Penang, Malaysia

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April 1st 2012
Published: April 12th 2012
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On the way to PenangOn the way to PenangOn the way to Penang

The mad chicken bus!
1st April ’12 Ko Samui to Penang, Malaysia

The epic 15 hour, 1 car, 1 ferry, 3 buses, customs out of Thailand and immigration into Malaysia started early! 6.30am and we were up and ready to head to the port. We had to use a taxi from the hotel as none of the travel agencies would come out this far to pick us up.

When we reached the port we got a lovely surprise, there sitting on a bench was Fon our young Thai bar girl friend! When she spotted me she leapt up with a cry and came running across to us, I jumped up to meet her and she wouldn’t stop hugging me. It was really sweet, she kept saying I am so happy I didn’t think I would see you again, this is the Buddha! She asked if I still had the heart she made me and when I showed her it she was jumping up and down in delight – aww bless.

The poor lass was full of cold and told me she had spent 2 days in the hotel as she was so ill but she was now on her way back to

Up in cable car Penang Hill
Patong to see her friend who is seriously ill (due to drinking too much as she also works in a bar). I think there must be trouble in paradise unfortunately as I couldn’t understand how her boyfriend would just let her go off for 2 days without going with her – after all they hadn’t seen each other for a year! However she said he was with his friend and they were going somewhere else themselves – very odd. She did say that he had accused her of working in a bar again and if that was the case then the money would stop, but that she hadn’t been. Anyway after 2 days she is going back to Ko Samui as they are going to the Full Moon Party which she was very excited about. It was so nice to see her again and when we reached the point of going our separate ways it was rather sad, I really hope things work out for her.

The ferry was pretty uneventful, we just sat out on deck for the whole time and then we were met by a bus, driven by a rather strange wild eyed big Thai rasta

Penang Hill
man, who blasted out music for the whole 1 ½ hours and grinned manically in his mirror all the time! The bus closely resembled one of the central American chicken buses, so the whole experience was a bit disconcerting.

Mad rasta man dropped us off at a kind of bus ‘depot’ in the middle of nowhere and then about 30 minutes later a minibus pulled up and shouted various destinations including Penang so we got on. The minibus was packed to the rafters, literally. The driver arranged us on seats – a huge Canadian man was made to get on last after the driver had filled every available bit of floor space with luggage! The bags were piled high and basically you couldn’t move and we just sat there, wedged in, sweating buckets for the next 5 hours or so until we reached the next destination.

We all kind of peeled ourselves and the luggage out and what a relief it was!! Only trouble was we then had to wait around again – at first we were told 1 hour but this soon became nearer 2 and it seemed to be that they were waiting for more passengers

Hindu temple Penang Hill
to turn up so they could fill the next minibus up before we could set off. The driver then basically drove round the little town we were in, first stop the supermarket to get his magazine, next stop the market to get his tea, next stop his home to give his wife something, then a couple of stops to pick up the odd passenger and then finally we set off!

By now I have lost the will to live and lost all sense of time but we did eventually arrive at the border where we all got off and went through customs and got stamped out of Thailand, then got back on the bus, drove some more and then got off again and went through Immigration, had our index fingers scanned (?!) and carried on again. We had been told it would take 3 hours to reach Penang from this point and already our original arrival time of 7.30pm was a distant dream, but our driver seemed determined to make up some time and drove like a demon! Until a kind of police spot check area where out of all the buses going along ours was the one that got pulled over! There then followed lots of police posturing, document checking and eventually the driver was allowed to go – he was not happy they had ‘fined’ i.e. extorted 100 ringgits out of him – probably a weeks’ wages in Thailand. He then continued to drive like a loon but with his mobile to his ear this time as he called everyone he knew to tell them what had happened. I really felt for him but by now it was pitch black and I just wanted him to put the phone down and concentrate on the bloody road!

We crossed the massively long bridge that connects Penang to the mainland and started winding our way around Georgetown, Howard had his trusty home made map (on a piece of stolen hotel notepaper) so we knew a few road names to look out for. Eventually we were all dropped off outside a bar which was fortunately on one of those roads.

Starting up the road I noticed there seemed to be a lot of very attractive young ladies around but it was only when I decided to walk on the pavement which ran underneath the closed shops and succeeded

From Penang Hill
in blundering into a transaction that was taking place that I twigged we were in the red light district. It certainly made for an interesting walk! I have to say the ladyboys were even more attractive than the girls.

Finally we found our hotel and dripping in sweat, despite it being 10.00pm we got to the room only to dump our stuff and head out again to find money and food. Thank god for 7 elevens and Indian restaurants that still serve at that time of night! Much to my delight/horror I also discovered that they sell Cadbury’s chocolate in Malaysia…..

2nd April ’12 Georgetown, Penang

Well we managed to get up just in time for our free breakfast of toast and jam and decided to get out and see the sights. There is a really good bus service on this island and even a free bus that goes round the ‘historic’ and I use that term loosely, old town. Howard being Howard didn’t want to go round the town but wanted to go miles to Penang Hill as there was a cable car ride to the top. So that’s what we did, the bus got stuck

The Mosque
in traffic and it took us 2 hours to get there! The cable car was pretty nifty as it went up virtually vertically and there was a good view over the town and harbour to the mainland. There wasn’t a lot else to see apart from a small Hindu temple and a small mosque. The only other thing to do was visit the Owl Museum which was advertised as being Owlsome ha ha, but Howard wouldn’t go despite there being over 12000 owl related objects in it, miserable old coot!

We then reversed the journey and this time the bus only took 1 hour to get back. We then started the sightseeing only to discover as it was Sunday everything was shut and the sights were very few and far between. We ended up just wandering through the closed town, stopped for a drink in Little India (which looked like it would have been great) and eventually got back to the hotel and collapsed.

We ate at a tiny restaurant opposite the hotel which was pretty uneventful until just before we left when an old English bloke turned up and started chatting to us. He had obviously had a few beers and was a right one. He was telling us that he was travelling and ended up at our hotel as he had got on with these 2 young French girls and they were staying there, however just when he thought his luck was in they decided to go to bed on their own – he seemed quite stunned by that fact, we were not! Well he never stopped talking, he was from Yorkshire originally and now lives in New Zealand, or did until the earthquake hit Christchurch last year and his house is now in the orange zone – which means it may or may not be demolished. Eventually his food arrived and we left him to it.

3 – 5th April ’12 Battu Ferringhi, Penang

Today we moved onto the seaside part of the island, we just used the bus to get there as they are so cheap and easy. Following tradition our guest house was up the hill but luckily it wasn’t as steep as Katya. We soon found it, on a residential road where I’m guessing the wealthy locals live, we were staying at Annie’s Homestay. Annie and her family are Indian

Kek Lok Si Temple
and very friendly and welcoming, they actually own 2 houses together and live in one and let rooms in the other.

We spent the afternoon on the virtually deserted beach, sitting in deck chairs – yes deck chairs! No sun loungers in Penang, we reckon it’s a legacy from when the British were here. That evening we walked along the night market which was selling all the usual designer copies, t shirts etc etc. We ate in the food court which was pretty interesting – lots of tables and chairs surrounded by small stalls selling a really wide variety of food. I did try the local drink which was a very unusual taste – lime juice and sour plum.

That night we discovered that 2 of the other rooms are occupied by families with young kids, kids who stay up until after midnight running around the landing, shrieking. Kids who start screaming in the early hours and running out of their rooms…………. It was a long night.

The next day we didn’t wake up until gone 11.30am – I wonder why?!! We missed breakfast as a result but were told the families were leaving at 4am the

Kek Lok Si Temple Turtles
next morning so not to worry there wouldn’t be any more noise after that.

We just spent the day at the beach and when we were too hot had a trip up the road to the air conditioned tescos!!! And managed to buy some replacement clothes hooray! That night the heavens opened, it was still boiling hot but tanking down with rain and thundering and lightning! Annie lent us a brolly to get down the town for tea which Howard promptly broke!! Oh dear I felt really guilty but made him own up when we got back. She seemed rather shocked but just took it off him and didn’t mention it again.

Amazingly we didn’t hear the families leaving during the night and consequently got up in time to have breakfast! Toast (only 2 slices allowed) and jam. We then decided to use the buses again to visit the Ko Lok Si Temple – a huge Chinese Buddhist Temple up a hill which we spotted when we were going to Penang Hill. Fortunately the bus didn’t get stuck in traffic this time. To get to the temple you had to walk up a tiny steep alley lined with stalls selling various souvenirs. Then you came out at a pond full of turtles and then on up more and more steps passing various statues and small sub temples.

It was a pretty amazing place and the highlight was a gigantic bronze statue of the very serene goddess Kuan Yin which must have been about 200 feet high right up near the top of the hill. You reached the statue by going through the gift shop and then taking a vertical cable car up the hill. The views were great and there was a lovely little pond full of giant carp with a pagoda in the middle. There were also a couple of small temples.

On our way back down we discovered the main assembly hall which was dominated by 3 giant golden Buddhas and the walls of the whole room were lined with small golden Buddhas each in their own niches – pretty impressive.

We had to change buses in Georgetown so we stopped off in a shopping mall to grab some food and to cool down a bit. By the time we reached Annie’s again we had spent about 4 hours on the buses but
Kek Lok Si TempleKek Lok Si TempleKek Lok Si Temple

Bronze Hua Yin
at least they were air conditioned.

That night we ate back in the Night Market food court, neither of us could face looking at the stalls so we just went back to what was now a blissfully quiet homestay!

5th April ’12 Penang to Kuala Lumpur

Not a lot to say about the flight there, it was very quick and getting the bags was the same. However trying to get in touch with the airport hotel Howard had booked was not! We eventually found a public phone that was working (my mobile won’t work over here) and then the farce really began. Howard rang them and used most of the change up explaining who he was and why he was ringing, he then couldn’t understand what the women was saying and passed it to me and the money ran out. We then had to go and buy a bottle of water to get change and then wait in the queue. He rang again and still couldn’t understand what she said and passed the phone to me, she was trying to give us another number to ring so I told Howard to get out a pen, which was snapped in half and flew everywhere, eventually we got the number right. He then rang the number and couldn’t understand what the guy was saying! Gave me the phone and just as the last of the change ran out I figured out what was going on. Turns out someone had been waiting for us all along – not what it said in the email and when we got back to the Dunkin’ Donuts (not the Funky Donuts as Howard had kept saying on the phone) a man in a yellow t shirt (a checked shirt as Howard said) was sat there with a sign with Howard’s name on it and a very grumpy looking face! He just said I’ve been waiting for long time for you!! I had a few things on the tip of my tongue to say back but resisted…just .

Anyway we are now installed in our foul airport hotel – which is miles and miles from the airport on an industrial estate where everything is shut apart from one cafe and despite being hot and sticky don’t think I can risk the communal showers. It’s a 5.30am wake up call and then it’s New Zealand
Batu FerringhiBatu FerringhiBatu Ferringhi

view from Annie's Homestay
here we come!!


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