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Published: February 4th 2010
Good afternoon everyone this is your Captain speaking, we will shortly be descending on the land of all things western, many things fake, lots that’s cultural and where the temperature is a sweaty 32 degrees C with 80% humidity and all this some distance away from a tuk tuk driver or a local washing his prize cow! Welcome to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
A brisk walk alongside the tarmac, a speedy customs check and forex change and we were out of the door and on a bus headed for the city. It’s difficult not to notice the marks of a truly capitalist nation when the first things you see are the Mc Donalds and Starbucks illuminated insignia jutting out of every second building! This aside we were decidedly excited at what Malaysia had to hold and not to mention the beach prospect. It would seem that an introduction to a city or town is never really proper if you don’t manage to do some unnecessary exploring from the moment you set foot off the bus so in true drifter style we dressed ourselves in our now heavier than ever masses of luggage, took a rudimentary look at the map and began
our walk along the very, very busy main drag in pursuit of the Swiss Inn, the land mark for the travellers in. Once the sweat really began to pour and we looked as though we really didn’t know where we were going we commandeered the services of an ever friendly traffic officer who consulted his superior and motioned us off in the very direction we were headed, assuring us that the Swiss in was not too far along. A good two very boiling and exhausting kilometers later we discovered the Swiss Inn only trouble was that it most certainly wasn’t the Swiss Inn we were looking for and at that we swiftly hailed a cab and asked the question we should have been asking in the first place, “Where is China Town?” The taxi driver politely popped open his boot let us deposit our bags inside and then proceeded back in the direction we had just walked only to drop us not 400meters from where the bus had stopped in the first place. I suppose at least we racked up some exercise.
Thankful that we had finally made it we only momentarily choked at the price that we had
to fork out for the prison cell type room, realised we were no longer in Cambodia and so we willingly handed over the money so that we could dump our luggage and head out to see what KL is all about. Our first turn was at the insanely large Sungei Wang electronics market before heading back out onto the streets in the direction of China Town to take in the sights and sift through the rows and rows of Polo Golf shirts, Ray Ban sunglasses, Rolex watched and Louis Vuitton handbags. Goods aside the China Town night market has a tremendously colourful atmosphere and it was a wonderful spot to sit and eat some decidedly average Chinese cuisine. Once dinner was scoffed we started out on the very efficient monorail, across town to go and catch a close up glimpse of the ethereal, silver Petronas Towers and they truthfully are beautiful at night and way huger than one can imagine. 500 photos later our bodies decided that it was time to call it a night if we were going to make it up at any respectable hour to allow us the luxury of some more KL exploration before our later
afternoon bus to George Town.
Time really doesn’t go very far, particularly when you happen to ‘accidentally’ press the snooze button on the alarm clock resulting in a later than planned wake up. Sadly this later than planned wake up resulted in a missed opportunity to head up the Petronas Towers for a view over KL but hey with so much to see and do and so little time we quickly found ourselves a bus and headed to the other side of the city to check out the Batu Caves for an insightful look at a crevassed Hindu Worship sight but don’t be deceived by the name cause there isn’t a Bat to be seen ;-)!
We were quite thankful that we purchased a couple of overly sweet meats at the bottom of the steps because a 272 steep step climb requires some sugary sustenance especially since the temperature was at scorching degrees Celsius! It didn’t take us too much time to explore the innards of the cave before it was back down the 272 steps for us, past the floral wreath makers and back on the bus headed for China Town so that we could catch a
bite to eat, collect our bags and make it to the bus stop to catch the bus in time for the 4:30 departure!
When we arrived in China Town we couldn’t help but notice the large Nando’s conveniently positioned half way between the bus stop and our hostel and we had managed to hold out on our visit to the South African born delight because we had decided that it would be our parting meal. As a result, on our return from the Caves we casually headed up to Nado’s once our bags were packed and we tucked into a scrumptious chicken in Pita laced in perinase (I love South African culinary ingenuity). There was one small detail we failed to keep track of while savouring the Nando’s delight though, time, and once the pita was safely inside our stomachs we realised that we had only 15mins to get back to the hostel, pick up our luggage and motor it back to the bus stop for our 4:30pm bus. Thankfully Ken and I were sitting next to each other for the 7hrs because after the sweat we broke out running to catch the bus I suspect we couldn’t have
smelt delightful. As if sensing our overheating bodies the super luxurious bus came fitted with and exceedingly good air conditioner cranked up to replicate an Antarctic environment so admittedly while the seats were super comfy we did spend 7hrs freezing our buts off. Talk about from one extreme to the next.
While our exploration of KL was rather brief I don’t suspect that much more time is needed in the city really and besides, we had finally sufficiently recovered from our 3rd degree sun burn and had been counting the days till we’d be able to get in some good quality beach time so keeping our city time to minimum didn’t even require a second thought!
7 freezing and weary hours later we disembarked and found ourselves on Penang and, yet again, we managed to find ourselves deposited on the complete opposite side of Georgetown to where we had wanted. 11:30pm always brings with it some challenges the greatest of which is to find a metered taxi ride into town so as to avoid being ripped off. It took a good couple of enquiries until we finally managed to secure a driver who apparently had a working meter.
It was only once we had driving a good couple of Kilometres that I happened to notice that there may have been a metre in the taxi but the only trouble was that the meter was conveniently faulty or conveniently not turned on and just as convenient was the fact that our driver was engaged in an in depth conversation on his cell phone making an enquiry about the erroneous meter a little difficult. By the time the driver had pried the phone from his ear I jokingly asked about the meter, enquiring how it was that he could tell us that his taxi was a metered taxi yet he hadn’t turned his meter on. His story went something along the lines of “Well you know la, but it’s a new meter la and it’s not working, cause you know you won’t find any meter taxi at this time la”. What do you say to that when you are already half way in the direction of a town you are unfamiliar with and its 11:30pm! Naturally a bit of pleasant banta ensued and I then asked the all important question regarding the end cost to ferry us if there was
no meter to determine the fair and naturally since taxi fares are always determined in good faith he offered us a good rate of 40 Ringgits to which I politely told him he had to be joking! Thankfully this particular fellow was really good spirited and him and I were both wearing our senses of humour so I managed, through some artful negotiation, to get him to reduce the price by half and we received a complimentary tour of Georgetown CBD (owing to the fact that he clearly had no idea where he was going, even after bypassing the same convenience store four times while he continued to make assurances that he knew exactly where he was headed.) Thankfully luck eventually caught up with him and at some point he made a correct turn landing us outside the New Banana. 12:30pm checked in, cup of tea down the hatch, chilled shower and we could thankfully get some sleep before Norah Jones woke us up the following morning reminding us that we were headed to the beach!
4 days of solid beach time is just what the relaxation doc had ordered and on the white sand beaches of Penang at
that, what a dream! We had managed to recruit a couple of friends on the bus between Georgetown and Batu Ferrengi which at least makes the lengthy and very very hot walk from the furthest bus stop from the guest houses slightly more bearable. It took us no time, once we had found a spot to stay, to dump our bags don our cozzies and get down to the beach and let’s just say the rest of the afternoon faded away in a relaxing oblivion and we had no doubt that Batu Ferengi was going to be a wonderful haven for the following days!
It’s very hard work lying on the beach, sun tanning and doing absolutely nothing. In fact it’s so exhausting that by the time the sun starts to set you have worked up quite a killer hunger. Thankfully the buzzing night market along the main drag in Batu Ferengi has an absolutely tremendous food court so the lot of us headed out in the food courts direction to see what Penang had to offer on the culinary front and boy were we in for a treat! The food court was a mind field of delicacies making
it impossible to choose only one dish for dinner because everything looked scrumptious. After much deliberation I eventually settled on an absolutely amazing plate of curry and all things Indian and I have to say I definitely didn’t suffer order envy because my food was just amazing! Time for desert, it just so happened that the table we had chosen to sit at was directly in front of the pancake vendor so we were all geared up for a little sugar after having suitably filled our faces with a local culinary main meal, until we had a closer inspection of the pancake menu and realised that the pancake desert we’d be having this very evening was not going to be the usual cinnamon and sugar variation we were used to. In fact a sensory shock is perhaps a better description for what was on this pancake vendors menu. You could choose from a variety of weird and seemingly unappetising fillings from Raisins and cheese to Creamy corn, ham and egg to something even more appetising peanut butter and egg to name but a few. Now when you are so spoiled for choice you naturally need to take your time to
really decide what your taste buds might just be able to endure and after much negotiation myself and Z decided that it would be rude not to try the peanut butter and egg option. While I was not going to be rushing back to order another egg and peanut butter delight the following night I have to admit that even as a real disliker of peanut butter let along that combined with egg the pancake wasn’t half bad and if the truth be known it was a darn sight tastier than the only safe option on the menu, chocolate! From the feast we moved on to the local convenience store, hooked ourselves up with a couple of strong beverages and headed down to the beach to play some cards, chill out to some reggae before calling it a night. Night one on Penang suitable enjoyable!
After a good long sleep the baking heat kicked us out of bed ordered us to don our cozies and get our buts down to the beach for a late breakfast before meeting up with our three new counterparts and heading down the other side of the beach to spend the day doing as
little as possible other than to work on our tans and bath in the cool water. Admittedly no beach leisure in Asia comes without some form of interruption. First it was a Chinese medicinal healer who proceeded to massage my hand and decided that the root of all my problems was my lower back and for the cheap price of 80 Ringgets a session he would cure my worldly woes by fixing my back, tempting....but not. After that I got suckered out of 20 Ringgets to have my palm read by a local of Indian decent who told me I would live till at least 82. Aside from that we spent the rest of the afternoon uninterrupted allowing plenty of time to enjoying watching the Batu Ferengi beach horses, parasailers, swimming monkeys, swimming burke clad ladies and local children who had ridden their bikes down to the sea for a swim and all this with the background sound of the Muezzin calling afternoon and dusk prayer, it was yet another magical day on the beach of Batu Ferengi. No suitably awesome day could be rounded off better than with yet another scrumptious meal at the food court followed by an
entire night on the beach allowing us to hear the muezzin call for morning prayer somewhere around 6am. I was game to stay and watch the sun come up but sadly it was still pitch black at the time suggesting that it would mean we would have to endure the ankle feasting mosquitoes for at least another hour so the group decision prevailed and we head back for a couple of hours of revitalisation before day three of the Batu Ferengi beach holiday could commence.
4 hours of recharge and it was back onto the beach for another perfect day of sun and backgammon before parting ways with our other three companions and settling in to watch a perfect sunset from the beach bar. I’m still not sure how we manage it but somehow throughout our trip we had managed to meet as many random individuals as awesome individuals and this evening was no exception. Ken and I were minding our own business lapping up the sunset when we got chatting to none other than a supposedly well known French/Australian fashion designer who decided that he would take Ken and I to dinner. Turned out that the French fashion
designer needed a little redesigning himself cause he possibly tops my list of most arrogant individuals but hey the prawns were good and we managed to politely part ways shortly after dinner and added yet another random experience to our repertoire.
It’s truly amazing how quickly time races and we were pretty bummed when we got back after our random dinner and realised we only had one more day on Penang before a fairly lengthy night bus to Singapore. While sitting on the beach for days on end is never a chore we did decided that perhaps we would vary things up a little and head down to the other side of Batu Ferengi to meet up with Z and Bettina again to check out Monkey beach. If you are heading up to Penang I would highly recommend a trip to the beach but don’t be lazy because it is well worth the walk even if you do end up drenched by the time you get there! One tip I can make however is try and avoid photographing the fornicating monkeys because they are crazy and they will chase you with vengeance. Aside from that lazing on the white
beach, swimming in the clear water and swinging on the tree hung rope swings followed by a pleasant forested walk back and a stroll down the fishing pier is not a half bad way to spend your last day in Batu Fernegi. Sadly, like they say in the movies all good things have to come to an end and we still had another country to add to our list so the four of us collected our bags and caught the bus back into Georgetown to feast up before departure!
You haven’t been to little India in Georgetown if you haven’t been to feast at the dining tables of Sri Ananda Bahwan and I think a feast doesn’t do our last meal on the Island any justice because it was possibly one of the best meals I have ever eaten (no exaggeration). Genuine Indian Curry served on a banana leaf eaten with your fingers is a stunning culmination to a splendid 5 days in Malaysia and if that’s the kind of magic that the west coast has to offer I can’t wait to get my taste of the east coast! By Bye Penang we leave you on a luxury late
night bus bound for Malaka!
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