GEORGE TOWN: With freezing winter and raging storms going on elsewhere in the world, many tourists flock to Penang and some are staying here for stretches of three to five months.
The sea, sun and sand here are the main attractions that make nonagenarian Eric Moir fly 24 hours from England annually for the past 28 years.
Moir, 91, said he first visited Penang in 1987 with his wife, who had passed away in Penang during Christmas two years ago.
“I come back to Penang every year since then during the winter as I like the seaside and warm weather here.
“The cold in England will kill me at my age,” he laughed.
He said although he had difficulty walking due to his old age, he would still travel 24 hours on three flights from Gatwick in London to Dubai in UAE and to Kuala Lumpur before finally landing in Penang.
“Other than the beach and the pleasant weather, the locals also make me feel at home,” he added.
“Penangites are friendly and helpful. Seeing me with my walking stick, they will come over to offer help.
“I have made friends with many locals, and I was even invited to a Malay wedding in Batu Ferringhi a few years ago. I am hoping to see the family again this visit,” he said when met at Flamingo Hotel by the Beach in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, yesterday.
Moir has been here since early last month and will be leaving on March 7.
British couple Doreen, 77, and Michael Hemingway, 67, have also been annual returning guests since the late 1980s.
“What attracted us most when we first came here was the serenity of the island.
“There were not many high-rise buildings in Penang and everywhere there were monkeys playing by the roadside.
“The ride from to the Penang airport to Batu Ferringhi had been beautiful,” said Michael, who arrived on Dec 9 and will depart on Feb 11.
He said although there are many new developments in Penang, he was glad for its scenery of the hills and sea.
Michael added that he also loved the local food here.
Another long-staying couple of the hotel are Donald, 84, and Gwen Purdy, 82, from West Yorkshire, who are staying in Penang for five months.
Gwen said she saw herself as living in Penang rather than having a holiday.
“We are retirees and we enjoy staying in Penang. We won’t visit tourist spots. What we do in Penang is what we usually do back home. We will wake up early, have a cup of coffee, read the papers, go for breakfast and enjoy the breeze by the poolside.
“I also enjoy doing cross-stitch on my balcony,” she said.
She added that Donald had undergone a heart bypass surgery a few years ago and the harsh winter in their country was not good for him.
“The temperature can fall to -10 degree Celcius at times.
“Penang is one of the best spots for us to escape winter,” she said, adding that they were looking forward to celebrating the New Year, Thaipusam and Chinese New Year here too.
Donald said: “The only thing we don’t like is the over-development with all the high-rise buildings.
“The scene was different years ago. Foreigners want to see the different cultures in Penang and not international-style buildings,” he added.