Chocolate is my favourite food group. I can eat it any time of the day or night, when I am hungry or not, happy or sad – there is always room for chocolate. My friends and family have been appalled for years as they watch me devour my fourth kit-kat for the day or eat chocolate cake for breakfast. I am forever astounded that people can ask what flavour milkshake you would like – there is only one answer – Chocolate.
This last week I discovered that I had spent nearly $40 on chocolate alone… when I relayed this information to a friend she was shocked and appalled (I, however, was thinking – thats all, surely I have eaten more than that…). She then pointed out that I could give up chocolate and put that money to a better cause, I gently scoffed at her and the subject was dropped. A couple of days later she posted on my facebook a link to the Choctober Charity Fundraiser – Oh dear, she clearly doesn’t know me very well…
Just for kicks I took a look at the page and to my surprise got quite enthusiastic about the charity Reclink Australia – they use sporting and art activities to enhance the lives of disadvantage people. This includes the homeless, the poor and the disabled. In my life chocolate is something that gives me great pleasure and happiness, but in giving it up for a month I may be able to help others have that same happiness. It feels like a cause well suited to the challenge. Only problem is no one believes I can do it!
My dissidents do have grounds to be concerned, I have been known to head to the shops at 10 o’clock at night to satisfy my cravings. In particular, my addiction became a real issue while I was travelling around south East Asia. Before I left everybody warned me that finding real dairy products would be hard. With naivety I wept over cheese (my second favourite food group), pushed all thoughts of cereal to the back of my mind and braised my shoulders. I could do it – no sweat, who needs dairy everyday, totally overrated! I forgot that dairy is used to make chocolate – its in the name after all “Dairy Milk”!
My first day in Kuala Lumper, we spent the day walking around markets trying not to by thousands of DVD’s that we would have to lug around for the next 4 months. It was hot and humid, I was exhausted and feeling cranky. I knew what would cheer me up and help me ignore my sore legs… chocolate. On the way home I stopped off at supermarket and I bought a Snickers… what a shock. It wasn’t real chocolate. It wasn’t even the stuff that Australian think is close to chocolate (I actually really like Australian Chocolate and think that the whatever they put in it to stop it melting in the heat makes it more fun) – it was chalky and overly sweet, there was a distinct lack of coco and too much malt. Also, I think it had been sitting on that shelf for a while judging by the layer of dust that was on the wrapper.
For the next few days as we started travelling north I searched in vain for chocolate that tasted more like chocolate and came up cold. Finally we reach Penang. In all honesty I didn’t find Penang that interesting or fun, I preferred the island group next door called Langkawai (when I think of Paradise I think of Langkawai), but what Penang had was a chocolate factory.
In the morning we went to the Information centre to get a map of George Town and to ask what to do. I strongly advise people to always ask the information desk what’s going on. This particular information desk was very helpful and very friendly. The pulled out a map and drew us a route that we could walk that would go past all of the main attractions, they also told us a great place to get breakfast – that also happened to be right next to one of the first stops. Malaysia has a large Indian population which means that once your taste buds have been burnt off by the spectacular Malaysian Curries you can give them a small holiday by trying some of the equally amazing Indian food. Breakfast this morning was an Indian chicken curry with garlic beans and naan – not a bad start to the day.
We spent the morning looking at the sea front that was fortified by the English when Malaysia was still a colony and Penang was an important trading port and military base. We visited the giant English colonial buildings that have been converted into parliament house and other government buildings.
After lunch we headed into the city to look at a few of the beautiful temples that dot the city. Including one Chinese temple that was blessed by snakes and that apparently has a few boa constrictors that call it home… we didn’t stay for too long.
By mid afternoon we were tired so we looked down at the map and saw one more item circled. We almost decided not to go but reasoned that we had seen everything else on the map – including the giant blue mansion – that we should see this last dot.
It was a chocolate factory.
We stood outside it for a moment, taking in deep breaths. What better way to finish our walking tour of Penang than to see chocolate – in fact what better way to end a walking tour in any city in the world, it should be part of the walking tour tradition if you ask me!
Hesitantly we walked into the air-conditioned building, instantly our nostrils were affronted with the smell of coco so I inhaled deeply and felt all of my muscles instantly relax (I know I have a problem). A quick glance at the price guide board hanging behind the cash register told us that a tour was out of the question, so we decided to just look at the many different chocolates that were on the shelves… who needs to see how its made anyway, all we needed was the end product.
Only problem was that within a few minutes we discovered that the chocolate on the shelves was also out of our price range. I almost broke down and cried right in the middle of the store as I held a piece of chocolate fudge and worked out the conversion into AUD. After fifteen minutes of just looking at chocolate I couldn’t handle it any longer, we had to leave the air conditioning or else I was going to do something my bank account would regret. As we were leaving we saw a pack the chocolate covered almonds… they were half price! We splurged out and purchased a bag and headed out quickly back into the heat.
A few streets later I became concerned that the chocolate would melt in the sunshine… plus I couldn’t handle being so close to chocolate and not being able to eat it. We found a nice spot in the shade to sit and watch people. We sat there for half an hour and devoured the whole bag of chocolate covered almonds – bliss.
The next day we jumped on the ferry and headed to Langkawi where we found pristine beaches, watermelon cakes and tobacco chewing monkeys. The most important discovery on Langkawi was working out how to survive Asia without chocolate. Our hostel manager, an Irish ex-pat called Neve who could paint the living room, fill up an inflatable pool and check in new guests all at the same time while still sipping on her tiger told me about Oreos. Unlike all other chocolate in Asia, Oreos still tasted somewhat similar. It wasn’t chocolate but it was a way to get through the next four months – I confess I became a pack a day addict!
Despite my chocolate addiction I am convinced that I will be able to abstain for the month of October. Not only because I want to prove all of those who have said I cant do it wrong, not only because I want to stretch my will power muscle and not only because my waist line will benefit – but primarily because its for a good cause. If, me giving up chocolate can help others have some happiness in life then that’s worth it!
If you would like to help support me through this Choctober please see the below link: