Wednesday, which was the exact middle of Brandy’s Malaysian adventure, was also her birthday. She and I spent the day together and wow, it was a whirlwind. We (Brandy, Penelope, and I) started off with breakfast at a swanky coffee shop that looks every part of a hipster shop in the U.S. It’s called Macallum Connoisseurs and I only happened to know about it from happening past it while Ubering around town. It ticks off all the boxes for the hipster coffee shop: and old converted warehouse space with high ceilings and an industrial feel; the interior is painted all black with industrial accents; a coffee menu with source notes and tasting profiles. We ordered breakfast, and it was nice to have a big, western-style breakfast. I also ordered one of the most expensive drinks on the menu, the chai latte, with freshly grated spices. It was good–in the U.S. I’d say it was excellent–but with our proximity to Little India, my chai tea standards have raised dramatically.
From breakfast, erm, brunch/lunch… With the lovely A/C, we lingered a bit…we sent shopping. We visited Sam’s Batik, which is supposed to be one of the best (and certainly biggest) local shops to buy batiks, silks, and other lovely clothing. We ended up selecting a few Indian embroidered tops for ourselves and as souvenirs for Brandy’s family. The staff were quite attentive…it’s quite common for salespeople to hover over customers here in Penang, which can be off-putting to us Americans who are used to shopping in peace and anonymity. But the staff here were actually quite helpful. They offered us bottled water and tea. When it came time for me to try on some shirts, a female staff member was flagged over to be a baby holder for the duration. Later, when it was time for Penelope to nurse, they set us up in a nice, private dressing room.
After we left Sam’s, it was time for Part 2 of our batiking adventure. A few of the Gusties have been taking batik lessons at a local shop called Rozana’s. She’s a really lovely lady who offers walk-in classes at a very reasonable price. We met the students, Lily and Annika, as well as Joel, for a hands-on batik lesson. Each of us selected or drew an image, which we then traced onto a framed cloth. Then Rozana helped us apply hot wax to the traced outline. After the wax set, we used dyes–essentially very dilute water colors–to paint the fabric. I think I mentioned this in my last blog post, but Gusties really are a talented, artistic group of people! It was a lot of fun and I definitely got the hang of the technique about halfway through my piece. I’m quite tempted to go back and give it another go, as I understand the coloring process much better now.
Strangely, Rozana offers another service in her shop: a fish spa. Basically, you dip your feet in an aquarium full of fish that like to nibble on dead skin cells, but won’t bite living flesh. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s quite popular in Asian tourist destinations. Rozana treated Brandy to a free fish spa session because it was her birthday and I joined her. The sensation was somewhere in between a tickle and a pinch. To be perfectly honest, I found it really uncomfortable. It wasn’t painful, just…weird.
Whew, you’d think that was enough, but our day wasn’t over yet! We still wanted to go out to dinner. It was Brandy’s choice, and of course, she chose Korean food. Once again, our restaurant choice was guided by a former Uber driver. (Sometimes I make polite small talk with Uber drivers. Other times, I drill them for good restaurant suggestions–and I take notes on my phone!) While driving through Tanjung Tokong one time, I mentioned to the driver that there seemed to be a lot of Korean restaurants in the area. He agreed and started to rattle off some of his favorites. And so it was that we made it to KO B.B.Q. It is, as the name implies, a Korean barbecue. We just handed the menu to Brandy and let her coordinate the dishes. We ended up ordering a lot of food, and worrying about having too much. But when the food’s that good–well, we ate it all. We walked out stuffed, but very happy.
We were really exhausted by this point, but as we headed home, I managed to pick up a tiny little birthday cake from one of the shops on the ground floor of our mall. The shopkeeper even included candles; too bad I forgot we don’t have any matches! So we sang the birthday song and Simon helped Brandy blow out the imaginary flames. It was a long, full day. Happy Birthday, Brandy!