Penang attacks, Komtar attracts, Noordin relax

Trip Start Dec 12, 2012
Trip End Jan 03, 2013

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Noordin Mews

Flag of Malaysia  , Pulau Pinang,
Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fly out to Penang and we leave the wilds of Borneo behind for more civilised surrounds. Or at least that's what we thought.

The drive into the city is remarkable if only for the endless streams of knowledgeable information provided by our driver. Full of statistics and numbers this guy knows his stuff. We are most impressed and learn a thing or two.

The traffic is terrible and badly behaved. The line markings on the road seem only to provide a rough directional guide, as long as you’re not perpendicular to them then everything’s fine. It’s a complete free for all.

Luckily for the Penang-ites the traffic is very heavy and keeps everyone’s velocity within a manageable range. I’d hate to see these guys on the wide open road. It also seems compulsory to immediately start beeping your horn in self-induced and pointless frustration as soon as the traffic light turns green. "Come on, it’s been green for 37 milliseconds, move your arse.!"

We check into the sublime Noordin Mews and relax. We ask the lovely Baby for some culinary advice and she points us up towards a local street eatery. “Here’s the most direct route up these back streets, but I wouldn’t go that way.” we’re advised, ok that sounds encouraging.

So we head up Noordin and are almost run over within 10 seconds. Attacked by a Toyota Camry. It’s almost impossible to cross any road except at the pedestrian crossings at intersections. The shopfront walkways are covered in parked motos and other random paraphernalia and there is no real footpath to speak of in many sections. Where there is, the roadsides are holed, rough, badly paved and are lined by two foot deep open drainage gutters. It is hellishly noisy, dirty, busy and chaotic. People stop and park randomly wherever they can, or want to. Including sideways with the back end of their car hanging out into busy streets. Somehow, the traffic seems to keep moving despite all these obstacles.

We jump on the free bus and are jostled by the locals, Chinese style. There is no mannerly 'after you’ going on here. Attacked by local commuters. We take a ride through the Heritage area to the end of the route at the waterfront. J-she seats next to a charming old man and has a great philosophical discussion on the devolution of traffic behaviour by the locals, amongst other things.

At the waterfront we come across a middle aged Aussie couple, the brazen woman in her horrible fat-arse leggings is crapping on at a million words a minute, blah blah blah, we ate this and we did that and …blah blah blah. They are going to Kuching in a few days so we try to politely give them some tips but we suspect they are so into their own selfish experiences and just a little out of their comfort zone.

We don’t appear to be anywhere useful or exciting down by the commercial wharf so we jump back on the free bus. So do the Aussie couple. “Oh, it’s so nice to hear some Aussie accents” the woman says to us reassuring herself. Um, no it’s not. We’ve been in your presence for 1.5 minutes and you’re annoying us. Thankfully they get off halfway back at Penang Road.

We alight back at the Komtar bus terminal, it’s busy, dirty and VERY VERY loud. And it’s still raining. The monstrous tower which rises above the stinky bus terminal and shopping complex(es) proves to be a useful reference point in days to come. Sited over this massive shopping center like a beacon of retail consumption, we will find ourselves in future days attracted like moths to a light, despite our anti-retail fortitude.

We make our way slightly haphazardly up to the recommended eat street and the stands protrude onto the roadway, but the road still carries traffic. So you have to order why you keep an eye over your shoulder for charging traffic.

Hmm, apparently there’s supposed to be some charm here but I cannot see it for the chaos and frenzied traffic. I’m really struggling. And We’re both tired. And we’re starving.

J-she orders curry mee and I get some seafood char keow toew. Yay our first Penang Street food !! Yum yum. J-she’s curry mee is a pretty plain, though palatable, laksa dish and my seafood dish is greasy, salty and contains 2 prawns. There is chunks of fat in it. Big chunks of greasy pork fat, barely cooked and really not tasty at all. I can’t eat it, it’s horrible.

I go in search of something edible and find a soup stand, the charming old man helpfully points me through all the ingredients and I mix and match some seafood balls, wontons and greens into my broth. It’s got a depth of flavour, is fresh tasting and quite large for only 5RM. Now I’m happy.

Orangutans done. Still no Durian. Bearcats are cool.
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