Palau Penang: Selamat Datang (Welcome)
Trip Start May 17, 2009
19Trip End Dec 21, 2009
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Where I stayed
Old Penang Guesthouse, Love Lane
I have learned from my experience of the last few days that heading out in the morning with the intention of returning about lunch doesn't seem to work out, and 8 hot and steamy hours later I drip my way into the hostel. So, today, I am just sitting around the common area at lovely Old Penang Guesthouse, catching up on bits and pieces.
Surprising for a person like me who needs open windows and sunshine to actually be handling the rooms here - room about 6ftx5ft, aircon, with no windows and no natural light
Georgetown has begun to charm me - I arrived on Friday and will fly out of Penang airport Wednesday morning to wait in KL for my afternoon flight to Phnom Penh. Batu Ferringhi was quiet and restful, although definitely caters more to the resort market than I expected. Lots of highrises charging well over RM250($100) per night. Strange to see the clientele from there bartering at the stalls to drop a price by 1 or 2 ringgits.
As far as beaches go, the water was milky looking and not inviting, lots of surfski hire and horseriding on the beach.
I arrived in Georgetown with no accommodation booking but a recommendation from the Chinese restaurant I had eaten at in Batu Ferringhi. Unluckily for me, there had been no vacancies on Friday for any of the Hostels I had looked at - Dragon Boat races ran on the weekend - but scored a place anyway at Old Penang which is close to Chinatown.
Headed off to Weld Jetty to try to sort out ferries to LanIgkawi, then followed the map for the Colonial Heritage Walk. I have officially become an old woman (or maybe just a local) - walking the streets with my umbrella to stop the sun from searing through my skull.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion tour was interesting - favourite home of a self-made millionaire and Mandarin from the 1800s. His last son has just died in the 1990s so under the terms of the will, the property could finally be sold
I had a personalized tour of the Island on Saturday with Ragu, my taxi driver. He does a nice sideline with the guy at the Malaysian Tourist Centre and managed to get kickbacks I'm sure at some of the places we went to, but I really enjoyed my time with him. Many of the tidbits below came from him, so hopefully it's not gammon. The west of the island is much less inhabited - lush greenery and authentic Malay homes and farms in Bulik Pulau and the few towns we passed. Roads here are generally good although we came across a couple of major works that have been put on hold since the local government got in, as they are in opposition to the Federal government. Amused by a couple of guys whose job for the last year or more has been to sit in their bamboo tower at one end of the roadworks, manually switching the traffic lights to green and red.
Penang Hill was a bit of a fizzer - after waiting for more than an hour to be sardined into the funicular, the heat haze hid all sign of the Penang Bridge and the view was as ordinary as the Barry Manilow style music playing on loudspeaker.
Mandatory pictures of multiple temples and mosques are included - haven't yet managed to find a Christian church open to wander through
I am becoming a connoisseur of the point and nod food-ordering school at streetstalls, and happily wander in and share a table with the locals at the open-air cafes. Had some great successes so far, and can't complain about the price but might be difficult to tell you what I ate. I had delicious Indian Vegetarian one night at Woodlands Restaurant - ate a baby-shit green puree of spinach and potato with nan bread with my fingers and wished Matty was here to share with me. Wonderfully spicy, as was the ginger tea, although it was too sweet for my taste (condensed milk and sugar!) Last night's meal was too big for me to finish and all for less than $3.
I just love Little India by night - hip swinging Bollywood tunes, smell of curries and spices, incense, georgeous saris everywhere, gentlemanly "Hello Miss"es, neon lights and "Fancy" stores where you can buy all your brightly coloured garlands and offerings for temple
I have been keen to try the shaved ice drinks that are sold in plastic bags. All manner of things go into them: cane syrup I'm thinking; milk (possibly condensed); some jelly-like substance that I have no idea about - possibly soy; khaki green colouring which I think is made from pea flour. Gotta tell you though that the orange one I had yesterday was delish and very refreshing and today's mango milkshake was scrummy.
I am yet to try Dorian, a local fruit which reminds me of Jack fruit. Ragu tells me it is called the Ganja fruit by the Indians, because a slice or two will give you a good sleep for a few hours - and maybe a bit of a mind-numbing as well? The only problem is that apparently it stinks so badly that the smell hangs around you for a few hours - a bit like the sewers here. A tray is about RM7 ($2.50) and I only want to try a little bit, but I know our hostel manager likes it.
PS Decided to give Langkawi and even the coral snorkeling a miss this time - too expensive
3 lane streets that turn into 2 ½ lane carparks outside schools at lunchtime; parents are not allowed to enter school grounds at all - children must be called to the gate by the security guard; following some gang related incidents a couple of years ago, police patrol schools every couple of hours; countdown boards at major traffic lights that count down the seconds till the lights change (gives the pedestrian a chance to know whether they have a chance of crossing the road without being mown down); very few pedestrian crossing lights -crossing traffic is not for the fainthearted; lots of short-tailed cats (still looking for tail soup on local menus); women washing foodcourt cutlery in the sinks at the public toilets at Prangan Mall- no suds, no plug, no hot water (hhhmmm some things it is best not to know)
WORDS TO THE WISE
When looking for a streetmarker to find your way home, don't choose Jalan Sehala - or like Hansel and Gretel you will be left lost and wandering up many a one-way street.