Day 63: A Taste of Penang

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pinang,
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A travel day, honestly not much to write about here. Following an early wake-up and final coconut debris breakfast, I said goodbye to this incredible village and set off on the bus back to Medan. The bus ride was surprisingly pleasant an uncrowded, though still a bumpy ride with colorful merchants and the occasional visit from live poultry. Upon arrival in the Medan bus station, I plowed through the taxi touts and found my way to the much cheaper motorized rickshaw drivers. I employed one to take me the rest of the way to the ferry station, for about two bucks, and yeah... made it to the ferry station, ate a meal at the only available meal choice... frakking Dunkin Donuts, goshdarnit, and hopped on the next ferry to Pulau Penang. It was an epic 6h journey, including an hour of immigration crap on either end, and the ferry passengers weren't very chatty. I spent most of the time reading my Lonely Planet book from beginning to end for what must be the two-dozenth time by now. I arrived in Penang just after dark and found my desired guesthouse without much navigation trouble.

Penang is an island in North Malaysia famous for its cheap and amazing cuisine and colonial architecture, and was in fact being awarded UNESCO status that very week. It wasn't a whole lot different from Singapore in its appearance, except that unlike Singapore all the hedges weren't perfectly trimmed, the paint jobs on buildings were flaking, and the buildings themselves did not look like they'd been plopped there a day ago. It's probably what Singapore was like before Singapore got rich and paved over anything resembling character. I snagged a dorm bed in the Blue Diamond Hotel/Hostel and met a goofy Czech guy who like me was very much interested in movies. We spent the rest of the night chatting about Charlie Kaufman, Jack Nicholson, that Czech who directed Eternal Sunshine, all as Mr. Czech showed me around town and shared what knowledge he had of it. We ate dinner at a hawker center (Malaysia has them too), his was fried rice, mine was fried rice + fried egg. I hoped to order something more interesting, but had a bad run of the "select random unknown non-English item off menu and hope it's something good" luck. The next morning would redeem this. After thorough exploration of Penang's fascinating but not particularly big Little India & Chinatown, we went back to the hotel and settled down for the night. Sleep happened easily, even though I'd been basically sitting on a bus/ferry the whole day.
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