With weakening resolve I try to circumnavigate the treacherous pitfalls of places like Love Lane. Alleyways pumping out soulless music to tourists with as much personality as a ball bearing. Vacuous throngs of backpackers chugging discounted beers and screaming over the cacaphony with tales of their amazing 2 weeks in India (that changed their lives).
Being of a weaker disposition, and frankly more inclined to stick my tongue into a helicopter rotor blade than associate with 99% of them, I seek out the shadier side of life. From sheltered afternoons in deserted graveyards, to local tea shops where the only customers speak no English and don't have to smile if they don't feel like it.
Breaking the mundane, once in a while a life-line is thrown to you in the form of a new discovered treasure. Jing Si Books turned out to be just the ticket.
With my back demonstratively turned to the wicked sun, I opened the door and was immediately accosted by a frantic old Chinese woman in hushed tones: "TAKE OFF SHOES PLEASE". I had walked one centimeter past the threshold of the mat, and was therefore treading on dangerous territory. She shuffled over to a box and produced a shoe-bag for me to place mine in until I needed them again, and I thusly proceeded on bare feet to my table.
Immediately what hit me was the lack of noise. Utter silence with a faint classical piano tune playing on a far off speaker. The room was divided straight down the middle with the cafe section to the right and bookstore mirroring. At the back was a small indoor garden adding an extra dimension of tranquility.
I sat away from the scattering of souls by the big window, and a short lady came moonwalking towards me. Strange gait indeed. I ordered the cold brew tea and walked around taking a few photographs before retiring to reminisce. The lady shuffled back over and informed me they were out of regular cold brew but had a special one with pomelo juice in it. Fine! Within minutes a tall glass was placed in front of me with the peculiar instructions "You must hurry if you want to take a photo because the foam will disappear soon". After a polite warning like that I felt obliged to humour her.
The tea was just right. I sat back and pored over the bookshelves, the fung-shui design, the small decorations dotted about that added a serenity and complexity. The lighting played shadows against the dark wood, offering the feeling of being inside a shrine or temple. In the far corner four workers stood together watching something on a phone and giggling as quietly as they could. Other punters were engrossed in books or tapping on instagram. Nowhere to be seen was a loud American, a barefoot backpacker reeking of overnight bus trips, a mob of mainland Chinese arguing in regional tongue.
The miniature library had wound it's magic, and I had come to feel a peace i'd been missing. An unimpared feeling of being relaxed, the chance to let your shoulders drop and be marinated in the soft light and distinct lack of abrasive sounds.
I will make it a point to visit every day that I am in Georgetown. Something simple to look forward to when the expendeture of walking around seeking the perfect meal has tired my legs.
Here's to finding new versions of Jing Si in towns of the future! I shall make it my goal.
31, Beach St, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang
Monday - Saturday 11am–7pm
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"