Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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What I did
Northern Tour

Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, October 2, 2011

Penang cannot be done in 2 days. Fact. This place does deserve so much more time dedicated to it. Personally I think back to big cities we have visited where we have wasted away time not really doing anything (Kunming and Bangkok come immediately to mind) and wish we had another couple of days here as both days have been busy.

Getting up a bit earlier and stepping out onto the creaky floorboards of the Red Heritage Inn we managed to make it to breakfast before it had all disappeared. A mix of banana, samosas and toast went down nicely and then we grabbed our umbrellas and headed for the door.

I had spent a couple of hours late into the evening planning a mini itinerary for the north of the island because I had looked into a couple of tours which firstly cost an inordinate amount of money to ferry you around and then did not even include the entrance fees to the various attractions. The day was going to be spent around the bus route of Rapid Penang 101, which stretches from the Jetty through Georgetown to the fishing village and national park in the north west of the island.

At the end of the road we jumped onto the bus and paid our 1.4ringit each (about 30p). This takes you up to 7km and is more than enough to get you between most attractions.

Our first stop was the hard to spell Wat Changeralanglan (to be checked on upload). It was raining at this point and we jumped off with our umbrellas at the stop I thought was right and was thankfully correct. This is the temple in Penang which houses one of the largest laying down Buddhas in south east asia (there are loads, and they all claim to be the largest – of which most of them, if not all but one of them, are not). The Buddha was nice and colourful, painted in bright colours as most Buddhist temples seem to be. The rain made things a little awkward taking your shoes off at the entrance but this was a surmountable problem. We slipped our way around the temple and it struck us again at the shame of the money involved in religion. The temple has many different 'Buddhas' all representing different days of the week, and different animals of the Chinese calendar. In front of each of these sits, a small box saying ‘deposit’ with a few words such as ‘those who donate to this Buddha will find their lives etc etc etc’. It is shameful. It is beneath such a great religion. And with the touts selling Buddhist robes inside the temple and the selling of name space below the ‘thousand buddhas’ that line the walls of the temple it resounds of a desperate attempt to get people to buy prosperity. And for those in need, this must seem like buying a lottery ticket, an easy way out of poverty. They are not the only religion to do such things, and they will not be the last – if people want to donate, it shouldn’t be with strings attached – it should just be. After such a good experience in the mosque yesterday it left a sour taste with me and Kate and I could only clear that taste with a can of Mountain Dew.  Refreshingly floursecent.

Back onto the 101 and our magic mystery tour next stop at the ‘World’s Biggest Toy Museum’. Now there are positives to this place and I will get to them. The building is looking a bit old and worn. The entrance fee was a bit steep at 20 Ringit each (4 pounds) and then on entry, you realize it isn’t really a museum. This is a little boy’s storage garage. Rows of shelves which look like they have been brought from  B&Q (the metallic type which you have to screw together yourself) packed to bursting point with figurines and models. Most of the floor seems to be sagging and giving way under the weight of all the plastic, and all of the toys are covered in dust in what is very much a collection of obsession. The collection includes figures, both in miniature and in lifesize (which look like the sort you would have to visit film premieres to get hold of) and from movies, to games to cartoons. There are thousands of toys, which is a good reason not to start dusting. If the owner ever started, they would never stop. This place appears to be falling to pieces, and I cannot understand how the owner has a clue if they are the ‘Worlds biggest’ as there is no way they could possibly count the numbers of toys. As most of the shelves are on the wonk slightly, figurines that were once probably placed carefully are now falling over each other.

This place is awesome. Kate might not agree; I’m sure she doesn’t as she preferred our next stop, but it is. There are toys from everywhere and if you can’t get a little bit sentimental and childish over looking at ‘Biker Mice from Mars’ figures there is something wrong about you. The toys being out of their packages make it even more special as you get a feeling that everything has been played with. Nothing of the stale preserved items at geek’s conventions. The owner is a fanatic with a need to add and add and hence I can understand the cost of entry. This collection must have bankrupt them. I was especially pleased to find several lifesize ‘Solid Snake’ statuettes from the Metal Gear Solid franchise and Kate was happy to find a Little Mermaid bubble bath she had as a child. It’s the simple things that make us happy. The experience was a little ruined when there was a bit of a bad smell in aisle 8 and I built my hopes up after seeing a sign suggesting their would be a ‘Trolls’ collection, but sadly we couldn’t find it.

A little bit hyper after seeing all the toys, we walked along the broken shell beach and my poor feet took a battering. A few stray dogs and a couple of stream crossings later we were at the Floating Mosque at the entrance to Batu Ferringhi beach and ‘snap, snap’ with the camera and we were back on our way again.

We jumped on the 101 to our final destination for the day, the Butterfly Farm. The 101 pulled up right outside but we had a problem. We didn’t have enough cash. This was my fault as in seeing the bus early in the morning we jumped on board hoping we would come across an ATM, but we just hadn’t. We asked at the Butterfly farm where the nearest ATM was and they indicated back at Batu Ferringhi, a 15 minute bus ride away. Oh well, it’s not expensive. We waited outside at the stop going the other direction for the bus to return but it just didn’t. The Farm security man explained that the buses were a little unreliable at the Farm spur and they came up this way but take another route back. If we wanted the bus we would have to go back to the local village bus terminal a 15 minute walk away. "You can have a taxi for 15 Ringit to the ATM". We barely had 12 Ringit and didn’t want to put all our eggs into his taxi and so we declined and thought about our options. Then we opted for a 5 ringit ride to the bus terminal and then took the bus back to Batu Ferringhi. The taxi wasn’t exactly a taxi as such as it seemed to be some woman with her little car that was doing a bit of a ferry service for cash, but it was easy enough. Back in Batu Ferringhi we found an ATM, stocked up and celebrated our new wealth with a KFC.

Knowing how the buses work, we paid our 1.4 Ringit and jumped on heading back towards the Butterfly farm. As we approached the spur road, the bus this time decides to carry on straight taking us towards the fishing village. Bollocks. How difficult can it be! When the bus driver gets to the end of his run he turns around at us and asks us where we were trying to get to, “Butterfly Farm”, I respond.

He does a U-ey in the bus and heads back towards the spur road but then ignores it and pulls over at the bus terminal. I guess we are walking then.

We get back to the butterfly farm after a 15 minute walk in the rain and pay for our tickets. In through the doors and “damnit, their everywhere”. The damn butterflies were swooping down left right and centre, little vermin. I couldn’t stand still without one trying to eat me and so kept myself moving. Kate saw them as pretty little things and kept trying to hold them, but I knew better. Demons in colourful jackets.

We escaped their lair and sat watching a few short cartoons in the facility’s theatre. The programmes were shorts called ‘Miniscule’, and we ended up watching 5 of them as Kate wouldn’t let us leave. There were 15 in all we were told but I was not going to sit watching cartoons of insects all afternoon. They were funny in a charming kind of way if you can find them anywhere on the net.

A little insect/reptile house with spiders, snakes and beetles added to the value of the place and we bought a resin beetle key-ring as something to remember the place by. Not that I could forget – I’ll have nightmares of butterflies for months.
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