THE FIRST TIME Penang appeared on my radar wasn't while I was watching a “Malaysia Truly Asia” commercial or a show on the Travel Channel. It wasn't while I was reading a glossy brochure or a guidebook, or surfing the Web. It was in the city of Chengdu, China.
In 1999, I had ditched my plum job in the United States as an editor of travel guides and gone backpacking in Asia. My plan was to explore some of the major cities on the continent. I had checked into the no-frills Traffic Hotel in Chengdu, and there I met my first Penangite, Ong Guat Choo.
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