Tuesday, December 27

christmas brunch

Freshly brewed coffee, Yallingup woodfired sourdough toast, avocado, tofo scramble, fig jam, family love and deep garden shade.  That's what Christmas mornings are made of.  With a common desire for sensible indulgence and vegan fare, we celebrated the joy of being together with a casual brunch in the front yard at McAuliffe's, under the shade of the acer tree. 

I admit to being deeply effected by the glossy pages of styled Christmas events, with their effortless glam, luxury organic decorations, linen, silver and outdoor chandeliers. Every December I swoon over the pages of Australian Country Style and Inside Out, and imagine recreating the scene, only to realize it is December 23rd and nothing is organised.  My family think I'm bonkers, however they are happy to indulge my decorating whims, as I stencil and staple, all the while singing carols with inappropriate winter lyrics. Tom lovingly agreed to partake in the the festive activity of cutting out stars, and followed instructions to tie them onto designated branches.  Ahh the spirit of Christmas, how I love thee.

I hope you all had a wonderful day bursting with love, gratitude and peace; and as much or as little tinsel as your heart desired.

Monday, December 26

bi-annual haircuts

our last morning on island time
looking a little bit too much like brother and sister with our wild blond curls

on arrival to Bali it was straight to the hairdresser for our end of year spruce-up
suddenly so respectable
now for a real job...

Friday, December 2

georgetown street life

Some more photos from our stay in Georgetown. A place where peace and joy are sold with your coffee, a single shop can offer tourist information, reflexology, internet and laundry, and dishes are washed on the footpath.  You can dry your washing on a construction fence, buy flowers and bracelets from a fancy store and have a friendly local buy you breakfast. The old city is a  world heritage listed district where multiple cultures blend, yet retain and embrace their unique traditions.

Read on if you missed the previous posts, or visit them here, here and here.

Wednesday, November 16

a god for all seasons

Whether you bat for Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Mohammed, Shiva or Confucius, there is a place of worship for you in Penang.  Ornate, smoky and gilded, with evocative names like the Temple of Supreme Bliss, they are both enchanting and obscene.  Is a 30.2 metre bronze statue of Buddha beneath 16 carved dragon pillars really necessary to find inner peace? All of this ornamentation and colour does however make for a beguiling photo subject.

Rather than waffle on with facts and adjectives, you can get more information about the religious and spiritual sights in Penang from the LP gurus here.

Monday, November 14

penang trishaws

Pedal powered rickshaws are a carbon friendly way to travel the streets of Penang, if you don’t mind someone else sweating on your behalf.  Known locally as beca, they number around 200 in the Georgetown area, and provide a nostalgic means of transport for visitors.  The world moves by at a human friendly speed and the driver imparts a store of local knowledge and stories, with the opportunity to stop as your camera or rumbling stomach desires.

With the recent World Heritage Status, steps have been taken to preserve the dwindling numbers of beca, and encourage riders to maintain and beautify their vehicles and undergo tourism training.  Sadly the beca culture is under threat by an increased cost of living, desire for speed, and the lack of young men taking over from the ageing riders.   

On this occasion I refrained from taking a trishaw ride, as I’m still scarred from an incident where some slightly inebriated friends and I hijacked a cyclo in Vietnam and left the poor driver running behind in the dark.   

Wednesday, November 9

georgetown shophouses

Georgetown, the capital of Penang, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.  This title affords official recognition of its unique architectural and cultural landscape and preserves a district that is home to the largest number of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia.  The old quarter is an engaging area to stay, and  for affordable and convenient accommodation in a renovated shophouse, we can recommend the Old Penang Guesthouse.
Walking the laneways in the cooler hours of morning and evening, we uncovered the living character that is testimony to Georgetown's multi-cultural heritage and traditions.  The architecture and urban landscape are forged from over 500 years of mercantile exchanges between Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, and three successive European colonial powers.  The town's heritage is expressed in the diversity of religious buildings, ethnic quarters, music, language, dress and food.

I had expected the gentrification of Georgetown to be more complete, and was charmed by the dilapidated facades and layers of peeling paint on walls and louvers.  Residences and light industrial businesses are slowly being replaced by cafes and guesthouses, but for now the shophouses offer a view into the kitchens, loungerooms and workshops of local families.

Next up on the tour - the famous trishaws of Georgetown.

Friday, October 28

singapore stroll

Originally, we were going to Singapore to renew our sponsored visa, however, just prior to boarding we reassessed dates and prices and realised we were better off returning to Indonesia with a visa on arrival, thus leaving our one day in the city free to explore.  We were grateful for the offer to stay with friends and prepared to snuggle on the lounge if necessary. This was before we arrived and discovered their five bedroom apartment occupied the entire 14th floor. 

The order, cleanliness and efficiency of Singapore is a welcome change from the disarray of southern Bali.  Spotless public transport whisks you on time to a cheap curry, and wide pedestrian thoroughfares free from neck-snapping holes are most appreciated. We have no problem with the often criticized "sterility" of Singapore; if we have to spend time in an urban environment, we are happy for the masses to move in a polite fashion, for facilities to be well maintained, and systems in place to remove sewage to a distant treatment plant. 

We began our day at the recently completed Marina Bay complex where an extensive boardwalk links the City Gallery, lotus inspired Art Science Mueseum, and the world's first DNA double helix bridge.  I was going to visit Louis in his floating glass temple to cloth, but I thought my thongs may not be welcome.

The clouds were dark and threatening over the outrageous cantilevered boat shaped Marina Bay Sands Sky Park. The length of  four and a half A380 jumbos, with an impressive 12,400 square meters of space, the Sands Sky Park is 57 stories high and can host up to 3900 people.  For $20 you can buy the privilege to view Singapore from the observation deck. We declined and continued along the Esplanade to the historic Fullerton Hotel. The sky opened and we doged suits with umbrellas as we ran between covered walkways to lunch at the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre.  In the hub of the financial district, the market is the largest Victoria cast-iron structure in south-east Asia and worthy of a title as National Monument. The intricate Scottish filigree iron lace and hundreds of fans spin above a lively lunch crowd and  a multicultural selection of cheap and cheerful hawker fare, including questionable organ meats, chicken necks , MSG soups and oil sponges. 

Our hot tip for a coffee and bookshop combination is the upcoming creative area of Duxton Hill.  Along Duxton Street, the karaoke bars and strip clubs have gone and made way for an influx of design agencies, restaurants and boutique stores. A tiny sign beckons you up a dark staircase to the top floor of a refurbished shophouse and the hidden cafe Group Therapy (review coming soon at Crema and Crumbs), while nearby Littered with Books is a double storied haven for wordsmiths. Spurred on by caffeine, we spent the late afternoon walking in Mount Faber Park to Henderson Waves bridge and topped up the tank in Chinatown with a steamed red bean bun and slab of pineapple. 

Coming up next...Penang
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