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Asia's 'European' state

This is the article that helped me win 15,000 Ringits (Malaysian) in early October, and well with thanks to the Ministry of Tourism in Penang and all the friends that supported me all the way through.

By Keo Kounila

My story began with misery, and would probably end very much so. Who would have thought I turned it around? Mind you, this whole story would receive lots of ‘ahhh’ exclamations from the readers because I learnt a very valuable le$$on at the beginning of my trip to join the Blogfestasia 2010 in Penang, Malaysia. I missed my flight from Phnom Penh to Kualar Lumpur in the morning just five minutes after the airline staff left the check-in desk. You might know this lesson cost me a lot. Then, I was so of two minds about whether to purchase another flight or forget about it. Penang was the reason that I carried on, and went all the way, paying a price just to never get enough of it.

When I first heard about ‘Penang’, I pictured it as much as an island with quite a few houses and lots of coconut trees with monkeys nearby. At least, it was the first impression the word ‘island’ often gave me. On the plane when I got close by, I looked down through the window at Penang and the sea that surrounds the island state. Many questions popped up in my mind. How could people develop an island into Penang? Could my country do the same way? In the meantime, KL, to me, is a very fast-growing city in Asia, which never ceases to amaze me in any possible way like being an Asian melting pot where I can find Chinese, Malay, Indians, and many non-Malaysians.

Likewise, Penang happened to do the same way to me.

Our tour guide worked hard to tell us everything about Jetty

On the way from Penang International Airport to Wawasan Open University by car, I could still very vividly remember my feelings that Penang was just like a ‘European’ state that I have been to. I have been to Germany twice, and Penang keeps reminding me of German cities like Cologne, Bonn and Berlin. How could an Asian place make me feel so? Fortunately, I did some online research about Penang but which was not enough because I missed the fact that Penang has been bestowed a status by the UNESCO as a Heritage site. My jaw dropped when the car passed countless buildings built in colonial-style. “Why did the government decide to retain the buildings?” I remember asking myself. In contrast to my country, short of more than innovation, there is no initiative to keep the colonial-style buildings the way they have been. No doubt, though Penang has been very well developed, it has tried to maintain its originality and root.

Other participants were bloggers from various Asian countries. We went on a heritage tour that physically drained us at the end of the day. But it’s always worth seeing places that have been preserved for its originality and features. It is not every day that I, as an ordinary person, could do that in a day. I must thank the tour guide and Forest, the guy who picked us up at the airport for making this tour possible. We went to “Jetty” area, the ‘Khoo’ clan house, and Choeng Fatt Tze house (Blue mansion, the legacy of Mr. Choeng) while we could stay in the bus and admire the beauty of the colonial-style buildings (England used to colonize Malaysia, and especially came to Penang of which town is Georgetown). What surprised me the most was when the tour guide told us that most of the names in Penang were given after names of famous and powerful people who have done so much for Penang.

At Jetty, Cambodians + Vietnamese

I’m very impressed by the houses floating on the water in the area of ‘Jetty’ and the reclaimed area our tour guide showed us. Human beings don’t just live on the earth, but also make their lives better and better. The reclaimed area was an extension from the seaside toward some part of the sea. Sand and stone were dumped there and were several times stomped down there. This continued for 10 years only to have many buildings mushroom on the reclaimed land later. The pictures will speak for themselves.

Singaporean celebrity blogger and a math child wit 😉 at Jetty
A local burning paper for a celebration
Khoo Clan House
Surnames of the "Khoo" Clan House

The Choeng Fat Tze house and the “Khoo” Clan House are amazing places I’ve ever been to. Mr. Choeng was so fancy in his own right and style. His house, to me, was like a royal room. He used amazing expensive materials such as porcelain and several more rare gems and stones to shape his building.

Choeng Fat Tze House, 'royal' house

The blogfestasia 2010 went on amazingly. I learnt a lot from the event, and met so many interesting people from around Asia. I’ve made friends with people from Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India, the United States, and Vietnam. The first blogfest Asia 2010 first day can be seen here. I tried to do this for my friends who hadn’t had a chance to come to Penang like me.

I wish I had more days to spend here in Penang. Foods, views, people come in various forms and appearances, and I can assure you that you will never finish trying all the foods in here. Penang hosts Asian cultures from everywhere. My friends, John and his girlfriend, the locals of Penang are two of the people I will always remember. Penang has its own charm but the other charm that it has is the people. The locals here are surprisingly friendly. John and his girlfriend have been very friendly and helpful in many ways. We talked about food, our life and everything till we ended up talking about our future as a young generation. I feel their energy in working their way into becoming entrepreneurs. They aren’t any older than me.

In front of Wawasan University, the venue (me & my Myanmar friend)

On the second day of my stay in Penang, I got up at 2am in the morning to get a glimpse out of my window. There’s a great view of the sea and the white buildings from afar that stand out easily, for the eyes to catch. I never want to miss a bit of my time looking at great views of Penang.

I like the energy Penang gave me, the people that keep inspiring me to do the same. I like the growth and strength Penang represents to other Asian countries. I still stick to my belief that Penang is just like a European state, and that its charm is not just with the beauty but also the local people here who are so peaceful in their own right. I will have to take my flight in the evening, but what stays in my memory is the faces of those I met during the event, and the words of one of my Myanmar friends who said: “Penang could be my second home.”

I told her, “I couldn’t agree more.”

my feeling for Penang, while looking at the sea that surrounds and the skyscrapers
I spoke at the event as a Cambodian blogger

28 thoughts on “Asia's 'European' state

  1. IT’s my second time to Malaysia, but my first time to Penang, bro. Penang is really beautiful, and I hope to come here with my beloved one :P. I’ll come back to PP tomorrow morning. 😀

  2. This is a very lovely post on your experiences in Penang. Congrats! You deserved winning the 1st prize for this post! I hope to see you again soon in the near future. Do have a safe trip back to Cambodia. 🙂

  3. Your blog has us Penangite aware that we must not that this state for granted; its beauty, heritage, foodd and people. Your perspective from outside Penang person truly gave an inspiring insight. Do come back and we, Penang bloggers can show you and your friends what’s more Penang could offer

  4. Hi, you can write very well. And also you can describe vividly what you see in Penang. Hopefully Penang can stay fresh in your memory.

    I am the uncle you met at the cafeteria. Hope to see you again, perhaps at the next blogfest hopefully in Singapore. Take care.

  5. Well done, Kounila! CONGRATULATIONS! I’m thrilled that you won and you wrote a great post on the event. Thank you, too, for visiting me at my blog. I’m happy to know you’re reading STAR SAPPHIRE as well.

  6. I got to your blog from a link saying you were one of the three winners from the BlogFest. Good for you!

    I had no idea this event was even going on. Will definitely have to check it out for next year as I write several blogs about Thailand.

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