My trip to the north states, on Saturday Jan 28, started on a slow pace due to the long breaks in conjunction with the C hinese New Year, the Muslim New Year and the Federal Territory Day. Traffic was heavy on the North-South Highway. My wife and I left Kuala Lumpur at noon. The drive from the city to Jalan Duta toll plaza was surprisingly smooth. Less than five minutes after the toll plaza, traffic was heavy and it took nearly two hours to reach Sungai Buloh and I was about to give up and wanted to exit at Sungai Buloh to return to KL but was persuaded not to do so by the wife. It took another three hours to reach the Simpang Pulai (Ipoh south) toll plaza. Normally, I would be in Penang but not on this particular day. From Ipoh the drive to the Juru toll plaza in Province Wellesley, Penang was nearly two-and-a-half hours and we proceeded to the Bujang Valley in Merbok, Kedah and was at the Villa Alhabshee at about 8.30 pm.
On Sunday, we drove to Alor Star and had lunch at cousin Sharifah Hasnah's house. We were met by her husband Syed Ibrahim, son Sofian and daughter Alia. After lunch, Ibrahim and Alia accompanied us to visit the ailing Puan Sri Sharifah Maznah, 81, wife of retired Supreme Court judge, Tan Sri Syed Agil Barakhbah. The Tan Sri was happy to welcome us. I had a very educational conversation with him on several subjects including on the migration of Hadramis from Yemen to the Malay world. Later in the day, we drove to Bukit Kayu Hitam just to see whether it was affected by the security problems in south Thailand. I noticed that the border town was rather quiet - less crowded as it normally was on week-ends. On second day of Chinese New Year, we drove to Penang island and was glad to notice that traffic was not heavy on the Penang Bridge but it was bumper-to-bumper from the island to the mainland. We were at home in Penang for seven wonderful days enjoying the Bangkok Lane mee mamak, Kayu nasi kandar at Penang Road, celur-celur or satay rebus at Padang Brown, roti naan at Kasim Mustaffa, Pulau Tikus, pasembur at Gurney Drive....and home cooked meals. Penang is certainly the food paradise of Malaysia. I am looking forward for another drive to Penang later this month. My nephews Fazli and Muzri were also in Penang. They drove from KL on Monday. They were accompanied by Fazli's wife, Kharisa and their first born baby girl, Jannah. It must be a bit sad and lonely for grand-parents, Faiz and Maznah, when their only grand-child (so far) left for KL on Saturday but it give them the opportunity to travel to the city at least once a month to be with Jannah.