I stared at the house and the ‘For Sale’ sign for a good five minutes and walked away. And then walked back, and took some pictures. And looked at the sign again and walked away, a shorter distance, and turned around one last time, and took a few more pictures, and then I left the house behind me.
It was on a street in Georgetown in old Penang, shaded by hanging red Chinese lanterns, the second in a series of old rowhouses that look like Chinese apartment blocks out of a Hong Kong pirate period thriller. If you walked west there was the Ho Ping coffee shop, where I had roast chicken and barbequed pork chopped into fine, fatty bits over soft white rice with a clear vegetable broth served on the side, and two fried egg rolls served with mouse chili and plum duck sauce.
If you walked east there was the Sri Mariamann, a fantastic mountain of Gods, devas and demons climbing over each other into the cosmic layout of a perfect South Indian temple, and in the street below the whinny-woony-weeeoooo of Bollywood and all my familiar sights and smells and screaming from the subcontinent – Punjabi drums, thin, high oboes and bargain, hassle, smile where-you-from. I ate in Sri Ananda Bhawan, where I used my hands to scoop up more rice, this time doused in a chicken and okra gravy with a mango pickle as red as blood and hot as the sun adding biting but not masochistic heat, all served on a banana leaf in a cafeteria dining room.
A few minutes walk down from where the house and I are there’s
an air-conditioned mall if I need a new laptop or Starbucks if I need a
mochacino (even though most local cafes here do much better coffee). Wi-fi is
plentiful. People smile. The Malays add a Southeast Asian love of laughing to
otherwise savvy and aggressive Chinese and Indiasn
I haven’t been to a place that mixes the mother cultures of India
The travelers here – some of them – are the only thing pissing
me off so far. So many seem to expect a party island and beaches like Ko Phan
Ngang – some literally have no idea what Penang
I imagined myself in that house, noodle soup for lunch, writing on my balcony as the evening and the Heavenly Lanterns come alive, a fan and the wind for air con, sweaty beers under the moon. Like a good summer night.
Plenty of places to walk to. I love it here, but there’s still places to see. That said, I’m glad I saw this one, where all my Asians seem to exist side by delicious, evocative side.