Been quiet these days…

We’ve been rather quiet on this space. That’s because we have been travelling during the one-week school hols. So many things have happened and life has been pretty busy and interesting.

We just came back from a week-long vacation in Perth, Western Australia and there are so many things to update. First, let me catch some winks. ūüėČ

Melbourne | Puffing Billy

Melbourne Day 2 (Part 1)
Puffing Billy | Yarra Valley Chocolaterie | Costco Wholesale

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It was a slow morning. We¬†woke up late and took our own sweet time to have¬†our breakfast. Faith entertained herself with the box of Lego bricks in the living room of the host and subsequently offered to ‘look after’ the baby in the house. She missed her Papa and little brother and counted down to the day when she could meet them again (though we had barely arrived!).

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By the time we set off for Belgrave Station, it was past 11am and we reached the station at 12 noon. Drizzling, Faith and I bade goodbye to J and P and dashed off to the ticketing office to purchase the 12.30pm tickets to Emerald which is a¬†50-minutes ride (see timetable here). Since it was a weekday on a non-holiday, that means it’s quite likely that there would still be available tickets.

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We bought a one-way tix to Emerald since we would be meeting the other two ladies at that station.¬†Once you have purchased the tix, do take time to capture some pictures for memories’ sake!

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As you can see, there are many tourists taking pics with the steam train. Photo bomb everywhere!

img_1127An obliging girl

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I got the very relunctant Faith to sit with her legs dangling on the side of the carriage and this is perhaps the only time that she did so because shortly after this shot was taken, she asked to get down.

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All getting ready for the ride!

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Mandatory mother-daughter shot

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You can read up the history of the train on the carriage. And with the advice of many travel guides and blogs such as this, we took our seats on the right side of the train.

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Off we went! Always be prepared to get your camera ready to take some awesome shots. Faith saw the smoke from a train for the first time and that look on her face was truly priceless.

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Fascinated by the temperate rainforest

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20 minutes into the ride, she was bored (sigh, young kids!) and asked to go to the toilet. I was exasperated no doubt but quickly remembered that I have got snacks in my bag. Seeing the biscuits, the little girl soon forgot about the urge to pee. So, pls remember to pack snacks in your bag at all times when you are on the go. ;p

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First stop – Menzies Creek – and we got down to take some pics (what else?). You could visit the toilet but the train only stops for 5 minutes and I reckoned we wouldn’t make it in time and abandoned the idea.

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We continued with our journey…

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We’ve reached! And like most enthusiastic tourists, I wanted to take pics of the train and asked the girl to pose in front of it. She, was NOT interested. Grrrr..

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Reached and we visited the toilet. We took our own sweet time, only to realise that the train master was waiting for us. How nice of him. When he realised we would not be continuing the journey, he just exclaimed a “Oh!” and moved on.

We met up with the ladies and checked into a cafe for our lunch before moving on to Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.

Melbourne | Chesterfield Farm

Melbourne 2016
1st day | Chesterfield Farm

Our flight was at 1.20am. Not a very ideal timing I must say. I was worried that the girl would be cranky with lack of sleep. Thankfully she slept a few hours before we headed to the airport and slept on the plane for a good few hours. As anticipated, she got bored along the way and I had to take out the Usborne sticker book and get her to work on it. The book is on airport and I chose it so that she could connect her experience with the task at hand.

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We cleared the custom at Melbourne airport rather quickly and by the time we settled some stuff, it was past noon. Chesterfield Farm was on my itinerary and we only realised that it closes at 3pm then. We wasted no time and Pauline, my host, sent me to the farm. This farm was recommended by Jenn and boy, was I glad that I chose to visit it.

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This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. However, once you go in through the cafe cum ticketing counter, you will realise that the farm is big!

img_8550Map of the farm

There is a list of things to do on the farm -tractor rides, shearing of sheep, milking of cow, feeding of the animals, etc – and one could devote a few hours visiting it. There are specific timings of course so it would be good to read up a little on its website. Faith and I had only one hour in the farm but we were really thrilled by the farm animals.

img_1019Pigs and piglets

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Cows

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Camel!!!

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Goats

The girl was truly fascinated by the kangaroo. The mom too!

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This space is truly big, quite different from Collingwood Children’s Farm¬†and it has a bigger¬†range of farm animals, much to our delight. Because we had only one hour before the farm closed for the day, we had to literally race through the various sections. We didn’t even purchase any feed for the animals; I thought it would be a good experience for the kiddo. I think one could possibly spend a good 2 to 3 hours on the farm.

It was a wonderful experience for both of us and we love the close encounter that we could have with the animals. Worth a visit!

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Faith has often read about farm animals and that day, the animals came alive and you should have seen her excitement and fascination with them.

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We had a wonderful mother-and-daughter bonding time too as we talked about the farm animals and taking turns to take pictures of them. It pays to bring along a good camera to capture all those beautiful memories and I’m glad to be equipped with Canon’s EOS M10 during this trip.

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Next stop, Puffing Billy & the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie!

Back from Melbourne

It was an impulsive act.

It happened about two months ago.

I was sleep-deprived because the boy woke up every hour and sometimes, every half an hour during the night for feed. Caffeine was my best friend and I dreaded evenings. By 6pm, both the kids would show symptoms of tiredness, especially the boy, and gave me a hard time. I couldn’t cook in peace and there would often be tension at the dinner table.

And I found myself screaming at them (the girl) more often.

I didn’t want to be a mad mom.

And I toyed with the idea of buying a pair of air tickets for Faith and me so that we could spend some much needed mother-daughter bonding time. The proposal got approved very quickly by the CFO in the family and I was very blessed to be invited by a friend to stay with her (she has close friends who are residents in the country). I just needed to buy the air tickets. And I need not worry too much about accommodation and research of the place.

So I bought the tickets and then realised … I was still breastfeeding Dan.

The past one month saw us getting Dan adjusted to formula milk and changing his sleep arrangement. It went fabulously smooth and things got so much better. He could sleep and eat better and both Da man and I could get some decent sleep. Since everything was turning out well, I shouldn’t be leaving him behind right?

Guilt set in. What a horrible mom I am. I had wanted to give up on the trip but friends told me to make good of the decision we have made and to spend some quality time with the girl.

And we did.

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Faith and I came back from Melbourne yesterday evening.
It happened to be our wedding anniversary and there is no better gift than to be with my family.

Blessed.

Faith and I had a fabulous time in Melbourne; the trip far exceeded my expectations.

I couldn’t thank Jenn and the host enough. They made the trip a very pleasant one indeed.

Will be recording some of the trip’s highlights soon.

Melbourne museum

I know this post is way too late. It’s been more than a year since we came back from Melbourne but I thought I had better record these wonderful memories on my electronic diary lest it be gone forever.

That morning, we had a slow breakfast at Queen Victoria Market before strolling to get onto the tram to get to the museum. Before that, we stopped in our tracks to have some workout and fun at the playground. This is one thing (of a lot of many others) that I appreciate about Melbourne – wide open space for playground.

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I didn’t expect Faith to be interested in visiting museums. She was, after all, just 19 months then but we still went ahead since we have heard good stuff about the museum.

And we were stuck in the Children’s Gallery for more than an hour. It wasn’t a big space and there weren’t a lot of exhibits but there are certainly interesting stuff that engaged the toddler.

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The area leading up to the Children’s Gallery has quite a few activities for children to work on such as puzzles, colouring paper, puppet show, blocks of different civilisations and books to read.

20140610_102644Just outside the area are some activities to engage the children physically. Look at these gigantic Lego rubber pieces!

Play is a way of learning…

20140610_110843Let’s enter the Children’s Gallery!

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One could learn much about nature here!

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To me, the exhibits are well designed and get the children to use their senses in exploring them. I guess if Faith was older then, we might have to be stuck in there for more than an hour.

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Faith has shown keen interest in building blocks at a very young age but then again, this applies to a lot of children eh?

20140610_105855One of the many quotes that I love…

20140610_124054The little girl finally fell asleep after I strapped her in the carrier and it’s time for the adults to view the other exhibits. We spent a good time at the other levels and eventually rested at the cafe.

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The food was nothing to boast about but we were glad to have a rest after all that walking.

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Oh, how I love the fall season.

20140610_134112On our way back, the hubs and I were just strolling with Faith following us behind. As we turned around, she was running towards us and then fell into the big pile of fallen leaves.

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Oops!

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But she got amazed by them and continued to play. This picture reminds me to allow her to explore and not restrict her no matter how dirty she might end up. ;p But I think the story will end up differently if there are lots of ants underneath the leaves.

To-pack list for travelling with a toddler

What would you pack if you are going on a trip WITH a 2YO toddler?

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Apart from the essentials like clothing, diapers (not toilet-trained yet!) and the like, there are some other stuff that I would specially pack for a trip. Those are items to {hopefully} engage a toddler who might get bored on a trip.

1. Storybooks

IMG_20141206_091203¬†One of the activities that Faith likes is reading and some routines should still remain no matter where we go. For every trip, we will bring along a few books and here’s one which I personally like. It’s a Bible storybook with puzzles for each story.¬†Faith is still very much into puzzles and apart from reading, she can busy herself with fixing these puzzles.

2. Puzzles

IMG_20141206_095113These puzzles can get the little one to stay focused for a good while. Since she is learning about transportation at the moment, I brought along these few pieces which I borrowed from fellow mummies.

3. Busy bag

IMG_20141206_095510This is my busy bag which is always able to engage the little one for a slightly longer period of time. There are quite a few items in this bag even though it remains light and compact with all its contents.

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:: Stickers and sticker books which Faith loves and she could spend a great amount of time with them.

:: Colour pencils which she could use for the Christmas Joys activity book.

:: Balloons when she’s absolutely bored. So we could inflate one for her and play some games with it.

:: Paper clips which she could use to connect each one of them, something which she’s still trying to figure out.

:: Clothes pegs to practise her pincers grip (and she’s still frustrated by them)

:: Coloured shapes which she could use to make vehicles! Good for reinforcing colours and shapes.

:: Sponge animals in capsules, random stuff which I bought from Daiso.

4. Snacks

IMG_20141206_101420Who doesn’t love snacks? These stay in my carry-on bag because I need to give Faith something to chew when the plane ascends or descends. I have repacked them into smaller quantity because if you know the little girl, she could finish one big pack in a very short amount of time. I always get nervous when the plane is taxiing on the runway. Sometimes, the plane has to wait for an awfully long time (when the air traffic is heavy) before it’s able to take off and that’s when I have to dish out another bag for Faith since she would already have finished the previous bag.

I sealed¬†the bags with tapes so that Faith could practise her grip when she’s removing them. The plastic bag seal clip is good as a tool to engage her too. ūüėČ

5. Random toys

IMG_20141206_171447I don’t know when this happened but recently, Faith would want to hold some toys in her hands whenever we go out. So I thought these puppets, toy bus and animals would entertain her a bit. Good for pretend play too!

There you have it. These are my 5 main items to pack when travelling with a toddler. What’s yours?

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Where to, next?

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Borrowing some winter clothing for the lil one. Guess where we will be heading to?

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And a beautiful picture of my CGL’s wife and the lil one. Sweet moments.

Hong Kong Trip Day #4 + personal reflections

What do you guys normally do on the last day of your trip? So you have a few more hours before boarding the flight home, do you still do a lot of exploring or like us, shop till you drop?

I find that it has always been the case that the last day of the trip is to do some last-minute shopping. After all, we are to pack our luggage and by the last day, we know how much space we have left!

JH and I went to buy Wife Biscuits because our family members requested for them and we only go for this brand –¬†HENG XIANG (HANG HEUNG).¬†They are freshly baked and you would have to carry them on board. Yours truly did the unthinkable and packed the boxes of biscuits in the suitcase (my hands were full!) and well, you could imagine the crumbs.

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We checked in our luggage via the airport express before having lunch at Festive Walk shopping mall (Kowloon Tong MTR). JH highly recommended this restaurant РKing’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar that serves the best (according to her) Barbecued Pork with rice and we absolutely had to try it. I tell you, it is indeed delicious! The BBQ pork is tender and flavourful! We ordered some other stuff and they were all found in our stomach rather quickly. 

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We still had a few more hours to burn before we had to check in at the airport in the evening. We had wanted to have our tea at¬†agn√®s b. but it was far too early for that @ 1pm. So we went over to PageOne cafe to have our caffeine fix. In the end, we didn’t have the chance to dine at¬†agn√®s b. but I bought two cakes to share with my travelling companions. And what do you expect? I bake so I need to taste other cakes for research purposes. ;p Lovely cakes, I must say!

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I’m going back to HK again soon and I definitely will check into more restaurants and cafes at Festive Walk. I think I have better do some workout first before I put on weight!

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Our return flight is a bigger airbus and I must say it was comfortable travelling in it. As usual, we go the first row seat so that Faith could have some space to move about. She even had a kid’s meal which I find could be a tad healthier. ;p But that’s just me.

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Oh! By the way, the gate for SQ at the HK airport has an indoor play area for young kids. Awesome, isn’t it?

Till we meet again, HK!
Very soon!

What I’ve learnt from the trip (for reference):

1. There is no need to pack so many pieces of clothes for Faith (for fear that she would poo or get dirty often) because majority of the shopping is for her.

2. Will consider NOT bringing stroller the next time if we are not doing any trail or hiking. A carrier will do better. There are no escalators at some MTRs and it would be horrid to squeeze with the crowd along with a young kid and stroller. Get a good carrier instead!

3. If travelling in a group, can consider taking a cab and splitting the cost (it’s quite affordable). But travel during off-peak hours.

4. Late night flight is not good for Faith.

5. Bring sachets of instant coffee powder along as their local coffee is not to my liking.

6. Only introduce Faith’s favourite biscuits when the plane is about to take off, NOT while the plane is taxiing.

7. Watch the time and note when the plane is going to do the first descent (usually a few minutes after the pilot announced) as Faith could not deal with the air pressure well. Have to wake her up if she is napping and give her some food or water.

8. Wet wipes. Wet wipes. Wet wipes are very useful!

9. Don’t speak in Mandarin if possible. English is better if you don’t want to be mistaken as the mainland Chinese. The treatment is different, so I’ve heard (No offense to the Chinese; I love you).

10. Some eateries do not have (many) high chairs to go around so train the kiddo to sit on the adult chair.

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Throughout the trip, Faith had been very cooperative and is a joy to travel with. I wonder whether that’s due to a new environment and she was constantly being engaged and thus less cranky. It could also be because I wasn’t on any schedule and was more at ease and thus could enjoy her more. It’s time to reflect. Have I been too busy for her that I could not enjoy her (at times) back home?

Related post(s):
–¬†Travelling with a toddler: The packing list
–¬†Hong Kong Trip Day #1
–¬†Hong Kong Trip Day #2
–¬†Hong Kong Trip Day #3

A dozen things to do in Penang

How do you plan a trip to Penang that could accommodate and satisfy a family of six which comprises an infant and folks in their 70s? We did it the slow and relaxing way Рsightseeing via a van. Here is a summary of the recent family trip to the Pearl of the Orient.

#1. Book a hotel along Gurney Drive: You will not go hungry because there are numerous stalls along this road and the most popular one has to be Anjung Gurney. Here, you will find local delicacies like Assam Laksa, rojak, Char Kway Teow, etc. However, we find that the dishes are overpriced. Still, it makes for a good experience. Bring along a mini-fan.

IMG_0874 IMG_0899I If you are like me and my aunt-in-law who love to buy Tambun Biskut (local biscuits), purchase them at their authorised boutiques or risk paying more. 

IMG_1362On the other end of Gurney Drive, opposite Northam hotel is a beach cafe that faces the sea. There are stalls selling local food and is less crowded. Personally, I prefer this to the previous one which is overrated, in my opinion.

Aside from the food, this road is made popular by having the best view of the sunset. Just outside the Georgetown City, Gurney Drive faces the sea of Penang and having a hotel room facing this view can provide a truly relaxing experience. Now that we are travelling as a family, I’ll make sure the hotel has ample facilities that we can enjoy in the event that we have to stay in due to bad weather or when the elderly folks are tired. For me, a spa and a good pool are good enough.

Relaxing pool

Relaxing pool

#2. Mural art in Georgetown. Ok, I must be honest with you. I’m in Penang in search for the mural art by¬†Ernest Zacharevic. We had it easy. Our tour guide cum driver took us to the various sites where the artwork can be found. My sister-in-law and I went crazy over them and sprang out of the van the moment we arrived at each spot. You see, there were many tourists who wanted to take a picture with the painting as well so you’ve got to act fast. Sadly, the colour of these paintings have faded and some are barely visible.

Boy on a bike

Boy on a bike

The following would be some museums/attractions that we chose to go for and they are all in Georgetown. The best way to explore this UNESCO world cultural heritage city is by foot.

#3. Khoo Kongsi. Completed around 1906, the temple belongs to the Khoo Kongsi clan. The temple features fine Chinese architecture and craftsmanship. Be wowed by it.

Khoo Kongsi Temple

Khoo Kongsi Temple

#4. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. This is the famed ‘Blue Mansion’, former home of tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze. Guided tours are at specific timing and it is an hour long. There are 16 B &B rooms but they are not cheap.

Front view of the mansion

Front view of the mansion

One of the rooms was open for us to view and here they are – a basic room with shower facilities.

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Interior of one of the rooms

Interior of one of the rooms

www.cheongfatttzemansion.com

#5. The house of Yeap Chor Ee. This house was turned into a social history gallery tracing the journey of Yeap Chor Ee, a young immigrant who came to Penang in 1885. Nothing spectacular though I was more intrigued by the restaurant found at the back of the house – Sire Museum Restaurant. If you dine here, you could visit the gallery for free.

Entrance to House of Yeap Chor Ee

Entrance to House of Yeap Chor Ee

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Kitchen of Sire Museum Restaurant

Kitchen of Sire Museum Restaurant

#6. Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A must-go if you want to know more about Peranakan culture. It houses a good number of Nyonya antiques and collectibles, showcasing the Peranakans’ opulent lifestyle as well as their customs and traditions.

Pinang Peranakan Museum

Pinang Peranakan Museum

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#7.¬†Chew jetty. This is one of the clan jetties around and you’ve guessed it, we chose this because one of the mural art pieces is found here but it is nearly beyond recognition.

Welcome note to Chew Jetty

Welcome note to Chew Jetty

Children in a boat

Children in a boat

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

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#8.¬†Crossing Penang bridge and riding on Malaysia’s oldest ferry service.¬†Penang Bridge is Asia’s longest bridge and it offers a spectacular view of Penang. This bridge is the pride and joy of Penang and a national landmark. Our van took us across the bridge and we came back via the ferry.

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

#9. View from the top of Penang Hill. We went up to the top through the Penang Hill Railway though you can climb up the hill. This is a funicular railway that will bring passengers all the way up to Flagstaff Hill.

Breathtaking view from the hilltop

Breathtaking view from the hilltop

#10. Culinary¬†experience. I’ll be honest. One of the reasons I visit Penang is for the food. I love street stalls and local food and our guide recommended some good places for us to try their local food. Here’s some:

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Nyonya Baba Cuisine
44, Nagore Road, 10050 Penang. 
My peranakan in-laws endorse their food. Try their otak, spring roll and nutmeg drink. Actually, all other food is sedap (delicious)!

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Best Cendol in town! You could also order laksa and rojak here.

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How can I not go for Dim Sum? Our guide brought us here.

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If you want malay food, try Line Clear. Tables are along the alley.

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Hakka cuisine at Ke Ren Lai along Gurney Drive

Char Kway Teow stall

Char Kway Teow stall

One of the street stalls

One of the street stalls

#11. Learn more about spice from the Tropical Spice Garden. If I was to go back to Penang, I would spend more time in this garden and enrol myself in the cooking class. There is a lot of information that could be gathered just by walking through the garden and if you have a guide, that’s even better. However, be warned that there are mozzies! Lots of them! There is also a restaurant that serves Thai-Asian-local cuisine if you are tired and just want to chill. Lastly, never leave home without buying the vanilla pod! They are relatively cheaper here. I bought some. ūüôā

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Spices galore! How can you resist them?

Spices galore! How can you resist them?

#12. Tembun, anyone? We bought a lot of souvenirs in the form of food items back. As I have mentioned earlier, go to the authorised stores. There, you can taste the products and you can be certain they are the real stuff.

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The popular ones are Ghee Hiang and Him Heang

So, these are the 12 things we did in Penang. We did not have sufficient time for high tea at 1885, E&O hotel (what a disappointment) and if you want to go for it, do make a call for reservation!

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We booked a van and the tour guide cum driver and this made our trip so much easier. Less walking which is good for the elderly folks. However, Georgetown should really be done on foot.

If you love beaches, spend a day at Batu Ferringhi. It reminds me of Kuta Beach area, Bali.

There you have it – our 4D 3N trip to Penang.

More pictures can be found on my FB page.