Being a purveyor of chic living is hard work. Oh, such hard work. ;) After back to back late nights and skipped meals the week prior due to my attendance of and excitement towards Fide Fashion Weeks events, I was whisked away to a much-needed R&R getaway over the weekend. Many people clasped their hands in dismay upon finding out that I’d be giving the second half of the fashion weeks a miss, especially as the runway shows were reaching a crescendo with even more amazing haute couture line ups in the program. But I seriously had to dial down my adrenaline rush and be a hermit for a bit. And my destination for this (surprise) getaway was Penang, Malaysia.
It was my first time to Penang. All year this year, my parents had been making multiple trips there with their friends and always came back gushing about how wonderful a place it was, how delicious the food was, how fascinating the Peranakan culture was, yadeeyada. So I went with the assumption that I was going to go there to stuff my face with yummy Penang food. What I hadn’t realized was that I was gonna be staying at the northern end of Penang (which, incidentally, is an island – duh, I didn’t know this) and my stay would be at a luxurious colonial-style boutique hotel right by the seaside called Lone Pine Hotel.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I was completely swept off my feet. You know what a boutique hotel junkie I am and Lone Pine Hotel is a spacious property sitting directly in front of the sea. It’s luxurious and it’s gorgeous! After realizing that the downtown area (where all the so-called famous eateries are situated at) was about 45 minutes car ride away, I let the idea of Penang good eats be washed into the sea and quickly engaged in a “total relaxation” mode ie. too lazy to travel too far and happy to stay in the hotel throughout trip. :P
See what I mean? At such a gorgeous place, I’m all for a sedentary experience and not have to think of any daily itinerary. The Lone Pine Hotel is built and designed for absolute relaxation! And the weather… oh, the weather. There was zero humidity and the sea breeze was so soothing. I was falling asleep every night lulled by the sound of waves outside. No insomnia here for me, that’s for sure.
Lone Pine Hotel is situated at the northern end of the Penang island, as I’ve mentioned above. The exact area is called Batu Ferringhi, which is up in the mountains and the hotel itself used to be a vacation home to an English surgeon with a successful practice in George Town (back in the colonial days, waaaay back like in the early 1940s).
The hotel room itself was really spacious. There was also a beautiful balcony with an outdoor bathtub, unobstructed views of the sea, the pool and the garden which had hammocks. Who can say no to hammocks?!?
By the way, I had to Google the word “lepak” and here’s the translation:
1) To hang out with friends, loiter about and do absolutely nothing. Commonly used in Malaysia.
2) Chilling out. Loafing around.
You know, those Western expats who settled in South East Asia during the early colonial days had totally gotten the right idea by having all these semi al fresco areas as part of their residential space. I mean, nature is smack dab right there in its full glory at your backyard, there’s no reason to turn away this beautiful gift! Incorporating nature into the architecture and enjoying the #nofilter view every day is only… natural (pun intended).
I want to live in a house like that, with generous semi al fresco areas! (Actually my parents’ house is kinda designed like that – sans sea view, so I guess this comfort association is familiar and subconsciously soothing to me, although I don’t see why it wouldn’t affect everyone else the same way also.)
Penang is of course, rich in culture – particularly the Peranakan culture, which I happily had to give a miss this time around. But I did check out the hotel’s gift store (gosh, I’m such a friggin’ tourist!) and spied this cute little painting of a demure Chinese lady in a cheongsam covering half her face with a fan. I almost bought it, except I balked at the hefty 436RM price. Puhleeeezzz! If it was 150RM then yes I’d have brought it home with me. I just couldn’t justify the price because it wasn’t a very big piece. But it was truly a very adorable little painting. Oh wellz.
On this note, I’m making a silent promise to myself that next time when I go to Penang again, I will spend time immersing in culture. *nodding to self* For now though, flipping through the travel guides and illustrated Malaysian architecture books would have to do.
Food and travel always go hand in hand for me la. Even though this wasn’t a full-on gastronomic exploration trip, I did get to eat a couple of Hainanese dishes at the hotel’s restaurant, The Bungalow. Namely, Yam Duck (duck meat stewed in yam and spices) and Lamb Curry. Both were delicious and I was ready to lepak by the pool after this rich meal. :)
In the evening, I decided to venture out of the hotel (like within five blocks radius) to take in some local sights. I had this nagging feeling like I’d have done myself a huge disservice by not eating local food, so upon the recommendation of a follower on my Instagram, I went to Long Beach Food Center – conveniently situated right next door to Lone Pine Hotel, for some local eats. I was really thrilled that there were lots of choices at the food center so I happily tried a handful of dishes. They were all really yummy. :9~
I had the prawn noodles (yum!), claypot bah kut teh (yum!), bbq chicken wings (yum!), satay (yum!) and Hainanese spring rolls (yum!). Everything was good and I wished I had greater stomach capacity so that I could eat more. Not shown in these photos were the Penang Laksa (yum!) and Malay-style deep fried fish over rice (yum!) that I had also. Suffice to say, I did somewhat pig out.
Now here’s the bizzarest of all bizzare stories that I wanna share. I spotted this woman from afar and she looked just like my childhood friend whom I spent several years growing up with in a homestay house when I was a kid. But I wasn’t sure whether it was her or not as I hadn’t seen this friend since, what, 1989 or something like that!?!? I bet some of you weren’t even born yet in 1989…. :] Anyway, I just had to approach her even if I was mistaken. Guess what? She WAS my childhood friend!!! :0 Bizzareness.
I seriously hadn’t seen this friend in agessssssss. And of all places, to be at the same place at the same time – in some island where we both don’t even live on! She lives in Medan, which I found out later from her was also just a short flight away to Penang, and she was there on vacation with her family. My goodness. How random and how amazing this turned out to be. It was freaky and it was awesome. :) Now I have to dig out my old photos and see if I can find a photo of us together from back when we were 80’s kids. *nostalgia*
Back at Lone Pine Hotel, I certainly couldn’t let the outdoor bathtub go to waste! It was beginning to drizzle outside which made it the perfect time to soak in a warm bath with some beer. ;) Told ya my life as a purveyor of chic living can really be quite a sob story. Heh! I’m kidding. I am ultra grateful for all the wonderful opportunities and experiences that I have been having. Nothing like soaking quietly, sipping beer and using the moment to silently thank the Universe for so much abundant blessings.
I sent a quick text to my mom telling her that I was in Penang and shared some snapshots taken within the Lone Pine Hotel premises to tell her how beautiful and relaxing the place was. She replied, “Wow! Let’s bring Dad to stay there next time.” But most likely, my father’s gonna insist that we go to the Peranakan Mansion together (which is downtown somewhere, I think). He has already been there and is quite fascinated by artifacts of South East Asian immigrants. He isn’t happy with the photos that he had taken there and wants me to take better photos for him next time. My father never forgets to remind me always that South East Asian immigrants are “who we are”. Given that Penang is only an hour flight away from Singapore, suuuurre… next time I’ll definitely check it out with my parents. After all, one of the major reasons for me to move to Asia is to spend time with them and do more of this cultural ancestry appreciation thingie together.
My preference though, is of course, free and easy vacations like my stay at the Lone Pine Hotel. Unabashedly full-on R&R all the way. Not a bad way to spend the last month of the year, after what felt like a year of hustle bustle. It was really good to have this stress-free getaway and hide out for a couple of days doing nothing intense. The only finger lifting I did was either to put food into my mouth or drinking beer while soaking in a hot tub. Ha ha!
I’m really happy. This was a fantastic trip for me. I live for island vacations like these. I often say I wanna be a Bali connoisseur when I grow up (tee hee, don’t you just love my lofty dreams? I *love* my lofty dreams!) but there is a possibility I may have to two-time that enthusiasm… now that I’ve discovered Penang.
What about you and your vacation style? Bright lights big cities? Sunny beach resorts? Mountain hugging outdoorsy hikes? Share with me your best vacation spots!
Lone Pine Hotel
97, Batu Ferringhi
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