The International Steam Pages

Winds of Change, A Flat with a Sea View, 2010

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

The 'Winds of Change' series of pages from July and August 2010 records our travels from China to Malaysia and on to Java, Indonesia where we were hosting the 'Steamy Java Tour 2010'. For earlier and later pages use the Penang link above, but see also from this period:

Since I joined up with Yuehong in 2004, we have probably slept in more beds than the notorious bed-hopper, Queen Elisabeth 1. Most have been sundry hotels and guest houses in Asia while searching for steam on and off the rails, but we did also have a flat in Beijing and no less than three houses (now just one) in Jiaojiehe near the Great Wall.

In 2009, Yuehong and I visited Penang where I had (mis)spent 6 wonderful years in my youth in the 1970s. It took us a long time to get there together, not least because I am always reluctant to return to places I knew and loved many years ago. It also has absolutely no steam interest - and didn't long before I got there in 1972. I have described the 2009 visit in some detail in a separate blog. As I always expected, Yuehong loved the island, it is the perfect meeting point of east and west, one of the few places in the world where each of our native tongues can be heard spoken in everyday conversation by the inhabitants and seen on the signs. Yuehong very soon described it quite simply as the first place we have visited together where she would want to live... She left it 'wanting more'; by then old friend Sam Teng Wah had taken us to his own 'bachelor' flat in Seaview Garden between Tanjung Bunga and Batu Ferringhi and she offered to buy it off him on the spot on the grounds that he no longer needed it with a lovely new house in town! He declined and instead we spent six months buying another flat in the slightly newer part of the development, it wasn't always as straightforward as it might have been but at all times our formidable lawyer Moira Toh kept smiling and now it is 100% ours. It's outlined in red below and this is the rather 'mixed' view north-west from our bedroom with the next condominiums (condominia?) over the hill:

This is the view downwards from the balcony and here is one visitor, confused (like Yuehong herself on more than one occasion) by the clear glass which separates it from the flat.

Looking out to sea, the view is much more promising, 'Kedah Peak' comes and goes according to the visibility and the light changes through the day. There are sea eagles soaring above the sea with yellow orioles flitting between the trees, never mind the chattering mynahs and the swifts swooping across the pool.

Of course. there's a price to pay for the view. A car is an unaffordable (and unnecessary) luxury for us so we have a 10 minute walk up from the road down by the sea each time we go out. In the jungle behind we have already spotted black giant squirrels at dawn (sorry about the quality!) and a troop of dusky leaf monkeys are regular visitors. We are still waiting for the civets:

Inside, to be honest, is more than a bit 'tired' and will need a bit of work to bring it up to our standards, so detailed pictures may have to wait a while. Fortunately, we do have some suitable wall hangings which are on their way to Penang by sea from Tianjin as I write. They are seen in the middle below in their previous China home. In fact I bought this set from the Malayan Railway (KTM) in 1974 and I have had them for much longer than they were on the steam locomotive they came from! The other plates are now on their way back to the UK (from where I brought most in 2004) - they are originally from Indonesia from 16 main line steam locomotives - click here for some tales and pictures from 1976 when they were still nearly all at work. At the bottom are two Stork plates off stationary engines from Java's sugar mills.

As always, we seem to be 'lucky' with our timing. Just a few weeks ago, free WiFi was installed for residents and, as well as our trusty 101 bus to town every few minutes, we now also have a 102 bus to the airport every 45 minutes from right outside our turn off - walking up the hill through the trees to the flat from here is a great way of keeping fit. We were maybe less lucky with the fridge that came with the flat which died after three days, but never mind, our neighbour looked after the butter and cheese while we went out and got a new one delivered within three hours and here is Yuehong in her new Queendom proving that it can make ice cubes. Note the product placement:

We're possibly at a near optimum level (as seen in the picture above) as we get a nice breeze (but not a gale) and the residual jungle masks the hideous continuing over-development on either side of us. This is only too apparent from the top floor of our block - on the left below is looking towards Batu Ferringhi with the hillside beyond covered in extra large Chinese tombs masquerading as houses, on the right is looking towards Tanjung Bunga which boasted not a single building of more than two storeys when I was here in the 1970s. In theory, our cove and small valley are 'protected' from further development - but with Chinese hot money waiting to flood out of the country into places like Penang when the RMB/Yuan is allowed to find its true level, I wouldn't bet against it.

Now, we have the challenge of sorting out a new house and garden in the Forest of Dean in the UK and that is bound to restrict the amount of time we can spend in Penang in the next couple of years.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson