Well the gates of hell are about to break open and hordes of demons will need to be appeased with song dance and food for the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. Yes it is the Hungry Ghost Festival, widely observed (celebrated) here in Penang, Malaysia. This year (2014) the festival starts on the 27th of July and will run for a whole lunar month, til the next full moon on the 24th of August.
This year the start of the festival will coincide with the end of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. The big holiday, Hari Raya, marking the end of fasting, is going to be the second day of the Hungry Ghost festival. It should be interesting to see how the two cultures work together, or work around each other during these days.
Traditional observance of the Hungry Ghost Festival
The story is that the gates of hell open up for the souls of Chinese ancestors to come to earth to wander, to bother, and to eat. The living honor the dead, and appease them, by burning joss-paper, and paper maché material goods, like houses and clothes.
Chinese opera stages are set up and loud performances run through the night for the hungry ghosts. For many a foreigner trying to sleep near these monstrosities, this highlights the hell-on-earth aspect of the festival.
Special Hungry Ghost Festival foods
The Hungry Ghost Festival is an opportunity to find some Chinese delicacies that only become available during this month. Look around for a colorful sweet dessert called si koh th’ng. You can find grilled cuttle fish and Jellyfish satay.
Where to go in Penang
The Tourism Board has a facebook event page. Follow the Living in Penang facebook page for event announcements as well.
Culture, Event Tags:
In 2008, UNESCO declared the city of George Town, Penang to be a World Heritage Site giving it status as an important cultural nexus. Every year, 7 July is a Public Holiday in Penang State to celebrate the anniversary of the declaraion. There is an organization called the George Town World Heritage Inc that organizes events throughout the year promoting and preserving the culture and the history of George Town. The pinnacle of the year is the Heritage Day celebrations which will be on the 6th and 7th of July.
Activities, Culture, Event Tags:
When foreigners think of Penang, I think the first word that comes to mind is food. It seems like when we get together we’re talking about what we’ve recently eaten and where. I share a lot about food on this blog. However, some of the reviews for restaurants on Living In Penang are getting out of date. Bella Marino has moved from Straits Quay to Pulau Tikus. And Viva Italia continues to attract bad reviews on our site. As new information comes in I try to keep all the info up to date. I really appreciate the community that keeps the information flowing so that we can all keep abreast of the changes to the restaurants in Penang.
Food and Drink Tags:
One of my goals for this website is to provide a resource for those who are looking at Penang as a possible place to live. To that end, here is a list of the international schools that are here on the island. I have no association with any of these schools. If any representatives from these institutions want, please contact me and I can give your school some more space here on this website. Same goes for any institution inadvertently left off the list.
Find a list of International schools in Penang on LivinginPenang.com as well.
After a few false starts the MPPP (Municipal Council of Penang ) is finally in operation. As Penang Momma put it, I hope you enjoyed your one month of free parking in Georgetown because the officials are out there looking for parking violations now. Tweets were going the first day of operation warning people to get the coupons on their dashboards.
Here’s a quick How To guide for using the system.
Buying the cards
I stopped in the Caltex in Tanjung Bungah and they said “Yes we have them, but the guy who sells them is not here.” I was told that most 7-eleven outlets would have the cards. That was bad information, as I popped into two different 7-elevens and they did not. Fortunately, the Happy Mart next door did have them.
The first time I bought them they came in packs of green and orange tickets for RM 6. The Green coupons are worth RM.40 and are good for 30 minutes of parking. The Orange coupons are worth RM 0.80 and are good for an hour.
The second time I bought these tickets it cost me RM 4 and it had 10 green tickets. I think that’s actually better for most people.
Scratch the date and time
Using a coin or a key, or if situations warrant it, your fingernail, scratch off the year, month, day, hour and minute. The card says that if you make a mistake during this time you forfeit that particular card. I have made a mistake with my card once. I scratched the wrong hour. I risked it and scratched off another hour mark. Now I didn’t get a parking citation, but perhaps I should have been wiser and thrown away that particular card.
If you are using multiple cards, scratch off times that are appropriate. So, if you are parking at noon, and you’ll stay for 2 hours, scratch off 1pm on the second card.
Placement of MPPP Parking Coupon
Once you’ve scratched off the right times and dates on your parking coupon, put them on your dashboard in front of your steering wheel, where the parking attendant can come by and inspect it. If you have more than one parking coupon make sure they are all visible from outside. Then lock your car.
When the time is up on those coupons, they are done; invalid. You can’t reuse them. You’ll just have to throw them away.
If you forget and get a citation
The fines are paid at KOMTAR in Georgetown. The cost of a single parking citation is RM 30, but someone told me that you can get it down to RM 15 if you show up in the first seven days of the ticket.
Since the cost is both time and money, it seems like it would be better to just use the RM 0.80 parking coupons rather than have to go downtown to settle a violation.
Anyone had to go pay? How was your experience?
To add a twist to our series on Penang, the number one place on earth for food (my opinion), I thought I’d take as step away from street food and write up some higher class dining establishments.
Our good friend Dave Ray, photographer and expat living in Penang shared with me his top three restaurants for when he wants to take his wife Julie out for a fancy date night. These are the opinions of one guy. If you have a restaurant you’d like to invite Dave, myself and our wives, we’d be more than willing to give you a fair shake.
Living in Penang, you come to realize every day is a holiday. Not in the sense that you can kick back and relax, in fact everyone I meet is on the move, working hard. No I mean every day is some kind of celebration or observance for someone living here. Right on the heels of Chinese New Year, which ends today with Chap Goh Meh, comes this weekend’s Floating Chariot Procession which will take place in Teluk Bahang.
Click to see a beautiful photoset of this event
Culture, Holidays Tags:
Today I want to write about a dish that I haven’t found on any list of foods to try in Penang. It’s a shame because it’s truly a Penang specialty and even though the name sounds Thai, I’m told that you can’t get it in Thailand. That dish is Tom Yam Fried Rice.
Chap Goh Meh (sometimes spelled Chap Goh Mei) marks the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration. It’s been two weeks of fun food and firecrackers, with Hokkien New Year being the halftime show. Now it’s time for the unmarried ladies to go down to the Esplanade and throw oranges in the water. Wait… uh why?
Culture, Hokkien, Holidays Tags:
The story is that long ago, during the Ming Dynasty, the ancestors of the Hokkien were hiding from bandits in the sugarcane fields during Chinese New Year. They prayed to the Jade Emperor, a diety also known as the King of Heaven. For eight days the intruders searched for them and could not find them, eventually giving up. On the ninth day, the Hokkien came out of hiding and celebrated, praising the Jade Emperor for protecting them. They celebrated the Chinese New Year 8 days late.
Here in Penang, the Chinese New Year celebration isn’t one day. It lasts 15 days. And the peak of it is today, the ninth day, Hokkien New Year. The fireworks displays for this particular night outshadow (and out deafen) the ones from 8 nights ago.
Outside many of the temples, and some Buddhist homes are these massive incense sticks that burn for hours. These are in honor of the Jade Emperor who protected them in the past. Some also call this day the birthday of the Jade Emperor.
At the markets you can find some specialty foods and knick knacks like thni kuih (sweet cakes), ang koo (red tortoise buns), mee koo (red-coloured buns), huat kuih (prosperity cakes) and bright pink miniature pagodas.
Sugarcane is everywhere for sale. I’m told that in the past Perak Road was lined with sugarcane stalks.
Hokkien, Holidays Tags: