CNY holiday #6: Penang

On Saturday 1 Feb, the 2nd day of CNY, I joined family in a short 4-hour road trip from KL to Penang. Overall, the journey was quite uneventful, with a single stop on the way for the kids. We did pass the scene of a fresh accident involving two cars, but we only slowed slightly and pushed on. Passing through Ipoh on the raised highway gave us a view of the town. Driving over the Penang Bridge was a clear milestone indicator that we were nearing the end of our journey. Having left just before 7am, we arrived at our destination about 10:30am.

I was staying with my aunt in Tanjung Bungah whilst the family I had accompanied were staying with a cousin. My aunt was already hosting my Dad and my other uncle. Three of my cousins lived close by in neighbouring suburbs towards Batu Ferringhi.

Saturday we had home-cooked meals and didn’t really venture out. Sunday lunch as an open-house lunch at a neighbour’s place. Sunday afternoon my cousins brought us to George Town and we walked around the blocks of “China Town” – King Lane, Bishop Lane, Light Lane, Penang Lane. The area was all blocked off to vehicular traffic as it a series of streets hosting the Chinese New Year Cultural & Heritage Celebration/Festival. This was a timely event to visit and soak in the Penang Chinese culture. One of the interesting exhibits we watched was a demonstration of Wing Chun martial arts. The main teacher was showing practical tips to the public on how to defend oneself. Dinner later that night was hosted by my cousin and Jawa Mee was served up!

Monday saw us visit Weld Key & my first (of three) visits to the Khoo Kongsi. As the family genealogy expert this was a big milestone which I intended to make the most of. So, my first visit was purely touristy in that we each paid RM10 to enter and walked around the museum & exhibit areas. Along the way, listening in to tour guides lead their own groups of tourists, I was able to better appreciate the facilities. I kept wondering where my grandfather and his siblings would have walked whilst the Khoo Kongsi provided them a home some 100 years earlier. Being born a Lee automatically meant that I would not be treated like a full blood Khoo like my mother. I was advised that Monday to visit again on Thursday when the offices reopened. Thursday’s visit saw them tell me to try one final time on Friday… The Thursday visit was only attempted since my cousin had brought us into Georgetown and it wasn’t too inconvenient. The Friday visit finally struck gold – I was able to get a print out of the Clansman Record that one or my uncles submitted in 1961 of my grandparent’s immediate family. Information accuracy is problematic for the record since they listed my uncles & aunts in simple order – boys first, girls at the end. The birth dates (years only) was then listed in full chronological order. This presents a lot of in accuracy in that the true order was more alternating between a son born, followed by sister, etc… My great grand parents are listed there and the Chinese characters for all people make the most valuable/useful items of information I can glean… Future tasks remain:
1. To correct the record with supporting evidence (birth records)
2. To try and seek any other Clansman records of my Khoo great grand parents, who died young and had left my grandfather and siblings all orphans.

Eating a Viva city hawker centre in Tanjung Bungah was another highlight; the semi-open air centre offered an authentic Malaysian cuisine experience. Trying out the different stalls and foods was spread out over several days.

Friday night was our final evening in Penang. As was our family tradition, my dad enlisted my cousin’s help in booking Tsunami Village – a local Tanjung Bungah seafood restaurant located on the beachfront. All family members who were able to joined us for the family dinner – 16 in total including my grand nephew/niece. The food was of the highest acclaim and we were treated to the bonus of a fisherman letting off his own fireworks a few meters away.

After dinner, my three cousins came over to their mother’s house and we all started preparing for the Hokkien 9th day tradition of prayers. My only contribution was to help “unfold” the gold colored paper money which my cousins and aunt would end up burning. They also had out a table of food meant to be for the ancestors. The prayers would start after midnight so we played card games to fill the time; I learnt how to play Gin Rummy that night/morning. Even though we were flying off later that day, my dad and I didn’t sleep until after 2am! Fortunately our flight was at 5pm.