Federal workers rack up nearly $8 million in travel costs


The GSA made headlines after a report revealed it spent $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference.

(CNN) — The General Services Administration — already under scrutiny for excessive spending — spent $7.7 million over the past four years to transport hundreds of employees who work full-time from their homes to various government conferences and meetings across the country, according to records released this week by the federal agency.

The GSA is currently reviewing its so-called “virtual employee” program as part of a top-down review of all of its practices.

The GSA made headlines this year after a scathing inspector general’s report showed that it spent $823,000 on a 2010 conference in Las Vegas. Reports and video clips of the lavish conference sparked taxpayer indignation over the wasteful spending, the resignation of the GSA’s top leaders and a congressional investigation into the agency’s spending practices. Since then, reports of more wasteful spending at the government agency have surfaced.

GSA spends $268,000 on one-day event

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GSA eyed again for wasteful spending


Investigating wasteful spending at GSA


GSA: Bonuses paid during investigation


Senate to GSA: ‘Clean house’

Employee says GSA spent millions on relocation

The GSA released details of its virtual employee program this week acting on a request from congressional investigators. CNN also requested the information more than two months ago through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The GSA hired 379 virtual employees in an effort to save money by freeing up office space and reducing the agency’s carbon footprint. Under the program, the employees were not supposed to travel excessively. But the GSA’s records show that about 60% of the virtual employees traveled to conferences and meetings, mostly flying cross-country.

It’s not clear how the virtual employees’ travel costs compare with the travel costs of other GSA employees who work at designated offices.

Amid the congressional investigation, the agency has clamped down on all travel.

“Under the new GSA leadership, the agency has instituted rules to ensure that there is a strong business case for employees who work from home,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “It has to be cost-effective and create savings. GSA has also placed stringent controls to drastically curb spending on travel, conferences and events for all employees, including those who work from home full time.”

CNN requested details of the GSA’s virtual employee program after discovering that one of the employees assigned to the agency’s Kansas City, Missouri, office, was working from his home in Honolulu.

The business development specialist made 13 trips from Honolulu to the mainland United States in 2011 and 2012, racking up $32,694 in travel costs, according to the records. The GSA told CNN earlier this year that he had traveled nine times, with travel costs totaling $24,221.

The agency’s most frequent traveler was a project manager from Leawood, Kansas, who traveled to New York a total of 58 times in 2011 and 2012 at a cost of more than $99,000 to manage a construction project, the records show. The employee, who had been assigned to the GSA’s office in Washington, D.C., is no longer working for the agency, and no additional details are available, a GSA spokeswoman said.

The records also show that another virtual employee living in Miami and based out of the Washington, D.C., office racked up $143,881 in travel costs over four years. Another employee traveled back and forth from his home state of Washington to his District of Columbia office at a cost of $64,104.

In June, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, requested details about the cost of the GSA virtual employee program. That followed disclosures that 95 virtual employees, including 12 in supervisory positions, spent nearly $750,000 in travel costs between October 2010 and June 2011.

On Monday, GSA Associate Administrator Rodney Emery informed Issa that all agency officials have been given “more guidance on when a full-time telework agreement is appropriate, how to measure potential costs or savings under development, and details on a more rigorous approval process.”

The GSA said its clampdown on travel and conferences has saved $11 million over the past four months.

“Under the new leadership, travel costs for GSA employees including those who work from home is at its lowest in four years,” the agency said. “With stringent spending controls in place, the agency expects to realize millions more savings.”

The General Services Administration, which has more than 12,600 employees and a $26.3 billion budget, is a relatively obscure federal agency that handles government real estate and other non-military procurement.

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Article source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/31/us/gsa-spending-latest/index.html

American, US Airways one step closer to merger

Earlier on Friday US Airways and American’s parent, AMR Corp., announced that the two airlines had signed similar agreements, moving them one step closer to a potential merger.

Article source: http://www.boston.com/travel/destinations/2012/08/31/american-airlines-airways-merger-talks-start/79v4HNRbqV0Y9dnH0UYMKJ/story.html

Travel Picks: Top 10 Girlfriend Getaways


BOSTON |
Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:05pm IST

BOSTON Aug 31 (Reuters) – For all women in need of more
than just a girls’ night out, Cheapflights
(www.cheapflights.com) have some suggestions for how to up the
ante with their Top 10 Girlfriend Getaways. Whether you and your
friends want low key, high energy or old fashion hijinks, this
list has you covered. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Wine Country, California

A short drive north of San Francisco, Northern California’s
wine region – comprising renowned valleys throughout Napa and
Sonoma counties – is an awe-inspiring retreat for wine and food
lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and travelers looking for a
full-body, vino-centric respite. Hire a car, visit vineyards,
meet winemakers, nosh on culinary delicacies in quaint towns
like Healdsburg and sip bubbly with your friends in one of
America’s most beautiful regions.

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Considered a boys’ town by many (including Prince Harry),
Las Vegas is a wonderland for ladies looking for a weekend away
from it all. The world’s most inspiring chefs are at the helm of
four and five-star restaurants along The Strip, a four-mile
stretch in the center of town composed of hotels and casinos
that range from seedy to swanky. Stop in some of the more
enticing landmarks – like the Bellagio or Wynn resorts and
casinos – for unforgettable meals followed by high-caliber shows
and entertainment.

3. Piedmont, Italy – The home of Nutella, bold red wines and
the Slow Food movement, Italy’s Piedmont region is the stuff of
(very good) dreams. Some of Italy’s most impressive wines
(Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto) and foods (white
truffles, fritto misto) are produced in the northwest corner of
the country, beckoning appreciators of fine dining to visit.
Consider a bike tour with girlfriends; a scenic and
calorie-burning way to see Piedmont’s rustic towns and
countryside.

4. Hong Kong

For the friends who love to shop, a long haul to Hong Kong
is well worth it. Collectors of antiques, electronics, high-end
fashion, jewelry – basically any goods that women might want to
buy – can be found in Hong Kong, which has no sales tax or VAT.
The shopping possibilities are endless. Try your hand at
haggling or browse stress-free at one of the many shopping malls
and street markets (like the famous, appropriately named, Ladies
Market).

5. New Orleans, Louisiana

There is no better place to relax and enjoy a slower pace of
life than the Big Easy. Of course cocktails are in order, and,
this being New Orleans, you’d be remiss not to order up a
sazerac – possibly America’s oldest cocktail, made of whiskey,
sugar and bitters. Live music, also a must, can be found just
about everywhere; places like Tipitina’s, Preservation Hall and
the Howlin’ Wolf are among the many venues for the classic New
Orleans big band jazz acts.

6. Ecuador

The newest trend encouraging women to fly to South America
is the combination Surf Yoga vacation, a ladies-only adventure
that pairs surfing in the morning with afternoon sessions of
yoga and meditation. Also thrown in are activities like cooking
classes, hiking and volunteering with local communities -
experiences that are worth sharing with a close friend or two.

7. Tanzania

Long to spend your days photographing lions and giraffes in
the wild, then toasting the sunset with a cool glass of
chardonnay as you gaze out on the pristine savannah? Then buy
yourself a khaki vest, pack a wide-brimmed hat and book a flight
to Tanzania with your friends for a photo safari. The sprawling
grasslands are home to some of the most exotic – and endangered
- animals on earth. Your trip can be as high-end as you like,
with catered outdoor meals and luxurious ‘tents’ that would make
the big game hunters of years past cry with envy.

8. Bali, Indonesia

What woman wasn’t inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat,
Pray, Love” to relocate to Indonesia for a life of simplicity
and, euphemistically put, quality bedroom time? And though the
island paradise is great for solo travel, it’s also a holistic
getaway fit for girlfriends. Try one of the destination’s
spiritual escapes, offered through groups like Spafari, that
combines yoga and meditation with hiking, snorkeling and other
outdoor fitness activities.

9. Banff, Alberta, Canada

Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff offers rustic beauty
blended with modern luxury. There are breathtaking views in
every direction and a plethora of outdoor activities – hiking,
skiing, mountain biking – if you’re feeling adventurous. If
you’d rather take in that lovely scenery in a more relaxed
fashion, try out one of the getaway’s many luxurious hotels,
resorts and spas.

10. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has become a popular tropical getaway destination
in the last 15 years for good reason. Easily accessible by plane
and packed with idyllic beaches and lush tropical forests, it’s
every beach lover’s paradise and a burgeoning hub of
eco-tourism. And while the Central American country is still
technically a developing nation, your stay can be as rustic or
luxurious as you want – there is a plethora of hotels and
resorts to choose from.

Article source: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/31/travel-picks-girlfriend-idINL6E8JT6QP20120831

Labor Day guide: Travel, weather, beaches, parties and more

Whether you’re traveling this Labor Day or staying put in the Washington area, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of the holiday weekend — despite rain and rising gas prices in the forecast. Happy weekend, everyone!


Ocean City, Md.
(Jeffrey MacMillan – For The Washington Post)

TRAVEL TRANSPORTATION

Live traffic map

What to expect on the roads and rails

Gas prices expected to climb through Labor Day


College football, Nats, Labor Day changes and more

WEATHER

Will Hurricane Isaac’s remnants rain on D.C.?

Blue moon will make a rare appearance

BEACH GUIDE

8 best beaches in the Washington area

Visiting the Maryland, Virginia and Delaware shores

GOING OUT

Where to get your parade (and other celebrations) on

Dining out, music, and cultural activities

Nightlife Agenda: Labor Day edition

Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool reopens after 2 years

STAYING IN

20 recipes for your Labor Day bash

Labor Day on the cheap: How to throw an inexpensive party

CLOSINGS

What’s open and what’s closed: Banks, post offices, transportation, liquor stores and more


MORE

Labor Day a time for reflection on the value of work

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-buzz/post/labor-day-guide-travel-weather-beaches-parties-and-more/2012/08/31/60327ff2-f36a-11e1-a612-3cfc842a6d89_blog.html

Lufthansa cancels flights as cabin crews strike

Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, said it canceled more than 200 short- and medium-haul flights from and to Frankfurt airport after some 1,000 cabin crew went on strike. A small number of long-haul flights were canceled as well, including to and from New York, Boston and Seattle.

Article source: http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/2012/08/31/lufthansa-cabin-crews-strike/lMirPDr4avWelX3S8yb9WN/story.html

AAA Predicts More Than 3.7 Million Californians to Travel Over Holiday Weekend

August 30, 2012 – Californians continue to prioritize travel as the end-of-the-summer holiday weekend approaches, despite a sluggish economy and ongoing high gas prices.

AAA’s latest travel forecast predicts more than 3.7 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this upcoming three-day Labor Day weekend. This represents an overall increase of 3.4 percent compared to last year.

“While many Californians are still caught in a fragile state of economic affairs, they are willing to travel, but will be cutting back on other expenses,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “Those surveyed expect to cut back on shopping, take a shorter trip, travel by an alternative mode of transportation, and stay with family and friends to avoid higher expenditures over the holiday weekend.”

This year, holiday trips by automobile are expected to be the preferred mode of transportation with more than 2.9 million Californians driving to reach their holiday destinations. This represents a 3.6 percent increase compared to 2011. More than 490,000 Californians are planning to travel by air, an increase of 4.1 percent compared to last year. More than 300,000 state residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, such as rail, bus and watercraft. This represents an increase of .2 percent over 2011.

Nationally, AAA projects just over 33 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the Labor Day weekend, representing a 2.9 percent increase compared to 2011.

The AAA Leisure Travel Index shows that airfares over Labor Day weekend are expected to decrease by four percent, with an average cost of $197 per ticket. Hotel rates at AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $154 per night, an increase of four percent from a year ago. Weekend car rentals are forecast to decrease ten percent, with a new average rate of $39. The expenditures of a West Coast family of four are expected to average $439 over the weekend, and the average road trip is predicted to cover 635 miles.

AAA’s survey shows that shopping, visiting family and friends, dining, and touring/sightseeing will be the preferred leisure activity for West Coast families. Other favorite activities over the weekend are expected to be going to a beach/waterfront area followed by night life activities.

As part of AAA’s ongoing commitment to provide safety and protection to motorists, the AAA Tipsy Tow Program offers a free tow home for drinking drivers in Northern California, Nevada, and Utah from 6:00 p.m. on September 3, until 6:00 a.m. on September 4. Members and non-members alike can call  (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for a free tow of up to ten miles.

“Just tell the AAA operator, ‘I need a Tipsy Tow,’ and a truck will be on its way,” said Harris. “Service is restricted to a one-way ride for the driver and his or her vehicle to the driver’s home.”

To save money and improve gas mileage while on the road, AAA offers the following advice for motorists:

• Keep your tires properly inflated. Every pound of pressure that a tire is under inflated results in a two percent loss in fuel efficiency.

• Don’t use premium fuel if your car does not require it. Check your owner’s manual.

• Observe the speed limit. At speeds above 55 mph, aerodynamic drag increases and fuel efficiency   decreases rapidly.

• Avoid hard acceleration and drive defensively. Try to brake and accelerate smoothly.

• Idling unnecessarily wastes fuel. Most cars today do not need to be warmed up.

• Travel light. A loaded roof rack can decrease fuel economy by five percent.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and nearby member discounts and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.

AAA projections are based economic research and research by HIS Global Insight. The Boston-based consulting firm teamed up with AAA as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

AAA Travel is the nation’s largest leisure travel organization. AAA Travel offers trips, cruises, tours and vacation packages throughout the world. Call  (888) 937-5523 for more information or visit us at your local AAA Travel office or online at www.aaa.com/travel.

AAA Northern California offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services and consumer discounts to over 4 million members. AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 100 years ago.

Article source: http://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/mariposa-daily-news-2012/136-august/6167-aaa-predicts-more-than-37-million-californians-to-travel-over-holiday-weekend

Basics about hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite

It begins with chills, fever and muscle aches then progresses into a dry cough, headache, nausea and vomiting, then shortness of breath. People with hantavirus are put in intensive care, placed on oxygen and given medicine to prevent kidney failure.

Article source: http://www.boston.com/travel/destinations/2012/08/31/basics-about-hantavirus-outbreak-yosemite/R4HgH1QGqfW1ykH97q8WlO/story.html

Record travel expected over the Labor Day holiday – Visalia Times

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Despite rising gas prices, more people are expected to take to the highways this weekend than last year.

The latest travel forecast from AAA Northern California predicts more than 3.7 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more over the Labor Day holiday, a 3.4 percent jump over last year.

Gas prices are also on their way up. In Visalia, prices at the pump for regular unleaded gasoline jumped 2 cents overnight from Monday to Tuesday, to 4.11 per gallon — a 35-cent increase in one month.

“While many Californians are still caught in a fragile state of economic affairs, they are willing to travel, but will be cutting back on other expenses,” said AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris. “Those surveyed expect to cut back on shopping, take a shorter trip, travel by an alternative mode of transportation, and stay with family and friends to avoid higher expenditures over the holiday weekend.”

Locally, officials at Sequoia National Park are preparing for the last big travel weekend of the summer.

“It’s anticipated that it’s going to be a busy weekend,” park spokeswoman Dana Dierkes said.

And while the weather should cooperate in the mountains over the long weekend, travel to the parks does come with a few warnings this year. Construction delays continue along the Generals Highway, and fire concerns have prompted campfire and barbecue restrictions below the 6,000-foot elevation.

Some campgrounds within the park are also slated for closure after next Monday.

“Anyone planning to go up and stay for the week will want to check to make sure the campground will be open,” Dierkes said.

A free shuttle within the park will be available until Sept. 9.

This year, holiday trips by automobile are expected to be the preferred mode of transportation, with more than 2.9 million Californians driving to reach their holiday destinations.

This represents a 3.6 percent increase compared to 2011. More than 490,000 Californians are planning to travel by air, an increase of 4.1 percent compared to last year. More than 300,000 state residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, such as rail, bus and watercraft. This represents an increase of .2 percent over 2011.

Nationally, AAA projects just over 33 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the Labor Day weekend, representing a 2.9 percent increase compared to 2011.

Article source: http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/article/20120831/NEWS01/308310011

A Complete List Of Inspirational Travel Quotes

I was surfing the web procrastinating and avoiding all the work that I had to do when I suddenly came across a magical and unique rock formation. It was the kind of picture that makes you sit back in your chair and say “WOW!”

I remembered that very day that I had to see what was in this picture, it was the Stone Forrest in Madagascar. I moved to Eastern Africa and lived on the continent for four months and was finally able to see one of the most unique formations in the world.

This alone was inspiration and it forced me into thinking about visiting and seeing the Stone Forrest everyday until the flight was booked. I recently shared my personal favorite travel quotes via WanderingTrader.com and there was such a massive response to the post that I decided to compile a complete list of inspirational travel quotes to inspire you to travel the world.

Without further ado, the complete list of inspirational travel quotes:

  1. “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” — Susan Heller
  2. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” — Anatole France
  3. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” — Lin Yutang
  4. “Travelers never think that they are the foreigners.” — Mason Cooley
  5. “Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage.” — Regina Nadelson
  6. “Now I know why they tell you to put your head between your knees on crash landings. You think you’re going to kiss your ass good-bye.” — Terry Hanson
  7. “In America there are two classes of travel: first class, and with children.” — Robert Benchley
  8. “The only way of catching a train I ever discovered is to miss the train before.” — G.K. Chesterton
  9. “There’s a book that tells you where you should go on your vacation. It’s called your checkbook.” — Author unknown
  10. “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” — George Bernard Shaw
  11. “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” — G.K. Chesterton
  12. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
  13. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
  15. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” — Charles Dudley Warner
  16. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller
  17. “Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.” — René Descartes
  18. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” — Miriam Beard
  19. “I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” — Caskie Stinnett
  20. “Travel is the frivolous part of serious lives, and the serious part of frivolous ones.” — Anne Sophie Swetchine
  21. “Long voyages, great lies.” — Italian proverb
  22. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” — James Michener
  23. “Let your memory be your travel bag.” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  24. “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” — Fitzhugh Mullan
  25. “Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
  26. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine
  27. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” — Jawaharal Nehru
  28. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” — Freya Stark
  29. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson
  30. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.” — Benjamin Disraeli
  31. “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” — Freya Stark
  32. “Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.” — Howard Gardner
  33. “Why is it that traveling Americans are always so dreadful?” — Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis
  34. “Two great talkers will not travel far together.” — Spanish Proverb
  35. “You can observe a lot by just watching.” — Yogi Berra
  36. “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” — Pamela Goldoni


Follow Marcello Arrambide on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/Wanderingtradr

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcello-arrambide/a-complete-list-of-inspirational-travel-quotes_b_1829474.html

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Malaysia’s historic, food-loving Penang


GEORGETOWN, Malaysia |
Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:06am EDT

GEORGETOWN, Malaysia (Reuters) – Just off Malaysia’s west coast on the Straits of Melaka, Penang island is a key Southeast Asian crossroad that historically brought together traders, armies from across the world and created a huge repository of culinary delights.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a weekend in what is called the Pearl of the Orient.

FRIDAY

4:00 p.m. – Drop your bags off at one of the stylish boutique hotels in Georgetown, Penang’s historic commercial heart, where temples, 19th century shophouses and British colonial government buildings compete for space.

For a bit of grandeur, consider a night at the creepily atmospheric Blue House — home of China’s last mandarin and first capitalist Cheong Fatt Sze. Looking for some modern living in quaint, art deco-type shophouses built by Chinese traders in 19th century? Try Muntri Mews.

6:00 p.m. – Do as the British colonials did. Gather at the Eastern Oriental hotel’s Farquhar bar to escape the humid weather, sip a gin and tonic and soak up some history. Built in 1885, the hotel was the finest in the British Empire along with the Raffles in Singapore and The Strand in Yangon.

7:00 p.m. – With nightfall, Penang turns into a street food paradise. To take it all in one go, make your way to Lorong Baru off Jalan McAllister with its huge sprawl of food carts.

Indulge in the must-have Penang specialities — char kuay teow (spicy ribbon noodles with crab meat and cockles), asam laksa (a spicy, fish broth with noodles) and popiah (spring rolls with turnip, egg, lettuce, sweet sauce).

9:00 p.m. – Get a little mellow. Swing by the 32 Mansion with its dripping chandeliers and marble entryways that was inspired by the villas in London’s Regent park and now houses some upmarket food outlets.

After wandering about, venture outside to the island’s only al fresco lounge, Beach Blanket Babylon, and enjoy your nightcap lulled by the sounds of the sea.

SATURDAY

9.00 a.m. – Go for a classic Hainanese coffeeshop breakfast at Toh Soon Cafe on Campbell Street: thick, black coffee and charcoal grilled toast with generous lashings of coconut jam.

Top that with two soft boiled eggs and you have the culinary result of migrants who left China’s Hainan province in the 19th and 20th century to take up positions as cooks to colonial British army officials in Malaysia.

10.30 a.m. – Trot over to Lebuh Armenian and soak up Penang’s budding arts scene. Private galleries dot the street of two-story shophouses with their intricate doorways and air wells that just as vibrant as the art installed within them.

Stay alert to the interactive, street murals in the area by Penang-based Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic where you can be part of the art and snap some quirky photographs.

12.00 noon – Lunch at Mama’s Nyonya Restaurant on Lorong Abu Siti, specializing in the spice-rich cuisine of the Peranakan community – descendents of intermarriages between ethnic Chinese and Malays in the 15 century who adopted Malay language, dress style and customs.

The family-run restaurant dishes out old-time favorites such as curry kapitan (dry chicken curry), otah-otah (spicy prawn paste baked in banana leaves) and tau eu bak (braised pork belly in soya sauce).

2.00 p.m. – Visit the very haunted Penang War Museum in the fortress of Batu Maung. Built by the British in the 1930s, the fortress fell to a surprise attack by the Japanese in World War II and was turned into a prison of torture. It has a winding network of underground tunnels, ammunition bunkers, ventilation shafts and sleeping quarters to explore.

4.00 p.m. – Take in a bit of the Penang countryside in Balik Pulau with picturesque Malay kampung houses on stilts and lush orchards, which bear durians in June and July. Stop at a roadside stall and try the smelly, spiky fruit with its creamy, sweet interior.

6.00 p.m. – Look for Chew Jetty, a centuries-old waterfront settlement that is home to the Chew clan, whose forefathers came from China’s Fujian province and are mostly fisherman. Wander around the wooden houses, temples and boats. Have a few beers on the stilted boardwalks and ease into the cool night.

10.00 p.m. – But it doesn’t quite end there. There will be late night cravings and most locals soothe theirs with a visit to an Indian Muslim shop dishing out nasi kandar — fragrant rice with richly spiced meat and vegetable curries.

One of the best nasi kandar joints is next to Kapitan Keling Mosque, built by 19th century Indian Muslim traders, some of whom brought this type of Southern Indian fare to Malaysia. The line starts at 9.45 p.m. and can go down the road, earning the stall its name, Nasi Kandar Beratur, or the Nasi Kandar Queue.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. – You have a decision to make. Hang out at Batu Ferringhi, or Foreigner’s Rock, for some rays or water sports on a beach strip of big name hotels, seafood restaurants and cafes.

Or go past Batu Ferringhi to the Penang National Park, the smallest in Malaysia, where some challenging trails take visitors to the quiet and pristine Monkey Beach for a picnic.

2 p.m. – Check out Swatow Lane, which used to be home to strip tease joints and cabaret shows in the 1950s but now has a variety of restaurants and hawker stalls jostling for your attention. Cool off with ais kacang — an indulgent concoction of ice shavings, rose syrup, condensed milk and sweet corn.

4 p.m. – Give your feet a rest in Coffee Lane (10-B King Street) where coffee is made to order from siphon brewers. Exotic varieties of beans are sold here along with light food fare in this quaint shop. Use your caffeine kick to walk to the nearby Weld Quay and watch ships enter the harbor from cozy waterfront benches.

(Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage, editing by Elaine Lies)

Article source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/31/us-travel-penang-idUSBRE87U09Y20120831