PENANG: Escaping from their freezing homelands, many tourists from Europe have found Penang the perfect place in the sun at this time of the year.
While some are making the trip - and enjoying it - for the first time, others are making repeat visits here for the love of the warm weather and the warmer hospitality
Dutch couple Jan van der Veen and Riena Jacoba , both 77, have been coming here to escape the winter cold in the Netherlands over the past four years.
On vacation here since last month, they are glad to be away from home for a while to bathe in the sun and surf.
Jan, a retired pilot, said the temperature in the Netherlands at present is 7°C.
For them, it is blissful to just stay at the balcony of the Hydro Majestic hotel in Batu Feringghi.
"We spend most of our time at the balcony, which we cannot do back home because it is too cold," said Jan.
Riena added that she enjoys watching birds flying and the boats on the sea from her balcony. .
"Penang is our 'island in the sun', an affordable, safe and beautiful vacation spot.
"On each trip, we stay longer than before and at the same hotel," she said.
The van der Veens will return home in February.
A German guest at the Golden Sands Hotel in Batu Feringghi, Wilma Budke, 79, said she spends six months in a year here to escape the winter and had always stayed at the hotel since she first came here with her husband in 1978.
The retired office manager, whose husband died in 1997, said: "I don't like winter. I continued coming here on my own after my husband passed away.
"The staff and the weather are warm and I recall how, each morning, my late husband used say 'it is never a lousy day in paradise'," she smiled.
Staying at the same hotel are Swiss couple Dr Raphael Mueller, 32, and his wife Dr Michelle Mueller, 29, who are here for the first time.
"The temperature in Switzerland now is 0°C.
"Here, it is sunny and we enjoy swimming and indulging in water sports.
"It is interesting to see the various cultures and taste different foods," Dr Raphael said.
Dr Michelle added: "This is our first trip here and it may not be the last."
Also glowing in the warmth of the Penang sun is Romanian model Anna Maria Rosca, who is visiting for the first time and also staying at the Golden Sands.
"I love the summer - which falls in July and August - but dislike the biting winter," said the 22-year-old lass, who has been here since Monday and would returning home in 10 days.
"It is warm and sunny here. In Romania, the temperature now is about 5°C," she said.
Rosca's friend, product manager Damian Murphy, 36, said the weather here was similar to Brisbane, Australia, where he lives.
He finds the island a safe place to be and, furthermore, the locals here understand English.