My Penang: Joe Sidek

Slight in stature but big on presence is probably the best way to describe Joe Sidek. Right now, he’s been racing around Penang at 1,000km per hour just to keep up to the demands of being a festival director of Penang’s largest arts festival. In fact, it’s very possibly Malaysia’s most successful, largest and popular arts festival. George Town Festival 2015 kicked off on 1 Aug and ran till 31 Aug. Packed with international renowned performances and exhibitions, GTF2015 also served as a platform for local acts to show off their ever-evolving development. However, today, Joe’s taking a minute off from discussing his brainchild and will natter on about his beloved island instead.

Here’s what Joe has to say:
When you think of Penang, you think… 
My home.

If there is one thing you can change about Penang, what would it be? 
Control of commercial tourism, George Town is rather delicate and we should look into the type of tourists we want to attract.

Which Penang street food is nostalgic for you? 
Mee agong. This is basically a very moist stir-fried egg noodles or mee goreng with a definable Indian Muslim influence.

Why is this Penang street food nostalgic for you? 
Because it holds fond childhood memories of eating this dish from the original stall at Metropole Hotel when I was eight years old.

What would be the one myth about Penang you’d want dispel? 
That it is a creative hub. We (Penang) still have a long way to go.

Why would you want to dispel this myth?
There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done before Penang can be recognised as a creative hub.

What do you think is Penang’s best quality? 
Its people. Its food. Its architecture.

If a visitor only had time to see three things in Penang, what would you advise them to see? 
Go visit Cheong Fatt Tze mansion in George Town. Go eat steaming steamboat at Bellevue on Penang Hill during dusk. Go discover ChinaHouse on Lebuh Pantai.

If Penang was a famous person, who would it be?
The late Tan Sri P. Ramlee. Because it will be everything the man was – witty, liberal, a good person, clever, creative – and more.
(P.Ramlee was born in Penang and a Malaysian actor, film director, scriptwriter, lyricist, musician in 1950s and peerless till today.)

What is your advice to a first-time visitor to Penang? 
Stay on!

George Town Festival is an annual arts event that goes on for a month long in various locations in George Town. The events, exhibitions and performances are mostly free with only a handful that are ticketed. This year (2015), GTF was held between 1 Aug and 31 Aug, and for the first time, this arts festival was brought over to Butterworth with an exciting line up.