Thursday, April 6, 2006

Penang 20-12-2005

Whoops, this one's a long one!
Well I'm amazed, it's been days in the news here and I've had not one worried email about the floods! Yep, a bit of water around about the Malaysian-Thai border may be putting a bit of dent in our plans, there are no trains running (some of the track has been washed away) and no buses (the road is well over a meter deep in water). A few dozen people dead, only 25'000 evacuated in M'sia alone, has this made the news in Oz or not? Even here we have a bit of news in the paper (which I buy for the sudoku puzzle, I've developed an obsession) about all this racial crap going on in Aus (wtf? people are people are people, who gives a rat's @rse about their background other than it making a person more interesting? ignorent arrogant pigs the whole lot of them, BOTH sides, BAH giving Australians a bad name ). So anyway, our only real option is to fly (Dylan is checking out flights as I type) and this means we have to go back to KL from Penang (no biggie, that's what buses are for) and fly to BKK from there. But hey, at least if we fly to TL we dont have to pay for a tourist visa (which quite frankly I think is a bit sneaky, to ping people crossing by land and not by air). And this is what travel insurance is for right? (dont burst my bubble on this one, we'll give it a whirl and see what happens, worry about it when we get back).
ADDED LATER: All booked! Flying to BKK from KL on Air Asia (the local version of Virgin Blue), very cheap, 23rd december about lunchish.
So anyway, large devestating and destructive bodies of water aside, where did we leave you last time?
Kuala Lumpur. We got rained on again and I'm happy to report that we actually made it INSIDE a real orchid garden . It was my idea of heaven, D's idea of Ho Hum, flowers everywhere. Even prettier was the hibiscus garden next door, I'm not big on hibiscuses (is that a word?) in general but it was a formal garden and very nicely laid out, plus it had shelter from the downpour. We gave the bird park a miss but did visit a butterfly house (which was nice enough although not riviting, buggers dont like to pose for photographs and all the really interesting green ones were way up high on the ceiling), we ate icecream.The aquarium was pretty good too, and better yet, half price after seven pm (was still more than our room, but at least that was together not each!). We never made it up inside the Petronas Towers as the tickets were all gone each time we tried, maybe next time, it's not going anywhere!
After KL we went to Melaka. We arrived late afternoon one day and did nothing but rest in our FAB guesthouse, very impressed for the money, amazingly neat and tidy, even had the plumbing INSIDE the bathroom walls and the toilet didn't get wet with every shower, what a novel idea. They also had a whole heap of trashy magazines, including Women's Day (The Aus version) which kept me absorbed for hours (the selection in general, Woman's Day itself took me about 5 minutes to flip through. Ate Tom Yum soup in a hawker stall 100 meters up the road and that was about as far as we got that day. Next day pressed for time (as usual) we went out to the bus station (moved from the location in the LP guide) and bought ourselves tickets to Penang on the overnight bus, wandered around the town for a bit and then went to see a movie (Aeon Flux...mmmm... I'd call it a DVD rental, I was more absorbed in my popcorn than the movie, the acting was a little flat ).Then we were out at the bus station (again, 3rd time in two days) eating curry and roti and waiting for our bus. Sooooo... the bus. What is it about buses that makes them so freaking freezing cold? I mean, just because you can switch the air con down to minus 20 degrees doesn't mean you HAVE to . I was all kitted up in my air-con bus outfit, long socks, long pants, long sleeved shirt over a top of a tee-shirt, sarong at hand to use as a blanket and I was STILL cold, like being in a fridge on wheels. I could have burnt off warts with the tip of my nose (now THERE'S an image). Apart from the cold it was still comfortable and I actually managed to doze after a while. About half an hour past KL and half past midnight as well the bus came to a smooth stop at the side of the road... and there we stayed. As far as I could tell there was absolutely nothing wrong with the bus, I mean, it sounded fine, the A/C was obviously in optimum condition and we hadn't run into anything but nevertheless there we stayed at the side of the busy highway. Eventually (like, maybe half an hour later ) another bus arrived and D and I were flapped busily onto it 'It's ok, same company!' Alrighty then! And so the Great Bus Swap occured. The new bus could have transported ice-creams in the space under the seats... why didn't I pack an emergency ski-suit? I didn't realise I could be risking hypothermia in a non-mountainous tropical asia. A few of our fellow passengers got onto the bus but some were left on the side of the road in discussion with the old driver while we drove off (shivering) into the night.
We arrived in Georgetown, Penang (or Pinang, or Panang depending on where you look) at about 430 this morning. We stayed in the bus station for a couple of hours drinking tea and coffee, and eating rice and anchovies out of little pyrimidal banana leaf and newspaper packets waiting for the sun to come up (most guesthouses wouldn't have been open at that time of day so we figured we were better off staying put).
After a false start leaving the bus station on foot (it's moved, Lonely Planet strikes again and this bus station didnt even look new! ) we went back and caught a taxi into town and found a place to stay in the touristy area. We wandered up and down the street for breakfast at 9am to find that hardly anywhere was open! Not even the chinese noodle places which tend to be packed by 630am usually. I guess tourists dont get up early (well, why would you if you were on holidays?) so the cafe staff get to sleep in.
We visited Choeng Fatt Tze Mansion/Museum which is an incredible chinese style house built 1800-and-something-or-other, lumped in with a big group of mostly chinese tourists, a few westeners and some very misbehaved children. The guide was a wealth of information who occasionally seemed to be channelling Choeng Fatt Tze himself by closing her eyes and talking in a monotone. At other times she was lively, glaring at the children and lecturing us all. She'd make a fabulous school teacher, the scary type. That aside it was an amazing house, traditonal Feng Shui at work (for the time, it all changes eventually), got some great ideas for our own house (just dreaming).So yep, that's about it. We'll be on the move again in a couple of days back to KL and then onto Thailand. Lot's more to see here, it's a cute town.

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