September 2015


Here is a very rapid fire synopsis of our last month in Penang, and frankly life there for us in the last 5 years.  In 30 seconds.  Enjoy!

We emptied and cleaned our apartment, handed the keys to the owner, and said goodbye to PG1.  We still had 2 nights in Penang…we were off to the E&O!

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This is the spot that started our Penang journey.  Tim and I stayed here nearly 7 years ago on our look-see (a.k.a. seduction tour) before we left China and by the time we checked out, we were already making plans to return to Asia.  The E&O is a Penang establishment, an institution, and it conveys as much class and colonial idealism for life in the tropics.  We were excited for our return.

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We checked in, enjoyed our welcome drink and were soon shown to our massive suite.  We elected to have more room instead of an ocean view (the haze would have made that unpleasant anyway), and I think the bathroom was as big as the living room.

We used the next few days to just relax, hanging out at the pool, enjoying a high tea with camera play, and walking into Georgetown for “last meals”.  The final meal? Roadside chapati on Queen Street, which had been shut down for some kind of festival.  There was a lion dance, chariot and all the wonderful things that make Penang Penang.

Trishaw home in the pre-storm sweltering heat, pulling under the E&O portico just as the skies opened.

We spent a month saying goodbye.

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Farewell to the Bootcamp Crew.

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Goodbye to the Market

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Goodbye to dinner at the pool

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Farewell NI (and Tiger, and Carlsberg).

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Goodbye to Eddie

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Emotions running high…

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Farewell to our playground friends.

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And their mommas…

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Goodbye to the Hornbill Class…

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and the Flamingoes.

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Hardest to say goodbye to the best buddies.

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Farewell Penang!

One of the sweetest leaving presents we received on leaving Penang was this poem, composed by my dear friends who had secretly met, drank, and came up with these limericks.  Love you girls!

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A Stelzer Farewell

There was a family who lived on Gurney –
Home sweet home, their entire Penang journey
From their front window – fishing boats bobbing on the sea
From the back – aunties doing Tai Chi

A special little spot is Persiaran Gurney
Who is this family you might wonder
Well, we won’t let you any longer ponder:

Miles a baby, now a boy
Monkeys, snakes and lizards his toys.

Penang soon proved to be a lot of fun
So quickly came another one.
To their surprise it was a girl!
Hazel – another Orient Pearl!

Tim was the reason for their arrival
Soon becoming every triathletes rival.
Little do they know when they take on Tim
That Laurel is the force within him.

But 10.000 medals were not enough
So she had to go and get herself up the duff.

Who is this woman, Laurel her name?
As Penang Momma she has gotten a lot of fame.
Where to go and what to do
What to eat and find drinks, too.

Are you Penang Momma, people would ask?
Yes, I am and I like to multitask.
100% detail, no errors or mistake
a challenge for others, for her a piece of cake.

Coach of the Core and the running team,
Personal Trainer, member of the boot camp scene.
Saving lives, exposing a breast,
At the end of the race she still was the best.

Traveling in Asia, for them not an issue
The bags so small, as light as a tissue.
When Hollywood called the once known Penang Momma
Turned into a 1931 beauty of Indian Summer

So Tim, Laurel, Miles, Hazel and Bump,
In our throats you are leaving a lump.
We wish you nothing but the best
And finally our legs can get some rest!

Tim had a final fitness goal for our time in Malaysia, and trained (under his expert trainer’s guidance) for the Bukit Merah Half Ironman.  We made an extended stay of it, arriving the night before and staying through the next day.  Bukit Merah is a resort area with a waterpark and ecopark we had visited before.  This time, the kids and I explored the orangutan island after Tim swam in the lake and while he rode his bike for 3 hours on a double loop which included an 800m hill with an intense grade (4x up and down!).  We met back up for the run and Miles even joined him for 50m at the 15km mark – during which he sprinted and left his daddio in the dust!

Coming in third place, shy of 6 hours at nearly 1pm in the intense heat and full exposure of midday sun, we interviewed Tim during his ice bath.  “I’m glad I did it, but I will never do an endurance event in the tropics again!”.  Yep, you can quote him.

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The skies during our last month in Penang were uninspiring.  The slash-and-burn season in Sumatra was going on longer than usual, and most days were hazy, some with terrible visibility.  However, one morning dawned clear after a huge storm and we snagged the chance for a final hike up Penang hill with my running buddies.  This had become a bit of a farewell ritual for friends in Penang, it was my turn.  Tim met us at the top, and we all trained down together.  Glad we got the opportunity!

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We stuck pretty close to home for our final months in Penang.  After our last home leave, Tim had to make two trips to the US, I was in the first trimester of pregnancy (never an ambitious time), and we had a lot of Penang to enjoy.  But we needed something…one trip to hallmark the epic journeying we had been doing around Southeast Asia the past 5 years.  Domestic, gorgeous, and easy to do on a long weekend, Perhentian Islands were a perfect choice.

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We planned the trip with our friends, and started as these cross-peninsula trips do, at 5am in a van.  But we headed to the airport this time, and had a relaxing morning going from flight to car to ferry and arriving at our resort before noon.  It was a great spot, recommended by friends, and the clear turquoise water and soft white sand were just what we wanted.  The food was good, happy hour drinks were complimentary (we got 2 per person, with me knocked up and kids not drinking much, Tim had a lot of work to do!), and the skies were clear.  We settled in for a good weekend.

Unfortunately, our friends got a call of an emergency back in Penang and had to leave early the next morning.  We enjoyed one day at the beach before saying goodbye.  Then we were four, and really took advantage of family time after a summer of travel and illness.  We blew up our paddleboard and swam and snorkeled right off our beach.  Tim was training for his half ironman in a few weeks, and Miles showed an endurance for looking at little fish, clocking in hours each day in his mask.  Hazel and I floated along, paddled out to explore and enjoyed being out on the flat expanse of sea.

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There was another young family who we noticed taking turns watching their baby while the other ran on the beach, went for long swims with goggles and swim paddles and we thought – these guys are just like us, we need to meet them!  We arranged to hire a boat and explore the other snorkeling spots, which were mostly disappointing, until we went into deep water and our captain started looking for sea turtles.  He spotted a huge female, and Miles and Tim jumped in and swam after it until she surfaced.  Miles was close enough to touch her, she was maybe 2.5ft across.  Definitely a highlight.

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Friends will be hard to leave!

The trip home was as smooth as coming over, and we landed in Penang complete with our traveling life for a while at least.