Ten months is a long time to travel with kids. I knew we would benefit from settling down in a few places along the way. Penang is our last extended stop before we hit the Perhenthian Islands and make the long journey home. I booked an apartment at Miami Green, a high rise condominium complex right by the sea. At any time of day, the views are spectacular. We even have a mountain in back, complete with monkeys and tropical birds.
The island of Penang is a popular place on the map for traveling families due to its decent, affordable housing, plentiful activities for kids, and historic, multicultural scene. Its capital city, George Town, named after King George III, is actually yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, “officially recognized as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”
Our first few weeks here have gone well. Renting a car makes getting around quite carefree, besides the frenetic, video game-like traffic. We rarely lack things to do or interesting food to eat. We even had our teeth cleaned and eyes checked.
We found a pre-school M & M like, which has granted us some much needed kid-free time. Mostly, we have appreciated having a really nice home base, so that we can unpack and simply hang out. Mathilda enjoys her usual activities: painting, costume changes, dance routines, doing dishes and “making pancakes.” You know, the normal 3-4 year old kid stuff.
Ever since I found Uno at the airport in KL, Merle has been way into it. Did you know it was in fact created by a man named Merle? Uno has been an elixir: it facilitates one on one time with one of us and seems to have an overall calming effect on him.
Every night, Merle and Chris play Uno together. Sometimes even Mathilda joins in, as she tries to learn her numbers.
The gigantic pool here is Miami Green’s crowning glory. The kids rip down the fast water slide and have even made a few friends. A mellow lap swimming scene in the mornings has a calming effect on ME, and its 30+ meter length is definitely a major plus.
I came here knowing we were not going to get in some good beach time, which seems strange considering we are on an island within reach of the top beaches of the world. Well, the situation is indeed strange verging on outrageous, as everyday I look out to an azure sea to see no one in the water. The ever-present mysteriously brown streams flowing into the sea from the hotels and condo developments, as well as the dead jellyfish on the shore do not help. Batu Ferringhi, our neighboring beach, just tested positive for unsafe levels of E. coli this spring. Lovely. Though they adore their home away for home, local expats never, ever go in the water. Why are rentals so cheap here? Well, it is severely over-built, but with the ocean ruined for proper swimming, it is almost as if it does not exist to me. It serves merely as a pretty backdrop, a living, vast wall painting. This alone is perhaps the greatest travesty I have witnessed on our trip.
Penang air feels as though an oven door is open, on full blast. Visiting the beach is akin to torture if one cannot cool off in the water. Furthermore, I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to see litter carelessly strewn about the beaches. The national park nearby at least seemed to have cleaner sand, but a closer look revealed months, perhaps years, of sea garbage caught among the rocks.
Water aside, we have had some fantastic outings around Penang and can understand why it is a haven for expats from around the world. Stay tuned!