Ghee Hiang Changing With The Times

One of the places that Wuan and I will invariably head to whenever we are in Penang is Ghee Hiang at the corner between Macalister Road and Anson Road. For as long as I can remember, the name Ghee Hiang is synonymous with tau sar pneah, hneoh pneah and sesame seed oil. It has become an institution in Penang at par with the famous Penang hawker food. My late-parents used to patronise the shop at Beach Street whenever they were there to do their banking at Chung Khiaw Bank many years ago.

Ghee Hiang at Macalister Road
Ghee Hiang at Macalister Road, Penang.
Photo by Wuan.

Wuan and I are fond of the hneoh peah which according to the Ghee Hiang website is “melted brown sugar is wrapped around with flaky wheat pastries.” Wuan also likes phong peah which is “light fluffy pastry with white sugar.” William likes heoh pneah which is “fluffy pastry with green bean paste filling.” These are the pastries that we never fail to bring back to Kuala Lumpur from our trips to Penang.

Ghee Hiang at Macalister Road
Ghee Hiang tau sar pneah.
Photo by Wuan.

Our trip to Penang last week was no exception. We dropped in at the shop Beach Street as we were in the vicinity. Unfortunately, they only had tau sar pneah and phong pneah. So we drove all the way to Macalister Road to get heoh pneah for ourselves. We do not mind going the distance as it is not often that we get to savour these pastries. The only thing about Penang roads is that they are mostly one way streets and we had to drive one big round to reach the shop.

Ghee Hiang at Macalister Road
Ghee Hiang delivery motorcycle.
Photo by Wuan.

The pastries are now sealed in plastic wrappers unlike previously when all the pastries were just neatly arranged in the box without any wrapping. That was not all. What really indicated the changing of times that Ghee Hiang has convincingly embraced was a yellow motorcycle parked at the shop. It was painted yellow and had a box at the back with the Ghee Hiang mascot and a 1300 number to call for delivery. I remember many years ago one has to make advanced booking through phone to be able to secure a box or two of the pastries. It was literally selling like hot cakes then. Nowadays, one can just walk in and buy without the hassle of booking beforehand and now a motorcycle for delivery. Times are changing indeed.

24-Hour Roadtrip: Kuala Lumpur – Penang – Tanjung Malim – Kajang – Kuala Lumpur

Wuan and I made a quick trip to Penang last Friday evening. I needed to sign some legal documents pertaining to my apartment. We started our journey at 11pm. I drove all the way to this island that I used to call home. Somewhere at the Rawang Rest and Service Area, I nearly crashed into a barrel that was resting indiscriminately in the middle of the expressway. The barrel was used as a barrier for upgrading works along many stretches of the expressway and was somehow knocked off the side of the road and rolled into the middle.

We reached Penang safely at 4am on Saturday. Slept at 5am. Woke up at 8am. Met lawyer at 11am. Signed the documents and left Penang at around 2pm – not before we went to Macalister Road for 2 boxes of Ghee Hiang’s tau sah pneah. The tau sah pneah are pastry balls with green bean paste filling. Peter, his wife and their grandson hitched a ride with us. They wanted to go to Kajang where Elaine, their daughter, is residing now. We turned into Ipoh town to buy the famous Gunung Rapat beh teh soh – flaky pastry with molasses filling – the best I have eaten so far.

We then had dinner at one of the popular restaurants in Tanjung Malim. The menu was braised tofu with dried shrimps and minced pork gravy, deep-fried pig’s trotter, steamed fish and sitr-fried kangkung sambal belacan. For the price we paid, I would expect the food to taste better. I will not be returning to that place for food anytime soon.

After we dropped Peter and family off at Kajang, we reached home at about 12 midnight. It was one of the most tiring road trips Wuan and I have ever taken. We covered nearly 1,000km in 24 hours. Nevertheless, it was a trip well worth the time because I have accomplished what I was in Penang for – one of the few outstanding issues that I had promised Mum I will clear up shortly before she passed away.

Exploring Penang’s Inner City – Day 2

Grotto at Church of the Assumption Penang

Day 2 – 0726 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We awoke early and dropped in at the Church of the Assumption to say a prayer before beginning our adventure for the day. We had a full day ahead and hoped that the weather would be forgiving. Both of us looked every bit like tourists except we were not wearing hats.

Campbell Street Market

Day 2 – 0748 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
The road before the Campbell Street Market was closed to traffic. Hawkers had set up stall to sell their wares. There were stalls selling fish, roasted pork, vegetables, groceries, clothes and incense. Not finding anything that interested us, we decided to go back to the hotel for our breakfast.

Day 2 – 0917 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Feeling stuffed after the scrumptious breakfast which consisted of Western and Oriental fare, we went back to our room to freshen up. I felt a little tired and wanted to nap for a short while. Before I knew it, I had slept through lunch. Wuan had also finished reading her papers by then. We packed our things and got ready to roam the streets of Penang again.

Day 2 – 1434 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Just as we were to go out, it began to rain. Strong winds were swaying the branches of trees outside. We figured that if there is wind, the rain clouds would soon be blown away. We loitered around the lobby until the rain stopped.

Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang, E & O Hotel

Day 2 – 1438 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
First in our list was the E & O Hotel. We have heard so much about its glittering list of guests. We wanted to soak in the ambience of a long gone era when the hotel was an obligatory stop for those travelling to the Far East. The seafront was a beautiful sight. I told Wuan it has been a long long while since I have sat by the seaside listening to the waves crashing against the rocks and feeling the salty winds brushing against my cheeks.

Day 2 – 1529 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
After coming out of the hotel, we felt hungry again. We had skipped lunch because I overslept after breakfast. We made our way down Light Street, passing the SXI field and Convent Light Street. One of our itineraries was the City Hall and Fort Cornwallis. Seeing the City Hall bounded in scaffolding we skipped it and went looking for food in Little India.

King Street Penang

Day 2 – 1531 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We wandered into King Street looking for kopitiams that served char koay teow or some other Penang hawker food. Unfortunately, most of them closed for business after lunch hours. A row of old Chinese-style buildings that stretched across almost for one block caught our attention. We stopped to take a closer look. It consisted of a temple and some association or clan buildings.

Banana leaf rice in Penang

Day 2 – 1603 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
By now, our tummies were rumbling in protest. I thought some of the coffee shops in the banking district of Beach Street could still be opened and directed Wuan in that direction. However, as we were making our way there, right before us at Penang Street was an Indian restaurant that was still teeming with diners. That was a sight for sore eyes indeed. We both ordered two vegetarian banana leaf rice sets. At RM3 per head for all you can eat, it was a real bargain. We also bought some murukus and other sweet delicacies for snacking later.

Ghee Hiang at Beach Street Penang

Day 2 – 1643 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We went to Beach Street after our late lunch anyway. Wuan wanted to buy biscuits to take back to Kuala Lumpur for her friends, neighbours and colleagues. Ghee Hiang is one of the popular biscuits shops for tourists to Penang. Among the biscuits Wuan bought were the pong peah (biscuit with white sugar filling), heoh peah (biscuit with brown sugar filling) and tau sa peah (biscuit with green bean filling), all which were freshly baked in the shop itself.

Shop in Little India Penang

Day 2 – 1659 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Little India is an enclave of Indian traders selling everything from spices to textile. The sights, smell and colours were fascinating. There were stalls by the road selling teh tarik, an assortment of murukus and vadais. There were shops selling colourful costume jewelleries, dazzling sarees and praying paraphernalias.

Nagore Durgha Sheriff Shrine Penang

Day 2 – 1719 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
On the corner of Chulia Street and King Street junction, stood a quaint little shrine. The Nagore Durgha Sheriff Shrine’s design had a distinct mix of Hindu and Muslims elements. The two domes on the roof were surrounded by four minarets that looked like pagodas. A songkok maker, a jeweller and a grocery store operated from the side of the shrine. Seeing that there was still light for us to walk around for a while more, we explored the further ends of the inner city. The Lim Clan Temple was opposite the mosque. However it was locked.

Day 2 – 1737 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Wuan wanted to go to the Khoo Kongsi. She had read and heard a lot about it and wanted to see for herself the splendour of the temple. We got lost somewhere between Armenian Street and Beach Street and took about ten minutes to get our bearings right again. That was when we came across the Cheah Kongsi’s entrance. The building was under renovation. Wuan went in alone as I did not want to get my wheelchair caught in the debris of restoration works.

Day 2 – 1746 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We could see a minaret that towered over the houses further up the road. It was the Acheen Street Mosque. The minaret was unique in the sense that it gradually tapered off at the top and its pinnacle did not house a huge dome like most of the mosques we had seen.

Day 2 – 1749 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We knew that the Khoo Kongsi was near but we could not find it. We thought we were lost again when we chanced upon the entrance. The caretaker told us that it was closed and asked us to return the next morning. It is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Wuan was determined to see the sights inside and we began planning our schedule for the next day.

Kapitan Keling Mosque Penang

Day 2 – 1751 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, formerly Pitt Street, is a hodgepodge of Chinese and Hindu temples, mosque and church, all within walking distance with one another on the same street. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is most prominent with its lofty minaret that was visible from several blocks away. Further down the street was the Yeap Kongsi in Cannon Street with its intricately sculptured pillars.

Paved road at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling

Day 2 – 1759 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We did not go down the road to go see the temples as the road was paved with uneven blocks. Wuan had a difficult time pushing my wheelchair and it was a very uncomfortable ride for me. I question the wisdom in paving the road in such a way that it not only severely hinders wheelchair movement but motorcycles and other bigger vehicles as well. Getting very annoyed with the bumpiness, we turned into Buckingham Street which was the road beside the mosque for a smoother journey back to the hotel.

Day 2 – 1825 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Finally we got back to the hotel. It had been a really long day for us. Wuan must be a few hundred times more exhausted than me for pushing me around all day long. I think I have never travelled the distance we travelled today ever. If left alone, I do not think I would have covered half the distance.

Day 2 – 2101 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We did not feel like eating yet after the banana leaf rice but it was getting late. After getting into our wanderlust attire, we hit the road again to see the night sights of Penang Road again. Leith Street was lined with strings of lighted coloured bulbs, giving it a carnival-like atmosphere.

Penang Road at night

Day 2 – 1924 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
The entire stretch of Penang Road as far as our eyes could see was also lined with colourful lighted bulbs shaped in various motifs like fruits, stars, butterflies and flowers. It was as if Christmas had arrived early. The roadside stalls were filled with night owls looking for supper or having a pint of cool beer by the several pubs that were opened for the evening crowds. Satisfied that we had seen enough, we returned to the hotel.

View of Penang from Revolving Restaurant

Day 2 – 2212 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
On the uppermost floor of the City Bayview Hotel sits the Revolving Restaurant. It is only opened for dinner buffet. The sight from there was spectacular. We could see the harbour, the rooftops of the inner city and Komtar, the tallest building in Penang as the restaurant slowly rotated. We went to bed early that night, happy that we had covered most of the sights we had set out to see in the first place.