Sunday, 13 November 2011

Penang, Malaysia

Penang is an island just off the north of Malaysia, connected to the mainland by a large bridge about a mile long. When we first arrived at 10pm after an 11 hour journey, I though it was just a huge city and was quite disappointed. But opinions did change.

We hadn't drank since entering Malaysia due a heavy first month on the islands in Thailand and it was a nice change to be honest, I could actually end my lads holiday and start doing some travelling!
Penang and Malaysia itself was not what I expected. So much wealthier than Thailand, sky scrapers and shoppin malls. And much more expensive. It's amazing how when you cross the Thai Malaysia border things can change so dramatically in terms if wealth. For example the local busses that run around the island were up to English standard.
Penang started with meeting a lad who lives in a brothel in koh Phangan. Me and Geordie Andy stayed in the banana hostel in a 3 bed room with Billy. This lad had some stories. been bitten by a wild dog, had to pay 10,000 Baht for overstaying his visa and of course lives in a brothel, and doesn't dare lift the mattress to find what's underneath as his bed is 'The' bed.
We spent the first night or 2 with this lad, and met Alec and kirstie (met in koh Phi Phi last week) the following day. Nice surprise as didn't know they were even in Georgetown.


Penang is known for it's amazing street food. And after being told I could eat a curry with my hands by Kev, I was determined to find a decent curry. The culture is an infusion of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian. The food is very similar. Allot if Indian food. So we ate copious amounts samosas. Every evening we attempted to hunt down a good Indian curry. We found one that was really good and would give the Ganges a run for their money! Ate one curry with my hands, and one that arrived within a pancake. A very odd combination! It actually turned out that the street food was brilliant. There was very little western food in the area, unlike Thailand.  But If you really desired a pizza Hut/KFC you could find one.

Drink in the area is generally hard to get hold of due to the culture and religion. But we did find the odd alcohol store. 7/11's also sell small beers. Very few bars in the area and as we were on detox from Koh Tao and Phi Phi so we didn't go looking really. Saw a few bars but it was almost English prices, no buckets either so didn't see the point!
It was only the last day when we were chopping cheap dirty vodka and gin playing drinking games with Finnish lads! Brutal! woke up this morning still drunk and we had to get the bus at 8am to the Cameron Highlands. 7 o'clock start. Ended on a good note though, by pissing everyone off in the dorm. I seem to have found that the car horn alarm at 6.50am does the trick, especially when you don't wake up to turn it off, and you finally awake to the guy below kicking your bed and Geordie Andy shouting and swearing at me.


The second hostel we stayed in was the Red Inn, by far the better out of the two. Much more sociable as it was dorm rooms. Met 3 Finnish lads, one of which went by the name of Beethoven. Really odd fellow, but was drinking 12% larger every night and was a good laugh.

The first day involved a tour of the city, found a small map and headed for the tourist attractions. So city hall, various mosques and temples and beach...naturally.
Me and Andy decided to enter one of the mosques just outside a part of Georgetown known as little India. Got a nice little tour from one of the local people and post tour, saw one of his 'brothers' who preached Islam to us. He was so passionate about the religion and started Singing the quaran to us. Very hard not to laugh, but wow, what an experience. Then proceeded to hand me 'an illustrated guide to Islam' ....really!!
This just confused everyone. Workers in the 7/11 gave me discount as they thought I was becoming a Muslim. I accidentally left the book in the fruit shake store, only for the bloke to come running down the street, book in hand, shouting me. Quite embarrassing!
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On the second day i visited the national park of Penang, just a standard trail walk really but to a gorgeous beach which was like walking on embers!! Baby turtles in conservation to be released when a little older was really cool! The sites and views were amazing. To be fair though we were knackered by the time we got back. It was not flip flop territory.
The following day, I decided to trek the 5Km to the top of Penang Hill. I got the bus with Andy to the Botanical gardens. Really hot day, the gardens were really peaceful. Quick look around, monkeys all over the place. Then we commenced the 850m climb starting off with the 1386 steps. Savage!!! My vest became a sweat rag!! Literally dripping from the brow, we made it, we then walked the remaining 3Km up the road. This was just brutal!! Every corner a steeper hill. Not one stretch was down hill. The only thing that kept me going was the remaining mentos from the previous night! I've never seen andy move so quick when we got chased by 2 wild dogs because we made a wrong turn into a locals farm land. He was rambling through the forest! We  finally made it and summited about 2 o'clock. 2 and half hours of climbing! But the views from the top were so worth it. Panoramic view of all Georgetown and over to the mainland of Malaysia. Unbelievable!
There was not a chance we were walking down, so we got the tram. 10 minute descent. Sweet!!
Me and Kirstie decided to walk to the Komtar tower, the highest building in Georgetown but was  closed for maintenance. So just knocked it on the head and headed back via the bakery!! Plum muffin with tea coffee blend was unreal!

Overall Penang was brilliant. We stayed 5 nights and only planned on a couple. Seems to be the norm when travelling. It was nice to actually get out and see the mosques, temples and a bit if the area. Whilst on the islands in Thailand that became very difficult for obvious reasons and every day was a beach day.
So onto the Cameron highlands with Andy, Alec and Kirtsie where I have heard good things.

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