Hunting for Hawker Food!
Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
84Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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It started with an overnight Ferry from Koh Phangan to Suratthani, not knowing what to expect we turned up at the night pier, and were shown to our boat. It was a very old, rickety looking thing with a long line of mats along the top floor each with a pillow
As usual we weren't told anything regarding what was happening and kept making random stops to swap buses or pick up the driver's mates (in our already overly full bus)
Despite now being in a bit of a bad mood over the morning's events, we crossed the border into Malaysia with no problems and settled back down in the bumpy minibus trying to sleep. It had just started to rain heavily (as it does here, no drizzling in Malaysia) and just 15 minutes later the engine cut out and we rolled across 3 lanes of traffic to a lay-by at the side of the road where about 20 school kids were waiting for their bus. The driver didn't seem to know what to do, he tried to start the van again and again but to no avail and then just put his head down in his hands on the steering wheel as if he had no idea what the problem was. We all assumed we would be there for ages and have to wait for another van to come, maybe it would have to come from Thailand... who knows. A Scottish girl next to us was getting more and more annoyed because she had to get to Kuala Lumpur which was still hours away and we were already running late. She started grumbling under her breath...
The driver reluctantly got out into the pouring rain and disappeared for ages returning with a big barrel... mystery solved, he had run out of petrol. Maybe it's just me but I'd have thought one of the first things to check before a 10 hour drive is whether you have petrol. Anyway we were then treated (along with the 20 confused school kids) to a brilliant show as the minibus driver tried to pour petrol from a big barrel into the van whilst a monk was doing his best to help by holding a cut water bottle to be used as a funnel. Fortunately it worked and we were on our way again... well on the way to a petrol station anyway.
As soon as you cross the border it is very noticeable that you're in a different country. Malaysia feels more wealthy than Thailand, it's very clean, well-kept and feels marginally more orderly, a very beautiful Country. So we bounced on towards Penang and after about 19 hours of travel ling we crossed the very long Penang bridge (I'm pretty sure I read it was about 13-14 km's long!) before being dropped off in the Chinatown region of Georgetown, Penang, where we checked in.
We hadn't had a proper meal since leaving Koh Phangan (over 19 hours ago) so couldn't wait to go and get some dinner
The next day we took ourselves on a walking tour of Georgetown to see the sights. It was interesting to see the churches of all of these religions lined up on the same street. It's quite a rickety old town with lots of little alleyways and the smell of burning incense. Again we found that a large number of shops and cafes were shut during the day and couldn't find anywhere to have a Malaysian lunch. We found some names of restaurants in the Lonely planet and walked to find them only to find them shut with a sign stating their opening hours which indicated that they should be open
Fortunately, seeing the sights was easy enough and we could walk everywhere, the only problem being the heat so once we had seen some of the city we decided to go to the Penang museum, partly because we thought it would be interesting and partly because it was an air-conditioned building. The museum again highlights this cultural mulch (fusion) explaining how each of the major groups of people arrived in Malaysia and how they live, get married, have parties etc. It was really interesting and the highlight was being taught a traditional Malaysian game by one of the guides in the museum. It was called Congkak (the game not the guide) and consisted of moving marbles around a wooden board with the aim of ensuring that you have more marbles in your bank than your opponent... I won't try to explain it all now because it took me ages to understand, haha!
That evening we set off absolutely adamant and determined that we were not going to leave Penang without trying Hawker food and this time we were in luck
We had read about a dessert called Chendol which when it arrived looked a lot less appetising than it sounded. It was described as "Garishly coloured green strands (made from sweetened pea flour) layered with crushed ice, coconut milk and brown-sugar syrup" sounded interesting and like it would be tasty ... what arrived was slimy green worm-looking things with some cold kidney beans on ice. It was actually quite nice and it was sweet, but very strange and the green strands alongside brown kidney beans (usually a chilli ingredient rather than a dessert ingredient) were a bit off-putting! So we did eventually get to try the food, perhaps there will be more to come.
Another day, another minibus journey. This time we were picked up at 5am outside our hotel and it was a very stormy morning so we were excited to be heading across the width of Malaysia from the west coast to the east coast to catch a ferry to the Perhentian islands and the sun
Anyway, the Perhentian islands are supposed to be pretty amazing for some snorkel ling, turtle watching, sharks and more beach time! Can't wait!