Emily of Emerald Hill – A one-woman drama in 2 acts


“Emily of Emerald Hill”

Wawasan Open University

Saturday 28 March , 8.15pm

Sunday 29 March, 3.00pm


Ombak-Ombak Arts Studio presents Emily of Emerald Hill at Wawasan Open University on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 March 2009 to raise funds for Ombak’s community projects. Tickets at RM30 and RM50 are available Penang Heritage Trust (04-2642631) and East-West Learning Centre in Farlim (04-8351600) and Tropical Spice Garden (04-.8811797) Student tickets at RM15 are also available for a special 3pm matinee on Sunday 29 March. For more information contact  Ho Sheau Fung (012-5145933).



Watch out! Nyonya Emily’s back in town!


Watch out! Everybody’s favourite Nyonya is back in Penang! Yes, your most manipulative and domineering female relative comes a-visiting again, wheeling and dealing in the only way she knows how. 


Fans of Stella Kon’s acclaimed one-woman Peranakan play, Emily of Emerald Hill, are looking forward to welcoming indomitable Nyonya matriarch Emily Gan back to the Penang theatre circuit this weekend after an absence of two years.  Fleshing out the demanding role will be actress Pearlly Chua, triumphant from her 130th performance in February as Emily. The coming Penang performance will be her 135th!


You may have seen the play before but really, who can resist Emily’s wiles as she sets out to address weighty issues like wayward husbands, long-suffering eldest sons and bullying in-laws?  Who can forget those delicious battles among the women of the Gan clan for one-upwomanship at that grand old mansion called Emerald Hill?  It is futile to argue with the lady.  You know it is once again time to set aside your weekend to be with your favourite Nyonya as she rules the Penang stage once again.


Her draw is simply too strong.  You look forward to rubbing shoulders with the Grande Dame of Emerald Hill and laughing at her as well as with her as she goes about establishing order in everyone’s lives, sometimes with hilarious consequences.  You know there will be moments when you will just cringe and grit your teeth at her little schemes to retain supreme control of the household, but you also know the poignant tender moments will come as the girl-child Emily surfaces to articulate the horror of realizing how worthless one can be made to feel simply because one is female.


Emily of Emerald Hill has become Malaysia’s longest running local play, exploring in-depth the hopes, fears and aspirations harboured by women the world over as they try to fulfill their roles as wives and mothers within the context of their respective social milieus. Throughout the play, you witness her triumphs and failures. You see the bitter irony of how her overpowering love can lead to tragic events within her household. Emily is indeed a “bitter-sweet eulogy to a disappearing culture of the Straits Chinese”, as the late theatre critic Krishen Jit once put it.


And so you know that come the weekend, you will be there at the performance once again, dragging fresh initiates to the Emily circle there screaming (they will thank you after the show – you know that from past experience!), as the one and only Emily Gan invites you to step back in time to a golden era of fabulous soirees at Emerald Hill, attended to by her squadrons of servants.


Welcome back to Penang, Nyonya Besar!

Rhapsody ala Fuscia – A wedding@ Tropical Spice Garden 27/02/09

It’s always a tremendous day when couples get married. The excitement and anticipation is as much felt by all those assisting to prepare for it as the bride and groom. And believe you me, there are a lot of people involved in planning and executing a wedding! And did I mention it’s a case of borderline neurosis in the last few hours of ensuring the wedding proceeds smoothly before the guests sail in – especially so for an outdoor wedding.


However, we love the challenge and that’s what we do best.


Water Garden Champagne Reception - Evening Calm


27 February was one such special day yesterday for our guests Guillaume and Evelyn who flew in for Rome to romance in the Pearl of the Orient.


The Beautiful Bride


Having scaled through Penang and all it had to offer, they finally set their hearts on the sanctuary of the Bamboo Garden to speak those precious vows by witness of God, family and all the beasts of the forest. One could almost see the whole jungle burst in to a colourful rhapsody of joy when the groom was asked to lift the veil and kiss the bride!


At 2pm when it started to shower, there were many mixed emotions from the garden staff, the florists and the wedding planners all scurrying around with scissors, ribbons, clipboards and flower stalks. We all had to dive in and dig out our Plan B blueprints to prepare for the onslaught of heavy rains.


Heavenly Bamboo Garden


The heavens were definitely on our side though and the rain passed and cleared for blue skies and a cool evening breeze and the ceremony proceeded like clock work.


Wedding Ceremony


The couple even brought the Marriage Registrar and they were able to seal the wedding legally also. After stepping down over the large boulders as Man & Wife they continued to lead their guests through the garden pathway where they were all greeted with ice chilled champagne at the Water Garden. The champagne flowed and so did the well wishes and plenty of love and joy all round.


More surprises were waiting for them at the Lone Pine for dinner and we waved the bus off at 6.30pm.


From all of us at Tropical Spice Garden, we wish Gium & Evelyn every happiness and success for the future.


Man & Wife!

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EARTH HOUR – “Off the Light”- 28 March 2009

Earth Hour – Saturday 28 March 2009, 8:30PM

The hour the world unites in a stand against global warming

And so does Tropical Spice Garden (TSG). As a part of Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP),  TSG is part of the organizing comittee for Earth Hour 2009 a projected adopted by WWF, Malaysia for the first time – and it’s arrived in Penang first! Read on, and as they say in Malaysia “Please Off the Light!”

p/s stay tuned for my little campaign I am running with Rapid Penang for a NO CAR DAY coming soon


At 8.30pm on 28 March 2009, cities and towns across the world will turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – sending a powerful global message that it’s possible to take action on global warming.


In what we hope will be the world’s largest mass participation event, Earth Hour 2009 will be the culmination of one billion people around the globe, in more than 1000 cities from business, government and the community turning off lights, and sending a message to world leaders in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009 that we need a commitment to actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the short and long term benefit of the planet.


Taking the first step is as easy as turning off a light.


Earth Hour began in one city, in one country in 2007, when more than 2.2 million households and businesses in Sydney turned off their lights for one hour on Saturday 31 March 2007.


Just one year later, Earth Hour reached 370 cities and towns in more than 35 countries across 18 timezones, and the campaign shifted from a Sydney event to a global sustainability movement. An estimated 50 to 100 million people around the world switched off their lights for Earth Hour in 2008, and global landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Coliseum, the Coke billboard in Times Square and Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai darkened for one hour.


Already, through the extensive WWF International network, Earth Hour 2009 will be delivered in over 60 countries, the number growing each day.


Earth Hour is a message of hope and action. Imagine what we can do if we act together.


Join us for Earth Hour 2009.



For more information, visit www.earthhour.org


It’s not all gloom and doom

I am new at this phenomenon of blogging – forgive my naiveté and my rather clichéd title. But an attitude of gloom begets a reality of doom. And well, I want to correct that, in any small way I can offer.

2008 was actually a good year for the gardens and we managed to accomplish a few notable milestones – small but significant steps.

We’re 5!

November 2003 we opened our gates to Penang Island and beyond. We’re 5 years old now and we know all too well that the next stage means maturity and even more excellence in whatever we do. How can we let our fans down? We must soldier on and take the proverbial OX by it’s horns!

Stephanie & Wee Jin marry at Tropical Spice Garden

Kat pretending to get married...again!


Healthy Meals

We introduced sea salts in to our Café operations. [Whoppee! You might be thinking] but when you compare the price of cheap sodium chloride (table salt) [can be attained for less than RM1] to the more robustly priced organic sea salt – the move was huge. But in the larger scheme of things- a small sacrifice for good health and good practice for both customer and staff alike. I figured a couple less days on Medical Leave from the staff would be a welcome move not to mention lowering my guilt index in terms of polluting staff meals!

This will in fact augur the move to eco-friendly detergents at the Café in 2009 so that we do away with nasty, soap-spewing washing up liquids being flushed back into our precious eco-system. Again a small chip away at the worlds excesses of pollutants but a small chip nonetheless. In 2009, we will begin to introduce brown rice to all staff meals – we’re serious about keeping healthy.

Who knows, by 2010, solar panels, electric cars and “HIRING VEGANS ONLY” may be our new eco-marketing position!


Retail Range

We were able to able to introduce to our retail range some pretty exciting stuff to stretch our guests pockets ever so slightly further. Most notably, we launched the evergreen, ever loved Citronella range for all those fans out there. I learned one lesson – people are such practical consumers – massage oils – only for the discerning purchaser. Citronella body spray – give me 10!

 We also finally introduced, after much delay, the historical spice map — information that was very much sought after by our guests who fully grasped the significance of history of the spice trade that has shaped global history.


Cakes & Calories

Vijaya, our bubbly Café cook, was ever so pleased that she was able to pick up some new skills in cake making last year. She learnt a variety of cheese cakes, marble cakes and cookies which she has been putting to good use. So do catch up with her and her cakes especially during our peak seasons. We’re trying to get her to speak more English, which she is very shy to use and rather limited, but she loves to chat and would love to meet you too.


Fine Young Guides

Thanks to Joseph Teoh (our in-house guide) we successfully trained 2 enthusiastic students from Methodist Girls School to undertake guided tours at a slightly cheaper rate for those who dare!  We launched afternoon weekend tours with their help which has been implemented for 2009 and we look forward to eventually offering tours around the clock, 365. Well done to Chloe and Rebecca for some great work done during the last school holidays.


Famous Friends

Chef Wan and Kat

We had the pleasure of company with Chef Wan who visited with his film crew on the ‘Jom Makan Makan’ TV9 series. He left his indelible mark with a great little quip in our guest book which reads “Fabulous, what would the world be without the wonderful spices that colors our life?” – 18 July 2008

Our staff also managed to catch glimpses of Alex Yoong (Malaysia’s Formula 1 driver) & wife but were to shy to ask for his autograph!

On a more official note we welcomed Li Changjiang (Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine Minister from China), Y.B. Dato’ Sri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib (Deputy Tourism Minister Malaysia) and Dato’ Kee Phaik Cheen (Chairman, Penang Tourism Action Council) through our sanctuary who were all on official visits to Penang.

It was made known to us that Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain was in town in early 2008 on a private tour but unfortunately I misplaced his phone number and missed having a cup of spiced tea with him. Next time eh?


So they say the Year of the Ox will bring change and progress (did you know Barack Obama is born in Year of the Ox?) I’m not sure that this mythical animal will bring anything at all and I am certainly not banking on it but what I do count on is my wonderful team and our endurance in facing any challenge with our heads held high. And I like that Chinese expression that speaks of opportunity that emerges from crisis. God bless the gardens…

Join the Garden Team!

Yes we are hiring – Gift Shop Coordinator

It’s a great job for someone on one condition – YOU MUST ADORE THE GARDENS!

Of course there are other qualities that we are looking for too. So give us a call and find our more. Training provided.

Call Kat at the office for further enquiries 04-8811797. Starting 1st January 2009.

We’ll sure miss Divya…

Bye Bye Divya

Our pioneer staff, fondly known as Divya, is moving on. And sad though we are, the ship must continue to steam forward. But first a little spiel about this special lady that has comandeered the Gift Shop from the very inception of the gardens. She was hired about 2 weeks after me and I remember her walking in through the entrance on the first day. Divya was posted at the Ticket Office for around 3 – 4 months before the Gift Shop finally opened for operations. And there was no looking back since becuase we soon realized what selling prowess she possessed – a natural flair for sales and people.

Divya’s meticulous and committed approach to her work has made her somewhat of a model staff at the gardens and we will miss her perfect book keeping, her tireless packing of stock and her general ‘mother hen-ness’ attitude over her baby – the Gift Shop. For under her grand stewardship she has brought the Gift Shop well along and developed it into the delight it is today.

Divya has grown the shop from it’s beginning when we were still packing spices in pirate CD plastic bags and tags rolled through out office printer. In the early days, she only had one stock book to contend with and even that was half empty. Today we need start considering computerizing stock!

In her time her she has seen many come and go, she has witnessed and helped in numerous events, dinner functions, weddings – she’s come early, she’s left late – yes, together we really have seen it all from the inception of this sanctuary.

She will be greatly missed but she knows she is always welcome through our doors – to share a meal with us and a laugh amidst the blue and cheery skies at the Cafe. Here’s looking at you Divya….Thank you!