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    • This past week I spent three days in Georgetown, Penang, on a work trip/midweek getaway with a close friend. It was my first time in Penang, so I was very excited. Before the trip my friend and I had watched this food vlogger on YouTube who absolutely loves Malaysian food, and he had uploaded several videos of his time in Georgetown. We made a list of places we wanted to go and eat, which took up the bulk of our time there. But this post won't just be about the food, it'll also cover some other observations and experiences I had in Penang, which I hope you'll enjoy.

      But first, the food!

      I absolutely loved the food in Penang. It's one of the best states in Malaysia for excellent food, and it didn't disappoint. Other than a homemade burger which I had on the first night there, everything else we ate was local cuisine, ranging from half-boiled eggs over charcoal grilled toast, nasi kandar (a Penang specialty), to nasi lemak (a Malaysian delicacy). It's definitely one of the things I'll miss most about Penang, and if I ever go there again I'll definitely revisit some of these places.

      I tweeted a thread of all the food places I visited in Penang, together with photos and links to my Google Maps reviews if you're interested to see more.

    • While the food was great, it wouldn’t have been as much fun if we had to drive around or get a Grab ride (e-hailing). While we did need a car to get to some places, most of the places were within walking distance from our hotel and from each other, so we got to walk around the streets of Georgetown and take in the sights, which was really cool. There were many traditional hawker stalls operated by elderly uncles and aunties (Malaysians use these terms to refer to elders who aren’t actually our family) who have probably been working out of the same stalls for decades. It was so nice to see. The old architecture left behind from several decades ago was still standing tall on either side of the streets, with old British influences mixed with local design, and it was nice to see as a contrast to the modern architecture I usually see in Kuala Lumpur.

      As for tourist attractions, we managed to visit three places. Fort Cornwallis, which is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Cheong Fatt Tze, also known as The Blue Mansion, one of the most iconic places in Penang, not just for its historic value, but also as a filming location. Crazy Rich Asians being the most recent box office hit to have filmed there. And lastly, we took a funicular ride up Penang Hill, where we could see the night view of the island. We also saw the two bridges illuminated by all the cars driving across it, and we also saw Peninsular Malaysia from the top of the hill. Really cool.

      I shared more photos on Twitter in another thread if you’re interested.

    • In one of the Grab rides we got a really funny, friendly, and entertaining driver. An Indian uncle who was born in Penang. At first he was laughing at us after he saw where we wanted to go, a very famous nasi kandar restaurant in Penang. He said he didn’t understand why everyone wanted to go to the same places. As a Grab driver, he would circle around the same shops and restaurants as tourists and even locals frequented the same shops over and over again. We found it amusing.

      Then he moved on to a very heated topic in Malaysia, language. Language is a very delicate issue in Malaysia, as we have a multi-racial community that converses in a multitude of languages on a daily basis. Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, spoken by the vast majority of the population and is the mother tongue of the Malays in the country, while Mandarin (and other variants of the Chinese language like Cantonese or Hokkien) and Tamil are also spoken by the Chinese and the Indians in the country, respectively. Then we have English, one of the most powerful languages in the world. Unfortunately, many Malaysians (mostly the Malays) see it as a threat to their own Malay language, and shun the importance of learning it. Years and generations of downplaying the importance of the language has left many of the younger generation struggling to cope with it, and employees often reject applicants for poor English skills. Our Grab driver strongly supports the use of English in the country, and he is baffled at how anybody can say that learning English is a bad thing. He himself has tried to encourage the younger generation to learn English. One common belief held by Malaysians is that English is a “white person” language, and to excel in it would be to lose your Malaysian identity. To this our Grab driver told us a story of how he responded to this mindset. He asked people, what language do Germans speak? German. What language do the French speak? French. And the Dutch? They speak Dutch. Are they not all “white people”? They too need to learn English, and here we are in Malaysia, being told that speaking English somehow makes us “less Malaysian”. It’s a very heated topic, one that I often get riled up about as well, and our Grab driver is trying his best to get the younger generation to not be afraid of the English language.

      It’s not just him. Many prominent Malaysians are questioning why the proficiency of English in the country is as poor as it is.

    • Speaking of a multi-racial society, I noticed that in Penang people seemed to be more chill and accepting of one another than Malaysians typically are on the internet in general. Chinese kopitiams (a local concept of a coffee shop) typically cater to the Chinese community, but a Chinese kopitiam in Georgetown prides itself on serving food that all races can enjoy. No pork and no beef means that Malay Muslims and the Indian community can enjoy the food there without any worries. When I went to the kopitiam there were tables of Malay diners, and some of the staff were Malay too. Really nice to see that Malaysians can come together over food like that.