Published: January 30th 2012January 23rd 2012
Just a few kilometres along the coast was the touristy town of Batu Ferringhi (BF). It took us a long time to find a hotel with a room for the three nights we wanted. Even the posh ones were full! Eventually we found the EQ Hotel
which was nice enough at a reasonable price. It was very well located for the bars, restaurants and night market that draws most visitors to the town.
After checking in we went for a drive along the twisting jungle roads of Western Penang. It was beautiful in places but a bit boring in others. Eventually we made our way to the village of Pantai Ache. There we had expected to get to the sands and see local fisherman at work. Never believe what your guidebook has to say about off-the-beaten-track places! There was nothing there and no evidence of fishermen at all. It's just a rural village with nothing to attract anyone except those who live there. Oh well, it was a nice drive anyway!
That night we had a look around the night market as it was setting up. There wasn't much to see though so we found a beachfront bar, the Bora Bora
, where we sat for a couple of beers and watched as the sky gradually turned dark. We missed the sight of the sun setting because it was hidden behind the hills but the colours in the sky were nice. From there we found a lovely Lebanese restaurant, something we haven't managed to find in Vietnam. There are quite a few places serving Middle Eastern cuisine, no doubt because of the amount of Arab tourists that seem to come to the island. It was a curious mix to see the traditionally dressed families rubbing shoulders with less conservatively-dressed tourists as the night market moved into full swing later. After a good browse we settled for a nightcap at the Art Area pub which we highly recommend, even if we did lower the average age substantially!!
The next day we set out to explore the nearby Penang National Park. After parking up near the visitor centre we were soon signed in (and you have to sign out on your way out or they will send in the rescue team!) and on our way. The first part of the path was a proper footpath but it soon degenerated into a
rough forest trail with some very tricky parts to cross. Thankfully they had put in wooden walkways across the sections which would have otherwise been impassable. Eventually we found the University beach. From there we couldn't figure out where the path continued. After asking for confirmation from the security guard, we took off our sandals and waded knee high into the sea to get around some large rocks which were obstructing the beach. Damp and sandy we then had to continue back into the forest. The reward after around 90 minutes of tough trekking was Monkey Beach, devoid of monkeys but rather full of tourists who hadn't trekked there - they had arrived by boat. We had a nice swim in the warm sea and sunbathed (well, laid in the shade as it was far too hot in the sun!) for a few hours. When it was time to leave we were thankful for the tourist boats as it meant we could get a ride rather than trek back along the path. It was only 10 minutes that way. That evening we followed the previous night's routine, but with a delicious steak in The Ship - home of "The Best
Steak in Town" and it's hard to dispute that even if we haven't had steak elsewhere.
Our last day on Penang was cloudy and damp at first. Our plans of a day on the beach were well and truly scuppered so we visited the nearby Spice Garden. It was very interesting and well worth a visit. At the entrance you are invited to smother yourself in citronella which unfortunately was nowhere near as effective as our highly toxic insect repellent which we really should have used instead! The walk around the gardens was beautiful and there were lots of information boards telling us all about the spice trade on Penang. The cafe was pretty good too. The Tree Monkey
served Trish the most amazing mocha frappuccino while Russ had the healthy option of lemongrass, ginger and honey iced tea which was much nicer than it may sound to some of you. The shop was good too and we succumbed to several purchases, most unusual for us. If you feel the need, there's a cookery school too where you can learn to cook Malaysian food.
That night we met up with Nicole who we had contacted on Couch Surfing
Nothing to see!
She is an English teacher living in BF but teaching just over the bridge in Butterworth. We met in Bora Bora before going to another Lebanese restaurant. It was a really good evening and it was so nice to meet someone with first hand experience of teaching in Malaysia.
So that was it for our island adventure. The following morning was Chinese New Year. Happy Year of the Dragon everyone! Ahead of us was the long drive down to Melaka and we hoped that travelling on the big day itself would see us avoid the worst of the traffic. Did we? You'll have to wait and see!!!!!
There are more photos below