Things around here have been fairly quiet lately. We have been pretty close to home lately. It’s been the rainy season, and it has been raining a lot. Last year was much drier than this year, on the flip side of that we have not had any of the horrendous haze/smog we had last year. It’s not that it isn’t here, it just the rain knocks it out of the air before it can really settle in. So yay for rain? Our views have been quite nice due to this. In October we had my cousin and her husband come for a quick visit, which was fantastic!
We are going to get to go visit them for Christmas this year in Switzerland. I am so excited about this. Not only will it feel like Christmas, but we get to spend it with family this year. That is a huge improvement from last year. Also we will be COLD!!!!!!! I cannot wait to put on my coat and gloves!!!
Now that we are through the lull of activity the last few months have been there is lots of stuff coming up. It feels like this is the time of year that everything just speeds up. Here this starts with the Hindu Festival of Deepavali (also known as Diwali in other parts of the world). As I have mentioned before, Penang has a fairly large ethnic Indian population. They are mostly descendants of people that migrated here during the British Colonization period, with them they brought their own religious traditions and food. Part of this tradition is Deepavali.
Deepavali is also known as the Festival of Lights, it is a very happy holiday. It spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. It falls on the darkest autumn new moon of the Tamil Lunar month of Kartika, that is October 29th this year. On the main festival night everyone will light candles and lanterns on the inside and outside of their homes. Believers will put on new clothes and there will be a large family feast, where gifts will be exchanged. It is important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians.
I was really fortunate to be able to attend a walking tour of Little India in Georgetown to see some of the preparations leading up to the main festival night. I will be honest, the Indian Festivals have been my favorite here in Penang, and little India is one of my favorite enclaves to walk through, if not the most intimidating. Little India is not a tourist destination per se, but a busy, working neighborhood. To me it is the most filled with vibrancy and life in all of Penang. It smells sooooooooooo good with all the different curries and spices, there is always music blasting from stores that makes one want to break out into a Bollywood dance, and it is extremely colorful. It can be at times a complete sensory overload. It can be quite overwhelming at first to a suburbanite from Austin, Texas, but I find it the most interesting . Have I mentioned the food yet? Oh my the food, the Indian food is by far my favorite here in Penang. I love it. LOVE IT. I have always loved Indian food, but Penang has brought that to a whole new level. Luckily our tour started with breakfast.
Breakfast was at a local Mamak Stall Restaurant. Which is where you will find some of the most delicious local food, especially Indian cuisine. They are usually open 24 hours a day and serve a variety of local dishes. The foods we had are all typical breakfast foods that locals eat on a regular basis. They are very different than a typical Western Breakfast. It is all fairly heavy food to sustain one for morning of hard work ahead. We had:
Samosas. Oh how I love Samosas, curried potatoes wrapped in dough and fried. I mean seriously you just cannot go wrong here. A lot of the Samosas in the US have peas, I have not found any in Malaysia that do, and I am good with that. I hate peas, so these are perfect little spicy nuggets of goodness.
Next we had kind of a savory doughnut. It’s made from lentil. It has some cardamom and other spices. It really reminded me of a cross between a doughnut and a hush puppy. They did not taste as I was expecting, but they were really good. They look like donuts so I expected them to be sweet, but they actually taste more like a hush puppy.
Next was a potato, carrot and okra dish that is served with this amazing pillowy soft bread to scoop it up with.
Next were the lady fingers, which we in the South all know as Okra. This was not really my thing, as I prefer my okra to be fried or in gumbo like any girl that grew up on Southern food. It was nice put a veggie in the mix though.
Now we have a delicious chicken curry. Oh my goodness they know how to do curries around here. They will never be the same for me I fear. Sorry for the blurry pic, it was the best one I was able to get. I had to include it though because it was so good.
This was a fried rice noodle dish. Very simple with some veggies.
This is a drink called a Mango Lassi. It is a delicious mixture of mango and yogurt. I could have it by itself for breakfast and be good. It is a seriously good.
I know I have mentioned before coffee is different here. This one is no different, it is called Kopi Tarik, which translates into pulled coffee. It is served in metal cups with a side of sweet warmed milk. Your pour one to the other until it is all mixed. This one is actually pretty good. It is not too sweet like other “coffee” here but it is still not necessarily strong enough for me to kick start the morning. It tastes pretty good though.
Now here is my favorite local breakfast fair, Roti Chani. This is something that you will only find in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It is is absolutely something you should have if you come here. You can get it plain or stuffed with eggs (my personal favorite) it is usually served with a Dhal Curry (lentil) and chicken curry.
Roti is made to order, usually in the mornings. In the very front of the Mamak Stalls Restaurants there will be a guy with a griddle, rolling and stretching dough making the roti.
This is another pancake type of bread here. It’s called a Dosa, it also known as Tosai in Malay. The Dosa is a seriously thin crispy pancake made from rice flour and black gama bean. B loves these!!!
The Mamak has tons of sweet treats and snacks on sale to take with you as well.
One of the traditions of Deepavali is to purchase new clothing. This is generally in the form of new Saris for the women. We got to got to a Sari shop and see some of the beautiful fabrics that Saris are made from and get a lesson in how to tie one. The fabrics come in all price ranges and are made from cotton to heavy silk. The fabrics are beautiful, and colorful, many are embellished with beads and crystals. All are hand embroidered and beaded.
Next we headed to the Eyebrow Threading and Henna shop. I do not have pictures of the eyebrow threading, as I was the one that volunteered to get my eyebrows threaded. I have been getting my eyebrows threaded instead of waxing for years. There was a shop in Baltimore that I started at when I lived there and continued when I moved to Austin. They take a spool of thread and use it to remove your hair. It is incredibly precise, I also find it less painful than waxing. The lovely woman that did the eyebrow threading also does henna applications. The henna is applied, and then you wait for it to dry. Once it drys it will flake off and the design is left on your skin. It usually lasts about 2 weeks.
After the threading/henna shop we headed over to a spice shop and flower shop both important elements to the Deepavali celebration. The group then headed over to one of the Hindu Temples, unfortunately I had to leave to get pick up B from school. Before I left we happened upon a fortune telling parrot. I of course had my fortune read, because how many times can you have a parrot tell your fortune? Seriously.
The parrot is supposedly trained at a temple in India. The man is from India, and does not speak English, luckily our guide was able to translate for me. He told the parrot my name and age then the parrot picked a card for me.
Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, fortune and prosperity (not such a bad thing). They also told me that getting her means I will recover from any illness very easily, and will not be affected by chronic illness and will have overall health (also pretty good stuff).
He also asked for my birthday and my husband’s birthday. He looked us up in his numerology book and told me numbers to avoid in a house number when purchasing a house, and what numbers are lucky. Now honestly I don’t put a whole lot of credence in fortune telling. I will tell you the numbers he told me that are lucky for houses, at least one of them was in our last house number. That was a fantastic house, that I still miss. This definitely won’t be a deciding factor when we go back to TX and buy a house next summer, but it will probably be in the back of my mind a bit.