Month: October 2012

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – blue pea flower

One of the few successes I have had is growing the blue pea flower.  This is because, different from most things I have tried to grow, I got the seeds from a neighbour’s plant, so I was growing in the same environment.

blue flower

The flowers can be used to make detox tea:

flowers, picked

flowers, picked and dried

blue pea flower tea

When you squeeze some lemon juice into the tea it becomes purple, as shown below:

blue pea flower tea on left; blue pea flower with lemon on right

Or it can be used to make blue rice, which is rather attractive:

Or, it can be used to improve the soil, as it is a legume and fixes nitrogen in the soil.  I use it as a companion plant with my passion fruit vines.

How to grow:

find the plant

pick the mature pod

get the seeds from the pod

Plant seeds in potting mix and transplant into a larger pot or the ground when the seedlings are an inch or two high.

Home made pizza is much nicer than shop bought – pizza for dummies

I love my home made pizza.  If delivery pizza takes half an hour, mine takes double the time to make, but it’s hotter, healthier and more delicious. (And I don’t use silicone as cheese.)


  • Lebanese bread or something else thin as the base
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Tomato puree
  • Olives
  • Basil
  • Grated mozzarella

And as toppings:

  • Tuna
  • Egg
  • Mushrooms
  • Capsicum
  • Whatever else you like


  • Garlic crusher
  • Brush for spreading olive oil
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Oven or toaster oven
  • Pizza cutter (optional)

ingredients – that’s tomato puree in the Cranberry container

1. Spread olive oil on the pizza base

2. Spread tomato puree on top

3a. Add other toppings – in this case olives, mushrooms, prawns, capsicum

3b. Add other toppings – in this case olives mushroom, capsicum and egg

3c. Add other toppings – in this case olives, egg, tuna, capsicum

4. Spread some mozzarella cheese on top and put into oven

5. When the cheese melts to your liking, it is ready

6. Yum – ready – cut and serve


A Day at the Hospital – in Penang

“A Day at the Races”, “A Night at the Opera”, sprang to mind – but this was less fun than a Marx Brothers’ film.

Malaysia is noted for its good health care at reasonable prices.  Today I found myself in need of them due to a lung infection which makes me cough, and lower back pain which is exacerbated by the cough.

At 7.30AM I called our health insurance agent for advice, and she made afternoon appointments in the hospital with two doctors, one whose specialty covered each problem.  Then she picked me up and took me to the hospital in time for the first appointment.

Initially I had to register on the ground floor, but they still had my details from five years ago when we visited the hospital for the compulsory government checkup for the MM2H visa, so all I needed to do was give my current address. We were given a queue number for each doctor.

Then we went to the first doctor’s rooms and waited outside until it was my turn.  The doctor recommended an X-Ray, and I talked to him about radiation, which he said now is very low.  So a nurse accompanied me with my files down to the X-Ray department, where soon I was X-rayed.  I could talk to the doctor about the results  in about an hour.

The doctor discussed the results, and told me what medicines he would prescribe.

The it was time to wait for the next doctor.  He also wanted an X-Ray, but from a different angle.  Back to the X-Ray department, and after a few minutes I had another X-Ray. After it was taken I headed back to the doctor, and he discussed the results and told me what medicine I would be prescribed.

Finally I went to the accounts department to pay the bill, and then receive my medications.  All up, RM535. Our agent was with me for much of the day, and helped by finding out information for me. She drove me home after.

so many medicines!!!

Here is the itemised bill:

Doctor 1:
Medicines                        111.60
Miscellaneous                     8
X-Ray                                   42
Consultation fee              80

Doctor 2:
Medicines                       101.80
Miscellaneous                    8
X-Ray x 2                          84
Consultation fee          100

I have managed largely to avoid hospitals until now, so it’s hard for me to compare. However, my comments: The doctors were professional and friendly, as were the nurses, and waiting times were not too long.  My only complaint was that the chairs in the cafe were not comfortable to sit in with my back condition.

By the way, had I gone to a local doctor’s clinic, the consultation would have cost about RM35, but of course he doesn’t have X-Ray equipment, so to get X-Rays, their results, and then to see the doctor again to discuss the results would have taken a day or two I suppose.  I was in a lot of pain, so I wanted to start recovery as soon as possible, and thus the hospital was the best choice.

Penang Hill

an old carriage displayed near the top station

I don’t mind crowds. But I don’t like waiting a long time because something is crowded.  As we heard that you can wait a long time to catch the cable car up Penang Hill, we chose the worst possible conditions – around opening time (6:30AM) during a torrential downpour. Surely it wasn’t going to be crowded then. It wasn’t.  And it was easy to park the car, too.

And why, after all these years, haven’t I been there before? Well, the ticket prices are far higher at RM30 than for Malaysians, who pay RM5, even for those of us who are residents.  I do not wish to support such discrimination. RM30 is almost our water bill for one year. I only went because a friend of mine was visiting and really wanted to go.

Read here for information from the government site.

You can see from this map where the top station of Penang Hill is, marked by “A”.

And from this map you can see how to get there by car. It is as the end of Jalan Bukit Bendera, and you can park if you turn right into Jalan Pokok Ceri, immediately before the end of Jalan Bukit Bendera.  On the left after a few hundred metres you will find a car park.

From the opposite end to the car entrance to the car park is a path leading down to the lower station.

path to station from car park

For access by bus, catch Rapid Penang No. 204 from Weld Quay to Penang Hill Railway Station. There is more information on the route here.

Entrance with the bus turning circle in front

the car at the bottom station

driver controls

heading up

Once you are up the top you can wander around. But note that the restaurants etc. don’t open until 11AM. For more information on eating

at the top station, ready to head down

My plan, were I to go again,would be to go up early, take coffee and food to consume before the coffee shops etc. open, and wander around everywhere until lunch time.  Have lunch, and then come down. Actually, I am going to try to walk up next time – which is quite a challenge.

Oktoberfest at Gurney Plaza; Oktoberfest ist hier!!

Poor old Tropical Expat had an accident yesterday which did in his back – and it was bad luck rather than silliness – but the upshot was being unable to participate in Oktoberfest this weekend. A big disappointment after the anticipation!! A little exercise is good for recovery, though, so a short stroll up to Gurney to see how it is kicking off was the best I could do.

First thing you see from the front is a long, narrow tent stretching down towards the back of the Al Fresco area.

So, yes, I’m in the right place.


one one enters…

beer service

lots of these girls wandering around

the band

We knew in advance they would be a local band.  But, at least when they started up, they weren’t providing a German Oktoberfest atmosphere at all.  Their first numbers included, Celebration, Brown-Eyed Girl and Jailhouse Rock. Perhaps that’s what the customers want, but…

A few more shots of the venue.

Sometimes I thought there were more hospitality girls than customers – bevies of these girls were roaming around.

voucher showing menu

the food looked more appetizing on the menu

food serving

Granted that I have to evaluate without participating, but it seems like a reasonable effort.  It was early in the evening, and not so many customers as yet, but the other venues in Gurney and Paragon were virtually empty, so they were doing OK.  The food may have been OK, but the presentation in aluminium foil is rather lacking.  and I would have hoped the band were able to play some appropriate German music for the occasion.  But there are plenty of hospitality girls for any photos you may want to take.

It still has at least a couple more hours to run this evening, as I publish this, and then again tomorrow from 12 noon. I wish everyone great fun!


Fruit Peel Enzyme – turning rubbish into a money and environment saving resource

A few weeks ago at an Eco exhibition at PISA (Penang International Sports Arena) in Penang, we splashed out RM3 (USD$1; AUD$1; GBP£0.60) for a 500ml bottle of fruit peel enzyme.

This is basically fermented fruit and vegetable peels. And why would you want this? Well, it can be used to save a lot of money on detergents, can keep your home drains clear, and can fertilize your garden and kill pests. And it actually is good for the environment, as opposed to detergents, pesticides etc. which are obviously bad for the environment.

We bought from a stall run by  I think it was a Chinese Girls School. ( Kelab Pencinta Alam SJK (C) Perempuan China.) Their blog about their product. * They had produced it and were explaining all about it and selling it.

This is also know by the less elegant name of the Garbage Enzyme.  A search on the Internet will give a lot of hits on this, so I don’t need to write so much more, as they have already written it. One example:

From the above site: Garbage Enzyme can be used as an alternative to bleach and other cleaning compounds. It can effectively used as:
– as a household cleaning liquid
– to remove foul odors, molds and grime in the kitchen and toilet
– as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent
– to drive away insects
– to clean carpets and remove ticks
– for laundry washing and ironing
– for mopping floors
– for cleaning cars