My 30 day visa free period was about to expire prompting me to head south into Malaysia to begin the second leg of my adventure.
I had booked an overnight train from Surrathani to Butterworth, Penang. A journey which would take 10 hours and was scheduled to leave at 1 30 am. I had hours to kill; stuck in Surrathani with little to do from 5pm I hitched a motorbike taxi and headed to a shopping mall where I could watch a film or shop for groceries in Tesco. There is very little to do in Surrathani.
Surprisingly, I had little need for groceries and so headed to the cinema which provided two options, a Chinese film in Thai or a Thai film, in Thai. Although I had spent a month in the country my Thai only extended to Hello and Thank you and so long as the film stuck to that dialog I was safe. It didn’t of course and I sat watching the film in puzzlement. Five minutes before the end I realised the film, which I had thought was about time travel, was actually about the Chinese revolution. It could have been quite interesting, but nobody
said Hello or Thank you.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a blockbuster; I was the only one watching the film, no doubt with the projectionist sniggering at my poor choice in Thai films. This caused problems when I began to fall asleep, bored of the time travel, imagining I would be stuck in the mall overnight, sliding up and down the Tesco aisles and missing the visa deadline to leave Thailand.
Although the customary hour late, the train journey was fantastic. I jumped onto the top bunk sleeper, adjusted the straps offering safety from the two metre fall and fell asleep t the gentle rock and whistling of the train until arriving at border control in the morning.
Taking a mates advice I headed to China Town in Georgetown, Penang and hit the streets in Bill Bryson’s fashion of aimless wandering.
Georgetown is an amazing place, established as a British Trading port in the 1700s it hosts a mix of old colonial buildings, a China Town and Little India. During that walk I had stumbled upon the British founder, Francis Light’s, grave in a spooky protestant graveyard full of tombs dating back to the 18th
Cultural and morbid appetites satisfied I headed to Little India, craving food that was distinct from the chicken and rice of Thailand.
I knew there was something wrong with the meal when I began but I continued eating, convincing myself it was normal. The chicken was either rotten or had sat in ghee for longer than the bird’s life; it was soft and squidgy and didn’t taste too good. Needless to say the effects were explosive, I went vegetarian for a week and if Rough Guide wanted a detailed description of each public convenience dotted around Georgetown, I would be best placed to advice.
In the evenings I would head to Reggae Penang, a hostel on Love Lane with a great bar where other backpackers would meet and chat with Charlie, a 60 year old Malay who donned a single white glove, a waistcoat and serenaded the girls with MJ lyrics.
Chatting to a couple of girls from Britain we got onto the subject of work and in the crazy ‘small world’ it turned out they had worked for the same firm as me! And so a plan was hatched to enjoy a ‘work’ outing to
snake temple and Kok So Li temple.
After a month in Thailand I was fairly templed out and so the Snake Temple was much for entertaining. Pit Vipers lay sleepily on what looked like coat stands around the temple, chilling out during the day in a drug induced coma affiliated with the smoking incense, and slithering about at night looking for rodents or surprised tourists.
Having met several people heading to the Island of Langkawi it was time to head out of Georgetown in search of paradise beaches, monkeys and waterfalls.
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