Food Glorious Food!

I have started a food blog on AHOY Penang where I am trying to slowly keep up with the delicious eats around this little Pearl. Here are the first two (and I will post here as well). I seriously don’t know how Anthony Bourdain keeps so slim!

Links to the food blog can be found here!


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At the Six Month Mark…

So here we are – six months into our crazy adventure of just doing life differently.  Looking off into the distance with the Straits of Malacca in front of us, and a full moon glowing orange as it rises and dances across the water we do our regular check in as a couple.

Glass of wine in hand I look over at Jacques.  “Six months now, eh.”

“Yup” he replies taking a sip of his wine.

“Regrets?” I ask.

“Not a single one” he states,  “you?”

“None, I love it here” I respond.

And that’s it.  The check in.  The conversation we have on a monthly basis to be sure we are where we want to be.  It does not take much except the diligence to ask and the courage to do something about it if one partner is not aligned.  I could go on about how important communication is in relationships, but the fact is we all find our own rhythm and what works for us.

A friend of ours, Keith Hockton, just published the article below on our experience here.  Keith is not only a publisher and a writer here in Penang, he has become a great friend.  Keith is an example of the many interesting people we meet here, who with his fantastic wife Lisa, choose to live with a passion and joy that is off the beaten path.

Give the article a read, get a feel for why we love it here from the practical side.  Know that on the heart side, it is the people here who make this place truly special.

IL Hockton Article 2017

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Dim Sumptuous!

Food. My joie de vivre. We are in what is called one of the world’s food capitals. Seriously you cannot walk anywhere without finding something delicious to eat.

With the incredible myriad of cultures here it is no wonder that you can find just about anything to tempt the palette. I was on the hunt for Dim Sum or Tim Sum as it is called here. Despite my ongoing discussions with The Google and chats with locals, I still have not figured out why they call it Tim Sum. Having said that, I can now say I want to go to Timmy’s and instead of a double double* – I find myself with a har gow. (Note – that is a Canadian joke likely lost on the rest of the world but have included links for the cultural edification of all).

Image result for tim hortons meme

* dou·ble-dou·ble
noun: double-double; plural noun: double-doubles
  1. 1.
    a cup of coffee with a double serving of both sugar and cream.

Much to our delight new friends suggested we go to a local place called Yang Yang on Anson Road.  For a hawker market, it is impeccably clean.  The green tea is very strong, and was a perfect morning wake up.  Kept me going all day and well past bed time.  Note to self, caffeine is not your friend.

I had hoped for the sisterhood of the travelling carts – but alas it seems like many places have decided to reduce staff.  No more yelling over one another trying to figure out what the heck was in the little white pockets of rice, it was now self serve.  That meant going to the counter and pointing and miming to figure it all out.  I suppose the advantage is now there is a bit of exercise going back and forth, and you can get what you want right away.  Though I have to say I liked playing “cart roulette” as you anxiously turn around watching carts go by, waving frantically and pointing to that little delectable that makes your mouth water.

On the plus side, all the dishes were recognisable, including the chicken feet (pass).  There was even my favourite deep fried taro root and sesame balls.  Fresh, well prepared and lots No automatic alt text available.of fun.  All in for four people it cost us about $15.00 CDN.  Not a bad breakfast/lunch!

The hawking signage left me inordinately entertained:

“New dim sum recommendations~~Faster come to have a try!!”

“Good morning everyone~~this weekend we have variety types of fish to delicate ur day n stomach…..”

“This is new out of the quicksand Cape Conus. Remember this week to try oh”

“All kinds of Dim sum & Noodle r still available. Faster come to have ur lunch now at our restaurant~~”

Image result for Dim sum

This place goes on my list of places to eat when you want little portions of little dumplings in little baskets – and brain jet fuel if you need to pull an all nighter.

Let’s eat!


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The Gift of 2016

We had a total of 20 people for Christmas dinner.  Twenty.  Not a feat I would typically undertake under the best of circumstances.  Having lunch with a new friend last month – she mentioned that they usually have a big group of expats – but were lacking the space.  “use ours” I piped up.  She looked at me like I had two heads.  “Are you sure?  You guys are just new here” she asked.  “Why not?” I said.  In her lovely Aussie way she responded “Goodonya!”

And so the whirlwind began…

I sat and watched as a guest list was created, and people stepped up for the potluck dinner.  This group had had Christmas dinner together before – and they knew just what to do.  I made it clear that we had very little in the way of “dishes, cutlery, serving spoons etc”, and people started emailing “I have X …” and dropping stuff off.  We rented tables and chairs – and Christmas dishes, cutlery, crackers, decorations and ice boxes started to arrive.  It was magic to behold!

The organisation and co-operation of this band of friends was fantastic – and we were lucky enough to be welcomed into it.  One woman explained this all to me a few weeks back.  “We are family”, she said. “All of us are far away from ‘home’ and we rely on each other – in good times and bad – to step up and help out.  We have to, and you will too.”

I realise what a privilege it is to be welcomed into this “family”.  The past three months in a new country could have been very isolated, lonely and frustrating.  It’s tough to be the new kid – not really knowing the lay of the land.  All through this, people have answered my goofy texts as I needed certain things explained, or places to shop for basics, or navigating paying a bill.  Like big brothers and sisters, they helped – happily.  When I remarked on this to someone they said “we were all new here once.  It’s what we do, and it’s what you will do when someone needs info.  Just pay it forward”.

As I think back over this decision to move to Penang – and our wonderful family and friends back home who helped make this happen – and our new family who welcomed us into their arms – I am struck by how fortunate we are.  The transition has been seamless.

I recognise how idealistic this all sounds.  Very warm and fuzzy and kumbayah.  I am really not that sappy.  But the edges are softening, and the best of people keep showing themselves to me.  Is it the place?  Maybe.  Is it the stage in life? Perhaps.  Or maybe, as we see 2016 come to a close, it is the realisation that the best of people was always there.  I have just found the time and space to see it and experience it.

And that is the gift I wish for each and every one of you.


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‘Tis the Season

Christmas 2016 is just a few days away. As with many places around the world, lights and tinsel seem to be in full swing. I chuckle as I walk through shopping malls and watch young women in hijab taking photos of each other in front of large Christmas trees with their fingers flashing the peace sign. I desperately want to take a photo of them taking a photo. That is what it is all about. Peace, acceptance, tolerance. The spirit of the season.

I have been asked a few times what it is like to live in a Muslim country. I have to really think about the differences against a cosmopolitan city like Toronto. Penang is probably the most diverse part of Malaysia – with many beliefs accepted. According to Wikipedia:

“Malaysia is a multicultural and multi-confessional country. As of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3 percent of the population practices Islam; 19.8 percent Buddhism; 9.2 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 1.3 percent traditional Chinese religions.”

Fundamentally there is not really much of a change in our lives.  There are restaurants that don’t serve alcohol, some that are just vegetarian or don’t serve pork.  There is the sound of the call to prayer that I hear as an early riser with my windows open along with the chirping of a large flock of birds that wake up below my window.

As far as fashion, some women cover their heads and one very rarely sees a woman fully covered in a burka.  Unlike my experience in the UAE, we never see the men in thobes.  I have observed some more traditional Indian clothing as well – which looks far more comfortable in this hot climate that any Western clothing.

There are many holidays here – for all groups.  Diwali has just finished as we move into Christmas, and then Chinese New Year.  In between we have had public holidays for Mawlid.  A public holiday just means more people on the roads, kids off school, and a plethora of fantastic decorations.  Fireworks are a thing – and they are seen and heard constantly.  When we first arrived I asked what they were for.  I was met with a shrug and an overall “holiday – someone celebrating”.  Seems one does not need too much of a reason to have sparkly lights and big bangs.

The overall feeling here is live and let live.  There is interaction between all people, and no real fuss.  What is evident is that there is always a reason for people to get together and celebrate life and love with one another.

And isn’t that the spirit of any season?

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