilcox.

Eat Drink George Town, Penang

So much beauty in one location…….

No doubt George Town is reinventing itself and if those water-coloured walls could talk, they would easily tell the world some wonderful stories.  Although pockets of this ancient city have become mere shadows of its former self, for me, there will always be much charm found in the dilapidated and untended.  Perhaps those same story-tellers will also belie those delicate and intricate old tales with a sneer of indignation for all that has been (and continues to be) lost to gentrification, urban renewal and re-development.

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Drink George Town…….

A lot of entertainment can be found from just wandering the streets and during my strolls I sipped water, drank cocktails and downed cold beer………anything to combat that heat.  I also had some pretty impressive coffee as believe it or not, Penang is fast becoming a coffee capital.  The love affair Malaysia is having with barista made coffee, which of course I intimately acquainted myself with, is to be saluted.  And the ice coffee you ask?  Well that was a ’nuff said’ experience 🙂

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There is no other way to describe this iced coffee than to say it was as all great iced coffees’ should be – ‘black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love’…….

Okay, I am about to show my age though my dislike for the many newly renovated areas of George Town where the latest bar (trendy as shit but indistinguishably dull in their lack of charm, ambiance and character) are cropping up.  These places are fast becoming the latest hang-outs for the chain smoking, fake retro wearing, self-absorbed, selfie snapping hipstercriticals of the travel world!   And you know who you are!!

Given that statement, it would be fair to say I do so much prefer the grime of the past and that which is well beyond its used by date and the Hong Kong Bar (and all other bars similar) are a perfect example.  Unmatched in grunginess with decaying memorabilia, dross and dust along with their tired and overly harangued bar staff these dive bars are worthy the indignity of oneself morphing into tommy tourist mode for an hour or two……….

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Amazing who you will find while wandering the streets looking for dive bars…….

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But dig a little deeper and you will discover some lovely old school and deco inspired cocktail bars, wine bars and lounges all lambent and charmingly quiet, which offer up the perfect Negroni.  Which by the way, should always be enjoyed with a perfectly beautiful George Town sunset.

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I think this cocktail, appreciated after a ‘monkey moment encounter’ (in a later post and trust me, I needed a drink after that) was hard to top…….

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Eat George Town…….

When I travel, food often becomes the central focus but its not just about the eating for sustenance or the enjoyment of the moment.  This is more about the interaction with the locals, the culture and the finding of life in its simplest of forms.  Somehow too, the world of food I find myself in is often noisy and almost volatile with the banging of those big simmering pots and pans, the almost brutal cleaving of meat and the din of place.

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I am well aware of the general food travel rule (one of many travel ‘rules’ I tend to ignore) which goes along the lines of this – ‘if you can’t peel it, cook it or boil it then don’t eat it!’ .  I have quiet often thought that rule through when on the other side of the world only to realise I always end up enjoying a great meal which has come from a dodgy looking hawker stall yet been equally rewarded with a serious bout of food poisoning from a 5 star restaurant!  My tip:  It always pays to take risks……..

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My top must try food when in George Town: 

ANY hawker, street cart or street stall.

DITTO on Little India and Chinatown.

When it comes to breakfast, George Town has it covered.  Congee, a milky rice porridge that can be eaten any time of day or Bak Kut Teh which is a rich pork and herb broth brewed for several hours and served with pork ribs.  But for me, there is no going past Roti Bakar or Roti Canai.  Find yourself a humble looking food stall swarming with locals (you will see the trishaws and motorbikes parked out the front) and share a table to enjoy a generous, piping hot serve of roti with either sunny-side-up runny yoked eggs or a liberal scoop of curry.  With a plastic tumbler filled with iced Milo, breakfast does not get any better than this.

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Dim Sum is traditionally served for breakfast in old teahouses and heritage shop-houses in Chinatown.  Step back in time to find old cracked and tannin stained tea pots, no air-con and where quite grumpy elderly ladies brilliantly maneuver large metal trolleys around often-times 1950’s era laminex tables.   Amazing steam pork buns, dumplings, black mushrooms, bitter gourd, sticky rice noodle dishes, chickens feet and of course those wonderful sunshiny yellow egg tarts.

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Char Koay Teow is possibly Penang’s most famous street food dish and it will never taste better than sitting on a kerb in a narrow back street right outside the hawker stall which made it.

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Asam Laksa is another icon of Penang with its thick rice-based noodle and aromatic broth.  This dish really is DIVINE and if you are serious about your food, you can also ask that the intestines and offal be added.

And for the not so faint of heart (and if you are a serious fan of the whole nose to tail experience), then there are crispy pork intestines, tongue and even pigs blood cakes to savor on your culinary journey…….

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As much as I love anything gin laced, amber in colour and cold or those bitterly sweet strong coffees’, the very best companion for any meal in George Town is tea………xx

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Ghosts, an Indian boatman and 101 lost kittens………

It’s the first week of winter and the cold has already begun to cling.   For quite some time my days have been filled with work so a day off, quite selfishly all to myself, has been wonderful and made even more so due the scarcity of them lately.  Rising early I grabbed a coffee and headed to the beach which was deserted, blustery and cold.  A massive swell hit our coastline bringing with it huge waves, chop and wash.  Somehow though, for all its bitter chill there was much warmth in this lovely day.

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Although other things in my life are sorely neglected at present, I am inordinately happy.  I baked last night toasting pecans, weighing butter and roughly chopping dark chocolate late into the evening.  Before I knew it I had whisked and folded into the early hours of the next day.  It was lovely though as my home was quietly dark and filled with the rich scent that only brown sugar when baking can bring.  The little cat content and I lost in thought while listening to the radio and watching for the oven temp to rise.  Finally to bed, I dreamt.  Haunting images often disturb my sleep and on this night my sometimes nebulous eidolon came beautifully clear to me.  I woke early feeling that way you feel when a harsh jetlag or far too much gin sees you somewhere between midnight and god knows where.

We all have our ghosts, real or imagined, which haunt us in different ways.  Though our loss, memories or unresolved issues are not physically present, they are still very much around us.   I have often tried to release a ghost only to become more haunted and I cannot but wonder why we carry these signifiers around for as much as we move on, these stubborn constellations of our past and of our future remain.  Perhaps there is much gratitude to be sought in the belief that time, in her most graceful of ways, heals all.  Little by little the passage of time will take away some of those ghosts, the hurt or a raging grief to bring you to a point where you begin to no longer mourn that which is lost to you……..even when you still dream about them.

The street art of George Town Penang…….

One of the things I love most about George Town are the strikingly beautiful street art murals.

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These charming depictions of children and life and the detailed heritage nod to the urban allure of this city are works which cannot be constrained to any one gallery.  Breathing life into and capturing the winsome spirit so essentially George Town, they are pieces which need to live and exist upon the crumbling walls and in the winding streets and alleys of this ancient city.

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Hailing for Lithuania, the brilliant artist Ernest Zacharevic, is possibly the reason the street art scene became so prevalent in Penang.  His wonderfully iconic and life-like images of children and heritage would bring joy to the harshest of art critics hearts.

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I am drawn to the thought of Artivism, (which is my belief in that lovely cross over between art/activism and advocacy), when I think of the works 101 lost kittens.  These thought provoking images are a collection of around twelve cat related works aimed to create awareness toward the strays of George Town.  How wonderful is that.

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Not only are there painted and 3D images, but also wrought iron sculptures looking so very like a neat charcoal sketch imparting tiny snippets of the history of the area in which they are located.

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These wondrous works are succumbing to the elements.  Over time, they have flaked and faded due to their exposure to the harshest of elements and of course human intervention is also a contributor.  You will find most of these works though by picking up a map and following it until your heart is content or hire a trishaw driver for a few hours as they know all of the places these works are located.

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The Boatman of India…..

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For me though, I just preferred to wander the streets and stumble upon these art works as there is far more joy for me in the anticipation of a discovery which is unplanned.  It was here too in the back streets where the small skittish cats roam that I began to really appreciate the serendipitous beauty of George Town as my moseying often took me through the more unique, interesting and oftentimes bleaker areas of the city.

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During my hunt for the street art of George Town the city began to look so very different and I knew it could never appear the same again.  And ghosts or no ghosts, we all have that which haunts.  The saving grace however, is to find that which is wonderful and to cherish the small moments or to perhaps discover a little piece of art on a wall somewhere……..x

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By George!

I’m in George Town, that wonderful UNESCO World Heritage listed city in Penang where the very traditional and contemporary collide.  This stunningly cosmopolitan and energetic city is one of extremes from the frenetic modern pace of hipsters, street art and stylish cocktail bars to the rickety old trishaws parked in front of crumbling yet ornately lovely clan houses.  This city really is all about grit and glam as its intentional beauty sits oh so effortlessly right alongside the raw and the rough.726

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Now I love this city.  It is a maze of narrow alleyways, archways, lanes and streets that pulsate with colour, energy and community spirit.  There are grand town halls, mansions, antiquated merchant stores, clan jetties, colonial buildings of exceptional beauty (made even more lovely when floodlit) and unsurpassed history.

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The centuries old and wonderfully quaint clan jetties with their fish traps, old wood fishing boats, stilt houses and long winding planked wood walk-ways are the last of a once thriving Chinese settlement.   Do be respectful when visiting as these water communities are still home to many families who eat, pray and live there……...

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Penang itself is beautifully multicultural with three prominent religions.  I visited serene mosques, shrines with their garlands of fragrant blooms left by dedicated worshipers and temples where saffron robed Buddhists light huge joss sticks.

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It does get very hot here so it’s best to sight-see first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the stifling 95% plus humidity.  The good old foot falcon (just watch for the large open drains) is always my preferred mode of transport however do hire a trishaw for a couple of hours as it really is one of the best ways to truly appreciate this town.

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I really do admire the strength and bravery of the trishaw men and their ability to maneuver about in the heaviest of traffic.  Though lean and seemingly fit as a fiddle, these men are by no means young.   Always nut out your price before you go, which is negotiable, and these guys will fill your afternoon with history and all the little hidden gems you won’t find on your own so kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy………

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Although I have bestowed much love upon George Town, it does, as anywhere in the world, have its flaws.  It has been said of George Town ‘she was once a pretty woman who just hasn’t washed her face in a while’ and perhaps there is some truth in that statement.  For me, the absolute charm of this lovely city lies in its grimy time-worn soul however that grim extends to her deep-water sea harbour and water-ways which are polluted, murky and an outlet for raw sewage.  What a elegantly ironic moment though, when I photographed a heart floating among the rubbish strewn waters of the Penang Strait.  Please love our oceans.  They really are some of the most importantly beautiful places on earth…….x

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There are one hundred and one things to love about this graceful melting pot of a city and although the tourist numbers are growing, George Town holds firm its alluring and peaceful charm.  You can still take a leisurely stroll about the streets, wander past temples filled with faded paper lanterns, listen for the melodic call to prayer and explore lanes filled with water-marked terrace houses safely and without the intrusion of large tourist crowds.

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Part II, the amazing street art of Georgetown, coming soon………xx