Going Down Iconic Hill At Sunrise

As they say, what goes up must come down. And so for every hill we climb, there comes a time when we must eventually come down. Here’s the coming down part of the Iconic Hill trail.

There are at least four alternate routes to reach the peak of Botak Hill (now rebranded by the developer to their name, Iconic), and many more branches and bypasses.

  1. Eastern Trail – Start from Beverly Heights, Ashley Green
  2. Western Trail – Start from Grand View Heights, Paya Terubong
  3. Southern Trail – Start from Bukit Jambul via Bukit Kukus
  4. Northern Trail – Start from Bukit Hijau via Bukit Gambir

Most popular way up appears to be the paved paths along the Western and Eastern trail, but do take note that these paths are now gated and closed at night.

Regardless, it’s a nice place to catch sunrise and sunset, with an unhindered view of the eastern side of Penang Island, about 380-400m above sea level.

Iconic Hill Penang Sunrise
Sunrise over Penang Island

I imagine this place will undergo quite a lot of change over the next few years as the developer is currently widening the access ways up the hill, and we expect lots of construction along these hills. Hopefully nothing too excessive, but it certainly won’t be the same for long.

Enjoy going up and down Iconic Hill while you can!

Botak Hill from Bukit Gambir
Botak Hill from Bukit Gambir
Iconic Hill Sunrise

In Hokkien: Do You Speak English?

An important phrase for every traveller in every language is asking if their counterpart speaks the universal language, English.

As you’ll recall, this is how to ask in Korean:

  1. 영 – Yeong – (pic reference to Yong Tau Fu)
  2. 어 – Eo
  3. 하 – Ha
  4. 세요 – Seyo

And this is how to ask in Hokkien:

EnglishWritten ChineseHokkien
Can you understand? 你会晓听无(吗)?Lu eh hiao tia bo?
Can you speak English?你会晓讲英文无(吗)?Lu eh hiao gong eng bun bo?
I don’t understand我掠无
Wa liak bo

Please note that the written Chinese column is how the Hokkien words would be written in text, but it is not how you would actually say it in the Chinese language (普通话).

Now in my research, I came across this useful little Hokkien resource (there are quite a few online, to my surprise): this English-Hokkien dictionary!

I gave the search a few tries and the results were rather impressive.

So yeah, go nuts!

Life In Asia

Perhaps I should have started this years ago, having made the decision to return to my roots, having changed my country of residence several years back. My continent of residence, I should say.

Yes, I’m currently residing in Asia.

However, that wasn’t always the case.

I had a somewhat variegated upbringing, being schooled in both Asia and Australia. This is clearly something quite commonplace in this day and age, but mine wasn’t just foreign exchange – I went back and forth, spending a chunk here and a chunk there.

Was it confusing? Disruptive? Detrimental to my development?

I don’t think so – if anything I got the best of both worlds, in a sense.

Perhaps I’d like to think my experience is unique, having been exposed more thoroughly to both sides of the coin: eastern and western, tropical and temperate, English and Chinese, noodles and spaghetti.

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time abroad and had the pleasure of experiencing different cultures and indoctrin-I mean, education systems, can attest to this. By considerable I mean anywhere from six months to a year and beyond.

Different language, different styles of education, different attitudes and mannerisms. The culture shock does make some yearn and fall back on the comforts of home, usually in the form of congregating with those of the same background. Foreign student clubs and unions, study groups, living quarters.

I had that to some extent – I mingled largely with the familiar crowd, the minority, those with the same roots and ethnicity, even if they may not think or speak the same way as my original Asian brethren. It was close enough and as good as it got.

So background aside, I eventually made my way back to where I am now – in Asia. South-East Asia, to be precise (clearly still super vague – I’m being facetious).

What is it like being back here, seeing what you’ve seen? Knowing what you know? For those of you who have lived abroad and come back to your home country or to the same vicinity, how did you feel when you first returned?

Clearly everyone’s experience is non-identical and distinct. Many report feeling disenfranchised, like an outsider, hints of racism, but also feeling warmth and kindness and something they would never have found at home.

Yes, I admit on some level, I always felt like I never truly belonged. Being a minority in a country has its effects, not just in the pervasive racial undertones from external parties, but even internally within our own communities, our Asian gangs and gatherings (I use the term “gang” in a jocular sense – we didn’t actually go around extorting protection money).

I spoke and wrote the language, just as well as any of the born-and-bred locals (I’d like to think). Perhaps not all the way to the local lingo, but if I didn’t provide any indication, just from reading this, you might not immediately guess which country I hail from.

I paid my dues and did my job and didn’t take advantage of the system, a system that hands out freebies to the impoverished and needy, an imperfect system but one that tries to provide a standard level of care for all. It wasn’t a bad or poor system by any means, although rigid and unyielding in some ways. There was support and benefits, and for the most part people tried to be civil and kind toward me and each other.

Being back in Asia I see the disparities, how different things are, a comparison across the board. Some things are better, some are worse, pros and cons.

Recently I visited the equivalent of the slums here in Asia.

Think high density and small living spaces. Like Hong Kong, but not nearly as bad.

The first thing that hits you is the smell.

There was more than rain pouring down from the skies.

Slums exist almost everywhere in the world, I imagine. But seeing it in your own hometown still comes as a shock. Seeing the living conditions and meeting the people there is a sobering wake-up call.

And unlike Australia, the local government here doesn’t give so many handouts to these folk. Not to say they are entirely disregarded – there are institutes that care for the families and senior citizens that reside in these government built apartments.

What struck me (apart from the rubbish raining down) was the way of life of the people staying there, their outlook and attitudes. Almost like a caste system, mentally resigned to their fate, prisoners in their own minds.

For a lot of these people, there is no way out, no escape from their situation, no saviour or redemption or change. You can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. The only way out is wrapped in a blanket or tarp.

And they will continue to subsist like this, day in day out.

And now in lockdown, they see no way of earning an income. Again, there is no way out. And so they wait – either for handouts, or for the sweet release of death.

Of course there are such places in Australia and other countries in the world, and the way they are treated and regarded is probably not so different.

At the very least, they tend to be more concerned about smells. Or it could just be the climate that enhances it.

Did you know that you smell better in a moister environment?

Flowers & Happiness

What festival is full of flowers and happiness? Spring break? The harvest moon? Perhaps most of them!

One of the most popular in South East Asia is Wesak Day, a day of devotion and recollection. Wesak Day is one of the most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar as it commemorates three significant events in the Gautama Buddha’s life – his birthday, his enlightenment and his passing.

Wesak Day Children Flowers Happiness
Flowers Happiness
Flowers Happiness
Wesak Day Happiness

A New Dawn

Penang is undergoing change – change to catapult it into a modern city with modern architecture and infrastructure, with modern art and ideas. Penang is experiencing a new dawn.

Penang Sunrise

In addition to massive projects such as Gurney Wharf and the new outer ring road linkages, Penang’s heart is gradually transforming, slowly being renewed.

Just take a look at the old streets that branch off Lebuh Pantai – you wouldn’t recognise them anymore.

Penang Lebuh China
Penang Lebuh China