Lone Wanderer

Trip Start Oct 31, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hotel Hong Ping

Flag of Malaysia  , Pulau Pinang,
Saturday, November 26, 2011

It was coming, I knew it, I just hadn't thought about it until the day before when the tickets were on my desk. Visa run to Penang, Malaysia. It's taken over 4 months so far to process my visa, that's Indonesia for you. I'm learning, Sumatra is corrupt. Here it's all about money. If you want to drive, you buy your licence, if you want to be doctor you buy your degree, if you want to be a police officer you pay your way in. I'm surprised I've not had a request for money to speed up my visa yet.
So braving my first ever flight alone, ( I never thought I'd see the day!) I took the 45 minute trip across the water from Sumatra to Malaysia and the little island of Penang. Wow! What a breath of fresh air, literally. Compared to Medan, Penang is paradise, clean air, uncrowded roads, nice architecture,Tesco! What a difference 45 minutes make. I admit, had I come here from the UK seeking adventure and culture I'd have been disappointed, but being a resident of Medan gives this place a whole new twist. Everyone in Penang speaks English, it's just easier, since people travel there from all over, to have one common language. Having been a British colony once upon a time the buildings and streets,
particularly in George Town, feel nice and homely.

Shortly after arriving and checking into my (basic, but clean) hotel, I head out to explore my surroundings and (to my joy) manage to hunt down Little India just in time for lunch. Being still somewhat wary of food I opt for a vegetarian Indian restaurant and ask the waiter for advice. His recommendation, Garlic naan and Butter Chicken (substitute) arrives minutes later and I inhale the lot, best curry in ages! I chat to a couple of girls on the table next to me, here from England on holiday and consider tailing them for the rest of the day, but decided to brave and stick to my own plans...I've got my eye on Batu Ferringhi beach! 
I head back to the hotel to change (it's hot here!) and somehow manage to pass out for 3 hours! Must be the early start, or all the stresses of adjusting to a new country and a new job, or the 45 minutes of pure terror earlier that day, whatever the reason I decide to be lenient on myself and not get too annoyed that I missed 3 hours of exploration time! I head off to the beach I'd spotted on a tourist map I'd picked up in the hotel foyer. Taxi's are not cheap here, it costs me $12 to get there, but my taxi driver is a nice guy with lots to say, so I get a mini tour thrown in for free. At the beach I head to a bar and opt for the cheapest
drink on the menu (Tiger Beer) and settle down to watch the sunset and the paragliding. Almost finished and ready to leave when another arrives at my table courtesy of the paragliding instructor just next door on the beach. I wave my thanks politely and hope I can finish it off before he comes over to talk to me, no such luck. Still, it's interesting enough to hear all about his jellyfish injuries and see the scars to prove it and I manage to slip away eventually with the promise of coming back later. I find another bar down the beach and order Honey Chicken and a chocolate milkshake for my dinner, I am loving Penang food!

Around 7pm the night markets at Batu Ferringhi open up, tourist heaven, and I enjoy wandering around, having no clue how much anything really is since I've not figured out the currency, and chatting to the vendors. All in all a fun day!
Sunday morning I'm up early and in need of company, I don't function well as a lone wanderer, one day is plenty for me! And so since it's the first day of advent (it's nearly Christmas yey!) I head to a church based in Hotel Hydro near Batu Ferringhi that I hear is popular with foreigners in the hope of making some friends. I walk into conference hall of around 200 people, nearly all expats...and consider walking out again, I was expecting 10 or 20! But no, I'm being brave this weekend so I stay and it pays off, I meet some nice people and afterwards we go out for lunch, curry again! Happy days. 
I kindly get an offer of a lift back to my hotel (it's nearly time to get back on that plane again!) and on the way I mention that my eye has been causing me problems (I've been seeing floaty things for a few days now). I explain my symptoms to the lady and she thinks I should get it checked out, it sounds serious, and so I'm dropped of at a very smart looking Seven Day Adventist hospital (the only one open on a Sunday). Inside they are getting ready to close, this weekend is a Muslim holiday and Malaysia has a long weekend and so I travel from counter to counter in the hope of being seen by a doctor. Eventually I make it to the eye doctors receptionist who tells me I can't be seen today without an appointment. At this point it's time for tears, I can't really see out of my right eye and there is no way I'm letting a doctor in Sumatra anywhere near it. A passing nurse takes pity on me and gets me a waiting room ticket, phew! 
In the doctors office I get various tests, eye drops and puffs of air in my eyes, before the bright light diagnoses a hole in my retina (well that can't be good!). The treatment is by lazer, which I'm told only hurts as much as an ant bite (I've just been to the jungle, I've seen Indonesian ants!) and won't cause any damage...unless I move during the procedure (!?). Still I go ahead with it, I don't like the sound of the consequences if I don't, and leave the hospital one hour before my flight is due to leave, blind in one eye and hoping for a miracle!
Being blind in one eye doesn't help when I get to the airport, but I manage to make it onto the plane to face my biggest challenge yet: I've got the scariest seat on the plane, the very last row! That's the bumpy spot, the seat where you can see the whole length of the plane go up and down. Luckily I'm still blind, so I grin and bear it and make it to Medan safe and sound and only a little rattled. 
My adventure over, I feel proud of myself, I've packed a lot into two days and I've come out the other side feeling a little bit braver. What's next? I'm ready!   
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evelyn curry on

well done, Jo. So for someone who really struggles with flying, you did fantastically! I'm glad your eye got sorted out. Ouch :(
Hope to see you and Roger soon, with Buddy
I love your blogs. Keep them coming. It makes you guys not see so far away :)

eunhye on

Thanks! It's good to to know someone reads them...well other than my grandma anyway...I know for a fact that she's an avid fan! Can't wait to see you, hopefully I'll be slightly better traveled by then and can take you to some more exciting places than Medan! xxx

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