Crazy last minute trip to Penang

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We like pretty much everything about living in Bangkok, everything except the somewhat arcane and complex rules about visas and work permits.

A few weeks ago we found out we had to leave the country quickly so that Uncle Richard could get a new visa at a nearby embassy. Normally, we love a long weekend trip to somewhere new but when you have to figure out where that is, how to get there and where to stay in less than 48 hours, well, that’s a bit much.

But we did it. We remembered that my friend Valerie is from a place in Malaysia called Penang and she has been harassing encouraging us to go there, so that’s what we did. And boy were we glad we finally took her advice. It has almost everything we require for a great time – amazing food, interesting local history and a beach!

Penang is located on the northwest side of Malaysia, along the Malacca Strait. It is home to a diverse mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnicities and this is apparent in everything from the food, to the language, to the architecture. It is also home to the world’s third largest reclining Buddha, which is cool (but let’s not forget Bangkok has the largest Buddha made out of pure gold!)

I was really blown away by everything in Penang but especially the food.

It shouldn’t have been a big surprise, I mean you take three of the world’s great cuisines, put them in one place and you’re likely to get a good result. Also every time I post a picture of food from a place in Malaysia that is not Penang, Valerie informs me that the food in Penang is better. And now I know she may be right.

One of my favorite dishes was char kway teow. It’s basically wide rice noodles stir fried with vegetables, egg, seafood and sausage in chili and soy sauce. What makes the street food version I tried especially good is that it is cooked over very high heat on a charcoal fire. That gives it a delicious smoky, salty, spicy taste that is out of this world.

I hate to say it, but you know how we all adore pancit? Char kway teow is way better. Next Christmas let’s have a noodle cook off. Annie’s angel hair vs. Auntie Krista’s char kway teow vs. Auntie Sara’s pancit. Uncle Richard says he will be the judge and, obviously, Judge Stacy can too since she really is a judge.

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