Another dot in the blogosphere?

Lessons from Penang

Posted on: December 2, 2015

Last week I took my family on a trip to Georgetown, Penang.

My first visit to Penang was almost 40 years ago as a child. All I remember was the beach and my first Ramly burger from a street hawker.

My second trip was one borne of circumstance. I was a teacher accompanying students on a climbing trip in Thailand, but one of them needed a hospital due to an injury.

My most recent trip was thanks to this tweet about Georgetown.

That was enough to intrigue me and I planned a Peranakan-focused trip.

We stayed at a relatively new boutique hotel, Seven Terraces, which was in the heart of the heritage district. The story of how it was transformed from pre-war shophouses to what it is today is down to the vision of its owner, Christopher Ong.

I learnt much about my own culture from the tour of the place. Every item there had significance be it a door or decoration.

I also found out how hospitable the staff were. We were given a late check out when they found out our departing flight was late in the evening. I had hoped to leave our bags there while we explored some more, but they extended our stay to 6pm despite a 12noon checkout. They also let us rest in the library and served us refreshments even though we were technically no longer guests.

The warmth and politeness I experienced seemed to be a reflection of the attitude of the people in the heritage area of Georgetown as a whole. We were greeted warmly and tended to attentively.

Where we could, we had extended conversations with the locals. Cynthia, who sold jewellery at the Pinang Peranakan Mansiontold us what the weak ringgit was having on the population. Mary, the author who gave us a private tour of Seven Terraces, told us why she was now a resident of Christchurch, New Zealand. The father and co-owner of Ivy’s Nyonya Cuisine who served up the most delicious beef rendang and kapitan curry chicken told us how his son was only just living with them.

We also visited Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a living museum that tells the baba story from the perspective of one particular family.

I might remember a Ramly burger from my first time in Penang. I hope my son remembers the Peranakan museum.

Who am I kidding? He might only remember the food and the toil of walking about with his parents. Maybe I can use that to help him recall the other things that matter.

I learnt to use Instagram more actively. Inspired by a TNW author who only recently jumped on the Instagram and Snapchat bandwagons, I decided to use the trip to put the platform to good use.

I had to get used to taking square photos. Even though Instagram displays non-square ones, its thumbnail previews are still square.

The platform is mobile-heavy and this meant doing everything quickly on my phone. I took snapshots, edited them quickly if needed in the stock iOS Photos app, and posted them sans Instagram edits or filters.

The only thing that slowed me down was the poor cellular reception in some indoor areas (see the latest addition to my “getting connected” series).

I learnt that I was doing two things wrong in Instagram. First, I did not hashtag my photos. Second, I posted them too often (once a day is a lot, once a week is acceptable).

But I live and learn, and I live to learn.

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