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Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

It is a fun and weird thought altogether, definitely.

I’ve been feeling like a young 30 something guy my whole life long. Lots of sports and hobbies, traveling much,  operating a few local successful businesses, among them a small flying school…  and leaving finally Europe for living in Asia about almost 10 years ago.    In short: a very busy and adventurous life.

Ok, probably also not the most healthy one but who cares? One only live once. On the other hand, I stopped smoking more than 3 years ago, stopped drinking strong booze also years ago. So, no problem, right?

Wrong, as all of a sudden, according to the doctors, I’m suffering from a weak heart. Huh???  After being admitted to the well-known  Queen Mary Uni Hospital here in town for observation, they even had to fight all of a sudden for keeping me alive. Go figure. A serious shock for my ego, difficult to admit, although, as I realised later, a perfect timing  had brought me to the hospital. In hindsight however some warnings already had been manifesting themselves. I just didn’t catch them.

However, things are getting back to normal after that catastrophic last 3 months of 2011. After our not-so-funny-stay in Penang in september because of the passing away of my wife’s aunt and also her mother and after my personal health problem, we now just returned from Penang after arranging some administration with banks and other firms. And (grin)… after writing and officially registering my will!  (A thing I only thought about doing after that bloody-Near-Death experience.  Maybe all of us should think about that one in time! )

Of course Pulau Penang to me means also enjoying lots of the local food.  I only was hoping my medicine intake results would not be influenced by all the yummy, but alas, maybe not recommended food I enjoy there.   (One only lives once though, remember…).   Lucky me however, because after returning to HK and after some blood checks by my doctor, everything was ok! So, the original planning about retiring to Penang to enjoy the local cuisine stays an objective for my future life. – Great, as now I am ready for returning to my food paradise as soon as we can.

BTW, happy CNY: Kung Hei Fat Choi to everyone.

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Our latest trip with the airline of Mr Tony Fernandes flew us back to…  Penang, of course.
 A 3 hours 15 minutes flight and a 25 minutes taxi drive later we were ready for FOOD… even if it was close to midnight.
 
Again Penang, you may ask?
Well, yes. I’m considering Penang like a second home after Hong Kong. It is by far the best food place of Malaysia. In fact I consider it the best food place in the whole of SE Asia, although that might be a bit unfair as I have not experienced food from ALL of the nearby regions and countries.
 
Anyway, after the favourite places offering Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Satay, Loh Bak, Wan Tan Mee, Penang Laksa and having lunch or diner in local restaurants like Heng Kee, Siang Pin Seafood and Goh Huat Seng, we decided to visit a seafood place that we never patronized before.
After all these years, we never had diner at that restoran on Gurney drive, the one with the flashy lights and screaming advertisement billboards.
 
 
 BALI HAI SEAFOOD MARKET
90 ->90D Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang
Tel: 04-2288272 / 04-2281272
 

“If it swims, we have it” ???  Oh Right, I swim. Means I may end up in their wok? [Sorry: obvious cheap joke.]  Anyway, during our April 2011 trip,  we decided to give it a try, although personally I was not expecting a lot, even if the restoran was recommended by some local floggers.

I anticipated  it would be expensive without reaching high-end quality service. Right I was unfortunately. On the other hand, their many cooks and chefs’ cooking skills were doing a correct and professional job.  In fact, to be completely honest, Bali Hai is not really a tourist trap like many other places are. It’s a money trap, so, if you agree to pay their prices, food quality is not an issue. Fresh seafood is great and not that difficult to cook. In my book cooking, grilling, ‘wokking’ or steaming some nice garupa, crab, prawns or other seafood has to be done in the simplest way to get the best results.

Perhaps some readers might think I’m too critical. Well, yes I’m getting more critical when the restaurant charges top bucks and pretends to offer top quality. In fact I try to remain very much “feet on earth”. A small kopitiam or a big hawker centre in a loud environment? No problem. But if you want to charge big money, you better  get me state-of-the-art service. Otherwise big no-no. Allow me to explain it this way: If I want to have some food in a small snack bar charging me a few bucks, I can be forgiving about service mistakes and will accept small bloopers. On the other hand, when my wife and I are going to take a bill of a XXX Euros/pounds/dollars in a so-called top end place, everything has to be just as close to perfection as possible,  it’s as simple as that.

Back to Bali Hai: I asked for fresh live fish suggestions. The waitress came with a  seriously declared and confirmed small dead fish of a disputable “brand”, size about 700 grams. Asked about the price:  100 Ringgit !!! Right, so… thanks but no thanks! My guess: if you are a western expat or tourist, price goes up by 25% at least? Anyone to confirm or deny this out there? This Ang Mo is not buying and is not buying fish or crabs from the live aquariums neither, as they sell  at about the price of gold. If I would have ordered the same number of plates we usually order in other local seafood places, we easily would have spent 350+ MYR for food alone! According to what I regard as Penang standards, that is way overpriced, especially for this kind of more or less open-air setting. Those guys are competing in price with the 32Mansion without playing in the same league.

 

Anyway,  finally we ordered some plates from their general menu – mixed fish chunks and veggies; deep-fried squid etc.- Stuff that didn’t need me to take out a second mortgage on our home. Quality wise, it was good and decent food without being exceptional.  … I’m sure the crabs, garupa, sea bass etc would have tasted better. I just was not ready to pay the price.

In short, I made a mental note to myself, not to come back.  I mean, in a place like Penang you can get very fresh and excellent seafood for prices that do not have to compete with Saint-Tropez’ like  jet-set  places. Doh! Doh! Triple doh-lah!!!

Very dead fish yet very expensive

About the Bali Hai Seafood Market itself: it’s a  nice restoran situated along Gurney Drive’s  prime location coast-line . It reminds me in a way of my native Brussels’  “Ilot Sacré”  touristic area near ‘La Grand Place’. Very much an eye-catching place but unfortunately also very much overpriced and good quality only in a few places. Locals know, unfortunately tourists get trapped!

Brussels' Ilot Sacré

Bali Hai employs a lot of friendly service staff ( although their training could be better) and a number of good local chinese cooks and helpers doing a fine job in the kitchen. I understand their system is attractive for tourists to whom it will look like the (real clean) tropical local food paradise. Indeed, I know the “looks” and (lack of) decoration  of  some smaller local restorans tend to put off less adventurous visitors. (Walls not Swiss-like clean-looking, cigarette butts on the floor, very basic tables and seats…) 

Amazing as it sounds: for some of the local penangite clientèle, places like Bali Hai also tend to exert some kind of attraction (???), maybe for a special occasion when making a point (aka showing off) is more important than the price/quality relation. I believe it’s a cultural thing that westerners are not really grasping. I’ve seen the same happening in Hong Kong’s expensive restaurants when local Honky patrons were ordering bottles of Chateau Petrus to impress their guests. Followed then by adding ice cubes to their wine!  Argh …pure and plain blasphemy in my book!!! 

To conclude, Bali Hai Seafood Market is worth a visit if you don’t mind the prices they charge.  If you come by car, you can park along the seaside for a minimal parking fee, or at a parking lot behind the restoran.

Personally, I prefer to patronize the many other good seafood places in and around Georgetown. If not looking as “nice” or trendy, they are [according to my personal taste] more authentic, serve great quality and are very much loved by people who don’t care for todays superficial bling-bling attitude.

 

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Malaysia, truly Asia…

Last year in January we quickly had to use up  free Cathay air miles as their expiry date was nearing. We decided to spend a week in Sabah on Borneo and booked a  little hotel, The Hamin Lodge.  Ratings on the travel websites were better than average and while the place was not High End, it was clean and had a nice bathroom. Also important:  it came really inexpensive, especially if comparing with those resorts à la Rasa Sayiang and Co. It might seem like comparing apples and oranges but all depends what you expect from your holidays. In this case no need for a lazy stay at a beach resort alongside  the pool/bar/spa, nibbling on not so good resort-like finger food etc. We wanted a bit more action to get an idea about the environment, the local [sea]food and get on some Rain Forrest trail to visit our brethren, the [red] men of the woods… aka bro and sis Orang Utan.  

As for the Lodge, the only negative experience was the mattress on the first night: hard like rock. After remarks made the morning after they immediately changed ours to a softer version. Terima Kassih!

Hamin Lodge website: www.haminlodge.com

Another positive coincidence was that the hotel was next to one of the most popular food courts of KK. – Seri Selera @ Sedco Complex. The $$ saved on Hotel prices were used to make our tummies purr with joy. Most evenings we ended up here enjoying the seafood, lobsters, steamed garoupa, satay, veggies, cockels and all you can dream of  in coastal Malaysian seafood places.

Have a look at their website here: http://www.seriselera.com/public/aboutus.asp

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Staff in the morning cleaning the veggies and setting up the tables.

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Early evening. Food court getting ready for welcoming  the customers.

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Rock lobster RIP. ‘t was an excellent beast.

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Garoupa steamed to perfection.

 

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Making your choice from the many fish tanks is serious business.

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Videos with thanks to the bloggers from www.malaysia.com 

Even if the place is a bit touristic, top food quality is also present.

 The entertainment provided did include dancers performing the Magunatip, Sabah’s most famous Murut bamboo dance.

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