48 hours in Malaysia


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Asia » Malaysia » Penang » Butterworth
April 29th 2010
Published: June 5th 2010
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So we got to the train station on a hope and a prayer and also relying heavily on the travelers mantra - everyone is trying to make money out of you.

Not surprisingly it turned out to be right and we had no problems walking up to the desk and ordering tickets for 2 hours later straight through to Butterworth in Malaysia where we could then connect with Singapore.

Tickets booked we went over the road for a meal and to stock up on supplies. We were on the edge of Chinatown and the food is something I definitely want to go back and sample more of. It's mainly boiled pork and duck but at reasonable prices and tastier sauces that's not something to sniff at.

After our meal we went to the 711 and grabbed water for two days worth of travel - our backpacks were really light from leaving stuff in Bangkok - and snacks to last a day. We got he ubiquitous bags of crisps and some biscuits and bulked this out with stuffed bread. Basically sandwiches with fillings like shredded pork and tuna Mayo.

I managed to get a little bit addicted to the tuna mayo butties.

Preparations done (meaning I had 3 tuna mayo butties) we set up camp in the station an watched a few older monks try an organise a group of over 100 monks and all their supplies. Unbelievably we were too in shock to photograph this but nobody else looked surprised so maybe it was just like a school trip.

We got onto the train with no fuss and found we had a double seat to ourselves for the first part of the journey which would later fold into the top bunk bed. We spread our stuff out staking our claim and settled in to read our new books.

The journey passed relatively quickly and we were soon lying down in the spacious and not cardboard filled beds. People were ordering what looked like 3 course meals and we tucked into our feast before turning in for the night. The only adventure was going to the toilet only to find the door wouldn't open. After some frantic gesturing to the guard on the other side I went to the one at the other end other cabin.

We were woken up early (about 8) at the border and grabbed our bags and passports for a quick customs stop. It was similar to last time only now a Malaysian guy asked us to open our bags. Satisfied that we had nothing we got back in the train where our beds had been changed back into seats.

Not to be deterred by this we squirmed into our seats and managed a few good hours kip rousing ourselves for some chicken and rice at one point. We eventually arrived in Butterworth at 1 to start the next leg of the journey.

We were hoping for a connecting train so we could have another good nights sleep but this was not to be. We proceeded over the road to the bus station and after a quick toilet break to have a wash I left Emma with the bags to ask around for bus times and prices. They all left around the same time and none had toilets on so we took the cheapest we could left our bags at their office and went to the food stalls nearby to fill up and make a plan.

It was here that I would remember how much I liked Nasi goreng - fried rice and chicken usually with an egg - and Emma would remember she didn't like tom yam soup. (again! I always order it and always remember that I hate it about 2 mins before it arrives.) It's hot and sour and usually has little substance save a few bits of tree bark. Needless to say I ended up with soup for lunch.

We found that Butterworth was an industrial port with little to offer but a short ferry ride away was Georgetown which was made for tourists. After a quick can of Kickapoo (tenacious d reference) we hopped the ferry over and went for a quick skirt around the island. Our bus wasn't till 8 so we had plenty of time.

We went round little India and Chinatown grabbing a cheese naan on the way. Emma was getting drawn in by the cheap jewelry shops and the place had a nice colonial feel to it and the promise of good beaches. We will try and return here late in this trip.

We grabbed tea at the same Indian we had he naan at and I got a curry and Emma had a kebab. Emma also discovered masala tea which is basically tea with loads of sugar and got instantly hooked. Her kebab had been so nice that we also got one with a naan and dips to takeaway for the impeding bus journey.

We had received one or two worried emails from Emma mum asking if we were in Bangkok as things had started to escalate. We got on the internet and confirmed we were out of there and what the press was reporting wasn't the full picture. Our friend had actually been offered the chance to move his flight to somewhere else but declined.

Time short we headed back to the bus stop and after a quick wash in the toilet boarded the bus. It was by most standards comfy, they tilted back and had foot rests making sleeping a good option. We ate our meal and settled in for the night. I awoke the next morning dazed and confused as we were stopped and looked like we weren't going anywhere fast. I woke an uncooperative Emma who quickly got angry that we weren't at the border yet and wanted to know why I hadn't let her sleep.

I was fast asleep and happy. Andy woke me up saying that we were nearly in Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore are quite different. Singapore is all skyscrapers and Malaysia is all banana trees..a bit different. Needless to say I got a bit annoyed at being woken up at some ungodly hour because Andy got trees and skyscrapers mixed up!

With no answer I shrugged and suffered an hour of grumpy Emma (an hour! It was like ten!) before we reached the border. I could tell karma was hot on my case as I got shouted at for taking a photo as we neared the passport control area. This continued as we moved to have our bags checked and I was pulled to one side as Emma skipped on through. I was carrying Emma bag as it was heavier and the confused looks as he pulled out bras and denim hotpants made me go a bit red.

It was the funniest thing I have ever seen - watching Andy slowly turn pinker and pinker and the security bloke pulled out knickers and bras from his bag. I eventually got asked to move on because I was piddling myself on the other side of customs watching him.

Back on the bus we got a further telling off for leaving a bag on the bus and it was explained that they could have gotten into trouble. Not the best time but we quickly responded with a half hearted apology and request that they drop us off near a hostel. Needless to say this was ignored and when we did get off we took a 15 minute walk to get to a row of the cheapest beds in Singapore and the next country in our journey.

Oh can I just comment on Andy's hair...I was in our room in Bangkok when I though ..'oh Andy and Bowe have been away for a while' so I go to find them (just followed the sound of giggling)..I go to the bathroom and find Bowe butchering Andys hair (which he just got cut about 3 days before!It was almost a month before actually!) and his beard! It was fine for Bowe as we were leaving the next day so he didn't have to look at it. Between them they managed to shave most of his hair off and half of his beard before the clippers gave in. He looked like..oh I give up.


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