Air Con

24 Sep

photo (11)

On this island, it is really important that your air conditioning is functioning.  A recent power outage went from crisis to handle-it-tomorrow-lah when we realized that only the kitchen was out and the internet and bedroom aircons were OK.  So, you can see where our priorities lie.  With the constant stress these heavenly blowers of cold air are under, it’s critical that you keep them in good health.

Enter: the air con service guy.  I interviewed our man, Mr Wah, about what he’s seen and what he recommends.  Without proper care, air con units can get slowly less cold and develop leaks.  We go for a twice a year service, which includes a thorough cleaning and check up for each unit.  It takes a couple hours, and those nights, I pull the covers up a little higher.

If it’s been a while, or you area  few years into your stay here and are just now looking at those units…give these guys a call.  Also, let me know your best guy in the comments.

Mr Wah: 012 482 0787
He also handles electrical issues as well – came around when the fridge circuit was out and got me sorted in a morning!

Ah Seong: 019 447 8782

Welcome To Penang Expo – TOMORROW!

19 Sep

Drop by and come meet Penang Momma!  I’ll be there, along with lots of great vendors and folks from the community.  See you. :)

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Searching for Preschools

18 Sep

I have been meaning to update my preschools & nurseries posts for a while, and a friend’s extensive search for a school for their daughter impressed me!  Luckily, Ying Ying has offered to share her result with you below.  They are based in Batu Maung, so there’s some good stuff for south of the island folks.

Ying Ying was born in Penang but spent the last 15 years in the US. She and her daughter, Ania, and her husband, Chris, split their year in Penang and California. She is a mother expecting another child in 2015, and a corporate advisor. Her husband is a musician, educator and entrepreneur (

Taska Nania
Taska Nania is a Waldorf/Steiner pre-school opened 18 years ago. They opened a second school at Halaman York in Pulau Tikus in August 2014. Taska Nania is one of the few play-based schools in Penang. The teachers and staff members are very loving and caring. I requested the Chinese teacher to speak only Mandarin to Ania. Their menu seems healthier and they serve organic meals whenever they can. Like the Waldorf school my daughter went to in San Diego, the environment of the school is very calm and orderly, with its layout planned for children. Furniture and toys are all made out of wood. The toys are mainly blocks, puppets, dolls and kitchenware to promote imagination and creativity. They have real kids size toilets and sinks. They have a few rabbits and a nature based playground for outdoor play everyday.

Morning starts with half hour of play, followed by an hour of activity:
Monday – water color painting
Tuesday – beeswax crayon drawing
Wednesday – bread making
Thursday – homemade play dough modeling
Friday – class cleaning day
Morning snack is followed by half hour of singing and half hour of outdoor play. Lunch is followed by 45 minutes of creative/craft time and afternoon snack is followed by story time and goodbye song. Drop off is anytime between 8.30am-9am and pick up is 2.30pm. There is an option for afternoon care and transport. They accept students in elementary school for after care as well.

We just celebrated Mid-Autumn/Lantern Festival at the school this past Friday. In preparation for the festival, the children color painted the paper for the lantern on Tuesday, made the lantern on Wednesday and Thursday, decorated the school with lanterns and made moon cake on Friday morning. All parents were invited back to school on Friday evening for the festival, which started with singing (songs in English, Mandarin and Japanese), moon cake and snacks, puppet show accompanied by the harp played by the teacher, and lantern parade around the garden.

Here are a few links about Waldorf:

Learning Garden
This preschool is on Halaman York across the street from Taska Nania. Most learning is done through play, songs and nature observation. This may be a good option for parents who want their child to have a little more academic based education. We attended the parent toddler program last year when Ania was 1 to 2 and we loved it.

Both Taska Nania and Learning Garden offer parent-toddler program. Parent-toddler class is a good way to familiarize your child to the school’s environment, and for parents to take a closer look at the school, philosophy and most importantly, the teachers and staff members.

Odyssey is a Reggio Emilia philosophy, Singapore-based school, opened in August 2014. The facilities and classrooms is the best we have seen. This is also the most expensive pre-school in town. Learning is mainly through songs and play and they have music and art classes.

Straits International School
A British international school located in Bayan Baru, accepting students starting at 3 through high school. They are in a temporary campus for a couple years while the new permanent campus is being built.
Glorious Kids Tadika Gemilang Bistari
123 Tingkat Batu Maung, Taman Seri Mewah Indah, Batu Maung
626 1228 (Angee Lim)
This is a local traditional preschool with two branches in Bayan Lepas area. The principal and teachers here are more professional and caring compared to the other local schools we have seen. Children have workbooks and they have a class in Di Zi Gui (A Confucius teaching on what children are expected of) once a week.
Melody Kindyland
A local franchise near Quensbay in the Bay Avenue shop lot with two floors of classrooms and playrooms. Toddlers have 2-3 days a week of play time and the remaining 2-3 days of classroom time with workbooks.
D’Monte Child Care & Development Centre
A local franchise located in Batu Maung, children learn all three main languages (English, Mandarin and Malay) using workbooks and they have a class on Di Zi Gui Confucius teachings and a class on Tang Dynasty poems once a week.

Lang Tengah

11 Sep


In truth, Lang Tengah wasn’t even on my radar when I went to book this trip. I was thinking a return to Perhentians, for the gorgeous blue sea and laid back atmosphere.  But a glance at a map and a recommendation from a friend and I located this tiny island just a bit south of the one I was searching for.  Same water, and it had availability.  Done!

The ferry dock is just south of that for Perhentian and is a 6 hour drive from Penang.  I won’t lie – it was harrowing when we left at 4am to make the 11am ferry.  Perhaps camp somewhere half way, or arrange transport after flying to Kota Bharu.  We made it in time for the ferry,  landing at Lang Tengah 45 minutes later.  I took in the gorgeous water I had been hoping for.  Double bonus, the sand was pure white and powder soft.  Exhale.

We chose a Double room at the D’Coconut West Wing.  The room (and hotel in general) was pretty basic.  The food was served buffet-style and was standard cafeteria fare, save for a few outstanding curries that popped up once in a while.  We’d packed our own booze, but turned out the resort had Carlsburg, too.

But, the beach!   It was perfect. Shaded all day to some degree, and there was no trash washing into the bay.  The extra coral was raked up each morning by the hotel staff.  The 100ft of shore was just right.  There was decent snorkeling and rock exploring to be had right there.  It was a perfect spot for a new snorkeler (my 4-yr-old!)  Tons of fish, pretty shallow, and some great rocks to explore.  We did end up using water shoes to get out past the rocky shallows at low tide, so bring them along.

The resort ran a snorkeling trip every afternoon.  It was perfectly clear and the reef we visited was amazing!  My son described it perfectly – it was an underwater garden.  I could have paddled around all day.  We saw some special stuff;  Mom saw a stingray and I spied a shark!  Miles spent the whole time feeding the little fish bread from his fist.  So fun, and truly a highlight.

We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave at our planned 8am time, and thus the drive home in post-Raya Saturday afternoon traffic was not so great.  Eight hours, but we made it.  And I hope to make it again … soon!  Remember, the high season is from March-October.  The off season brings rains and cloudy water – no fun!

Betel Nut Buzz

9 Sep


  • Spiral Synergies has a lot of events coming up, including a Super Stylish Shopping event this weekend at 5.4* North and their mega-useful Expats Expo next Saturday the 20th at G Hotel.  Penang Momma will be there for community support, stop by and say hi!
  • Matt the Mobile Hairdresser is back in town, give him a call for your in-home hair treatments. 012 448 6405
  • Calling all future Engineers.  Tech Dome at Paragon is on this weekend.  Check the website for details.
  • Eating, recently.  Basil Le Bistrot, Secawan Hutton, Pigeon Apartment Cantonese restaurant behind Tai Tong, Safe Room, Coffee Elements Paragon, Monkey Cup, Gem, Woodlands.
  • Warrior Games is coming this weekend to Occupy Beach Street.  Come along to cheer on the power, speed and agility warriors.
  • The Triathlon Shop is advertising now for the Newton Challenge coming up next February.  There are some kid-friendly options including a 3.5km and a 1km race, plus some challenging routes for adults.  With races in Penang filling up so quick, better be on top of this one!


4 Sep


Pharmacies in Penang are a great resource.  As hospitals and clinics all have their own dispensaries, the farmasi/apotik is occupied not by a frantic pharmacist filling prescription orders, but instead by a knowledgeable, well-educated and helpful specialist, ready to listen and help get you what you need.  The pharmacists I have dealt with around town really know their stuff, some are Western trained, and are able to point me to the right meds and dosage for everything from eye drops to cough medicine.  In addition, many of the drugs which may be available by prescription only in your home country could be available over the counter, so check the pharmacies first if you need a refill.

Here are some of the preferred pharmacists around town.  Check in with who’s in your neighborhood and have a chat.

Georgetown Pillhouse
Batu Ferringhi: 1-3G Jalan Sungai Emas (across from McDonalds), 04-881 1628
Tanjung Bungah: 598-GF-08 Menara Asas (on the Market St), 04-890 7899

Staywell Pharmacy
Gurney Plaza: 170-B1-12, Plaza Gurney (near Cold Storage),04-227 7552

Your Garden Market

21 Aug

One of the great secret things you may find around town is the edible garden. In our complex, most of these plants are hidden behind decorative ones in the landscaping – not sure if it’s for aesthetics or to keep the secret of free ingredients!  If you have a little space to plant, or even some pots, consider putting in some of these ingredients for a fresh spice to your dinner.


Kaffir Lime Leaf. Delicious in curries, soups and even steeped in cold water for a refreshing drink.


Chilis. These little dudes are spicy!


Kalamansi limes. Limey, but orange inside and a little sweet. Makes great limeade, salsa and as a “sour” component in any sweet-sour-spicy-salty combo.


Banana leaf. Although we don’t eat them, they can be used to wrap items to steam, or as a makeshift placemat, adding fragrance to the dish.


Curry leaves. These make Indian dishes taste amazing. Fried with cabbage, green beans or folded into dahl or curry, this is my favorite local flavor.


Pandan leaves. From the coconut family, pandan imparts a similar flavor. Try it crushed or knotted into a pot of coconut rice for nasi lemak, or blended and strained to color nyonya kueh.


Edible flowers. A friend served these knotted with spring onion around a tiny Vietnamese appetizer or pork and prawns.


Coconut. The trees in our garden deliver fresh, young coconut. Just ask the gardener to pull out his perang, and we’ve got an afternoon treat.

The Seasons of Penang

15 Aug


Being from Michigan, an American state with a cool northern climate where the distinctive four seasons “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb”, I moved to Penang and noticed little difference from one month to the next.  Where I used to say: wait five minutes, the weather will change, if you wait 5 minutes in Penang it will still be hot and muggy, maybe a bit wetter with the perspiration accumulation on your clothing.  In short, I didn’t think Penang had seasons.  People talked about hot and dry times, but that seemed like grasping at straws to put a name on it.  However, after four years here, I can appreciate the gentle swing of seasons.  Here’s my (very non-scientific) take on it.

Jan-Mar: Hot/Dry

In mid January, the rain stops, the sun comes out and Penang dries up.  If it’s like last year, it really dries up – we went 13 weeks without a drop of rain.  The normally green island turned brown at the edges and there were even some unfortunate forest fires on Penang Hill.  Days can be so hot you wouldn’t want to walk around my pool barefoot for fear of burning your feet, and jumping in offers little reprieve from the scorching days as the water’s been heated up too!  Your friends are posting pictures of mountains and snow, go ahead and make them jealous of the bright sea and swaying palms.  This is summer.

April-June: Little Rainy Season

April rolls around, and one day large fluffy clouds gather on the once dusty horizon.  Everyone holds their breath, and the rain falls.  Once it starts, that’s the shift, and the next 2-3 months are my autumn.  That perfect time when the trees drop their saffron flowers and clog the storm drains, and overnight the verdant green returns to every edge of the island.

mid-June – August: Hot Haze

When it dries up eventually in Penang, it also does on our neighboring landmass of Sumatra.  This is traditionally the time farmers and corporations clear land for planting using a slash-and-burn method. (Educate yourself before pointing fingers in this atrocity)  Indonesia is on fire, and the smoke crosses the straits of Malacca and covers Penang and western Malaysia in Haze.  We pray for wind and rain to clear the skies, and eventually they come sometime around the end of August to beginning of September.  This is a winter for me, more like the dirty slushy time instead of the Christmas white.  Nice for staying indoors with your air filter.

September-December: Big Rainy Season

Spring!  The rain comes, and comes, and comes.  There are gorgeous sunsets and magnificent cloud formations.  While it rains often and often fiercely, but the patches of sunshine in between are glorious and never allow me to lose sight of the tropical island we live on.  The pool goes cold from rainwater, and you might even break out your long pants if you are headed somewhere with air conditioning.  Soak it up, Chinese New Year is right around the corner…and that means hot dry!

Why Expats Should Travel

7 Aug


We spent nearly six months in Penang.  I mean, we slept every night in our apartment, had breakfast at our table, and swam away the afternoons and weekend in our pool or the pools of our friends and neighbors.  We’ve been expats here for four years, and it was the longest we had spent continuously in our home away from home.  For many expats out there, you’ll appreciate the magnitude of that record.  As you’d gather from the GO section of this blog, we are pretty regularly on the move: planes, trains & automobiles.  So, when we decided to sit tight for a bit, I was surprised at my reaction.

I didn’t get itchy feet, nor did I spent my evenings trolling TripAdvisor and WikiTravel.Org, pining for time away.  Time slipped past and I got jaded.  Annoyed at things that “weren’t like home”, procedures and bureaucracies that didn’t make sense.  Frustrated with traffic and air conditioning and my house being invaded by insects and the things that eat insects.  Daily Penang under scrutiny was looking a lot less like the overseas adventure we’d signed up for, and more like, well, life.  And those things I missed from home?  They loomed large under the microscope.

Apparently, I needed a ten thousand foot view.  Or 17,000 as it would be on a Firefly flight to Koh Samui.  We had a great time at a different waterfront property on a different tropical island in a similar summer monsoon pattern.  Eating delicious but similar food, swimming in a different pool.  All those experiences revived me, and upon landing back in Penang, I metaphorically kissed the ground we landed on as HOME.  It took leaving to know what we have here, and to enjoy the quiet urban life Penang offers.  It was a sweet homecoming.

How does home leave factor in here?  With two little kids, I’m reluctant to brave the flights/jetlag that come along with a journey around the world, and it’s been a while since we traveled home home.  Meanwhile, memories of that place grow and change, reshape and polish in my mind.  Comparing life on the ground in Penang to the picture I have reserved leads to a longing, and often Penang comes up short.  What I have learned on every home leave we have done (five in the last four years), is that while those memories were shifting around in my head, I was changing too.  Moulding to the land I lived and spent my days.  Again, homecoming was always sweet, sinking back into the routine a comfort over a monotony.

If you’re an expat on the go, you can use these words for justification to book the next flight.  If you are starting to nitpick at your days on this little island, use this as a basis to get up-up-up and book to a different little island.  Or busy metropolis.  Travel, and grow.  And then, come HOME.

Betel Nut Buzz

26 Jun


  • The Georgetown Festival is coming to Penang in August, and tickets to events are on sale now! International acrobats at Circus Circus a major drum circle with The Kitchen look like highlights to me. Also interesting: Rhythmic Space and the Thai Puppets. This Trolley Dance troop looks amazing – and it’s free!
  • It’s that time of year again when we obsessively check the air pollution index.  Fingers crossed that we’ve been through the worst of it, but this “season” usually lasts through July.
  • Home made, delicious sourdough bread in Georgetown!  Check out Yin’s at 11 Pesara Claimant.
  • Real Food at Straits Quay hosts an Organic Farmers Market the 3rd Sunday of every month.  If you missed June’s, mark your calendar for July.
  • My husband and I are loving the new whiskey bar on Muntri St.  Mish Mash mixes up some impressive cocktails, try out the smokin’ joe for a show!
  • Every parent who lives near the water or a pool needs to read this.
  • Sam’s Groceria, soon coming to Strait Quay, also offers online ordering and delivery.  While pork- and alcohol-free, this grocery chain has an impressive array of other items, including an awesome cheese deli, great ethnic ingredients and selection of whole wheat pasta. (It’s slightly sad that is exciting to me).
  • Penang’s authentic French baker previously from La Boheme has joined the team at SiTigun and is filling the dessert case with all kinds of deliciousness!  Creme brulee, petite fours and yes! Almond croissants!

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