Ode to the Penang Lang (people) and their love for food

It’s that time of the year when food and presents figure in our personal and corporate space, all in the name of Christmas.

Sculptural jeweller Jonathan Yun has come up with some real novel ideas to gift oneself or loved ones.

Charmingly called the ‘makan2’ series, necklaces, bracelets and stackable rings have been carved out of sterling silver into exquisite items which pay homage to the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture.

“The makan2 series is an extension of my miniature series dedicated to all things Peranakan,” Jonathan says.

“As you know the Penang Nyonya take their food very seriously so its an ode to the delicious food as well as a playful take on the beautiful culture of the Peranakans.”

How much more playful can one get by stacking chopsticks with a plate and spoon and carrying them off with class and style?

Prices start from RM209 and go up to RM1,299 for these quirky pieces.

Pop into Jonathan’s shop at 150 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, 10200 Penang and be blown away by his other pieces while you are there.

(Images courtesy of Jonathan Yun)



Swallow @ The Saw Emporium pops up in George Town

Penang’s first sawmill – The Saw Emporium – is set to morph into a clever multi-concept dining destination from next weekend till the first quarter of 2018, and tagged Swallow @ The Saw Emporium.

The 1950 art-deco heritage building and godowns along Jalan Macallum, are being transformed by lifestyle brand developers The Steamship Merchants into a pop-up multi-concept culinary and lifestyle locale.

Swallow @ The Saw Emporium is located within George Town’s UNESCO heritage core zone, within the 7 Streets Precinct (also known as ‘chit tau lor’) and will open its doors from November 10 at 6pm.

This new destination offering in Malaysia’s foodie haven (read:Penang) is being touted as a space where guest chef takeovers, pop up kitchens with interesting and creative food concepts, musicians, designers, craftsmen and community activities will feature.

The line-up of stars announced include Chef Teppei Yamashita, owner-chef of the 2017 MICHELIN Guide Singapore Bib Gourmand Man Man, who is bringing Teppei Syokudo to Georgetown, while TAPS Beer Bar, The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017 Best Beer Bar, pops their craft beer bottles and taps. These heavyweights are being joined by SOi 55 Modern Thai Food, Embers Asian Grill, Qwenchers Juice Bar and more, within an industrial-themed heritage sawmill.

(All photo credits: Swallow @ The Saw Emporium @TheSawEmporium

Penang Goes Luxe

A rare sino-Islamic porcelain blue and white brush pot with Arabic inscriptions is one of many rare items being showcased in Penang this weekend during an exhibition of luxury collectibles.

The late 19th century Qing Dynasty artefact, measuring 13cm x 13cm and carrying a tag of between RM5,800 and RM 7,800, will nestle alongside an exquisite 1950s/1960s handpainted figurine of a laughing Buddha with children perched on his shoulder and arms.

The “Famille Rose Porcelain Buddha” which stands at a height of 30.5cm, is priced between RM10,500 and RM15,000.

These fine items will be joined by other antiques, fine art, luxury watches, automobiles and jewellery during the RHB Premier International Luxury Collections Week from Oct 27-29 at Gurney Paragon Mall.


(Images courtesy of CHT Network)

In thanksgiving and gratitude for Hutchings

The annual thanksgiving memorial service for the founder of the Penang Free School, the late Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, is steeped in history and tradition.

On the 21st of October each year (the anniversary of Penang Free School’s founding), prefects and school representatives both from Penang Free School and SMK Hutchings will gather at the tomb of Reverend Hutchings at the Northam Road Protestant Cemetery to commemorate his life and service to the school.

This year was no different and today at 7am, some 60 people comprising school prefects and teachers of Penang Free School & SMK Hutchings as well as alumni and members of the public, gathered for a memorial service.

The thanksgiving service was led by Reverend Ho Kong Eng of St. George’s Church, Penang (himself a Penang Free School alumni).

Hutchings – who died of malaria in Penang on 20th April, 1827 – was also an Anglican colonial chaplain of the Prince of Wales Island (Penang).

While in Penang, his inspiration led to the construction of St. George’s Church (the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia) which was completed in 1818.

His invaluable contribution towards education in Malaysia can be judged from the fact that the school he initiated over two centuries ago – Penang Free School – has matured into one of the country’s premier schools.

His legacy continues in the development of Penang and Malaysia through the countless students whose lives have been enriched by Penang Free School.

Notable alumnus include Malaysia’s first prime minister the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, former Penang chief minister the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, and one of the state’s famous sons in music and film, the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee.

Other notables today who stand proud to be called Old Frees include global consumer advocate Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, former College General rector Reverend Gerard Steve Theraviam and George Town Festival director Joe Sidek.

Celebrating Penang music and musicians

When my parents acquired the little black and white bungalow on Kelawai (or Kelawei) Road in the early 1980s, I doubt they realized the significance of buying into a little slice of Penang and Eurasian heritage.

House number 111 in Pulau Tikus, used to be the home of the Eurasian community’s and Malaysia’s outstanding composer and jazz pianist, Jimmy Boyle.

Our dear family friend the late Uncle Edwin (of The Edwin Rajamoney and the Island Rhythimics fame) was one person who spent plenty of time with jazzman Boyle. When we moved into 111 Kelawai Road, he showed us where Boyle had positioned his piano (next to the window) and composed and arranged scores of beautiful and patriotic melodies about Malaysia and her people.

Among Boyle’s notable works were “Putera Puteri”, “Ingat Ingat”, “Chendering”, “Melody of Love” and the first Malaysian Jamboree song “Kemegahan Negara Ku” which was reportedly played at midnight on the birth of Malaysia in 1963.

Jimmy Boyle died in 1971 but his music lives on via many platforms and media.

The house along Kelawai Road today has morphed into a business premise, as have many other residences on what used to be a leafy and peaceful thoroughfare.

Boyle’s story, his music and the legacy of many of Penang’s musical sons and daughters have been beautifully and respectfully preserved and showcased today at the Penang House of Music (PHoM) located in George Town.

This gallery which is dedicated to music and the musicians of Penang can spell nostalgia to those who grew up listening to P.Ramlee, Ooi Eow Jin, Boyle, Ahmad Nawab, Larry Rodrigues (and his evergreen daughter Kathleen), Rudy Baum, Joe Rozells, James Rozells, Ruby Rozells, the Rajamoney brothers (Edwin, Austin, Sydney and Wilson), Nancy and Albert Yeoh, Sweet September, Ahmad Daud, Raja Fauziah and her singing partner Nita to name a few.

Younger visitors will be taken in by the varied influences which have made their mark on Penang music.

The gallery’s resource centre houses a rich collection of audio, print and recorded documents, while a cinema room lends a blast-from-the-past experience which black and white movies and old tunes offered.

A really clever and interactive offering is the gallery’s Radio Room which allows a visitor the opportunity to present a song “live” and later download the recording.

Other cute corners found are a replica “kopi tiam” (coffee shop) which has proven to be the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities on social media.

My biggest takeaway from the visit was the place of pride created to honour the people, their stories, and the rich cultural diversity linked to Penang’s musical heritage.

An afternoon or morning at this gallery definitely beats sitting in a classroom listening to the evolution of the state’s music scene.

Small wonder that PHoM has received rave reviews on TripAdvisor and ranked #31 of 139 things to do in George Town. Congratulations Paul Augustin and thank you for a spectacular tour and your infinite patience with young ones, Kevin Theseira!

Thank you Mazeta Hassan, for sharing this precious photo of her mother Raja Fauziah singing Jimmy Boyle’s “Putera Puteri” for the first time with Ahmad Daud.


(Don’t be put off by the absence of more prominent signages leading to this music gem which is located at L4-02, Level 4, Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR), Jalan Penang, 1000 Penang. Simply call 04-3706675 if you are lost in the maze of Komtar!)

Slices of Heaven (on earth)

When we celebrated Su’s birthday last week, we made a detour to the beach before dinner to enjoy the sunset and take in what’s left of the sea (which is yet to be reclaimed).

We are constantly reminded of the reason people make a beeline for our beautiful island and why grace and gratitude is so important for being blessed to wake up each day to either paintings in the sky or endless beauty at sea.

We counted our blessings to be able to enjoy this little slice of heaven on an isle where development and reclamation are fast altering the turtle-shaped silhouette of the coastline.

Several days later, Lin and I took in the calming and peaceful sight of the sea during our morning stroll on the drive.

The simple act of driving along the coast and the many sights of nature-in-blue are treats not enjoyed by those surrounded by plastic, steel and chrome in other cities.

Some of us like Betsy, Thamby, Cuteness and my sistas-and-dudes-in-the-tower, continue to stay blessed waking up to views like these and we pray that our little slices of heaven on earth are not sacrificed in the name of further greed and so-called progress.

Home is where the (he)art is

Built between 1924 and 1926, the Loke Villa along George Town’s sea-fronting Gurney Drive is perhaps the last of the heritage residences lining the prestigious promenade which still serves as a lived-in family bungalow.

Artist and designer Rebecca Wilkinson and her husband David, have been the loving and caring custodians of this house for the past 15 years. Loke Villa was designed by Scottish architect David McLeod Craik and built by Alan Loke.

The cool glazed tiles in the villa’s dining area (found also in the London Underground station) keep the house cool and offer visual impact.

“We are glorified caretakers of a house that we love,” says Rebecca of the lime-washed structure which is also known as the ‘Butterfly House’ or ‘Sunlight House.’

The Anglo-Indian mansion boasts Italian marble, French light fittings and wrought iron from Scotland for its materials, and virtually every corner of the home is a joy to visit and stick one’s nose in!

A peek into one of the guest rooms revealed that the bathrooms have not been changed and it’s enamel long baths are reminders of an era where gracious living, an army of household help, garden parties and sprawling bungalows were the order of the day for the well-heeled.

A stroll into the kitchen spelt nostalgia and a longing for the days when our grandparents occupied homes (not as stately as these) with kitchens like these …

Those who sign up for the ZafigoX Private House Tour this Saturday, Sept 2 at 3pm are in for a treat. The lady of the house is displaying her private textile collection, which includes the most exquisite vintage kebayas and sarongs.

Make a booking by registering at https://zafigox2017.sched.com

Thank you Rebecca, for sharing an afternoon of gracious hospitality, taking us to vintage kebaya heaven and back, and reminding your guests how important it is to maintain heritage integrity.