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Posts Tagged ‘penang

Returning to the Seven Terraces in Georgetown, Penang, was like revisiting a friend’s home. A very rich friend’s very large home.

Like my first visit 2.5 years ago, I never got to meet this friend, but I met many of his staff. They were warm, professional, and polite. In both stays, my family and I got extensions at no extra cost thanks to late flights and accommodating front desk folk.

There were also some not-so-subtle changes to the decor. One was this art piece that featured an elephant-giraffe.

This was not there in November 2015. I took this photo of my wife and son in the same spot then.

Like any good art, the piece sparked thought. For me, it was how easy it is to take sides — either extreme with clear views or somewhere in between with a jumbled ones.

While some might point out that only the extremes offer defined views, I prefer to focus on changing one’s perspective by walking back and forth. Doing that takes effort.

The effort was minimal in the case of the art piece. It might not be so easy when trying to see something from someone else’s vantage point. But making the effort is important in both cases.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) in yet another country. This time I was in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I realised that I could repeat much of my reflection on playing PoGo in Amsterdam last year. The similarities were the slow pace and gentle culture of play.

The best Torkoal I caught in Georgetown, Penang.

One obvious difference this time around was the regional exclusive, Torkoal, that was available here. I only encountered five or six of them, possibly because I travelled while the in-game Water Festival was on.

Wailmer breaching off Penang.

The event saw an increased spawning of water type Pokémon everywhere at the expense of all other types. This was an AR photo that I took of a Wailmer off the waters between mainland Malaysia and the island portion of Penang.

I can already hear someone point out that the more kiasu and frantic style of play in Singapore makes us sharp. But as we gain that, we also lose some things — fair and honourable play, courtesy, a live-and-let-live attitude.

Some might say that our speed, efficiency, and even brutality of play are hard skills honed by playing in a hard environment. But we are what we eat, we become who we are. The longer term soft skills that stem from an even temperament, looking at the long term, and working well with others are far more valuable.

I see a loose parallel between the way we play PoGo here and the hard, grade-based academic environment that is the Singapore schooling system. Ultimately, grades do not matter as much as influence, character, and impact. Currently, the policy and political rhetoric point towards developing students with the latter traits. Are we willing and able to change our style of play?

I am back from my short family vacation to Georgetown, Penang. I was last there in November 2015 and enjoyed the trip so much that we paid it another visit.

While my wife and son chilled the school out of their systems, I wandered around the city with fresh Poké stops and gyms telling me where to go.

This is what part of the city looked like in game.

Georgetown, Penang, in PoGo.

And these are just a few of the cat-themed murals that litter the place.

The art was not the only expression of creativity in the city. I noticed how some shop owners set their public wifi passwords — a sourdough place used “fermentation” and a book-and-cafe place used “nookienook”.

I also appreciate Apple’s simple but quality-of-life wifi connection feature — only one of us had to type in a wifi password and connect successfully. After doing so, the phone would prompt the first person to share the password with everyone in a trusted list to connect to the same wifi network. This process is illustrated here.

I do not know if Apple has a name for this feature. If it does not, it should call it Easy Peasy.

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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