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Published: December 22nd 2008
Monday 15th December
We left the little island of Palau Pangkor in glorious early morning sun. Luckily my camera has started working 95% of the time. We caught the bus from Latun on the mainland to Butterworth from where the ferries make the short crossing to the far bigger and developed island of Palau Penang. Immediately the presence of a cruise ship indicated a far more tourist driven location. The ferry lands in bustling Georgeown. Public transport is incredibly cheap - a bus to our lodgings cost 1 ringit each - less than 20p. Immediately impressed by our accommodation (the Hutton Lodge) which an oasis of calm on the edge of Chinatown. The lodge has a 'no shoes upstairs’ policy.
Tuesday 16th December
We explored the historic streets of Georgetown (which with Melaka is a recently established UNESCO world heritage site). We tried to find the tourist office for half and hour which is accessed via a shopping centre administration block from which you ascend to floor 56 of the Comtur. It is so difficult to find that very few visitors must make it and we were treated like royalty on our arrival. We were given a personal guided tour
Ron on ferry
It was a lovely clear morning as we caught the early ferry
around the tourist office including the staff restaurant, which like the rest of the office has magnificent views over Georgetown. They insisted we sign the guest book whose pages confirmed the scarcity of visitors. Back at street level the streets are a little bit like Havana - a genteel decay but unlike Havana, every 100 yards there seems to be a magnificent mosque, Hindu temple or Chinese clan house. There are places to eat everywhere from restaurants to little back street alleys full of Chinese getting stuck into rice and noodle dishes. Street stalls sell incredible looking items from bizarre fruits to strange pieces of meat. In the afternoon we headed by bus to Penang Hill. We thought we were bypassing it so we jumped off the bus several stops too early and funicular railway appeared not to be operating in the distance so we headed back to downtown Georgetown. I had travel back over ferry to Butterworth railway station to arrange the overnight sleeper to Bangkok. Friday was sold out and I only just managed to get on the Thursday train. The evening meal was at the esplanade on the waterfront. We were the only westerners in the whole
Clouds hover over Pangor Pulau
Early morning mist over the dense forest covering much of Pulau Pangkor with some of the fishing fleet in the foreground
hawker stall place. We tried some Penang specialties. Firstly laksa assam which is noodles with spicy fish broth flavoured with tangy sour tamarind paste and mint. I thought it delicious but Jen thought it disgusting and smelly. Next we had Rojak which is a fruit salad (including a delicious fruit we couldn't identify) covered in a palm sugar sauce with peanuts, sesame seeds and chilies. It sounds uninspiring, but we both liked it a lot.
Wednesday 17th December Panang
By local bus to a fishing village called Teluk Behang on the edge of the National Park. There are trails through the forest to remote beaches but it was too hot for exertion so we simply wandered the streets and a bit of the beach. We chatted to a cheerful group of boys playing a game with tops. Before leaving we had a very moderate and overpriced (by Malaysian standards) meal in a restaurant called the Worlds End. On the return journey we made the mistake of getting off at the busy touristy Batu Ferringhi rather than one of the quieter lovely small -a beaches that we passed. It was choc-a-bloc with jet skis some who zoomed with total disregard
A cloud over a distant islad gave the appearance of an erupting volcano
close to wading children. We were glad to get back to our lovely haven of the Hutton lodge.
Thursday 18th December
We caught the ferry back over to Butterworth where the overnight sleeper train departs for Bangkok. We spent the waiting time at a local Malay cafe where Jen summoned up the courage to ask a local woman what some of the local food was. Thus we enjoyed a variety of wonderful local fare before our departure. On the train we luckily ended up sharing our sleeping berths with a nice English couple stopping off in Malaysia and Thailand on their way to New Zealand. The train was amazingly bumpy. We were hurtled all over the place. We had to disembark to complete the border formalities. As we had been informed by internet research, the standard overland visa is now only 15 days rather than 30, which gives us some complications when we return to Thailand later. I saw a startlingly blue kingfisher from the train and numerous cattle egrets in the paddy fields. We enjoyed our first Thai beer of the trip before climbing into our generously sized berths. An attendant comes along and transforms the seats into
The ferry takes only 15 minutes and costs only about 25p for the return journey.
an upper and lower berth. He covers it in fresh linen and a blanket. I got the upper, Jen the lower. The bumping around made it seem more like being on a storm tossed small boat than a train. Despite this the bed was comfy but the air con was a little strong for the thin blanket we were given. Having undressed I decided to put my clothes on again for warmth but I still woke up intermittently feeling cold. (Memo: pack silk pajamas next time). As the night progressed and we headed further north, the track got smoother.
Tot: 2.091s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 13; qc: 77; dbt: 0.0415s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb