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Travels in Malaysia with children part 3 (Penang)

Merry Christmas! We were conflicted about bringing our children away on a holiday at Christmas time and taking them away from their extended family but we realised that 5 whole weeks together is a precious and rare opportunity. Already our children are obviously loving our physical and mental presence with them all day each day. Yesterday my son asked that I never leave his side again which made me happy and sad at the same time because of the inevitability of work travel for me. Of course we snap at each other from time to time and it seems that we take turns having tantrums, which is to be expected considering that we face difficulties with even sourcing clean drinking water and besides that we are unaccustomed to spending so much time together away from the distractions of home and work. Despite those aberrations I’m sure that we will all look back fondly on this trip.

13879630945460Even before we left home there was a lot of speculation about whether santa would find us in Malaysia or not, especially considering the predominantly Muslim nature of Malaysia. So far we have seen many Christmas decorations and a santa in a shopping center so my children were more confident yesterday evening that santa would come and turned instead to speculating on where he would leave their gifts in our rented apartment and whether they had been good enough or not.


A typical Nonya cuisine restaurant in a lovely old shop and even here there was a Christmas tree.

We carefully planned a Christmas day of special treats and activities to try to compensate for the lack of extended family. Happily santa did visit and left some small gifts that will be easy to fit in our cabin only luggage (yes we packed very lightly). Interestingly the gifts from santa were eclipsed by the Chinese imitation Lego that we bought from a local shopping centre. It’s such a good imitation that our children can’t tell the difference and the packaging is almost identical to the original Lego packaging and fortunately the pieces are very good quality. We were conflicted about supporting counterfeit goods that breach Lego IP but in this instance we were unable to source original Lego and we were attracted by the very low prices. We don’t partake in pirated films, music or software so this was an interesting exception for us to make.

The swimming pool at our apartment has provided us with hours of free entertainment and after playing we set off to Macalister Mansion for brunch. The opulence of the mansion was breathtaking and put us all on our best behavior. A lot of new copies of Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo were displayed, so many in fact that I suspect these were just shells with nothing inside but I didn’t think that I should open one to check!

Macalister mansion

Macalister mansion

The bar at Macalister Mansion

The bar at Macalister Mansion


We walked a long way to try two different foot reflexology businesses but the first was closed and the second insisted that it wasn’t suitable to children and despite our assurances that our daughter had enjoyed it in Taipei we were sent on our way with sore feet. Along the way we discovered more street art that we hadn’t seen and realised that it’s while looking for something else that we discover hidden gems.

Off the tourist trail

Off the tourist trail


The object of our traipsing around Georgetown was to reach a Christmas concert that had been heavily advertised along the road side.


We arrived in time to see the Prime Minister arrive accompanied by armed special forces who must have been sweltering in full body black synthetic clothing. After two Christmas carols politicians gave long speeches while hundreds of spectators politely waited. We couldn’t understand what was said and we quickly became disinterested. One obviously Chinese woman kindly offered lollies to my children and when they thanked her in Bahasa Malaysian she said I’m Chinese but when I asked if she was here on a holiday she said no I’m from Penang . After learning that 60% of the population of Penang is Chinese and observing a disparity in wealth between Chinese and Malaysian people I pondered this comment and it’s associated cultural imperialism. Disappointed by the Christmas event we headed back to our apartment to play with Christmas presents and swim.


Prime Minister Najib Razak

Prime Minister Najib Razak

We were quoted 580 MYR for the trip to Ipoh tomorrow by our driver from yesterday, aghast at the cost we called one other driver who requested 300 MYR, so it’s definitely worthwhile to shop around for long distance cabs.

For Christmas dinner we dined at a delightful Taiwanese restaurant off Macalister Road where my favourite dish this trip was the vegetable and pork floss egg roll.


Vegetable and pork Floss egg roll

Vegetable and pork Floss egg roll



3 comments on “Travels in Malaysia with children part 3 (Penang)

  1. Pingback: Travels in Malaysia with children part 4 | strivetoengage

  2. Pingback: Travels in Malaysia with children part 2 | strivetoengage

  3. Pingback: Travels in Malaysia with children part 5 | strivetoengage

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This entry was posted on December 25, 2013 by in Asia, family and tagged , , , .
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