Back in Penang... and we can't leave!!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Malaysia  , Pinang,
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So all the time spent of beaches in Thailand gave us plenty of time to think about our trip so far, and all the places we wanted to re-visit. To hell with the itenarary, we decided that it was time we started forgetting about 'where we should be and when' dictated by pre-booked flights and just wanted to go as we wished, even if it meant going back on ourselves... a lot!

We found ourselves back in Penang en route to North Sumatra, a place we really enjoyed during our 24-hour flying visit a couple of months before, which gave us the magnificent Kek Lok Si temple, fantastic tandoori and our friendly hammer-wielding mechanic friend by the roadside! The plan was to just spend another couple of days, relaxing in the very quaint backstreets of Georgetown as we stuffed our faces with tandoori. Mission accomplished on both fronts but unfortunately a bout of illness for both Charlie and Kate in the first few days meant we stayed a little longer than we'd hoped, making sure the girls were fit and raring to go for jungle trekking in Sumatra. Once they were patched up and hot to trot we went out for our 'final dinner' with another trip to the tandoori house. It was only as we talked about taking the boat the next morning that we realized we'd all forgotten to change up some US Dollars for the Indonesian Visa. We were too late to get to any money changers so we were faced with another day's delay and one more day in Georgetown, perusing the 'dead man shops' (filled with old jewellery, furniture and personal letters which were clearly picked up in house clearances of the local deceased), dodging the short-sighted old men on pushbikes (who think that ringing their bell loud enough and often enough makes up for the fact they can't see more than 5 feet in front of them) and avoiding the transvestites, hookers and transvestite hookers walking the streets at night.
The next day we changed up our money, got ourselves sorted and went to book the boat tickets... only to be told that the ferry doesn't run on a Friday. Another 2 days in Penang was forced upon us, so we took the 'get drunk one day, recover the next' option, one which has served us well in the past!

That night our efforts were rewarded with quite possibly the most bizarre live music I've ever seen. A Malaysian guy in full 'John Wayne-style' cowboy gear sat on a stool with the mike at waist level, forcing him to bend over double as he talked and sang with a terrible Mexican accent and attempted to play freestyle jazz/blues guitar. The drummer tried to keep up but looked as confused as the rest of us at times, and the songs were awful: through the drone we managed to make out 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash, 'Rhinestone Cowboy' by Glen Campbell and bizarrely 'Imagine' by John Lennon which was THE worst cover of any song I've ever heard. Ever.

Our time in Penang also afforded us the luxury of a stay in the 75 Traveller's Lodge: a very strange little place which seemed to serve as a calling beacon for all lonely souls, the misunderstood and the 'out there', social lepers and downright mentalists! The place was run by a highly exciteable and infectious Chinese-Malaysian guy called Loh who leapt up, flashing you a wide toothless brown-gummed grin and positively bounced around you every time you came through the front door. His enthusiasm for and knowledge of English football was incredible (he vowed to keep an eye out for the Shots in the future after getting an entire run-down of our 16-year history!) although he seemed to have a general enthusiasm for everything and anything, from his 'open sesame!' EVERY time a door, drawer or book was opened to his fits of uncontrollable laughter pretty much every time anything was said.

The other guests there seemed to have to pass some kind of 'weirdo test' before checking in and the cast of 'Hostel of the Damned' was as follows:

- An Aussie guy in his late twenties who wore the same red shirt and green trousers the entire 6 days he stayed there. We even found out from a girl who stayed in the same dorm as him that he slept in his little elf costume too. He spent his days sat on the sofa in the hostel reception, reading the newspaper and complaining he had no money.
- A thin, very weedy and slightly psychotic-looking German in his 50s who would also spend much of his day on said sofa, preaching the beneifts of tantric yoga, and educating anybody who would listen (and keep a straight face) on the importance of 'self-pleasuring' as a means of practice before attempting to pleasure the opposite sex. His message was clear: 'if you can't sort yourself out, don't even think about trying to sort her/him out'...
- A camp, whiney and heavily-tattooed Canadian who has been travelling for 20+ years and made it his mission to tell everybody and anybody every SINGLE travel anecdote he'd picked up along the way, most of which were about as funny as a Lenny Henry sketch.
- An English guy in his 70s who hasn't been home for over 40 years and spent his days very slowly shuffling around the hostel with his zimmer frame, dressed in a '1940s PE kit' of white vest, baggy white shorts pulled up around his chest and a white Tetley Tea-style flat cap.
- A straggly-haired middle-aged guy who only ever seemed to wear a towel or an unbuttoned shirt and shorts and spent his days and nights sat in his room playing the guitar very badly and wailing along.
- And last but not least, Gareth - the pastey-white Irish 'Full Moon tag-along' from Thailand whose social skills made John McRirick look like a silver-tongued charmer - after listening to the guy from the guest house in Koh Phangan explain how he ran the business along with his mother and brothers and sisters, Gareth took a few seconds to contemplate before asking, "so is your Father dead then?" He followed this up in Penang one morning by listening to a few people exchanging travel stories and the usual 'where do you come from/how long have you been away?' questions before cutting in to ask if anybody knew if there was good wind-surfing in the area. VERY strange indeed!

This motely crew decided to adopt the small balcony area outside the toilets/showers on the first floor as a general meeting area - you'd amble down for a pee and find any number of them drinking tea, practicing yoga, sleeping on the floor, discussing preferred 'self-pleasuring' techniques and on one occassion doing headstand push-ups against the wall. Needless to say the people-watching was a particular highlight during our time here...
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Where I stayed
75 Travellers Lodge

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