Tag Archives: penang

Lounge Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Penang Airport (PEN) Domestic Terminal

The Plaza Premium lounge in the domestic terminal of Penang airport is accessible via Priority Pass, and it’s located just past where you clear security.

Entrance to the lounge

It’s a relatively small lounge, but there’s a fair amount of seating, and it wasn’t crowded at all when I was there.

Seating

Work stations

Tables

For a domestic lounge, I thought there was a surprisingly decent food selection. There was fish ball noodle soup, curry, mixed vegetables, pasta with Alfredo sauce, barley soup, and congee. Definitely enough to have a filling snack before a flight.

Fish ball noodle soup

Hot food

Cold foods

Desserts and drinks

Soup and porridge/congee

The wifi worked okay, and the lamps scattered throughout the lounge had USB chargers, but I couldn’t seem to find any normal outlets, which I found confusing. But overall, I found this to be a very pleasant domestic lounge with pretty good food options and comfortable seating.

Staying at Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Penang, Malaysia

So I’m not going to lie, the main purpose of this trip was to stay on a durian farm and gorge myself on durian. The durian farm that I chose was Bao Sheng durian farm in Penang, which has been blogged about pretty extensively by Lindsay at Year of the Durian (which is I think the best English-language resource about durian out there).

In order to book this part of the trip, I contacted the durian farm a couple of months before the trip. It’s slightly hard to time in that the durian farmers only know when the durian is going to drop a couple of months before once the durian trees start to flower, but many of us need to plan trips much further in advance than that, so essentially I based on my trip on a time frame that worked with award availability and that I thought would overlap with the main durian season. Last year’s (2016) durian season wasn’t great in Penang, but I still had an amazing time.

To reserve my room, I had to transfer money to the durian farm’s bank account. For this, I used TransferWise (affiliate link). TransferWise seemed like the best way to transfer money to a foreign bank account with minimal fees, and I’m not aware of a better method today.

To get to the durian farm, I took an UberX from Georgetown. Even with the driver keeping the meter on until he got to Batu Feringghi (i.e. he wanted to keep the meter on after he dropped me off, which I was fine with), it ended up being around $10 USD instead of the much, much higher rates I was being quoted by taxis and the hotel.

Sign on the way to the durian farm

At the top of the hill

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this place, but I had a great time. Essentially, you can eat durian whenever you want (i.e. there are bins of durians where you can just pick one up and crack it open if you desire), and the durian seng (the “master”/father who owns the place) will periodically host tastings where he or his son chooses durians for you to sample and puts them in a specified order. It’s similar to a wine tasting, as there are tasting notes (e.g. this durian should taste like X, this durian should taste like Y), and there are different ways to eat durian. There are also tours of the farm, there’s a waterfall not too far away, and there’s a plunge pool. But I mostly chilled in my air conditioned room and emerged to eat durian, which was great.

Most of the people who visit this farm are Chinese tourists (not necessarily from China, as there are lots of Malaysian Chinese people). But the durian seng and his family also speak Mandarin, so some of the tastings were conducted mostly in Mandarin. Many of the people volunteering on the farm, though, are Australians or Westerners who love durian.

Eating area

There are also plentiful coconuts. For people staying at the farm, you can get coconuts for free whenever you’d like. They also make fruit smoothies and juices, and sometimes even durian candies/pastes.

Counter to get fresh coconuts

Below is a picture of the durian seng getting ready to serve us durian. He chose a variety of durian from different trees of different ages. I think this was the amount of durian he chose for 6 of us.

Durian tasting #1

I stayed in one of the standard villas. There are a couple of different sleeping options, and the standard villa is the middle option. But you can expect basic accommodations with air conditioning. It’s not fancy, but it’s worth it for the durian.

View of a villa and plunge pool

Plunge pool and villa

Standard villa

Bathroom

Durian!

Views of Penang from the eating area

Durian dogs

If you get tired of durian (which I’m not sure is possible), there are other things to eat on the farm. As stated before, there are coconuts everywhere, but other fruit pops up like cempedak (which I had actually never eaten before). For dinner, you don’t have to eat durian (although you can!). They generally get someone to bring in food cooked from elsewhere and serve it as a family-style buffet (and a durian tasting often follows). As someone who generally doesn’t eat meat, the options for dinner were slightly fewer, except that I could always just eat more durian.

Cempedak (not durian)

Nightly dinner buffet

Durian tasting #Ilostcount

It was cool going on a short tour of the farm and hunting for durian that have dropped. One thing that I didn’t quite understand is how high up durian grows on the trees. Like these massive, spiky fruits grow on these seemingly tiny branches very high up in the air. Nature is amazing.

Durian trees

Anyway, if you love durian, I highly recommend staying on a durian farm as an experience. The Bao Sheng durian farm offers basic but comfortable accommodations and lots of delicious durian. The family all speaks English, so it’s easy to book via email, and Penang is a cool place to visit generally if you like food.

How to Cross the Street in Hanoi (and Other Asian Cities)

HANOI
Hanoi is renowned for its busy streets and seemingly unfriendly roads for pedestrians. Lots of visitors have stories about being stuck on one side of the street for minutes, as they’re too timid to cross given the endless stream of motorbikes and cars.

But really, crossing the street in Hanoi is simple: just don’t look. Step into the road and start walking, and the traffic will flow around you. If you look, you’re liable to get scared and hesitate, and that’s much more dangerous than maintaining a steady pace.

There’s one caveat, though, which is buses. While everything else will flow around you, buses are the one thing which will NOT necessarily drive around you. Watch out for buses, lest you end up like Regina George.

I want to make fetch happen…

PENANG
Penang is awesome, but crossing the street in Georgetown can be a bit intimidating. The street lights can be verrrry long (like you’ll be standing there for 2 minutes to wait for the light), which is annoying when it’s 90+ degrees out and the sun is bearing down on you. Even worse, there are busy intersections without crosswalk lights, so you just have to figure out when you need to go yourself.

The main strategy is thus extremely aggressive jaywalking. Cars won’t intentionally hit you if you’re in the road, but it’s not like Hanoi where pedestrians are expected to just walk into the street, so you need to be vigilant about openings and seize them aggressively. I also observed some brave souls just walk out into traffic with their hand out toward the oncoming traffic, but I’m not sure I’m that brave.

BEIJING
Crossing the road in Beijing terrifies me because it’s one of the few places where I felt like cars would actually hit me if I didn’t scurry out of the way quickly enough. In most Asian cities, cars and motorbikes honk at you to let you know that they’re there; in Beijing, cars honk to let you know that you need to get the eff out of the way before they hit you. Even if you think you should have the right of way, you need to watch out for cars.

Granted, I’ve (thankfully) never been hit by a car, but I dread crossing the street in China much more than any other Asian country I’ve been to. Your strategy? Get across as quickly as possible and don’t assume that the cars driving toward you will stop.

FINAL TIP
If you don’t know how to cross the road, just wait until some old person needs to cross and stick to them like glue. No one wants to hit an old person crossing the road.