The D&O Diary’s sojourn in Asia continued last week with a visit to Penang, an island along the northwestern coast of peninsular Malaysia. In addition to being an island, Penang (along with a bit of the adjacent mainland) is one of the states in the Malaysian federation. We visited George Town, the state’s colorful and multicultural capital, located on the island’s Northeast. For a few brief days, we enjoyed Penang’s rich, diverse, and interesting sights, sounds, and tastes.


The primary purpose of my visit was to meet with the attorney, JJ Chan, and his colleagues at the Chan Ban Eng & Co law firm in Penang. Over the past several years, JJ and I have had a lively exchange of notes and ideas, but we had never actually met. My recent visit to Southeast Asia afforded an opportunity for me to finally meet JJ, as well as for to have a chance to introduce myself to the other lawyers in his law firm. We also had the chance to plan some future activities, about which more will be told later. Stay tuned.


A meeting in JJ Chan’s office at the Chan Ban Eng law firm. From left to right in the picture: Jael Ho; Fazleeza Binti Azli; JJ Chan; me; and Phoebe Ng.


Some after dinner fun with JJ and his colleagues after a great meal at the restaurant at the Shangri-La Beach Resort on the Northern Coast of Penang.


A portrait of a meeting with JJ Chan.


Like many of you reading this, prior to my recent visit I knew little about Penang. Here is what you need to know: Penang is a fabulous place. Penang Island is about the geographic size of the city of San Francisco. Its population is about 1.7 million, with around 220,000 in George Town. George Town’s atmospheric central district in an interesting mix of restored colonial era homes, Chinese shopfronts, temples, and mosques. As a result of the many brilliant architectural restorations, portions of George Town’s central neighborhood have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Penang also has a rich and unusually interesting cultural heritage. And most importantly of all, it has fantastic food.


This is the view from the balcony of our hotel, looking east across the Penang Strait to the mainland. We stayed, as JJ’s guests, at the restored colonial era Eastern & Oriental Hotel, one of the world’s classic luxury hotels.


A scene from the George Town UNESCO World Heritage area.


George Town street scene.


Street art in George Town.


More George Town street scenes


More street art in George Town


Another street scene in George Town.


Of all the reasons to visit Penang, the best reason is the food. The food is AMAZING. This picture shows part of the wonderful meal we enjoyed at the wet market in Air Itam, a suburb of George Town. In the foreground of the picture is a bowl of the famous Penang Laksa, an extraordinary dish that would all by itself justify a visit to Penang. We had several terrific meals while we were in Penang. A waiter at one of the restaurants we visited said to us “In Penang, eat food.” Yes, indeed.


On the grounds of one of the temples on Penang Hill.


At the center of Penang Island is Penang Hill, a mostly tree-covered hillside that at its peak is about 2,800 feet. The day we visited was somewhat misty and overcast, but the hilltop still afforded great views of Penang Island, George Town, the Penang Strait, and the mainland.



The top of Penang Hill is reached by a funicular railway. The area near the railway station is developed and kind of touristy. However, away from the station is a preserved area of rain forest known at The Habitat. One of the area’s attractions is the Canopy Walkway, which floats above the rain forest canopy.


The walk through the rain forest was absolutely brilliant, with a rich diversity of trees, flowers, and even some of the forest residents.



A banana plant in bloom.


One of Penang Hill’s permanent residents.


Fire dancers on the beach on our final night in Penang


I would like to thank JJ and his colleagues for their warm and energetic welcome, their boundless hospitality, and their genuine friendship. My wife and I had a superb visit to Penang but most of all we enjoyed the chance to meet and get to know JJ and the other members of his firm. A special thanks to Gloria Fong, who works with JJ at his firm and who was our tireless guide and organizer while we were in Penang. I am looking forward to seeing my good friends in Penang again soon.



And Finally: 


“Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”