Penang’s frontline survivor

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Kim Gooi could be mistaken for a retiree with a penchant for the blues. However, underneath that jovial exterior resides a harder – and more fulfilling – reality.

One can glean that Kim Gooi has lived an amazing life just by looking at him: donning a slanting beret, his whole persona exudes the sense that he’s flirted with disaster for the best part of his life. He tells first-person accounts of SouthEast Asia’s most crucial historical events that I only had the luxury of reading about in books.

To spice things up, Kim is a bohemian old hand, someone who’s able to recount his oneyear stint in Keng Tung jail of 1970s Burma for illegal border trespassing with the same spontaneity he uses to recall the long-gone, smoky opium dens of Penang and their population of human cocoons.


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