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 end 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. This place would never work in Vietnam. 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 opposite. 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 of tea 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. In the far corner the 4 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 previous overnight bus trips, a mob of mainland Chinese arguing. If they had rooms upstairs i'd live here.
The miniature library had wound it's magic, and I had come to feel a peace i'd been missing. A complete feeling of being relaxed. I will make it a point to visit every day since I live but a block away. I just wish more places like this exist instead of everything being loud, sterile and instant.
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