We set off nice and early (well, 9am!) and hoped to beat Kuala Lumpur's rush hour traffic. That proved to be in vain and it was about an hour and a half before we crawled beyond the city limits. The roads then opened up and we had a good run all the way up to Penang Island. On the way we stopped off at the Riverside services where we had a lovely view of, yes, you've guessed it, the river!
You can get to Penang two ways from the mainland. There's the tedium of driving into Butterworth then getting the ferry across, or the quick way across the Penang Bridge, all 13km of it. We opted for speed and before long we were bumper to bumper on the outskirts of Georgetown. It wasn't too bad really and soon enough we were checking into the Copthorne Hotel
who seemed very glad for our business despite it being the run-up to Chinese New Year. We got a good price and stayed for 3 nights. Unfortunately for the hotel, 4 enormous condominium blocks have been built next door blocking a good percentage of their sea view. You have to feel sorry for them but
it means that we get good deals!!
Our first three days on the island were a combination of sightseeing and sunbathing by the pool. We had a great day walking around Georgetown but the heat and humidity meant we were constantly looking for shade. Nevertheless, it is a very pleasant town to explore and has a very multi-ethnic feel to it. The city museum is excellent and is close to many of the old colonial buildings. Nearby is the waterfront where we saw a man holding a mirror up to the Sun. We had no idea what he was doing and would welcome any suggestions. Perhaps he was trying to combat global warming by reflecting the Sun's rays back from whence they came! From there we wandered through alleyways, exploring Chinatown and Little India and seeing the odd mosque and church thrown in for good measure.
On another day we went up Penang Hill. The funicular goes every 30 minutes which sounds very regular unless you have just missed one in which case it is mightily frustrating! At the top we found ourselves shrouded by cloud and soon headed to the Bellevue Hotel to have a coffee on
their colonial style terrace. We decided to chance the weather and do the circular nature trail which was well and truly unmarked and hard to follow. Half way round the heavens opened. We took shelter in the woods, ran a little, took shelter again, eventually deciding we were too wet to worry about things and continuing on to the first real shelter we found. We must have waited there the best part of an hour for the rain to ease off enough for us to consider returning to the top station. Had we known we were only about 200m away we would never have waited so long. It was just around the next bend!!!
We wanted to have lunch at the restaurant on top of the hill. The gardens were lovely, especially the lilly pond, but we refused to pay £15 a head for a meat pie. Instead we had a local lunch at the cafe which is still being built. It offers great views and very good value so we were happy.
Then the sun came out! We nipped up to the Hindu Temple and were delighted to see a group of Buddhist monks there with digital
cameras in hand and bright orange robes on display. It made for a great photo.
So that was the first part of our island adventure. Part 2 to come soon!
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