Never Forgetting Balik Pulau – exploring an alluring, rustic village in Penang across time

Josephine Choo
Photography, design and layout by Adrian Cheah

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

"Never Forgetting Balik Pulau" is part memoir, part guide. The author, after spending her entire youth in the village, accumulated a bagful of tales. Exploratory trips back gave credence to past memories but gradually, a comprehensive guide with maps to the village evolved.

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

Both Josephine Choo and Adrian Cheah hope that this book is entertaining as well as informative. Balik Pulau may be an ”island” behind the hills but definitely, it is worth discovering.

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah


Introducing Balik Pulau - 1

Balik Pulau of olde - 6

The attractions - 40
• Laksa - 44
• Nutmegs and cloves - 48
• The meaning of the term“durian season” - 58
• The durian - 64

Access into Balik Pulau - 82
• Route one: via Tun Sardon Road - 84
• Route two: via Teluk Kumbar - 92
• Route three: via Teluk Bahang - 100
• Of course, a fourth route - 118
• Elsewhere via a cycling haven - 130

Balik Pulau in transition - 150

Conclusion - 162

Acknowledgements - 167
About the author and photographer - 168

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

Josephine Choo & Adrian Cheah
2020, ACEK Creative Solutions
Softcover. 17.2 cm x 17.2 cm, 176 pages
Language: English
Illustrated throughout with over 500 photographs
ISBN 978-967-18765-0-3

"Never Forgetting Balik Pulau" is now retailing at local bookshops at RM55 per copy.

To order the book, you can also email Adrian Cheah at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Whatsapp +6016 407 1408.

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

About the author and photographer

Josephine Choo worked as a teacher, administrator and freelance English editor. However, writing short stories and articles was always a fulfilling past-time for her. For 25 years, she and Adrian Cheah have collaborated on various projects.

Adrian Cheah loves to capture the timeless images of life, especially those of Penangites as they evolve, change and grow. Watch out for him as he crisscrosses Penang Island on his motorcycle for his next great shot to grace yet another brochure, magazine, website or coffee-table book. Adrian also runs ACEK Creative Solutions (formerly known as Neo Sentuhan).

Around 2006, Josephine and Adrian mooted the idea of writing a book on Balik Pulau. Numerous trips were made, often with Adrian’s young daughter Jean in tow. Today, Jean has a motorcycle license and is set to leave school. Josephine’s children are married and have flown the coop. Finally, the book is completed – a labour of love but an enjoyable project nevertheless.

Book Reviews


The Star, 26 July 2021
By Andrea Filmer

Discover Penang's ‘island behind the hills’ in this memoir and guide

Even with the country in lockdown, Balik Pulau has continued to receive a steady stream of visitors.

Coming in from the long, winding roads that connect the old town with the rest of Penang island, travellers now are not heading for the durian estates or famous laksa stalls.

Rather, most have their attention on their GPS devices, trying to make their way to the mega vaccination centre (PPV) at the Balik Pulau Sports Complex that has been administering hundreds of Covid-19 vaccines daily to those living in the state’s south-west district.

Click here for the full story.


Penang Local, 8 January 2021
By Liliyana Azia

People of Penang; Josephine Choo’s book, part memoir, part guide “Never Forgetting Balik Pulau” captured by Photographer Adrian Cheah

I LOVE Adrian. I met him 10 years ago when I was on a publishing project for the very first hard-copy of Time Out Penang. Adrian was hand-picked for his intimate style of photography of Penang. Something unique and trusting about his demeanour, we were confident that he would guide us with his photography direction and gave him complete autonomy while on the project. I’m very pleased and proud to know this human being, and so happy to receive a copy from the first batch of “Never Forgetting Balik Pulau“. All the photos you see here are behind-the-scenes shots, or angles by Adrian, that didn’t make it into the book, yet still special to him...which makes this even more meaningful for me to write this.

Click here for the full story.


Buletin Mutiara, 2 February 2021
By Christopher Tan

The charms of Balik Pulau captured in a book

WHILE many of us know that there are three routes to access into Balik Pulau, there is a fourth route that can bring travellers into the lovely township.

This way into Balik Pulau is not for all and it’s a hike over the hills from the Air Itam Dam.

“Minor hill trails were carved out by the farmers who brought their farm produce either to Air Itam or to Balik Pulau. Through regular use by these farmers as well as by hiking enthusiasts, the main trail gathered popularity over time and a hike over the hills became a regular item on the weekend or holiday calendar,” the book entitled ‘Never Forgetting Balik Pulau’ stated.

Click here for the full story.

Click here for the Mandarin version.


Enjoying the book "Never forgetting Balik Pulau"

Book review by Lillian Cheah
12 December 2020

A book was printed yesterday. Straight from the printers, the very first copy was delivered to me so that I could read and critique it.

Titled “Never Forgetting Balik Pulau”, this 176-page book is physically eye-catching, peppered very generously throughout with beautiful photographs many of which almost breathe life...

Click here for the full story.


"Never Forgetting Balik Pulau" is a little book within whose pages stories that have yet to end are told. If I had to pick a word to define it, it would be "personal." Far more than the skim over tourist guide I expected, it captures not just the town's history and attractions, but also everyday events and people who lived, loved, and became synonymous with Balik Pulau. With a sprinkling of the author's own memoirs, the stories are narrated with love, filled with personal sentiments.

On every page, faces smile up at you, both past & present, events are shared, and a small town becomes far more than just a pass-through on the other side of Penang. It lives, breathes, takes on a life of its own. Through the eyes of those who built it, we see the Balik Pulau of memories, of belonging... of home. And still, it continues to grow, a captivating destination to be explored and experienced today. An informative, enjoyable read that takes you through the streets, hills & paths to the very heart of Balik Pulau. Five stars from me.

– Paula Tan,
Senior Copywriter, Astro
16 March 2021