Thoughts of a geek

11 June 2010

Penang

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — qwandor @ 5:24 am

Well, here goes my third and final post about Malaysia. Maybe soon I will be able to catch up to what I am actually doing now, in London!

My bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on the Monday was not quite ideal. I had asked when buying the tickets whether it was a non-stop trip, and whether it went to Georgetown. I was assured that it was both, but it turned out to be neither. There was a stop of about 45 minutes in the middle, as well as another stop along the way to drop of some passengers. Several of the other (local) passengers were complaining to each other that the bus was driving a lot more slowly than usual, and stopped for too long. One guy was apparently missing a meeting he was supposed to be at. It eventually arrived in Bayan Lepas, and I shared a taxi with 3 others to get to Georgetown, where I was staying at the Old Penang Guesthouse. After checking in I had a bit of a look around some of the city, and had Egg Briyani for dinner at a nearby foodcourt. It is a rice dish served in a clay pot, which was nice, and well-presented. I took plenty of photos as I went along, so check out my general Penang photos and follow along if you like, along with the other albums I have linked further on.

Penang: Claypot Egg Briyani.

On Tuesday morning while eating breakfast I met a couple of others staying at the guesthouse – a German and an American, Ann and Annessa – who were planning to go up Penang Hill that morning. I decided to join them. Unfortunately we did not make it up Penang Hill, but we did go to see Kek Lok Si temple, which was fairly impressive. It is up a slight hill, and near the top there is a tower called the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas. We went up to nearly the top of this, where there is a balcony around the outside, and it was interesting to note that the air was noticeably cooler than at ground level, even at this slight elevation. Perhaps this was partly because there was a bit more wind. I took plenty of photos of Kek Lok Si temple, so have a look at those for more details. Afterwards we had lunch, then took the bus back to Georgetown.

I had a look around the city by myself, visiting Fort Cornwallis, one of the clan jetties, various churches, temples, mosques and more. It was slightly surprising to see bananas growing on trees in the middle of a public park. The clan jetties are cool. They are long jetties, with lots houses and shops all along, built out over the sea by Chinese clans. Nearby, I saw a blacksmith at work, which was also interesting to watch. For dinner I had a different variety of satay steamboat from a hawker stand on the road near my guesthouse. At this one you cook the satay sticks in boiling water first, then dip them in your choice of sauce.

Penang: signs on the clan jetty.

On Wednesday I and the same two girls went to the Butterfly Farm and Tropical Fruit Farm. We had to take two buses to get there, the second of which we had to wait ages out in the heat for. They were both a bit expensive by local standards, but worth the visit I think. At the Tropical Fruit Farm we had a guided tour with a group of other visitors, followed by a fruit buffet where we could try some of the fruit grown there. Our guide did a good job, telling us all sorts of funny and informative stories along the way. The fruit buffet was nice, though we were disappointed that it did not include durian. Again, see the photos linked above for more about each. One of the owners of the Tropical Fruit Farm gave us and some other visitors a lift back part of the way to town, as the bus that goes that way only comes every couple of hours and is not very reliable. Afterwards the three of us had dinner at the Esplanade Foodcourt down by the sea, watching the lightning in the distance as we ate. There was a hawker stall near our guesthouse which sells mini pancakes, which were very nice. I tried the banana and coconut flavours; they also offered a sweetcorn flavour. I also finally tried Ais Krem Goreng (fried icecream) for dessert later in the night, which was nice and cold, but not as awesome as the name suggests. It was just a small amount of icecream wrapped in thick pastry, from a packet, briefly deep-fried.

On Thursday we had a brief look around the Botanic Gardens, hoping to have another try getting up Penang Hill. On the bus we going out there we met an Indian couple who we had seen the previous day at the Tropical Fruit Farm. There were quite a few monkeys around, which expect to be fed by tourists. After a look around the Gardens I decided to try walking up a track I had seen, hoping to get to the nearby waterfall. There were a lot of steps, heading straight up the hill, and so I was sweating very heavily. There were a number of forks in the track, and I asked some locals for directions, and eventually ended up at a rest stop where there were pots of tea and water, as well and shelter and seats. I talked there to a local Malaysian-Chinese guy, who told me about his son who is busy finishing his PhD somewhere in Australia. He told me that I was about halfway up Penang Hill, and that to get to the waterfall I had to go down a different way and turn left where I could hear water. I went the way he said, and did indeed hear water in the distance, but shortly after heading that way saying that access further along the track was forbidden, so I had to turn around and head on down. I am not sure whether or not the waterfall actually was that way, but I never did see it. That said, I and my clothes were all dripping with enough sweat that it felt like I had been under a hot waterfall in a sauna. I was very glad to have a cold drink when I got back to the Botanic Gardens, and I had a shower as soon as I got back to the guesthouse. That afternoon I had a look around the museum, then had both barbecued satay and mee goreng for dinner, followed by more banana and coconut pancakes (mmm).

Penang: a monkey at the Botanic Gardens.

Friday was my last day in Penang, and I did not have enough time to do much. After a bit of lunch I spent an hour on the bus down to the airport at the other end of the island, checked in and eventually caught my flight back to Singapore. Penang Airport has free WiFi, which was handy. For some reason the plane circled for quite a while before landing in Singapore; quite a few passengers were wondering what was going on, but it was never explained. I had a rather hot curry for dinner, then spent one more night at the same backpackers’ as last time before heading to the airport in the morning for my flight to London. This time I slept in the other building which is part of the same hostel. They have two buildings, the main one with reception, common area and kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms, then another building a few blocks away with just bunkrooms and bathrooms that they use when the main building is full.

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3 Comments »

  1. whoa.. you guys were disappointed that it didn’t include durian? but you didn’t like durian..

    Comment by shirley — 16 June 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    • Well no, but it seemed like a rather iconic sort of a fruit that should be included. And the others had not tried it, so it would have been good for them to at least try a bit.

      Comment by qwandor — 16 June 2010 @ 8:39 pm

  2. hmm.. yea true. how could they leave out the king of fruits? hehe, perhaps they didn’t want the smell to ‘pollute’ the other fruits..

    Comment by shirley — 17 June 2010 @ 5:04 pm


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