A few days later, we board our flight to the close by Medical Island of Malaysia: Penang. It’s time for our annual checkups, and it won’t hurt to get to the bottom of exactly which type of ghost is inhabiting my back this time around. Besides, it’s been far too long since we’ve been on any adventures!
In what has to be the first time ever, our plane actually leaves twenty-five minutes early! Good thing we got to the airport with plenty of time. We take off, and just as we reach cruising altitude, the seatbelt light dings, and I suddenly feel light in my seat. The captain comes on the speaker. “Thank you for flying Air Asia, we will now begin our descent to the island of Penang.” I giggle. What took us several days to sail is a thirty-five minute flight. We barely had enough time to take off before we had to land again!
Between doctors’ appointments, we are planning to explore a Unesco Heritage City of Georgetown on the Island of Penang, Malaysia.
Like Melacca, Georgetown Malaysia was a part of the Malaysian Sultanate until the 1780s when it became one of three British outposts in South East Asia. It has a majority population of Chinese-Malay. (Malay born persons of Chinese descent.) The world famous and talented shoemaker, Jimmy Choo, was born and raised here. His father, also a shoemaker, taught him the trade. But, if you are going to make a visit to Penang, it’s either for the high technology Western Medicine available, the street art, or the extra delicious food scene.
The architecture in Penang is the strangest mix of 1980s and 1990s built high rise towers mixed among row houses and manors built by the Dutch and the British.
Just across the street from our hotel (also an historic, UNESCO protected building) sits an old, allegedly haunted, schoolhouse. While I think it’s probably pretty unsafe to try such a thing, how awesome would it be to situate a model dressed in a white dress in the frames of one of those old, terrifying windows?
Many of the buildings have huge, street art frescos painted on them.
This one is kind of impossible to see in peace, as there is always a huge line of people waiting to “ride the bike.” It’s a fun energy, though, to see everyone so enthusiastic about a work of art.
No, that’s not street art, it’s just Andrew.
The food is as delicious as promised. We didn’t get time to try everything, but I’ll admit that some of the Malay specialties are even better in Penang. We found a couple of cafes that we just loved. This one served neon purple lemonade made from the blue petals of pea flowers, a rose water infused cappuccino, and a very delicious Nasi Lemak (rice, spiced stewed chicken, peanuts, Malaysia’s specialty crispy dried tiny fish that I have come to really love, and a spicy sambal sauce). The only thing I loved more than this café’s food is the ambiance. I can just imagine a week-long writer’s retreat in this space!
We make a few stops for street food. We find the imitation of “Peneng’s Best” dessert cart ran by a nefarious grandma and her husband of forty+ years to enjoy Lemon juice with ice, sugar, and tropical fruit much like Lychee…
…and my personal favorite, the one with coconut ice milk, red beans, and green gelatin worms.
And, then we found this adorable lady selling “Dragon Ice Balls”.
What are dragon ice balls? I ask her. “Well, when I was little, my mom would make shaved ice formed into a ball. I thought it would be really delicious if it had some flavor, and even more delicious if I formed it around some ice cream.
Wow, was she right! I enjoyed my nutmeg and rose flavored ice ball wrapped around mango ice cream. It was absolutely delightful.
I might not feel well enough to do boat work, but apparently, I can still eat.
By the end of the weekend, we returned to the orthopedic specialist to get his reading of my newest MRI. “You have a severely herniated disc between L4-L5, and the three discs above that one look like those of a grouchy old lady. You hunch over and grouch too loudly.” (He didn’t really say that, but it’s what he wanted to say if he weren’t so polite.) “You are probably going to have to have another surgery to remove the disc material that’s pushing against the nerve.”
“Why is this happening to me?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Bad posture.” I sit up straighter in my chair.
After viewing the alien-looking MRI screen, Andrew excuses himself to go out in the hallway to avoid passing out. I quiz the doctor until satisfied that I know my fate. I say thank you, and hobble out of his office.
“The disc is not ruptured this time, though.” I say to myself. “There is still hope.”