The Pearl of the Orient

Trip Start Sep 03, 2004
Trip End Dec 22, 2004

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Here we are on the lovely island of Penang, which the British named "The Pearl of the Orient", our first day in Southeast Asia where we haven't seen rain!

After travelling for the whole day, from Taman Negara back down to Kuala Lumpur, then up to Penang, we were wrecked! Our taxi driver from Jerantut had told us it was going to be a hectic few days as Malaysia was about to have 5 public holidays in a row because of the Hindu Deepavali festival and the end of Ramadhan falling at the same time. Indeed! We thought we'd already experienced KL, but nothing would prepare us for the bus station on Sunday 7th November - it was mad! It took us ages, logging our rucksacks about, to find a bus to Penang that wasn't already booked up!

Finally, we found a bus... and another freak! "Jackson", a fat Chinese-Malaysian boy, who stuffed his face the entire bus journey, sat right infront of us and every 2 minutes he turned round to say something and ask more and more ridiculous questions. We felt quite sorry for him at the start, but politeness seemed to him an invitation for more! He started to get a bit rude, asking quite personal questions, then the highlight was when he asked Andy if he would be able to pay a bit of his plane journey for him to come and meet us in Ireland - what??? Was so funny, especially when Jillian had to keep the laughter in as she heard Andy spell out to him a false email address about 6 times, because he couldn't get it, but after 5 hours, we were nearly plotting a murder, I swear! Why do we attract them???

Anyway, we got into Penang about 9, found a hotel near "Love Lane" - we'd find out why it was so-called later... We dined in a lovely Indian restaurant (again) and tasted the good old beautiful taste of Carlsberg draught beer, which actually was surprisingly really nice here! Jillian was drunk on 2 glasses due to the lack of beer since New Zealand - how cheap! After our dinner, we had our first encounter with a real-life lady boy! S/he was working in the supermarket and it was so obvious - Bangkok is gonna be funny! We then saw another one, in "Love Lane", flicking their hair and waving down cars, calling in a very deep voice! On Love Lane there were many beautifully dressed women...

After an immature giggle at the world, it was a well deserved sleep with the air-con and fan at full blast. With the rainy season being nearly over, the next day we were heading for the beach!

We caught a bus today from the crazy Komtar bus station to Batu Ferrenghi, north Penang. The bus stations we've encountered so far in Asia are just mad! There are random men shouting and screaming for people to get on their bus and asking you if they can help you, where you're going... None of them wear uniform, so we're always a bit dubious about being conned, but the locals seem to trust in them, so we cautiously have been following suit. It's a marvellous sight just to watch the hectic way it all operates. The beach at Batu Ferrenghi was beautiful, but we know there's better ones to come! We only spent an hour there because we wanted to see more of Georgetown, before really hitting the beaches. After feeling guilty again (in an Indian restaurant again!) eating infront of the muslims, still fasting for Ramadhan, who order their food about 20 minutes and then just stare at it before being allowed to eat it at 7pm, we took another Rickshaw ride with an oversized Chinese Malay who, God love him, had to stop every so often, sweat lashing off his face, gasping for air. He told us he could show us all the sights of Georgetown in an hour, but after being half way round in an hour, puffing on another cigarette, he said it would be another half an hour, so we decided we'd seen enough of Georgetown (not too special really) and would come and tell all our family and friends of our latest adventure, which is where we are now - another internet cafe.

Tomorrow we're catching a ferry to Pulau Langkawi, one of the most beautiful islands of Malaysia, slated to be the Phuket of Malaysia. We'll spend a few nights there, just relaxing, getting away from the cities and towns, and just taking a break from "travelling" as such. From there we'll catch a ferry to Satun, Thailand.

Asia so far has been such a mix of experiences - so many different cultures, ancient sites and temples, jungles, hectic cities, beaches, hot rain and unsanitary holes in the ground for peeing :-/ It's been brilliant, so diverse in every way, a real different experience.

The plan for the next few weeks is sun, snorkelling and relaxing on some of the world's most beautiful beaches in the Andaman Sea, before heading to Kanchanaburi for elephant rides, Chiang Mai for hilltribe villages and treks, Cambodia to see the amazing temples of Angkor Wat, then the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, before flying to India for the last part of our amazing trip and more curries :-).

We'll keep you updated as usual!

Thinking of you all,

A smiling, happy and awed Andy and Jillian :-) xxx
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