Admittedly, on the entertainment front, Alor Setar is so so stale. Mercifully, Penang is able to fill the vacuum, and it is little wonder that all of us have a soft spot for the pearly island and its capital George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage City. In George Town, the dilapidated second-hand bookshops on the first floor of Chowrasta Market is one of Papa’s regular haunts. After several visits, the book dealer knows exactly Papa’s reading genre, and he often sets aside hard-to-find travel and lifestyle magazines to enrich Papa’s eclectic magazine collection.
Mama, on the other hand, loves to frequent Kenko to partake in reflexology and fish spa therapy. While both of them indulge in their simple pleasures, my siblings and I take the opportunity to spoil ourselves by watching the latest 3D movies at the Golden Screen Cinema, Gurney Plaza. The pamperings are invariably packed with a walk about the food trail and the heritage trail to savour Penang's glorious street foods and ogle at the old buildings, unravaged by time and the Barbarians.
In the later part of 2009, Penang's magnetic pull is bolstered by another irresistable attraction. The Hard Rock Hotel in Batu Ferringhi (formerly Casuarina Beach Resort), the third in Asia after Bali and Pattaya, is a highly sought after place to escape to.
The hotel is adorned with mosaics, statues and memorabilia associated with the Fab Four. They are all over the place; on the wall, on the roof top, in the teens club and even inside the guestrooms.
The Penang Hard Rock Hotel seems to translate the 1Malaysia concept to a tee, as reflected in the staff mix and the muhibbah local guests. The foreign visitors are also diverse and serbanika.
At night, when the poolside and beachfront are deserted, guests decamp to the Ferringhi night market, a walking distance from the hotel, for a bout of shopping. Here one can find DVDs of all time movie classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany's sell for a mere RM4. Rockers who find the pasar malam ambience tiresome make a beeline and converge to the hotel’s lounge lobby to listen to a lissom and energetic warga emas belting out Mick Jagger’s I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, with lips pouting, head banging and all, accompanied by sing along choruses from the appreciative young-at-heart audience. While we still can’t get enough of HRH, for our next trip to the revitalised Penang, Papa is already persuading us to try a new "fun" venue, next to the Methodist Boys School. Haiyaa.