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Gilly Smith

Cutting the ties that bind

Crossing the new 13km bridge across the straits from Pulau Penang to the Malaysian mainland, we headed south to Ipoh. Unlike Kuala Lumpur and Batu Ferringhi and many other towns in Malaysia, Ipoh has quietly slipped under the radar of high rise development, becoming a millionaire’s paradise while keeping its own character. We forget that with the rise and rise of the Asian economy, tin mining brought riches to Malaya…

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On the trail of the lonesome pine

I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for when I promised my father that I would take the family to Penang for my 50th birthday. The last thing we did before he died in November was to put together the family photo album of our posting in Malaysia from 1963 to 1966, and it was his last chance to tell me – again – stories of snake temples and…

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The Ghosts of Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang, a place so full of the ghosts of my past. From Chinatown to LittleIndia, Love Lane to Rope Walk, the travellers may look the same as they did – and I did – 28 years ago when I was last here to try to remember the Penang of my early Army childhood here, but hard as I try, I can’t find my town. For a little girl of…

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A Eulogy

And then he was gone, my giant of a father who filled our lives with his stories and his energy for life. He left with everything said, everything sorted and as I watched him pass away, it was with the easiest of breaths, no pain, no struggle. He had an amazing life and an amazing death. He was an amazing man. My dad believed in legacy and his stories of…

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Five days in the desert. Chapter three

The old storyteller sat up tall. He touched a thumb to his own chest. ‘It’s in there waiting’, he said. ‘What is?’ ‘Your story’. ‘Waiting for what?’ Mrabet closed his eyes. ‘It’s waiting for you to close your eyes and wake up.’ Tahir Shah, ‘In Arabian Nights’. It’s a bit like buying a Hawaiian shirt when you’re on holiday making observations of another culture, but while I’m here in the…

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