Our first trip to Malaysia and our first stop on the road in Penang. The story behind the formation of Penang is a heart wrenching tale of imperialistic ambition and Western European trickery. Located in the straights of Malacca, this small island acted as a stop for the traders of the 16th century. The island was a part of the Kedah Sultanate. The story follows a similar pattern as a cunning opportunist Brit landed on the island, Captain Francis Light.
The usual trickery continued as the simple thinking King of Kedah, offered the island of Penang in return for protection against neighbours. The first order of business by Captain Light was to stamp his authority all over the island. The ominous Union Jack was hoisted and named the island” The Prince of Wales island”. Soon after realising his trickery, the Sultan tried to capture back his land but the British wasn’t going to give in so easily. A treaty was signed for a paltry sum as Penang came under the British colonial rule. The settlement was known as George Town after King George III.
British elements in Penang
Our first post centres about a trip around George Town. After a quick breakfast at the Hard Rock Hotel where we were staying, we headed out. The tour started out at Captain Light’s initial fortified position, Fort Cornwallis. The medieval era fortress is reminiscent of the British architecture combined with South East Asian elements. The star shaped fort still houses the huge brass cannons of yester years. Before rifling was introduced in guns, the length of the barrel of the cannon determined its range. This led to the gargantuan sized cannons, Seri Rambal being a classic example.
The Baroque Edwardian era Town Hall is our next destination. Built out of white stone, the Town Hall stands erect against the majestic backdrop of Penang’s skyline. A cenotaph stands across the road to commemorate the dead of the World War I. Being situated bang right in the middle of a shipping route, Penang’s culture and its inhabitants have been influenced from all over the world. Captain Light’s original home still stands to this day. The Christian convents have taken over and converted it into a girl’s school, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.
Indians were one of the first traders to start trading here after the establishment of British East India company’s rule here. The Little India market transports you back to the modern bazaars of India. There is Bollywood music blaring out from the speakers while hawkers try to make you buy stuff that you don’t require, albeit at throwaway prices. There are a few restaurants serving South Indian food as their ingredients are pretty easily available in the region. The Sri Mariamman Temple is one of the oldest marks of Hindu influences over the island. The morning and evening Puja(prayers) is something that you should check out.
But if you seriously want to understand how rich these traders were, you have to see their mansions. Just like the forts of Rajasthan, these opulent homes have been recreated and open to the public. Although I will only be giving you a sneak peek into these, I’ll be covering them in detail in my later posts. The Pinang Peranakan Mansion takes us into the home of a prominent Baba from the Chinese settlements. The intriguing quality of this museum is the admixture of cultures you find. There are Chinese wood panels, English floors and Scottish iron works. Although Jodhpur’s blue houses may have enticed you, but it pales in front of the majestic blue of the Blue Mansion: Fatt Tze mansion.
Do explore Penang for the multicultural mixing of cultures and specially the mansions. We had booked our stay in Penang with Traveloka and they made your journey seamlessly easy.
All images are courtesy of Tourism Malaysia.
Singaporean street food is as famous as that of India’s. Founded in 1819, Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a colonial outpost of East India Company. After British Raj took over, Singapore was ceded to Britain as part of the Straits Settlements in 1826. There are many influences from China and Malaysia over it’s food as the country fought to establish it’s power in the region. We, Sudipto De and Snigdha Bhowmick tell you the dishes that define the true flavours of Singapore.
Crab is one of my favourites among seafood. It’s slightly sweet meat is something that I truly love. Although breaking through a crab is a task indeed, but as they say “The fruits of labour are sweet indeed”. But this preparation of crab takes precedence over even a few of the Indian dishes. The sauce is what adds layers of flavours to the dish. With tomato, chili sauce and egg, it’s a thick, spicy yet sweet sauce which makes this dish such a favourite. The dish draws it’s origin to Madame Cher Yam Tian of the Palm Beach restaurant who started this dish from her pushcart.
A salad like no other. It is one of the dishes which retains a typical Malay influence over the Singaporean food. It is a salad made of fruit, vegetables and fritters covered in a sticky black sauce and peanuts. The dish derives it’s taste from the sticky black sauce which has prawn paste, lime, chili and sugar. The ingredients include some of the most exotic ones I had ever seen: Raw Cucumber, Chinese Turnip, unripe Rose Apples and toasted Tofu.
Fish Head Curry
Man, I am in love with the Singaporeans. They have reinvented another of Bengal‘s classics, Fish Head. The dish is a perfect amalgamation of South Indian curry spices with the Fish Head which is a Chinese delicacy. The flavours although similar have a very subtle increase in the level of spice and sourness with a decrease of the sweetness. Steamed rice acts as a perfect accompaniment as you soak up the curry surrounding it.
Each of the South-East Asian countries has it’s own broth filled with Noodles and meat. The famous Katong Laksa has a flaming orange coloured broth. It’s got the creamy texture of coconut milk with the taste of dried shrimp, cockles and fish cakes. The difference that I found from the traditional Laksa is the use of shorter noodles which can be eaten with a spoon.
Our Singaporean sojourn could not be complete without desserts. Being a Bengali, I have to try out a sweet dish to finish off my meal. When I was little, my grand mother used to make me a sugary toasted bread with butter. The Kaya Toast is pretty much similar to that. The toasted or Charcoal grilled slices of bread are lovingly enveloped with butter and Kaya. Kaya is a jam made from coconut and eggs which has a subtle sweet taste. It can either be combined with coffee, tea or even consumed for breakfast with eggs. But I pretty much ate a few pieces every time I had the chance to.
Singapore is a place for for a lot of sweet flavours which is apt for Bengalis like us. But it’s the addition of heat, sour and spice to it in equal proportions I fell in love with. Do tell us your recommendations of Singapore.
All pictures are courtesy of Your Singapore.
Indonesia has been one of the countries which remained on our bucket list. So crossing off this country from the list was truly essential. Our first post out of Indonesia encompasses the beautiful port city of Surabaya. It draws it’s name from the mythical tussle between a shark and a crocodile. This port city used to be the trading hub for the inland empires of Java and catapulted it to a major economic power in the South East. It was colonised by the Dutch in mid 18th century. Like many of the Asian cities it bears lots of influences from it’s colonial masters. The city is also an ideal base to explore the other attractions of East Java including Mt Bromo, the cool mountain retreats of Malang and the natural beauty of Ijen Plateau.
Read more about Asian food at Roundup of Asian Hawkers Market 3
Surabaya is served by a plethora of domestic and international airlines. Boats and trains are also quite a good way to get there. The Juanda International Airport is a beautiful naval airbase which will make you remember it even after you leave. The port city’s main port is Tanjung Perak. A monstrous port which houses both commercial and passenger ships, the magnamity of the port is something to behold. Surabaya is serviced by trains at the main station of Pasar Turi.
What all to see?
Surabaya is a seamless mix of both Islamic and Christian architecture bought on firstly by the Dutch colonialists and later followed by the majority ethnicity. Surabaya was the centre hold of Indonesia’s independence struggle and it has enough memoirs of the struggle. The Tugu Pahlawan is a monument which stands testimony to the struggles of the nascent country. There is a museum nearby which houses relics of that era.
Check out the Ultimate Indonesia Travel Guide
Indonesia as a country is dominated by Muslims and some of the most beautiful mosques are present there. The Al Akbar Mosque is the largest in Eastern Java and houses some really beautiful tapestries. The newly built Zheng He mosque pays tribute to Chinese architecture.
Read about the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
The Gereja Katolik remembers the Dutch for their contribution to the city’s skyline being one of the first churches in the region. The religious diversity is completed at Kenjeran Sea which houses a Chinese temple built right over the sea. Another two places that should draw your attention include the House of Sampoerna which houses a museum which pays a tribute to the clove cigarette industry of the country. The Monkasel meanwhile is a Soviet Era submarine which has been converted into a museum.
Where to stay?
The Hotel Majapahit is a perfect place to plan your stay at Surabaya. This colonial building from 19th century offers you a deep insight into the history of Surabaya. The seamless interplay of both historical aspect with modern amenities is a treat for your senses. The hotel has multiple dining options which offers you both traditional Indonesian along with food from all over Asia and Europe. The spa is a perfect place to relax after a tiring day of exploring Surabaya. You can book this hotel at Traveloka hotel deals.
The port city of Surabaya has lots to offer in terms of a blend of architecture and food from Indonesia. So next time you visit Indonesia, do not forget to visit Surabaya. Please Pin and share the love
Singapore is well known for it’s shopping and scenic locales. A uber modern tourism spot which attracts the young and the happening. Singapore is like being swirled through a shopping and leisure experience in super fast mode. But we at Salt and Sandals are lovers of slow travel. So decided to do something radical. We decided to spend a day roaming the museums of this erstwhile colony of Britain. We decided on a quick breakfast and started off your trip loaded with a lot of water.
10:30 AM National Museum of Singapore
The first stop is the National Museum of Singapore. Started in 1887, it offers an insight the life of Singaporeans. There is a seamless blend of neo modern architecture with the old. Do not forget to check out the Singapore History and Living galleries.
12:15 PM MINT Museum of Toys
This was one place which made it worth all the travels. Now me and Snigdha both remain kids at heart. Seeing so many toys around kind of unleashed the kid in us and our happiness knew no bounds. There are vintage toys some of which date back more than a century. Covering more than 40 countries, the toys will make you feeling happy at the end of it. We also took a few souvenirs to add to our collection.
Lunch was a quick meal at Mr Punch Public House which is housed in the basement of the museum.
2:30 PM Singapore Philatelic Museum
Now stamps may have become obsolete in today’s fast paced world of communication. But Sudipto De is a Bengali and collecting stamps runs in my veins. This place houses an large collection of stones from pre-Independence Singapore. I fell in love with some of the stamps from India that too from 1854. Best part of this journey is I could add a few more to my burgeoning collection.
4 PM Asian Civilizations Museum
Snigdha egged me onto the next destination while I was enjoying my post prandial somnolence. I was already done with my dose of excitement for the day. But when the lady wants to see culture, you see culture. The museum showcases the hub that Singapore has become for mixing of Asian cultures. We got an unimpeded view of China, West Asia and South East Asia. We got to see a Chinese teahouse, a Nomad’s home and an Emperor’s court. Enough of the mature stuff, let’s get back to the kiddish stuff.
5:45 PM Singapore Coins and Notes Museum
Show me the money. This one showcases all the different types of currency that Singapore has had over the years. The things to watch out are the Harry Potter coin, the notes from the Orchid series and Potrait series along with the hands on areas which teach you about the metallurgy in the coins. You can also get your own coin minted as a memento.
We ended our day with a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel while going through our whole set of mementoes. Tell us which of the museums you liked the most.
All images are courtesy of Your Singapore
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