Island hopping

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 29, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  , Kedah,
Thursday, September 17, 2009

We met yet another nice American in KL, (if we meet any more nice ones we may have to adjust our pre-conceptions!) who tried to persuaded us not to be to worried pre booking leg of our tour, but just go for it and see what happens. She had already convinced us to head north up the coast and then inland instead of south towards Singapore, but while nodding in agreement we  weren't quite ready to throw caution to the wind, just yet.

The next day we booked a coach trip to Penang and pre-booked a room at the costal town of Batu Ferringhi. The coach trip was a comfortable five hour journey, we were literally chilled in the cool bus and enjoyed the scenic drive through the country. Malaysia is an interesting mix of old, new, traditional, poverty, affluence and modern commercialism. Some travelers seem to shun this ecliptic mix as not being authentic enough, but for us after neat and tidy Europe it was certainly anything but boring

When the coach dropped us off we were hounded by taxi drivers, this would be the first of many harassment's, to the point they constantly make me lose my temper, something I'm not proud off as I know they are trying to make a living. I have always had a inherent distrust of taxi drivers and scams they sometimes pull and we wanted to try and make the connection to the hotel by public transport ourselves, so thanks guys but no thanks for the tenth time. The local buses are comfortable cheap and with English speaking drivers very convenient, so it makes more sense to see the country properly and see everyday life at street level rather than in the back of a taxi making small talk and sussing out if you can be taken even further for a ride.

We managed to get the bus to Geroge Town then the connection to Batu Ferringhi with little fuss, we found the hotel relatively easy and were quite proud of our first traveling achievement. The guest house was a lille more luxurious than our first hostel, we had our own bathroom, a cosy bedroom and if you squinted really hard there was even a sea view! We were only two minuets from the beach and it was a great place just too relax, well I say relax it was really nice and tranquil but unfortunately we were positioned between the late bars and a mosque. It wasn't to bad though and the mild irritation of loud music, fireworks and prayer songs seemed to add a bit of atmosphere to what could have been just another tourist resort.

The area is heavily developed for tourists and there seemed lots of people on package tours, we knew it would be like this so we wern't really expecting a deserted paradise. There was still very few tourist around as I think its low season and there were still some interesting local places to eat away from the flash restaurants. We really love the religious mix in Malaysia, they are incredibly tolerant to each others faith and Mosques, Churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples all sit happily next to each other. This also results in an amazing variety of food, if you are short on time and want to experience a large slice of Asia, this is defiantly the place to go.

We even found a open aired food court which was showing the football, a rare treat, even if it was only Arsenal v Man City at least we could keep an eye on the Stoke City v Chelsea match, (We are Stokies). It had to happen, watching the football a guy asked me the Chelsea score, he didn't realise I was English so thought it would be a safer bet to assume I knew who Chelsea were, I said they were loosing to the mighty potters, thats was the point we both realised we were talking in the same accent! You can travel halfway around the world and you will always meet someone from your hometown!

He had just arrived with his wife on a package holiday and they were fighting the jet-lag, they joined us for the rest of the match and he told me his tales of traveling the east when he was younger, it was interesting hearing his travel stories from a few decades ago, we rely so much on the internet now it almost makes traveling automated compared to his tales of waking up in unexpected countries after catching the wrong ferry during a particular heavy drinking session!

Inspired by tales of winging it we decided to head to Langkawi with nothing booked, just a guest house in mind if we could find it. This was the start of a minor string of little mishaps that could have been avoided with more planning but probably in retrospect will make the journey a bit more interesting!

Our first mistake was expecting lots of ferries between the Islands, there is only two very early and we had no chance of getting from our resort to George town for 8 am, unless we got a taxi and I didn't fancy that option! So we took the more leisurely route on the bus and stayed a extra night in George Town close to the ferry, which again wasn't a bad thing. Its heaving hot and smelly place exactly how you would expect an Asian city to be, but fascinating with it. After finding a room (for less than the taxi fare) we were told by the owner to head to kek Lok Si Temple which again was only a short bus ride across the island, we found it quite easily and apart from the blistering heat it proved to be a great day out we would otherwise have missed, we felt like we were really getting into this travel lark.

The next day we got up early this time to catch the ferry, It looked like rain on the horizon and the small ferry started off smoothly, we soon hit the fog thunder and monsoons, it felt like we were sailing into an episode of lost! My sea legs arn't the best so the two hour journey seemed to go on forever, I did avoid throwing up which Sharon says is a miracle as I was so quiet I missed the fact that everyone was filling there sick bags around us, usually just the sound of that happening is enough to set me off! 

When we eventually hit dry land the weather cleared up and we headed out of the terminal to find a bus. Mistake number two, after barking at the seemingly hundreds of taxi drivers that we would find our own way we walked out into the heat of the afternoon hoping to find a bus stop to the beach resort we had in mind. After a what seemed like a hour walking in extreme heat we found a travel agent who kindly informed us there were no buses on the island! (Not what the net said mind) Great, this unfortunately meant negotiations with taxi drivers, no wonder they looked so smug after I had said bog off. We did find a nice driver who charged us what seemed like a fair amount with no mysterious add ons and our chosen hotel wasn't fully booked so in the end we had made it relatively hassle free.

The weather has been mixed to say the least here, scorching burning heat followed by hours of monsoons, to be honest we are just glad we have air conditioning, We have never had much use for an AC unit in tropical England and I'm not sure how much energy they actually use, but it must be as much if not more than heating the freezing west, I reckon there are so many units over here they are probably responsible for more then half of the energy consumption of the world?!

It's low tourist season as mentioned, there doesn't seem to be much of anything going on, we are planning to hire a moped and seeing a few sights, the beach is deserted so we have it pretty much to ourselves for as long as we can handle it, which for me is about 5 minuets, Sharon can happly bake a bit longer!

Our final mishap in 'free and easy' traveling as the local call it, is that currently its then end of Ramadan so celebrations with family means local transportation across the country is fully booked for over a week. At the moment our plans for onward travel are up in the air, we may not make it as far as we hoped and Singapore may now be out of our reach. We have already booked an extra night here as we have no chance of leaving the island tomorrow, I just hope we can find a route that takes us back to KL for our flight next week?! Just as long as its not by taxi, they would just love that wouldn't they.
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piholland on

Re: sunny sunday in manchester
oioi, have we not got a proper email to contact you on yet! Glad your well and keeping the flame alive with big Ivan! Hope the boy enjoys the bike, may need a few parts and some tlc ;) Big up to the dam trip you will have a blast, watch out for the stray chip wrappers!! Take care miss you both already. P&Sxx

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