Saturday, October 23, 2010

Penang 2

Written retrospectively

FRIDAY 23RD October

Is today Friday? Already?

Penang is, like most tropical South East Asian destinations we have been too, florid and fecund and fetid. The light is luminous; this place gleams. I love it. I feel at home, apart from the feeling we are about to be skittled every time we cross the road. I’m not sure about having SP in the pusher around the roads as she goes out front; she goes first and is so vulnerable. We wandered around Georgetown for a brief while today before we got too hot and over it. We looked in Komtar – one of the biggest shopping centers – round and round for a while but it was a little boring. We didn’t feel overly inclined to buy anything, except perhaps shoes, but we had gone into town with only a small amount of cash.

In an old shop-house painted emerald we tried cendal for the first time. Delicious and syrupy: a mess of coconut milk, tapioca worms, red beans and shaved ice stained with brown sugar. I’d like to learn how to make it. We have resolved not to eat any junk food this trip, nothing preserved in plastic; local food all the way. Dinner tonight was wonderful Indian food from the little strip of shops over the road from the hotel. We started with cheese and cashewnut croquets. We ate spicy prawns, fried reddened and crispy chicken, potato and cauliflower curry with paratha and naan bread. We drank mango lassis and salted lemon juice. Afterward we finished it with carrot halwa and icecream and semolina pudding. SP sat in a fabulous pink retro highchair, scattering paratha all over the floor and crushing the croquets in her little hands. She smiles at everyone who walks past, like a film starlet. She makes friends wherever she goes, our blue-eyed babe. Local people and tourists alike are fascinated by her. She gets waved at, and high-fived, and her hands held and cheeks stroked and picked up out of her highchair and cuddled by random people we meet in restaurants. I think she must be very gregarious, like Dylan. She has just learnt to high-five back, which naturally we think is the cutest and cleverest thing we have ever seen. Lots of people have guessed her age right here, I think babies must be smaller overall here than Australian babies, so people don’t automatically think our tiny girl is much younger than she really is as happens at home. I think she is suffering a little in the heat despite our best efforts to keep in the shade or the airconditioning. I also think the 3 hour time difference has knocked her around more than I would have expected, although I suppose it would when you’re little and can only stay awake for a few hours at a time.

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