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.


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 🙂


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……….


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


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.


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…….


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.


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……..


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.



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.



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.

4562602127_19cfd6a864_o[1]thumbnail[1] (2)605

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…….




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


An affair to remember……..

Hong Kong Part I

It seems I always form attachments to big cities and Hong Kong is no different.  This beautifully chaotic city really gets under my skin and my relationship with it can be as intense and as passionate as any love affair.

Hong Kong is a sophisticated city with its perfect mix of modern and traditional and it is also one of the most densely packed cities in the world with a population of over 7.3 million people.  There is massive wealth right alongside those who are poverty stricken and believe it or not, this city is still growing with construction and sympathetic renovation.

Hong Kong does not sleep.  It sets a cracking pace 24 hours a day but do embrace this wonderful chaos as it is all part of the adventure.  If you do need a break, there are many places and much green space where you can seek moments of respite from the mayhem and heat……….and there is always ice-cream.126



Hong Kong has the highest concentration of skyscrapers anywhere in the world.  It has an absolutely stunning skyline but I could not help but wonder if Hong Kong suffered the worst feng shui because of it.   My fears were allayed  as the planning and design of these magnificently enormous structures are not only decided by the architects and engineers, but also by feng shui masters.   These towering structures are always positioned and shaped with respect to nature which in turn brings good fortune.   How this sky-scape must continually grow and change.


Perfectly positioned geographically, Hong Kong has mountain ranges to the back and water to the front.  There is a lovely belief that dragons, those mythical bearers of good luck and positive energy, live in the mountains and their energy blows over and through Hong Kong.  The dragons also need to make their way from the mountains to the water to drink and bath and this is why some buildings, especially those directly along the water front, have ‘holes’ in them.  These gaps allow the dragons an unobstructed path to water.  How wonderful is that.


Eat Hong Kong……. 

Hong Kong is an absolute food lovers paradise.  This really is one of the great food cities of the world from its humble street food to its top-end restaurants.  It is also where you will find the best dim sum.

Translated, dim sum means ‘to touch the heart’.   The sticky glutinous joy of chickens and duck feet, bossy trolley dollies, billowing steam from stacked bamboo baskets, dusty pink shrimp, pungent tea, cramped quarters full of locals perched upon stools and the most perfectly fluffy steamed buns EVER (big call I know).  It all makes for the ultimate dim sum experience which really will touch your heart…….. although I did skip the thousand year old eggs!



The perfect steamed pork bun on the streets of Hong Kong…….

In Hong Kong, your food experience is as fast paced as the city itself.  Blink and your meal is ready.  There is also never a bad time to eat so if you have a craving for dim sum or roast goose or beef brisket in broth or char siu or congee at 3am you’ll get it.  And do try ‘pantyhose milk tea’.  This is black tea and milk strained through pantyhose which gives the tea its silken texture.   Don’t expect it to be served in fine bone china though as this tea is best appreciated while sitting in a busy local filled establishment.  And if its not made from an old fashion stocking, then its not the real deal.

I can never pass up one (or five) of these……….


Velvety egg tartsSmooth, cheerfully yellow egg custard nestled in the most perfect butter pasty shell.  And I can state with confidence that you really haven’t had pastry until you have had it in Hong Kong!  For almost eight years we lived in the heart of Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne, and this is where my true romance with these delicate little morsels really began.  The brilliant Brunswick Street and Johnston and Smith along with all the narrow back streets and alleys of this suburb and its surrounds became our backyard.  We knew every inch of Fitzroy.  The places to eat and drink, the wait and bar staff and some of the most interesting and eclectic inhabitants of that beautifully bohemian suburb.   Walking home from work, I would occasionally take a short cut through Chinatown (located along Little Bourke Street in the central business district of Melbourne).  Now truth be told, it really wasn’t much of a short cut at all but it did take me directly to the epicenter of egg tarts.  Our time in Melbourne was unforgettable and standing on a busy street in Hong Kong with one of these little tarts in my hand, I could but for a moment have been back in wonderful Fitzroy.


You will find beautiful tea houses with art deco décor, alleys lined with hanging roast goose and pork (and these aren’t window dressings!), small areas with a folding table and plastic stools and noisy jam-packed markets to sample some of the best cuisine on offer.  Be open-minded and curious and go where the locals go.  This is how we love to eat, mixing and mingling with the locals so if you see a small and unassuming place filled with locals, go in.  These unpretentious little spaces are the soul of eating in Hong Kong.  You can even finish off with an egg tart………what the heck, you can even start your meal with one too. 1218




Drink Hong Kong…….

This breathtaking city also has a very impressive craft beer industry with some top notch brews on offer from light summer ales to big bold darks.  We found a couple of great little spots, Roundhouse in particular, where we sampled many a beer because life really is far too short to drink bad beer.


You can go high end or low brow for a cocktail in Hong Kong, which for very good reason, are ranked as some of the best in the world.  Negroni’s are king with their fruity bitterness and the gin and vermouths are gently infused with lavender, elderflower, marigold and thyme.  Just beautiful so Yum La



st-germain-gin-tonic-Slide2[1] (622x508) (622x508)

I can never go past the perfect G & T…….

And what better way to bar hop in Hong Kong than on the worlds most intricate network of covered escalators, skyways, tunnels and walkways most of which, are air-conditioned.  Once up here, you don’t have to set foot on the ground all day.  Not only does it offer a birds eye view of life on the streets below, but it is also the perfect place to people-watch…….especially those on awkward Tinder hook-ups.



Honestly, if you can’t find something to love about Hong Kong then there really is no hope for you.   Part II coming soon…….x

Footnote:  Yum La translated means drink up….