IMPRESSIONS from our PENANG TOUR (‘Malaysia – truly Asia!’)

Published: Friday, 26 October 2018 Written by Walter 'WASABI' Marthaler

PENANG: THE PERL OF THE ORIENT

Pre Tour remarks

What a difference in attendance for the two Flying Hoppers Tours in 2018!

LISBON saw an almost record crowd, where we could easily have fielded two teams for the games.

Even though 7 players from that Lisbon Tour (hard core touring group?) showed up again for Penang, we only had one more player, although a very important addition in Judith Sijbers, who arrived two days early and could provide useful information for the other participants. Coen was the second one to arrive, late on the day before the main group flew into Malaysia.

Of course Stefan, the brain behind all the activities of The Flying Hoppers over all these many years, had foreseen the difficulties and had in advance requested some support players from the Masters Games organisers of these very FIRST EVER ASIA PACIFIC MASTERS GAMES in PENANG, Malaysia.

And, very kindly, these organisers helped us out throughout the tournament by providing the following local guys, with whom we bonded very well indeed:

Name:                                                Age:
MAT JUSHO DERAMAN                      48
SUHAIMI ABU BAKAR                        54
AHMAD ZULMAN MOHD ZAIN             54
MOHD SUHAIMI ABDUL RAHAMAN    43
MOHD KAMARIZAN SEMAUN            43
LOGARAJA                                       36

equalling an average age of                 46.5 years

For reason of confidentiality, I hereafter just quote the average age of the participating regular Flying Hoppers players, which works out at 57.8 years.

Therefore the OVERALL average age of this Flying Hoppers Team was 52.6 years

1st DAY ON TOUR  -  September 7th

In the morning, it rained hard in Penang, causing some flooding. The following participants arrived from Switzerland via Singapore: Silvina, Jaap, Stefan and Willy, followed shortly afterwards by your scribe arriving from Hong Kong. Finally, and very late in the day, therefore missing the first game, Britta flew in from Switzerland.

All of us went straight from Penang Airport to the nearby ‘Spice Convention Centre’ for registration procedures and then took a longish taxi ride to the very nice PARKROYAL PENANG RESORT HOTEL at Batu Ferringhi Beach.(enquiry [DOT] prpen [AT] parkroyalhotels [DOT] com) I can warmly recommend this delightful hotel to anyone visiting Penang.

However, upon arrival there was precious little time for relaxation since due to heavy Friday traffic and the long week-end ahead, we very soon had to make our transfer to the HOCKEY STADIUM, ‘Universiti Sains Malaysia’ or USM for short.

There we met up with the support players earlier mentioned, and we soon had to get the first game going against the RUGRATS team from Australia.  Once our team, who of course had never played together before, had had a go at sorting out the positions problems, we started to find solid ‘shape’ and in the end this resulted in a comfortable first win with a score of 5  :  0.

This outstanding achievement of the first day was mainly due to Coen who scored. 3 of the goals. Once the game was over we made our longish (heavy traffic!) way back to our lovely hotel. After taking quick showers we met up in the lobby for some drinks to which we were kindly treated by ‘HATTRICK Coen’!

Thereafter we proceeded swiftly to a late dinner nearby since closing time for most of the restaurants was rapidly approaching. In the nick of time we managed to find the ‘Golden Thai Seafood Restaurant’ and decided to give that a try. While I would describe the food as ‘Thai with Malaysian characteristics’ rather than ‘Pure Thai’.I think we all enjoyed that meal, and of course also the ample flow of beer and wine consumed.

During the chatting over dinner Irena voiced her astonishment about the fact that the prettiest among the RUGRATS ladies (i.e. Samara) had greeted Coen at the USM stadium with a remarkably enthusiastic ‘Hi, Coen!’  Coen quickly explained that he does indeed like to make good use of his time when e.g. queuing up for registration by making small talk with other people in the queue… Well fielded, Coen.

Irena also talked about her earlier exploration of Penang since she had already stayed at the very famous Eastern & Oriental Hotel in the charming location of Georgetown. Her explorations led her to conclude that there were some attractive nightlife activities on offer in an aptly named street called ‘Love Lane’! However, she skilfully avoided going into too many details.
Summing up the HIGHLIGHTS in an abbreviated form (in the style and manner of today’s world, deficient both in attention to detail and the patience needed to explore carefully) one might sum up DAY ONE as

  • HI COEN!
  • LOVE LANE
  • 5 :   0


2nd DAY ON TOUR  -  SEPTEMBER 8th

NO GAME on this day, but the OPENING CEREMONY

All of us could take it easy today.

I found Stefan and Coen and Silvina in Stefan’s ‘office on tour’ which tends to be the nearest Starbucks Coffee House. We then walked along the beach past our hotel to the nearby Beach Volleyball venue. We found out that it was already closed for the day, but that it would feature some Swiss participants on the coming Monday.

Back at the hotel we started to get ready, dressing up in our customary Flying Hoppers outfit for special occasions, blazers, white shirts, and Flying Hoppers ties.We then grabbed two ‘Grab’ taxis to take us to the PENANG CITY STADIUM for the Opening Ceremony.

Outside the stadium we endured a really, really very long wait while all the sports groups ahead of us started to move into the stadium. At last it was the hockey participants’ turn, and we marched in. What a sight! Literally thousands of school kids were cheering every group during the walk-in procession. Thereafter everything, but above all the speeches, seemed to take forever before the SHOW could start in earnest. And then, just as the lightshow and fireworks started, some serious raindrops started to fall… That, combined with the fact that many of us still wanted to have some dinner, made us move swiftly from the stadium to the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. where we arrived around 11.30 p.m.  We assumed that this famous hotel would still be serving food at that hour, but no, wrong assumption. However, they were kind enough to point us in the direction of the OLIVER BAR, only a short walking distance away. That bar turned out to be a really lively place, serving delicious Indian food. Lovely food apart, we also made the acquaintance of a perhaps slightly odd couple, a German chap with a background in the motor industry and a Malaysian woman. This lady (Poonam Balan) had a chat, mainly with Willy, talking about Malaysia at great length and in depth.
For your reference about this interesting personality please use the following link (https://leaderonomics.com/personal/why-weve-returned-home) from which I quote herewith:

QUOTE
Why We’ve Returned Home

In my case, it was always family that lured me home. As soon as I returned, I noticed areas in which I could be of assistance. When I first picked up the newspapers, I noticed that there were opportunities for more subjective content addressing topics like ageism, inclusive work environment, work-life balance, gender bias issues, etc.

Under the guidance of an editor who has an appreciation of varied insights, I found an audience, and I continue to do so today with my column in ‘The Edgy’.
END OF QUOTE

Time did fly with all these in depth discussions, and lo and behold, the group I was part of only made it back to our hotel by 3 a.m.!

3rd DAY ON TOUR – SEPTEMBER 9th

Second Game

Not too much to report for this day. We duly won our second game with a bigger margin. After returning to the hotel, the main group made the trip into town for dinner at a restaurant called ‘Golden Shower by Chin Chin’, yet another excellent discovery by Coen. The dinner was apparently quite excellent. (www.goldenshowerchinchin.com)

Jaap and I definitely felt too tired to make it into town, so decided to have a steak dinner at ‘The Ship’, a restaurant near out hotel. (www.theship.co.my)  To accompany our selected Black Pepper Steaks, Jaap ordered his customary kind of beer, that is to say a one litre glass, and I enjoyed two glasses of red wine. Excellent steaks indeed.

Not having been with the main group, I can only report what was kind of insinuated as the summing up motto for this third day, namely

  • High Noon
  • Hi, Coen!
  • Tycoon!


Perhaps because only a tycoon could find a ‘Golden Shower by Chin Chin’?
Just my assumption, of course

4th DAY ON TOUR  -  SEPTEMBER 10th

In the morning some of us walked over to that Beach Volleyball area again to cheer on the Swiss ladies. However, they lost their game. Still, this was apparently no longer of much importance since they had already secured a medal previously.

In the afternoon, all of us once again assembled in the lobby of the Parkroyal Hotel, ready to move to the USM hockey stadium for our third game which turned out to become our third victory, with the opposition scoring just one goal. (Final score 9 : 1). Our Malaysian hockey mates had asked us the day before to keep the evening open as they wanted to invite us to a typical Malaysian dinner near the USM venue.

It was very nice of them to treat us to dishes which for most of us provided new experiences. In my case, for instance, I had never before tasted a ‘Nasi Goreng Pathaya’ – not even on Pathaya Beach in Thailand!

A very nice meal indeed, and we also appreciated and much enjoyed talking to our Malaysian team mates, learning more about each other, exchanging common experiences. Of course we expressed our heartfelt thanks to our Malaysian hosts, and we do hope they will in time visit Switzerland, when we should be delighted to reciprocate and treat them to some classic Swiss dishes.

Upon returning to the Parkroyal Hotel, some of us were still not tired enough to go to bed, hence went for a stroll in the area and duly found a place suitable for some night cap drinks, namely the Bora Bora Bar on the beach front.

5th DAY ON TOUR  -  SEPTEMBER  11th

A most memorable day for all participants on this tour! After another win, this time. 8 : 0, and ahead of our last game due to take place the following day, it became clear that the FLYING HOPPERS this time around would end up differently from their achievements in previous MASTER GAMES EXPERIENCES,  namely

World Masters Games in Melbourne, Australia 2002                                  SILVER
World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia 2009                                      SILVER
World Masters Games in Turin, Italy 2013                                                 SILVER
American Masters Games in Vancouver, Canada 2016                               SILVER
World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand 2017                              SILVER

And then - NOW FINALLY
Asia Pacific Masters Games in Penang, Malaysia 2018                              GOLD!

After receiving our medals ad taking plenty of photos, we got ready to head into Georgetown for appropriate celebrations – first to an amazing venue with views across the town, i.e. the aptly named  SKYBAR THREE SIXTY on the 17th floor of the Bayview Hotel (https://360rooftop.com.my)  You really get an excellent view over Penang from up there. I was on cloud nine and more than happy to pay for a round of drinks since, on top of having become a gold medallist, I had even scored an accidental goal in our game earlier this day.

Thereafter we all walked together to an eatery which was not far from the Skybar, an Indian restaurant called Kashmir which Irina had discovered and where we were served really excellent Indian food. However, the most interesting part of this meal was Willy sharing with us his memories of various trips to high-altitude areas of Northern India and Southern Nepal. Truly fascinating stories, related in great detail. Kind of ‘unreal stuff’, but no doubt all very true. Many THANKS, Willy, for sharing those truly mesmerising memories with us during that great dinner!

After finishing our delicious meal we did of course not want to miss out on visiting the nearby ‘Love Lane’ nightlife area, a rather unique part of the old town of Penang. We gave the somewhat raucous ‘Holy Guacamole’ bar a miss and finally settled for night cap drinks in a pub/bar called ‘The Barcode International’ at 34 Stewart Lane. At this point in time some of us decided to head back to the hotel, but Silvina, Coen, Jaap, Stefan and your scribe stayed, imbibed a couple of drinks each, and also occasionally navigated around a sleeping dog to get to an extraordinarily strange set of toilets at the back…

Eventually we all made out way back to the Parkroyal, but as so often on this tour I did not manage to get to sleep until nearly 3 a.m,

6th DAY ON TOUR  -  SEPTEMBER  12th   (Last official hockey game)

All of us were heading into Georgetown to enjoy a meal at the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Hotel. We were seated outside, on their waterfront. What a perfectly enchanting location, what pure pleasure to have lunch at one of those very traditional hotels in Asia. The website of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel (www.eohotels.com/main.php) has the following description:

QUOTE
ABOUT  THE E&O
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is the embodiment of both a special time and a special place. For well over a century, this remarkable hotel – known simply as ‘The E&O’ to generations of travellers – has stood as a testament to the grand elegance of the British colonial era.
END OF QUOTE

After lunch we went for a walkabout in the historic areas of Georgetown which does indeed feature a great many very well preserved colonial buildings, as a result of which, quote  ‘On 7th July 2008, Georgetown, the capital of Penang, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, unquote.

Soon after that we had to go to the USM stadium for the last time, to pay out last game, which once again was duly won. After the game our group split; some were going back to the Parkroyal for an early night, whereas the more energetic ones headed back into Georgetown for food and a number of drinks thereafter.

Belonging to the lazy, or rather tired, first group, I only accomplished four quick tasks after arriving back at the hotel:

  • going out to buy some bananas for Irena (for her upset stomach)
  • having a very quick meal once again at ‘The Ship’, together with Jaap
  • handing over said bananas to Irena
  • and last but not least, getting a sound night’s sleep!

 

7th DAY ON TOUR  -  Sightseeing Day on SEPTEMBER 13th

ALL of us, to the surprise of many, including Jaap, had decided to meet up early at 08.45 to proceed to today’s activities together, of which the highlight was the cooking course using Malaysian spices.

A short bus ride along the sea took us to the entrance of the TROPICAL SPICE GARDEN. (www.tropicalspicegarden.com) There we were met by a very energetic and enthusiastic guide who talked to us in great detail about the various plants producing spices which we encountered on our walk up a hill, through a kind of jungle. We also spotted some frogs, snakes, and monkeys.

After this introductory talk, we were then all going into action in a big kitchen. Under the careful guidance and supervision of Jamie and her assistants, a KERUTUP UDUNG / SAYUR CHAMPOR / KATAYAP meal was prepared by all of us individually, but often Jamie or one of her assistants had to help the ones with less experience in a kitchen environment! It took quite some time and effort to prepare our lunch, but it was also great fun.

By noon we had finished preparing our meal and could take it outside to a lovely open air dining area. Some monkeys nearby wanted to join in the fun of eating - but Jamie chased them away of course. I really appreciated that we had been allowed to use spices in our main dish according to individual taste, so these dishes turned out quite differently. I had gone for added spiciness, and found it perfectly to my liking.

After lunch some of us opted for souvenir shopping in a well stocked little shop, while others headed straight for the bus. The latter, however, then had to wait for quite some time for the shoppers to arrive…

In the afternoon we all relaxed at the Parkroyal Hotel or nearby. In the evening we assembled for pre dinner cocktails at one of the poolside bars of the hotel, before eventually walking to a nearby restaurant, a new discovery by Coen. He had somehow managed to find yet another excellent restaurant, the FERRINGHI GARDEN RESTAURANT. This venue’s fabulous design is far too intricate to describe, and I therefore urge interested readers to have a look at the photos which must surely be in our ‘Photo Gallery’ of this tour to Penang. Do check it out! Quite stunningly beautiful in my opinion.

Not only was this restaurant stunningly beautiful, but it also served delicious food, and so our whole group once again enjoyed a nice dinner together. As usual, it was interesting and inspiring to discuss a wide range of different topics over dinner with a group of great Flying Hoppers hockey friends.

8th DAY ON TOUR  -  SEPTEMBER  14th - BRITTA’S BIRTHDAY

The very last day on this tour had come about really quickly.

In the morning we went on a boat trip organised by Willy; this took us straight from the Parkroyal Hotel to a nearby beach featuring a ‘Lazy Boys Café’. From there we first strolled along that quiet beach, and then walked for about an hour steeply uphill through dense jungle to reach a LIGHTHOUSE BUILT BY THE British in 1883! From up there we enjoyed great views in all directions, but we were ourselves closely observed by a bunch of cheeky monkeys. As Silvina came out of the lighthouse she found herself rather aggressively confronted by a monkey… However, she was up to the task, quickly getting out the biscuits provided by the hotel as good night gifts and throwing these (still in their wrappers) way behind the pugnacious monkey who promptly rushed after the biscuits, thus making it possible for Silvina to join us for our way down.

As we had already noticed when looking out from the lighthouse, the weather was rapidly changing for the worse. Hence we headed directly back to the ‘Lazy Boys Café’ where the boat was waiting for us. On the walk back on the beach Coen spotted a really HUGE sea creature – look it up in the Photo Gallery!
A smooth boat ride took us back to the Parkroyal before heavy rain started to fall.

Around 4 p.m. all of us got ready to go to the traditional PENANG SPORTS CLUB for a friendly Hockey Game. (www.pgsportsclub.com.my) Irena with her earlier established local connections (thanks to Johnny at the Kashmir Restaurant!) had been key to getting the Flying Hoppers invited to this extra game, especially organised for us! The opposition was a team of mainly Sikh players, but all of whom had already been born in Malaysia. This Penang Club team was also kind enough to give us some extra players for this purely friendly game, in the unusual format of 3 times 20 minutes of play. While the game – played on grass! – stayed pretty even during the first  2 x 20 minutes, the local and better team in the end won  with a score of 5 : 3.

After some beers right after the game, and showers thereafter, the Penang Sports Club  members kindly hosted us to an excellent North Indian buffet dinner, with drinks free flowing, too. It was Britta’s birthday, and of course we also celebrated that fittingly with a BIRTHDAY CAKE  for the BIRTHDAY LADY!

Captain Willy gave a very nice speech, thanking our hosts for their kindness and generosity. Thereafter, the older members of our group, Jaap, Willy and I, left relatively early. Good to know the main group later made it safely back to our hotel despite torrential rainfalls during the night.

9th DAY ON TOUR   -   SEPTEMBER 15th      (Departure day for most of us)

Coen had to leave in the very early hours of the morning because he had an early flight to catch.

I was also up relatively early, meeting up with Irena and Willy for breakfast.

Obviously and as always, departure day marks the inevitable end of any Flying Hoppers Tour. This particular tour to Penang will most certainly remain in my memory as one of the most pleasant ones. Many, many THANKS to STEFAN for yet again organising such a fantastic tour! 

Also, THANKS to WILLY for his great job as captain of the team, FINALLY leading us to GOLD!

And big THANKS to COEN, too, for being such a very efficient CFO on tour, incredibly resourceful in every way, including finding really cool eating and drinking places wherever the Flying Hoppers fly to!

Last, but certainly not least, I do hope to see as many of you as possible in Hong Kong in February 2019.

Your scribe