Waking up and wishing your family ‘Merry Christmas!’ before going for a dip in the infinity pool feels a bit unnatural, especially when you’re used to waking up to freezing cold British weather on the 25th of December.
With the jet-lag having just about worn off from the eighteen hour flight to Malaysia a few days before, the thought of celebrating Christmas in 28°C heat felt a little out of place to begin with. Christmas Eve started with a trip to Gurney Mall where a big Christmas tree glistened in the centre, decorated in the traditional fashion with baubles, lights, colours and a big, sparkling star.
After we had finished shopping, we went out for dinner to begin the Christmas celebrations; far from being traditional, we headed to a Japanese buffet called Tau. It was beautifully decorated with authentic Japanese art and ornaments, a far cry from the usual Christmas chintz. Food was constantly being served, in a fashion more akin to the ongoing glut of goodies on offer in the run up to the big day. As well as the delicious food, we got the entertainment and enjoyment of watching the chefs cook in the open kitchen. Though filled with wonder, we felt something was missing.
After a session in the sun on Christmas morning, present exchanging began, followed by a Christmas feast. There was still the traditional turkey, served with roast potatoes, but the rest was whatever everyone fancied. This consisted of roast chicken, lamb shank, baked potatoes with cheese, spaghetti vongole, fried rice vermicelli Malaysian style and salad. Not a Yorkshire pudding or pig in a blanket to be seen. Desserts of cakes and ice-cream followed, and we then sat down to watch a movie. Christmas was over for another year.
Between Christmas and New Year, we experienced much of Malaysian culture, including the infamous smell of the durian fruit (which, apparently, tastes very nice). We had delicious street food in the evenings from a variety of stalls, serving a mix of sushi, dumplings, seafood, fried rice, chicken satay and stir fried noodles. We went to another of Penang’s huge malls, the Queensbay, and walked across the 8.4 mile Penang Bridge. On New Year’s Eve we had a family barbeque, followed by nyonya Kuih, a sweet and colourful desert. We then watched the neighbourhood fireworks go off, bringing in the New Year at 4pm UK time.