A visitor to Penang prays for world peace, and washes away memories of bland food with Pulau Tikus laksa, koay teow and what not. The culture of the place makes her wonder about what independence and individualism mean alongside dependence and duty. The traffic, on the other hand, makes her wonder why, in such a small place, Penangites need to drive everywhere.

Coming to Penang again this summer, I was a little unsettled because I had forgotten the name of the bus stop I was supposed to use to get to my friend’s house, but fortunately while at the airport in Taipei, where I’d been at a conference, I met a group of Malaysians who lived in Penang. When I asked where they were from in Penang, one of the members of the group said “Pulau Tikus”, and I knew I would find my friend’s house because I recognised the name of her town. It’s not a good idea to travel some place when you forget the name of your destination, but I always count on my karma to get me where I need to go.

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