Madam Loh in Him Heang.
I was in Penang for the first time over the weekend and had the pleasure of meeting an extremely interesting individual. The mother of one of my wife’s colleagues, Madam Loh was sprightly, energetic and bright-eyed, and overwhelmingly filled with warm Penang hospitality – all 70-over years of her.
Madam Loh arrived at our hotel and picked us up in her large MPV – there were seven of us in our group – and proceeded to bring us on a culinary and sight-seeing tour of her beloved hometown. Combining the talent and skill of Formula One racer as well as the aplomb of a typical Malaysian driver, she easily navigated us through heavy traffic on Penang’s winding, narrow roads.
As we visited the various attractions about Penang, it became obvious that Madam Loh commanded a great deal of respect and authority from her fellow countrymen. From the Penang char kway teow hawker to the durian seller, when the dynamic Madam Loh asks for something – she gets. Even the boss of famous tau sar piah shop Him Heang deferred to her, allowing her entourage (us) to buy more than 20 boxes of the famed confectionery without advance order (and ahead of other customers as well!).
It was only later that we realised Madam Loh belonged to one of Penang’s most well-known entrepreneurial families, and related to the late Loh Boon Siew. If you’re not familiar with the name, Loh Boon Siew is a Penang tycoon who started Kah Motors in Malaysia and Singapore. Indeed, Loh Boon Siew was a true young upstart. He came to Penang at the age of 12 and worked his way up from a mechanic’s apprentice to finally owning one of Malaysia’s largest business empires.
As we drove around Penang, Madam Loh pointed out various of her family’s holdings and properties. However, she shared with even more pride on their philantrophic activities, such as building and funding an old folk’s home that is currently supporting more than 300 residents, and land loaned to build temporary housing for displaced Penangites during the 2004 tsunami disaster.
It was humbling to have someone in her position show us so much warmth and hospitality.
Thank you, Madam Loh, for the amazing experience. You were the consummate host. If Penang ever needs a tourism ambassador, you have my vote.