Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Proposal in Penang

With this blog, I've always had a tendency to avoid dwelling on personal life, instead focusing on the sights that Angela and I have seen, and the activities we partook in. So there's been a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on - life-changing stuff - that's never surfaced in written form. For example, back in Phnom Penh, Angela and I had some very serious conversations about our future together: what was our overall plan? What would happen once our travels were finished? Were we going to live in the US or the UK, or some place else? What sort of careers did we want to have for the rest of our lives? We were anxious to figure out what our goals were, and how to fulfil them, and consequently it was a very tense time in Phnom Penh, even if I never mentioned it in the blog.

That's just one example of the many "drama of life" moments that we've been dealing with while travelling. Elsewhere, there've been disagreements, debates, fears, worries, and arguments (mostly minor ones, fortunately). We have a lot of shit to deal with besides this journey, but this blog has always been exclusively about the travel experiences.

With that said, there are times when the journey itself becomes a stage for important milestones in our relationship. Angela and I recently made a big life decision: we're going to get married. We both make each other immensely happy, are comfortable being ourselves with each other in a way that we've never felt with anyone else, and when we imagine ourselves growing old, we grow old together, just the two of us.

Since we came to the decision mutually, it didn't seem necessary for me to propose. We knew it was what we both wanted, so posing the question on one knee seemed somehow redundant. On the other hand, despite not being a very traditional person, I couldn't help but wonder if the marriage would lose something if I hadn't done the sacred deed. What if our future selves looked back and regretted the omission of this amorous gesture? Plus, a little romance never hurts.

So, with only a handful of places left to visit before our big wedding day, I decided I would propose on the Malaysian island of Penang. Originally I'd considered doing it from the summit of an Indonesian volcano at sunrise, but I was worried about the weather conditions: often it's cold and drizzly at such altitudes. The island of Penang, on the other hand, seemed suitably balmy and tropical.

So, we made it to Penang's capital, Georgetown, did some typical touristy things, and then, under the pretence of heading out for some food, I bought Angela a ring while she was napping at our hostel. That was the easy part. Picking a good location was a little trickier...

Our route by bus from the Cameron Highlands to Georgetown, Penang.
Crossing the road from mainland Malaysia to the island of Penang.
On our first day we had a brief look around the old, historic heart of Georgetown, but mostly rested since we were tired from our journey.
Exploring by night.

The next day we went to Little India to seek out some apparently delicious samosas that some friends in the Cameron Highlands recommended to us.

There was a lot of really tasty street food along this Ramadan market.
Samosa time! We ate quite a few of these over the course of our stay.

Many of the streets of Little India are filled with colourful stores selling saris and Bollywood DVDs, with loud Hindi pop songs blaring down the street.

One popular attraction in the area is Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a stately home about a century old. It was once owned by the Baba-Nonya, who were an acculturated community of Chinese who adopted customs of the local Malays and colonial British, creating a unique style of their own.

More explorations of Georgetown.

The charming Armenian Street.
Georgetown is known for its street graffiti, and we saw plenty during our explorations.

One of the many mosques in the city.
Having some delicious Kashmiri curry for dinner.
Sunset was approaching, so I decided it was time to find a place to propose. Originally I wanted to do the deed at the beautiful temple of Kek Lok Si at sunset. But then I found out it closes to tourists at 6pm, too early for the sunset. So instead...
...I took her to Komtar, the tallest building on Penang. I was going to take her to the top and propose as the sun set over Georgetown, but then the security guard told us it was closed for refurbishments. The sun was already on the verge of setting at this point, and I was determined to propose that day, so I hailed a taxi and told the driver to take us to Batu Ferringhi, the premier beach destination of Penang.
Fortunately we arrived before nightfall, and the orangey-turquoise colours in the sky were perfect.

I took Angela down to a quiet spot in the middle of the beach, knelt down, and proposed. For some time I'd been planning what I would say, but when it came down to it, all plans went out the window and instead I just spoke from my heart. Angela became teary-eyed and said yes, and for the remainder of the evening we were the giddiest and happiest we've ever been together.
Celebrating with some cocktails on the beach.

It took a long time for the euphoria to die down. For the longest time we couldn't stop grinning, couldn't stop calling each other "fiancé/fiancée," and couldn't stop admiring Angela's new ring on her finger. Neither of us, when we first came to Korea in 2012, ever foresaw that we would be engaged to the love of our lives in less than two years. We were both so happy with how the proposal went as well, despite me frantically searching for the right location at the last minute! It was a beautiful moment, and we are so happy to be committed to one another fully, forever.

This wasn't the end of our time in Penang. Our friends, Matt and Kimmi, would arrive the next day, and we would spend several days exploring the island with them.


  1. I don't know either of you personally, but I found your blog before I came over to Korea (about 7 or 8 months ago, now). I've followed along (quite jealously) as you've traveled the world together and marveled at how happy you both seem to be. I just want to offer my congratulations from my quiet corner of the internet to yours. All the best on this next journey you two take together.


    1. Rachel, that's one of the sweetest comments we've received regarding our engagement. Thanks so much! Hope you're enjoying Korea, and cheers for following the blog. :)

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  3. Wow, congratulations! :D So happy for you two!! With this beautiful Story you give hope to all the couples who met abroad and face the same difficulties as you did/do.

    1. Thanks so much, Calucalu! I really appreciate your kind words, and hope life is going well for you in Korea. :)