After getting over our jet-lag in Kuala Lumpur our first, of many, overland journeys was to Penang. The day started with a taxi ride to the bus station. Mobile internet usage wasn’t as easy then as it is now so we had with us a Lonely Planet for southeast Asia. We’d read in it that you should insist that taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur turn their meters on. We approached the first taxi in the line and requested they do this. Not only was he not keen on that idea but he yelled to every other driver leaning on their car in line while waiting for a fare that we were (and I’m assuming based on his volume and vigorous hand motions) that we were trying to rip them off. This resulted in the entire line of taxis boycotting taking us anywhere. We changed tack and switched to haggling, which is illegal according to the signs on the sides of the very taxis we were trying to employ. To keep it in perspective the 20-minute trip to the bus station cost less than $7NZ, regardless, we felt ripped off by the process! Lesson number #2 when travelling, don’t try to control what you can’t.
The 5-hour bus ride to Penang was very comfy and we were sat up top of a double-decker type bus. It was smooth motorways all the way, for nearly the entire trip the road was lined with very pretty trimmed bushes. We crossed what is supposed to be the longest road bridge in the world, over 13 km which led the bus to Penang, although not to Georgetown where our digs are, whoops!
We made it to the Old Penang Guesthouse located on Love Lane (chuckle) after finding a local bus. The guesthouse is in a beautiful old building in the heart of the Unesco heritage area. After having a couple of food fails in KL we opted for authentic Malaysian cuisine in an outdoor food hall type thing with a plethora of options, something for everyone in the family. We decided to skip the fish head curry and the claypot frog porridge and opted for a simple pork and rice number.
Alas before it could arrive, Christian (6), who had been complaining on and off of a sore tummy all day announced loudly, “I’m going to vomit.” I scooped him up and tried to run, as fast as I could while carrying a 6-year-old, to the nearest exit. We nearly made it. We got as far as a stall next to the exit where Chrisitan proved to be a man of his word into what, I hope, was a rubbish bin and not a bin holding mise-en-place for the frog porridge. We didn’t hang around to find out. While Kennedy and Murray ate I took Christian back to the guesthouse. It wasn’t until the next day we found out why his tummy was sore.
The next day…
With the wee man still not feeling the best we had a lazy start to the day after a rookie, travellers cock-up by me. On leaving the bedroom the four of us were sleeping in, to use the shared facilities, I strained my bleary eyes to read my 15-year-old swatch. I love a good Swatch watch and this one is no exception. I bought it in Switzerland years ago and it’s served me well including a jaunt through the continent of Africa in the summer of 95/96. Its face is however crowded with dials that I have no use for or idea what they do. I noted the time was 6.10 am. Excellent, I thought to myself. We’d had a couple of 4 am-ish wakeups the last couple of days as our body clocks adjusted, this was progress. When I arrived back our the room I thought I’d check emails on my iPad while the rest of the family slept. To my dismay, the time on the iPad showed 2.13 am… Fuck! Not long after the kids stirred. Determined to get them sleeping longer I sushed them for about an hour encouraging them to close their eyes and go back to sleep. During the shushing I spent time being really irritated by the sun rising so damn early in Penang. I was also irked at the bird’s tweet-tweet bloody tweeting so early and was annoyed by how long this day was going to be! After shushing and being annoyed as it was lighter in the room I rechecked my watch. It showed 7.50 am. The sodding iPad was way off due to no wifi signal or some other technical reason.
After what had now turned into a lie in we had breakfast then headed off on a public bus intending to go to Batu Ferringhi beach. When we got there it
looked like Corfu in March, not very appealing, so we stayed on the bus and went to Teluk Bahang a gorgeous fishing village and entrance to a national park. We coaxed a reluctant Christian who was still suffering from a sore tummy to walk a bit into the park. A few minutes in we came across a family fishing and 3 kids playing on some cool rope swings onto the beach.
The highlight of the trip so far was seeing the kids laughing and playing with the 3 local kids.
The beach itself had beautiful white sand but was littered with dead fish and rubbish, not inviting for a swim. Malaysia is mainly Muslim and quite conservative, even if I’d wanted to swim my nana togs would’ve been too racy. As we walked back towards the entrance of the park we stopped at the public conveniences the reason for Christian’s sore tummy was revealed. Constipation! Not something I’d thought would be an issue in Asia. If anything I was way more concerned about the opposite. Now that we had a diagnosis making sure his fluid intake was upped was top priority.
For dinner, we ventured to Little India and ordered a selection of yummy meals, which for the four of us cost 22 RM, just under $10!
The following day…
We started to settle into some kind of routine. We’d have a leisurely start to the day and make the most of the free toast for breakfast. We’d decide what we are going to do for the day and head off around 10 am. C is usually tired by mid-afternoon and so am I so we head back to our digs and play cards or he does writing or drawing and we have a rest (and drink lots of water). After M and K come back we head out to dinner around 6.30 pm. Before bed, the kids write in their diary, while we try to keep a semblance of school work up. Murray will often go off exploring while we have downtime, he is excellent at scouting the area and finding spots for us to head too.
Today’s adventure was to Penang Hill, 833m above sea level by funicular railway. The 45-minute bus ride to Penang Hill cost $2 NZ for all of us. The bus weaves through fascinating suburbs. Most streets in Penang are lined with small shops where you can buy anything from fruit to lawnmowers. Most of the drainage is with open which gives the place a certain special aroma.
The view from the top of Penang hill was spectacular looking over the straights to the Mainland. We had a nice lunch there, Christian has discovered a love of the prawn so every meal must have at least one, we wandered around then repeated the trip in reverse back to Georgetown.
As every traveller knows toilets are quite a central focus of every day. Where will I find one? What will it be like? Will there be paper or a door that locks?There are two main types of loo the world over, the squat or the sit, also called starting blocks or a throne. It will be my job on the blog to give you a ‘view of the loo’. Malaysia has a fairly high ratio of thrones which should be good news at least for K and I. What is standardly absent is paper of any description. Instead, there is a hose for cleaning yourself with. As the toilets are always soaked the squat toilet is usually a dryer option. I haven’t worked out what the next step is after the hose.
It’s hard to believe 10 years have passed since then… stay tuned for more throwback travel adventures. If you’d like to follow my fictional travel adventures What Goes On Tour – Camping is on sale during its pre-order period. You can order it HERE
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