Day tours, macaque therapy, flutterbys !

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

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Noordin Mews

Flag of Malaysia  , Pulau Pinang,
Monday, December 24, 2012

Up early with our new compatriots in discovering Penang and we're off to Kek Lok Si with our driver Morgan. It's a long walk. It’s a huge temple. The extensive work began in the late 1800’s and more recent additions rise increasingly spectacturlarly up the hillside culminating in a huge bhudda statue under massive carved columns and roofing. The ginormity of this temple complex is overwhelming. It’s a little cheapened by the never ending 'gift’ stores, eateries and stalls which appear sporadically at certain levels in the complex…a Buddhist shopping mall indeed. More incense and trinkets than a Chinese export warehouse.

To the Botanic Gardens for J-she’s and Katey’s monkey fear therapy. Casting all natural sensibilities aside Morgan buys a pack of peanuts and we enter the gardens. Hordes of macaques descend on us, at least half a dozen anyway. They politely take peanuts from our hands and we are all mildly frightened, J-she and I have well-founded distrust of monkeys. Fortunately we all leave unscathed. Not one vicious monkey attack at all.

The butterfly farm seemed a bit hokey on the guides but we go anyway. The entry fee is way overpriced but turns out to be an enchanting and magical visit. We may have even learnt something. Well worth it. There is more than just flutterbys here.

Katey scares herself stupid by pressing a light switch which illuminates the display boxes for the live tarantulas. As the switch comes on the wall right in front of your eyes lights up with a series of spider caverns. Big hairy, ugly spiders. Cool.

It’s almost lunchtime, this getting around the island is proving to take far longer than we had anticipated. We make a dash for the NP at the end of the island intending to take a canopy walk across the rainforest. The guy at the counter advises it’s closed for lunch. Um, why? It’s a boardwalk. It doesn’t need a rest break. Apparently they need a ticket attendant at the canopy boardwalk to collect your ticket for the NP entry. We are all grown adults and can perambulate just fine by ourselves.

"But if we pay you here then you know you have our money." We don’t need a ticket guy to confirm that at the far end.

"You can walk to the beach at the far end and wait until 2.30pm for the attendant to come back" the counter man offers. Why would we wait over an hour for a 20 minute walk?.

It’s all a bit bizarre and very 'buy ticket-check ticket’ as we’d humorously experienced in Vietnam. We give it a miss and go for lunch back at Batu Ferringhi, the beach resort area.

Lunch is ok if a little on the high side for stall food.

Back up the road to the Spice Gardens. An enchanting walk, even if we do get periodically lost by our geographically challeneged leader fo the group, Katey. Being the successful and brave Bornean explorer I take the lead and head us back on the path before we veer too far offc course and end up at the top of Penang Hill or something.

Into the spice trail where the girls are intrigued by the interesting and unknwn medicinal properties of so many common, and uncommon, plants. Ross and I are more excited by the endless possibilities of plant extracts to wound and kill people. We could make some serious deadly cocktails from some of this stuff. Pong Pong is a South American? Deadly toxin. We appreciate it’s many potential uses for our foes and enemies. I appreciate it’s stinky name. I should take some to store in case we come across a Pongo in the forest, or a band of marauding macaques. At the top of the gardens we stop for a relaxing herbal tea, we hope it’s not Pong Pong.

The weathers not great so we forego the Batu Ferringhi beach swim. It looks decidedly unattractive in any case. Greyish sand and brownish water. Ross asks where I think the best beaches in Asia are. Australia, of course.

We have extended our time with Morgan and he takes us through the back streets to avoid peak hour traffic. Mind you it’s still slow going through the city and I suspect peak hour is pretty much all day in these narrow, overly crowded, streets. We haven’t been attacked by anything today, I’m both relieved and disappointed.

We attack a Tiger or two back at the hotel and we’re off to our separate Xmas eve functions. Our Adeladians are going to a chintzy shindig at the Eastern Oriental and we’re going to outdo our budget with a trip to Macalisters mansion.
McAlisters is a beautiful old mansion setting with a cocktail lounge called the ‘Bagan Bar’, to me of course it’s the Bogan Bar.

At least someone in Penang is over street food, the dishes here are slightly fusion and fantastically prepared. Really quite top notch. Fine dining comes to Penang.Even if it does cost us the equivalent of 100 street food meals in one sitting.

We retire to the whisky bar to toke on a cigar and demonstrate my complete lack of knowledge about whisky to the gorgeous and very knowledgable Natasha. Still, I knows what I like and I drinks it. In affirmation of my lack of style I ask Natasha to cut off my cigar ember so I can take it home to smoke later. She rolls her eyes in disgust but complies.

Early on Xmas morning J-she and I stagger across the broken and dark pathways and back to the sanctity of Noordin Mews.

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