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Last Weekends in Penang

August 8, 2010

I am writing this post Sunday night, marking the end of my last weekend in Penang, Malaysia, before heading back to the United States. Due to a busy work schedule the last few weeks coupled with wanting to spend some time with my friends here in Penang, I decided to take it easy and not to do any more traveling for my last two weekends.

Speaking of work, I have just realized that I have spent very little time explaining what I spend most of my time doing here in Penang. Basically, this summer there are two projects that I have been working on: one is an international project developing a device for a medical application with both engineers in the US and here in Penang, and the other is an internal project dealing with mechatronics (building robots). For the international project, I am partnered with a Senior Engineer, KH. For my internal project I have been working alongside San-Nien, an Electrical Engineer. The working culture is a bit different here than in the US. When working in Neenah, I would get in the office around 7:30 AM. Here in Penang I get in between 8:30-9:00 AM, and thus work a little bit later. I also know more than a handful of people here who regularly work until 10-11 PM. I myself have had a few late nights, which in some cases is due to the need for conference calls with the US or having to talk with US suppliers and vendors. Other times the late nights have been due to critical deadlines that need to be met. Looking at my work experience as a whole, I think that working here has been terrific and the lessons I have learned will be invaluable in the future.

Another notable topic is Lunch. In Penang I eat out for lunch almost every day, as do many others. This actually makes sense from an economical standpoint, as lunch at a typical hawker-style market will only cost you between 6-10 ringgit (2-3 USD).

So that is a little bit about my work experience thus far. For those that were wondering, I will be leaving Penang this Friday, August 13th in the afternoon and will arrive back in O’Hare at 5:00 am. Notice to all of my family: since I know that there is nothing you could possibly be doing at 5:00 in the morning on a Saturday, I am fully expecting all 34 of you to be eagarly awating my arrival at O’Hare 🙂

I look forward to seeing everyone soon!


Hat Yai, Thailand

July 25, 2010

(7/25/2010)- This weekend the PDC Mechanical team had a team outing in Hat Yai, Thailand. The one downside of this trip: long travel times. We left Penang at 5:00 am on Saturday, which meant waking up at 4:00 to get ready to go, then a 5-6 hour bus ride to Hat Yai… very tiring! Despite the travel arrangements, we had a great time.

Saturday, after getting in around 12:00 PM, we spent the day visiting a few local attractions: Wat Thaawon (A Chinese Buddhist Temple), Kim Yong Market, Bodhisattva Kuan Im Temple (Another Chinese Buddhist Temple), and the Klong Hair Floating Market.

Sunday, we visited another market (Yongdee Market) and then headed back to Penang (again, the 5 hour bus ride!)

Shout out to Bee-Ling for putting the trip together! It was well organized and very enjoyable.

Hat Yai from above

Yongdee Market

Roomates: WS and myself


In Hat Yai (much like Penang) only one rule applies on the roads: pedestrians always always always yield to cars and motorbikes (natural selection at its finest)… here is a live action shot of me trying to avoid going the way of the dodo.

Klong Hair Floating Market

Back to Penang (sorry the picture is blurry… we were still in the bus)

Weekend in Penang

July 18, 2010

(7/16/2010 & 7/18/2010) – Friday night I went with a few friends from work to Batu Ferhinghi for dinner and a night out after work, see the pictures below!

(Saturday was the trip to Kedah– see the post below this one)

Sunday, my mentor KH offered to take me around Penang to a few places I had not been yet, including: Fort Cornwallis, Chew Jetty, the Botanical Gardens, Penang National Park, a Thai Buddhist Temple (a Standing Buddha Temple), and a Burmese Buddhist Temple (a Sleeping Buddha Temple). The sleeping and standing Buddha statues were huge! The Chew Jetty was really interesting: it is a very long dock extending into the ocean, with 10-20 houses on stilts lining each side of the dock. KH told me that this is one of many Jettys in Penang. This particular Jetty/dock belonged to the Chew family, and that every house along the dock belonged to a member of the Chew family (I thought that I had a big family!)

Visiting the Botanical Gardens, I finally discovered the place were most locals must go to run. I don’t think I have mentioned this in my blog posts yet, put Penang is notorious for being a driver’s island: there is literally no sidewalks or walkways throughout the island. I have tried walking places such as the mall before, only to come back to my hotel lucky to still be alive after a failed attempt. This lack of walkways/sidewalks is not only a problem for people without cars or motor bikes, it also poses a major problem for runners, as there is nowhere to run. I always assumed that most people therefore must run indoors on treadmills with A/C, which would probably be much easier given the heat + humidity in Penang, but then I found the Botanical Gardens. There are a lot of paths snaking throughout the gardens, and KH explained to me that many people come here in the morning to go running/ walking. Mystery solved! Another highlight of the gardens: the monkeys. There are tons of monkeys at the Botanical Gardens, and none of them appear to be afraid of humans, they were literally 2 feet away from me! I took a few pictures of them, but I was hesitant, as it seemed very likely that they would attack me and take the shiny object that was my camera 🙂 An interesting point about the monkeys here: they are broken up into two gangs, which are divided up by the river flowing through the gardens. KH told me that if members from one gang go to the other side of the river, things might not turn out so well for the adventurous monkeys 😦

After the gardens, we went to the Penang National Park, which apparently no one in Penang knows about. I have been asking people about it since my first weekend in Penang, and I have yet to meet anyone that knows were/ has been to the National Park. This actually was the first time KH had been there too! It was actually pretty late in the day by the time we got to the Park, so we didn’t have a chance to do any hiking, but I do plan to come back here before my trip is finished.

Finally, KH took me to a hawker market, which is a very common type of dining configuration in Penang. Hawker markets will typically consist of many food stands with choices ranging from western to thai to chinese food. This particular time I decided to try a sort of shish cabob meal, where I picked a range of foods, put them on a stick, and boiled them in water. The most interesting stick was by far the octopus legs!

Anyway, it was a great day and I am lucky to have a great mentor who was willing to devote an entire day to showing me around Penang (thanks KH!)

Enjoy the pictures!

Fried Oysters!

Daytrip to Kedah

July 17, 2010

(7/17/2010)- Today Zan and CW (two of my co-workers and good friends at Plexus) offered to take me to the State of Kedah, or “The Rice State”, as Zan explained to me. As it’s nickname implies, Kedah grows rice… lots of it. It was interesting to see the contrast of Penang to Kedah. Penang is a small island that is industrialized and densely populated, while Kedah is a lot more rural and open.

Zan was also determined to take me to the Thailand border. Although it looks relatively close on the map, it’s actually a 2-3 hour drive! We saw a few paddy fields on the way, stopped to eat Duku langsat and Robmbutan (two tropical fruits popular in Southeast Asia), and had a lot of good conversation. All and all, it was a pretty cool trip, and my first time visting the mainland of Malaysia.

The states of Malaysia. As you can see, Kedah is relatively close to Penang, just a short trip over the bridge. Optionally, you can travel to the mainland by ferry.

Duku langsat – A mildly-sweet tasting fruit

Another tropical fruit – Robmbutan, which is much sweeter than Duku langsat.

Palm tree farm

The rice paddy fields of Kedah

The border entering into Thailand

Back to Penang via the ferry

The ferry back to Penang is pretty sweet. It’s pretty much a floating 2-story parking garage. As we were getting on, Zan mentioned to me that about 20 years ago the second story of one of these ferries collapsed. As you might imagine, I was a little nervous for the rest of the ride.

Penang skyline at dusk

These last few pictures are from Santosa Island in Singapore. That Saturday, my camera died in the middle of the day, but luckily I had my phone with me. I just got a chance to upload them from my phone, so here they are:

Zipline- good stuff!

Note the shipyards not too far in the distance

Sentosa Island with Singapore’s skyline in the background


July 11, 2010

Hey guys,

Saturday, July 10th was the birthday of Yang Dipertua Negeri of Penang, or the Governor of Penang’s Birthday, so Penang had a replacement for this public holiday on Monday, and I had 3 day weekend. I had originally planned to save Singapore for a later date, but once I found out about the 3 day weekend, I decided to move the trip forward, as there is a lot to do in Singapore.

For those who are unaware, Singapore is an incredibly modern and wealthy country, mainly because of its favorable position as a major trading hub into and out of Asia. In fact, it is known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers” along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Singapore also has an excellent public transportation system. Being from the suburbs of Chicago, my experience with public transportation has consisted of once-a-year train rides to the city, so although it may not seem like much, I was proud of myself for figuring out the bus system.The buses were also obviously much cheaper than taking taxis, which was a big plus for me (this probably does not surprise my father, who apparently thinks I have a hard time parting with money).

What did I do while in Singapore? Well I didn’t get in until late Friday night, so I didn’t do much the first night. However, I woke up early on Saturday to check out the Singapore Museum and walk along Orchard Road. Orchard Road is famous for all of the fashion houses that line the street (think Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, etc.). Tourists can get taxes on big purchases reimbursed the airport, and from what I understand this draws a lot of people to come to Singapore specifically to shop on Orchard Road.

Sunday I went to Sentosa Island, road the zip line, ski lift (can you call it a ski lift in a place that never snows?) and walked around the island. Sentosa Island vaguely reminded me of Disney World, except without Mikey Mouse.

Since I had a night flight on Monday, I was able to go to Chinatown for the day. To me the most interesting thing in Chinatown was the Buddhist Temple, which is named the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The temple was fascinating with its seemingly unlimited quantities of gold buddhas and incredible artwork.

One last thing that I should mention is my flight home. I flew with Air Asia, a low-cost carrier that has many flights to and from Penang on the cheap. Although the price was good, one thing I didn’t realize until I talked with a few people in the office on Tuesday is that Air Asia’s night flights almost always get delayed. In my case, the flight was delayed until 1:00 AM, and I didn’t get back to my hotel until 3:00 AM (thank the lord for coffee). So a word from the wise: if you ever find yourself booking flights with Air Asia, avoid the night flights.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

The Port of Singapore: the busiest port in the world, with 1/5 of all the world’s cargo containers passing through here in a given year

National Museum of Singapore

Art gallery consiting of photographs from winners of a contest (the name of which I can’t remember), but there were photographs from kids as young as 12! Very cool

A very, very old rock

Chinese Casket

SOTA – Singapore School of the Arts

2010 Youth Olympic Games

Orchard Road

No matter where you go, you can’t escape the golden arches


Old school Lamborghini Diablo in Chinatown

The courtyard of the Raffles Hotel at night

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The sunset in Singapore

Langkawi Trip

July 4, 2010

The weekend of the 4th, most of my co-workers had alternative plans for the weekend, and were not going to be around. However, multiple people told me that Langkawi, an island north of Penang, would be a neat place to visit, so I decided to give it a go. The nice thing about Langkawi is that it has an airport, so I was able to fly directly from Penang to Langkawi on a 25 minute flight. Another plus: since the months of June – August are considered the “low-season”, everything from hotels to rental cars were relatively cheap. The hotel I stayed at was very nice, although it seemed to be more geared toward honeymooners…

The weather in Langkawi was interesting. When I was there, it rained every morning and night, but luckily I the sun came out in the afternoon.

I spent Saturday afternoon enjoying the beautiful beach, and then when into town for dinner (and to get away from the honeymoon crowd). Sunday I went to Langkawi Falls and snapped some pretty cool pictures. After a quick weekend, I headed back to Penang. However, instead of flying back, I decided to take the ferry, as it gave me a few extra hours in Langkawi. The problem was that the ferry took 3 hours to get back instead of a 25 minute flight, and it was only 5-10 USD cheaper. I arrived back in Penang a little seasick and wishing I would’ve opted for the flight, but no big deal. Anyways, it was a great weekend and really my first time out of Penang since I arrived, and I had a great time!

View of the beach, not too shabby!

Lock your doors, or the monkeys will eat your food.

Apparently not everyone got the memo.

So when I first past by these rocks on the way to my hotel, I thought to myself, “wow that’s an incredible rock formation!”

…turns out that they were fake 😦

I believe that this is real though!

I cut my feet up to get this picture, the underwater rocks were very sharp!

Penang Hill

June 27, 2010

(6/27/2010)- Sunday afternoon, I decided to do some sight-seeing in Penang, so I went to Penang Hill. Penang Hill is famous for the old cable car that carried passengers up and down the mountain.


Unfornately, in February of this year, this 87-year old icon was taken offline to be deconstructed to make way for a new train system. This has spawned a whole new industry: locals with suvs who offer tours up the moutain in their vehicles. Since walking 3 miles up a 30 degree slope in the 95 degree, 110% humidity weather was not on my to-do list, I decided to utilize this new service. Now I cannot speak for all the tour guides, but as we traveled up the hill, it became clear to me that my tour guide had no grasp of this history behind the historical buildings/residences dotting the landscape. My tour guide would just say, “that’s an old building there, built by the British.” :/ Therefore I had absolutely no idea what I was snapping photos of, so I just took photos of stuff that looked cool :).

A house built by the British :/

Part of the cable system from the old cable car line.

One of the Penang Cable Cars.


Does this photo remind you of anything? (hint: look at the winch)

How about the scene from Jurassic Park, where Dennis Nerdy tries to use the winch to get his jeep out of the ditch he drives into, only to get killed by a dilophosaurus (the spitting dino). I suppose this makes me a nerd.