Salamat Datang - Welcome!

Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
Trip End Feb 04, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  ,
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We arrived in Penang very early in the morning, and having gotten up at 4:30 to go to the airport, we were exhausted.  Our taxi driver was very friendly, welcoming us to Malaysia, and having a bit of a chat with Scott when he told him he had lived here.  As we drove past areas our driver kept asking Scott if he remembered any of it, but since he was a child when he lived here, he didn't remember much.  The place where we stayed was called Hotel Mingood, and the staff there were incredible, wearing naught but smiles on their faces (and clothes, of course) and offering advice and brochures on what to do from the moment we stepped into their lobby.  We went up to our room, spacious with baby blue walls and large windows, nothing glamorous, but right out of a movie where you see the major star staying "someplace, somewhere" overseas.  Then we crashed.  Until 1pm!  Could not be helped, we were just so tired.  Never fear though, readers, the adventure did follow!

We spent the afternoon having a bit of a walk around Georgetown.  We were centrally located, and I'll have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the narrowness of the streets and how run down the buildings were.  Many buildings are of historical significance, and are as beautiful as they are old.  Despite having been in countries where I have seen this before, I guess I just wasn't prepared for it, or had a different picture in my mind from having heard stories of Malaysia.

We walked along Lebuh Chulia, which is a street dotted with guest houses, hostels, trades shops, mechanics...lots of variety!  We stopped at a corner eatery which specialized in Tandoori, and very quickly learnt that the owner picked out for us what we were going to eat.  "You will have Kashmir naan with Biriyani".  So we did.  Then he dropped a small bowl with a sweet called kendali, which was quite good and said "try it, you will like it".  So we did.  Overall, a yummy lunch experience, local restaurant, no thinking about menu items required!  Our walk back met us with a downpour of rain.  No, I digress, a torrent of water fell suddenly from the sky and left us dripping and laughing, and eventually not caring anymore as we walked under mother nature's fully-powered shower head and back to our hotel room.  (See attached silliness video of silly Scott in silly rainstorm).

Our next escapade is where we defined ourselves intrepid indeed!  Having had a chat to our lovely hotel staff, they told us they could organize a scooter for us for the day and that would be the cheapest and best way for us to get around the island where Scott had planned.  But of course, as I'm the one covered to ride a motorbike, little Jenn braved what I think of as the "relaxed chaos" (will explain later) of the Malaysian streets, bravely rode back to the hotel to pick up her husband and off they went! Super-scooter girl and her man!  I will say that the attention you get being a female driving a scooter with a male passenger is insane.  Workers calling out from their trucks, honking, staring, staring some more... did I say staring?  It was quite funny and gave Scott and I a lot of enjoyment.  Now by relaxed chaos I mean that there is no indicating, no following of lanes, no going in the right direction, lots of cutting people off, but it's ok, like everybody is thinking, "no problem, man, cut me off, share a lane with me, cause I'll do it to you later!".  They really don't care.

We did a whirlwind tour of the north of Penang on our trusty little scooter, visiting the Wat Chayangkalaran (the reclining Buddha Temple), where Scott and I found the Buddhas for the year we were born.  We then crossed the road to the Burmese temple.  It's difficult to describe temples in writing, because they are flashing with colour and vibrance, yet you feel peaceful and so much tranquility when inside them.  In every temple, every corner, wall, statue is unique and completely beautiful.  We also went to the kek Lok Si Temple, the largest temple in Penang, set up on a hill.  To get to it you weave up through market and vendor stalls, selling everything from pins to t shirts to hand-made jewellery.  It was a fantastic walk up, and the view of Penang once up there was worth the uphill trek in the heat.

The Botanical Gardens in Penang are not what we are used to in Canada or Australia.  It is obvious that the lack of funds have made it difficult for them to maintain their grounds, and unfortunately many areas were closed when we went.  However, the gardens are still beautiful like a family park and many families were picnicking there.  A very interesting  specimen to view in the gardens is the hungry monkey.  What, huh?  Hungry monkey?  There are monkeys running rampant through the park!  The second we got off our scooter Scott said, "Have you seen it?"  There was a monkey at the entrance, and he proceeded very calmly to go and sit on somebody's scooter.  I had a very touristy reaction and shook Scott and exclaimed "There's a monkey on the bike!"  Unfortunately people feed them, which is against the law, that's why they walk around closely to humans, and can become a bit aggressive.  People, just DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS!  DON'T EVER FEED WILDLIFE!  Ever.  Anywhere.  Any type.  Any country.  Ok, got that off my chest.

We also went across on the ferry to Butterworth.  We negotiated with a taxi driver to charge us per hour and take us to specific spots, such as the air base where his dad worked, his old house (it's abandonded, up for rent, anyone interested?), and his old school which is now a school for the deaf.  It was a task to get the taxi driver to take us back to the ferry again, as he was obviously milking the time we were in the cab with him.  Here, let's detour to this temple, oh, let's go to the bird sanctuary, what was that restaurant you went to as a child?  Yes, yes, thank you, that's ok, we'll go back to the ferry.  Ok, ok, but now I'm going to drive safer and slower than every Malaysian owning a vehicle in this country, let's go 40 km/h, like I'm 80 years old driving in the country on a Sunday morning and point out lots of sights again on the way back, are you sure you don't want me to find a Thai restaurant?  Thank you, thank you, ferry please! We did finally get to the ferry, where there were outdoor vendors, and I bought some type of battered, fried plantain, yummmmmm!  About 10 pieces for 1 RM, which is 30 cents, give or take.

One of our favourite places in Penang was the Red Garden hawker's market.  Yes, food again, I know!  But honestly, it's just so damn good!  We went 2 nights in a row and tried chicken wings (very different than the wings people think of) with very spicy chilli sauce, grilled corn, spicy green beans and char koay teow, which is an incredible noodle dish, made with some sort of egg noodles, and the flavour... incredible.  We're also in love with Malaysian coffee which is very dark and strong, but they sweeten it with something akin to butterscotch and put a bit of milk in.  It's just delicious.  When they prepare it, they "stretch" it, pouring the coffee from the metal pot to the cup from up high, making it froth.  I asked one of the guys at the market what the coffee was called and he wrote for me "copaly taray".  Stretched coffee!  I repeated it back to him and he killed himself laughing, I'm not sure if we were laughing together or if he was laughing at me!  That's alright, after only a week Scott and I are getting used to that already.  Ok, canaussie rating time.  For scale, refer to blog #2.

Hot almond milk: 3+ it would depend on your mood.  It's like a steamer.

Char koay teow: 4

Fried plantain: 4+ what a good snack!

Dragon fruit: 3, not a strong taste

Kek la juice (sour plum): 1 too weird, almost salty

Riding a scooter in relaxed chaos: 2 for scary factor, 5 for cheapness and flexibility!


'til the next one xo
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