So, I’ve made it to Penang and oh my, what a difference to Bali! I’m missing Bali so much already and of course the wonderful friends I’ve made. But ho hum, that’s what the life of a traveller is all about 😉 Each and every moment is being stored, recorded, experienced and locked away for my memories 😀
Well, it took all day to get to Penang and theoretically speaking, it’s only 4hrs away from Bali! So anyways, I left at 9am and arrived at 9pm, phew! I slept well the first night, I tell thee haha!
I was pretty tired and groggy when the plane finally landed but I knew I could relax a bit as soon as I got in a cab. Waiting for my invisible man to finally make an appearance on the revolving luggage belt, I stood for a moment just taking in my surroundings. I must have been the only white person there but hey, I was pretty used to sticking out like a sore thumb now right hehe.
The invisible man and pink scarf…(yes, STILL clinging on in it’s now battered and rather dulled down shade of pink) slowly came round the belt. The whole back pack I must say is beginning to look just as tired as me haha! Hauling the invisible man onto my luggage trolley, I then joined the que for the customs and security checks….and straight away I was approached by one of the airport workers.
“Excuse me Miss, where you from Miss?” A stern looking Malaysian man started to walk over to me, his eyes narrowing the closer he got as if he was already trying to work out what he was going to say to my response! “I’m from the UK” I replied. Taking a dry gulp, I started to feel that nervous flutter rising up from the pit of my belly which of course is really silly because I hadn’t done anything wrong but in good old fashioned Readders style my mind was naturally awakening with it’s ever enthusiastic curiosity! “May I see your passport?” Asking with authority, I immediately passed it over, “Of course”. I was then beginning to wonder why I had been singled out from the line of other people…’Hmm…why is he not asking other people the same question?’ I thought to myself but of course, what can you do apart from follow orders! “How long you stay? “Oh just 9 days” “For holiday?” He asked…’Um, well, YEH!’ I was thinking….what else for haha…then my mind flashed to a comedy programme that I used to watch with my Dad ‘How not to live your life’ and my mind was then whizzing through all the things that I should NOT say at that moment LOL! But anyway, it was all fine and dandy and he left me alone after that…very odd! But at least I didn’t get strip searched lol! Without naming any names, I have met someone on my travels who has unfortunately been a strip search victim and this person is the most innocent looking person you could ever meet haha!
To me to you….to LAZY BOYS please!
Finally escaping the airport, I was greeted by a waft of heat…30 degrees of it engulfed my whole body and infact, it felt as though the heat was almost punishing me for enjoying the air conditioned environment inside! I wheeled the invisible man out to the front and followed the signs for the taxi rank. With the address of the hostel screwed up in one hand and the other pushing the trolley, it wasn’t long before I was approached by hoards of “Excuse me Miss, you want taxi?” Well, I’ve learnt to ignore these and follow the signs for the official airport taxi’s as you are bound to get a better rate. Chatting through the glass window of the taxi office, I was immediately assigned to a cabby man who slung my back pack straight in and ushered me into the car. This taxi office was actually a pre-paid service which I thought was pretty good…ok, so they could have been charging over the odds however, at least you knew that you’d already paid and didn’t have to worry about what the fee was going to be at the end of the ride! So, sliding into the back of the cab (note to ladies….I strongly suggest you always take the back seat…not that anythings ever happened to me but I just think that this is safer plus I just feel more comfortable in the back!) and we were off.
Wow, Penang is just lovely! It felt as though I was back in Kuala Lumpur except without the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I was then reminiscing about the start of my journey which began all those months ago…8 to be precise! I was also then day dreaming out the back of the taxi’s window as to how far I’ve come! ‘Hey, you’ve done the full circuit you know Hels, you should be proud of yourself!’ Said I to um, me haha! * Sighs! Re-focusing out of the window again, I could once more see familiar street food stalls selling whole chickens that were hanging in rows by their feet (heads included), noodle stands, hot and spicy mixtures and rice stalls oh and the all too familiar street dogs sniffing around for the odd scraps! Gorgeous palm trees, outdoor restaurants decorated with a multitude of bright lights trying to entice people in by their fancy-ness and locals going about or should I say buzzing about on their scooters! Note to self, I really want to get myself a pink scooter when I’m back in the UK haha, they are so much fun!
An hour passed and I was beginning to wonder where we were. “Um, do you actually know where Lazy Boys Guest House is?” I questionably asked. The aged taxi man seemed a bit lost in my opinion. “Yes, yes….Lady Boys I know!” Stating the wrong guest house whilst scratching his head was a clear giveaway that he didn’t have the faintest idea! Good job I wrote the full address and phone number down! Then literally a few moments later…”Crazy Boys eh?” “No, Lazy Boys!” I emphasized on the pronunciations of LAY ZEE BOYS as best I could haha! “Yes, yes that’s what I say to you!” Grrr…in my sleepy state, I was trying hard not to get annoyed but after the 10th time, yes TENTH or so time of hearing every variation of Lazy Boys, I suggested that he pulled over and called someone! “Ok, ok,, I ask my friend” Phew, finally we’re (hopefully) getting somewhere. The old man then stopped at the nearest street food stall and asked the worker if he’d ever heard of the place rarrrr! I made a firm but polite suggestion when he got back in the car “I have their phone number, just call them!” What is it with men and directions, they just don’t like just calling direct do they lol?
I think the taxi man was just as excited as me when we finally pulled up at Lazy Boys Guest House except I think his was more of a proud and boastful victory ‘Yay, I found it!’ kind of moment haha! Dumping my invisible man at the front door, he promptly sped off. Hauling the back pack up with both hands, I just couldn’t lift it, I didn’t have the strength to pull it on my back so I wobbled and hobbled with it swaying from left to right finally dropping it just inside the doorway so I could sign in.
Aww the owners are soo nice! I was warmly welcomed by the husband and wife who immediately took my things, showed me around and made me feel at ‘home’. So pleased I picked this place. The reviews all seemed fantastic on Trip Advisor and they weren’t wrong! My single room actually looks like the kind of bedroom I had as a teenager so straight away I felt pretty comforted by that. Hey and perks of staying here are; FREE laundry service, FREE cups of tea and coffee, use of kitchen and utensils oh AND there is a mini music room fully equiped with a drum kit, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars woo hoo! After letting Mama and Papz know I’d arrived safely, I quickly whizzed to the 24hr convenience store next door and ‘stocked’ up! Yay, I could buy cereal and milk! After buying my essentials and labelling everything as ‘Helens, do not touch’, I then went to bed where I had the best nights kip I’d had in a while! ZZzz…
Lets go to the beach beach
Oops, I woke up at 10.30am Saturday morning haha, guess I needed it! The good thing about the room is that it’s so dark, although, could be a bad thing because I thought it was still the middle of the night when I woke up haha!
Rising from my slumber, I stumbled to the shower rooms to snap out of my sleep drunken state! A bowl of cereal and a cuppa tea later and I was readdy to explore my surroundings woo hoo.
I took a walk around and to be honest, there doesn’t seem a lot to do in the sleepy town centre but of course a bus ride here or there opens you up to a lot more. I know there are botanical gardens, a butterfly farm, the JUNGLE, beaches etc..but just for today, I felt a beach day was in order!
Finding the beach, I took a walk up one side, then the other and just enjoyed taking in the fresh air, the ‘fizzing’ sounds of the waves caressing the sand, the sights of people on jetski’s and gentle music wafting in the wind from nearby restaurants. “Ahh, this looks like a good spot” I thought to myself. Unrolling my beach mat (kindly lent to me by the guest house) and plonking myself down, I popped my ipod on and opened my journal. “Right, I’d best get updating ready for my blog”. I must have only scribbled a few words when…splodge….hmm, wiping off the small droplet of water I carried on. SPLODGE, SPLAT, oh noooo!! Smudged biro letters turned to water and began running down the page! ‘Dammit’ I had to run for cover because a few splodges and splats turned into the heaviest downpour I’d seen in a while. Hiding underneath what I can only describe as a ‘grass umbrella’ I waited for the rain to stop or at least subside. I waited..waited and waited some more until I had to give in to the rain! At least I found the bus stops on my jog around town…oh and MacDonalds too, oops! Well, after a month of detoxing and eating nothing but veg and salad in Ubud I thought ‘why not’ ! Haha.
So the first day was pretty much a wet beach and chill day…well, actually, it turned out most days were peeing down hence the name of the blog hehe!
Butterflies, Bugs and Beetles = 😀
Ok, so Sunday I decide to get up early and find out where the Butterfly Farm was. I figured that if it was raining again then an indoor activity would be best. The hostel owners gave me a map of Penang and also a list of all the bus numbers and routes which was fab. So, armed with my map, the bus journeys and my camera, I was off…
Wow, what a seriously hot day! It reached 30 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! ‘Oh, so today looks like it’s going to be hot as and I’m staying inside!’ Typical, I thought to myself but oh well…maybe I could hit the beach afterwards? I found the bus stop no problems, sat myself down and popped my ipod on and waited. It wasn’t long before I was approached for a ‘taxi’. A dark skinned Malaysian man came and sat himself down next to me and asked “Where you go Miss? I can take you” Turning my head towards the man I firmly said “No thank you, I am taking the bus out of town” Finally, he got the message and walked away but minutes later another Malaysian man came over and plonked himself down on the metal chairs. “Where you going?” He asked in a monotone voice. “For a day out” I replied, well, I didn’t want him to know exactly where right! “You need taxi? I give good price” “No thank you. I want to take the bus” I gave a firm answered and then popped the right headphone back into my ear to make it clear that I wasn’t interested in talking to him. He too got the message and thankfully bus 101 then appeared in the distance. Wow, it was only 1 Ringgit and 40 cents to get to the Butterfly Farm (I know 1 RM is about 20 English pence so less than 30p to get there!) A cab would have still been cheap but FAR cheaper to get the bus, plus it’s more fun to stare out the window and travel like one of the locals hey. Oh and the hostel owners warned me to ‘watch my valuables’ on the bus as other guests have complained of having things stolen…so just have your valuables at the front of you (so bags on laps ok!).
Oh my word, the bus driver was a maniac! He was driving so fast that I seriously thought we were going to make it round the bends on 2 wheels! I had to hang on to the bars as tightly as I could! One poor tourist let go for a split second to re-adjust her bag but a 2 wheeled turn of a corner and she went flying tee hee! Her partner had to catch her! No language was needed at that moment either, all of us tourists were exchanging looks of ‘Strewth! Are we there yet?’ haha.
Phew, finally the bus driver came to an abrupt stop almost causing me to head butt the person in front of me and shouted “Butterfly Farm” Ooh fab! So I hopped off (probably looking rather green in the face at this point along with the other tourists hah) and like a Lemming, I followed them for a few metres thinking they too were heading the same way. We walked up the road in a crowd of mixed accents and languages but they all soon veered off into the Toy Museum leaving just me, myself and I exposed. Hmm…I guess the Butterfly Farm is further up, so I kept walking until about 5 mins later there it was! I did actually spot a huge monitor lizard blocking my path and typically, once I managed to get the camera out, it slid off, boo!
Wow, the Butterfly Farm was so cool and I recommend anyone who makes it to Penang to make the trip out. It’s so close to Batu Ferringhi and just under 6 english pounds to enter. I could see every variety, every colour, shape and size of butterfly fluttering about and doing butterfly things haha. Then you take a walk through the bugs and reptiles corner which of course is my favourite woo hoo! Ooo, snakes, scorpians, spiders, beetles and reptiles 😀 In actual fact, I could identify (not by name) a lot of the bugs and reptiles that I had seen on my travels too which amazed me! I then realised just how much wildlife I had encountered along the way!
I then came to a platform showing illustrations of all the different bugs, animals and wildlife etc in the world and just how different it is all over. Next to the ‘Nature’s Atlas’ there was an option to play some music so I loaded up ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong and it was amazing! The display then seemed to light up all the different mammals, landscapes, bugs and plants etc in sync with the music and just at that moment, I smiled to myself and actually, I didn’t care that I probably looked like a smiley freak haha because yes, it is a wonderful world and the music carried me off into a day dream about my travelling adventures to date and made me feel so very fortunate to have discovered just some of the world 🙂
The Perfect Stranger…
After much butterflying and bugging around, I then took a walk back to the bus stop and headed for Batu Ferringhi to find a spot for lunch. I quickly found a nice place (the most packed one around of course! It’s common sense to always head for the one where all the people are at!) I sat down and ordered some chicken and fried rice and did a bit of people watching. There was just one other white couple and the rest were all locals…a good sign really because I wanted to go where all the locals ate and avoid the temptation of going back to MacDonalds haha! I also spotted a nice looking Chinese guy sitting on his own…I watched as he slurped up his snake like noodles and sipped the soup from his bowl. After a short while, the Chinese man went up to pay his bill and um…..MINE!! I didn’t realise he’d paid my bill until he was walking out..”Hey, that handsome Chinese man just pay your bill Miss” Shouted the Waitress! Omg! Well, the whole restaurant turned to look at me and as usual, I went bright red! My mind was racing with questions like ‘Why? Why would he do that? Who was he? Why didn’t he just say hello if he wanted to chat with someone?’ “Huh?! Really? But he’s a stranger to me” I stuttered…I didn’t really know what to do! Looking through the open flaps of the restaurant (which was literally a glorified marquee) I caught his gaze as he walked around the corner and before he went out of sight I managed to mouth the words ‘Thank you’ He smiled back and then disappeared.
Soon the buzz of peoples gossiping, points and stares disappeared and thankfully went back to focusing on the food on their plates once more. And I too went back to finishing my plate but I couldn’t help ponder about the kind stranger who wanted to randomly pay for the food I was eating! But then I was battling with my independent Beyonce alter ego of ‘I can pay for my own food thanks’ hahah…hmm, Penang is a small place so perhaps if I see him again I can find out why he wanted to do that or….I could just leave it for what it was – a kind gesture from a beautiful stranger 😉
Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill
Wanting to explore more of Penang (and secretly hoping to bump into the perfect stranger again), I decided to catch another very speedy bus out for an afternoon so ended up at Penang Hill. There you can visit Kek Lok Si Temple which is beautiful! A huge white temple surrounded by wonderful grounds, a wishing tree and a wishing pond packed with Koi Carp! The temple itself is like a mix of Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles so it was different from what I had seen before.
As soon as I got there, I was busy looking around until I came across the wishing tree. You basically buy a ribbon with your chosen message (from the options they have on display) and hang it on one of the branches. I chose ‘Constant Happiness’ of course 😀 Then I took a walk over to the wishing pond although, couples were crowding the wishing pond and enjoying their ‘moments’ together so I sat there feeding the hungry carp with some bought fish food pellets hehe…that was fun though. I spotted a big black fish in there which wasn’t a carp but more like a cat fish? I wanted to stick my finger in the water to see what it would do…so I dapped a small stick in and ‘SNAP’ the black fish had hidden teeth and attacked the stick as though it could have been some kind of small prey for it’s lunch hah! Phew, so glad I didn’t risk my finger in there lol!
After much pottering about, I decided to grab something to eat before heading back. A local told me “If you want to try local food, then you have to try Laksa” Laksa is basically a spicy fish soup. Hmm, sounded pretty nasty to me but hey, I wanted to try it and eat as a ‘local’.
So, taking a seat in a local street cafe, the waiter plonks down a bowl of this Laksa. “Enjoy!” “Thanks!” With chopsticks, you pick up the noodles and fish with one hand and then plonk the mixture onto a spoon with the other and well, slurp it up! To start with I wasn’t too sure but actually, I started to rather like it! I believe the fish was mackerel but it tasted a bit like spicy tuna and I love tuna so I ate it all up hah!
Turns out, the owners have been running this cafe for 57 years! Yup, 57yrs of knocking out the same dish, day in, day out…oh and get this…that is ALL they make! It all became clear once I’d taken a glance around the packed seats…everyone was in fact eating the same dish! “Everyday people come here to eat my Laksa. Some ordering 2 / 3 bowls per time” The owner seemed to proud to be able to boast this as fact of course. I was then day dreaming and thinking ‘I bet every line in the cafe owners face could tell the story of how all this began!’ In fact, the table I was sitting on starting filling up as there were no seats left! ‘Wow, people really do fill this place up fast!’ I thought to myself, taking a final slurp from my spicy fishy dish. But what a fascinating story hey and one that the cafe owner will continue going on and on no doubt.
Busy doing nothing!
The following days were complete wash outs…the heavy rain was as persistent as an army of a thousand drummers and stormy winds seemed to scatter the rain like seeds leaving limited dry patches to take refuse under! “Hmm, what am I going to do with myself?” I thought…well, it’s a good job the hostel owners and guests were easy to get along with at Lazyboys. I really didn’t do much at all apart from laze around, chat with other travellers and sink a few Tiger beers whilst listening to Azlan (one of the hostel owners who yes, shares the same name as the Lion from The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe haha!) playing his own rendition of ‘No Woman no cry’ on his acoustic guitar…”Azlan, you keep missing out the verse that repeats ‘Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright!’ Haha” “Ah yes, so I do haha…Oh well, this is Azlan’s version!”
I was desperate to go trekking in Penang’s National Park but I felt rather jinxed by the weather, oh and the fact that I was alone too was another issue! Hmm. Grabbing a Tiger beer from the fridge, I peeled back the ring pull hearing it snap and fizz. Once the bubbles crept back into the can, I took a slurp and then pondered for a minute or two. “Azlan, do you think trekking is possible alone?” “No. You will need a guide but really it’s better in a group. Also, with the rain, you could slip and fall or worse still, lose the path. But also, even when the sun is out, it will be too hot to trek and it’s not an easy walk” He seemed quite serious. “Oh” I didn’t really know what to reply…it seemed a harsh catch 22 situation because yes, I could have hired a guide but I really didn’t want to just go off into the jungle with a stranger either…I would have rather fancied going in a group, safety in numbers and all that.
Life’s a Beach
So with trekking looking more like a ‘could have, would have’ scenario…some kind of mass laziness came over me haha! I thought to myself, you know, you’ve done so much trekking, you’ve seen so many jungles why not just take these 9 days to do absolutely nothing! With the beach conveniently over the road, I spent much of my time there and loved it 😉 I loved sitting there and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells….lovers taking a romantic sandy stroll together, children playing volley ball, families taking a horse ride up the shore, locals trying to catch the slightest glare from tourists so they could rent out their deck chairs and umbrellas, watching teenagers fall off the banana boats and seeing the odd over weight, white balding man wearing things he really shouldn’t hahah! And trying to resist the succulent smells of barbequed food which would gently waft under your nose and turn into a seducing and beckoning finger – (just like it would in a cartoon) until your tummy would give in and grumble to it! Or watching the sand dogs (like street dogs but um, well, sand dogs) curl up and find a spot to snooze in….
But do you know what else I really loved about it all….the sitting there and not being noticed. I could just blend in and be ignored, I could be anyone I wanted to be on that beach. I mean, travelling is a great escape if you’re looking to escape anything (which of course I’m not) but there is something about sitting on a beach and watching the sun-setting while your favourite tunes gently serenade your ear drums – it’s so peaceful, so beautiful. But then, sometimes, I would feel a slight hollowness trying to rise up…hmm, what is this? Then it hit me…’Oh my god. I’ll be home in a week….ONE WEEK!’ Of course, I can’t wait to see my family and my friends but I just can’t believe that my wonderful journey will soon all be over. Day dreaming at the sinking sun sounds rather sentimental I know but it also felt rather symbolic to me too.
One afternoon, I sat on the beach to scribble an idea for a short novel (just an idea that I may pursue once I’m back!) and a sand dog walked right over to me and just stood just a few metres directly in front of me and stared. ‘Ok, just stay calm, just stay calm….’ Telling myself to stay calm was just not going to happen but I had to try and stop the fear from breaking through my pores and giving the sand dog the green light to bite! I dropped my gaze to the sand because I didn’t want to try and play a stare out game with what could potentially be a dangerous dog right?? ‘Ok, um, try and look busy’ I carried on scribbling to through off a ‘Bothered, do I look bothered that you’re standing there?’ demeanor haha! And then the sand dog curled up, sighed and started to snooze right there in front of me. ‘Aww, he seems alright’ Phew! My fear began to disappear and I felt relaxed that the sand dog and I had made our ‘peace’ of sharing our space together.
Moments later, the sand dog got up and stepped even closer to me and laid down once more to kip. In fact, the sand dog kept getting closer to me until he was literally sat by my side. It was rather cute actually….the stray sand dog, my bodyguard haha! “I guess you get lonely too sometimes hey lil one!” I said, giving him a lil tickle on the head. So there I was, scribbling the drafts for a potential novel whilst taking in the most beautiful sunset of the week with my stray sand dog. I bet it looked rather funny to the locals casually walking past too hahah but I know it made me chuckle!
Wow, time to check out of Lazyboys and head for Guest Inn Muntri in Georgetown. 7 nights in Penang seemed to fly by but hey, now it was time to explore the main town.
I arrived at my new hostel and was immediately shown to my room and woah…it was like a prison cell (well, from what I’ve seen on telly haha!). I’m not claustrophobic but the room was so small that I feared I may actually develop the phobia just from staying there! So picture this….a tiny room that even the invisible man had trouble fitting into, no windows to peer out of and nowhere to hang your clothes…oh AND, I got eaten alive by mozzies before I’d even got into bed that night! There does seem to be more mozzies here than in Bali so I well and truly paid the price for forgetting to apply my bug repellent that day.
Avoiding hanging around at the hostel, I went off to explore my new town! I must say, I much preferred Penang. Penang is quieter and I was also missing ‘my’ beach! Georgetown is more about the history and the buildings. However, the buildings are very pretty…they seem to come in every pastel shade going! I saw pale minty green buildings along with fine yellow, orange and pink structures, it was rather stunning. There were also a lot more tourists and a lot more bars to walk in and fall out of but I wasn’t too impressed hah. ‘Oh well, just another night and I’ll then be heading back to Bangkok to see my friends’ I thought to myself and hey, whatever the situation…it is what you make of it.
I did actually check out of the hostel to avoid being suffocated and bittern to death by mozzies and pitched up in a much nicer place so I could enjoy my final night in Penang in comfort 😉
Getting a cab back to the airport was funny, well, not so funny actually. The day I checked out was typically a ‘monsoon’ day and the rain was bucketing down. I hailed a red and white cab down and asked for the airport. I trusted the look of this cab because of the ‘This taxi is metered, no haggling’ sign on the door…’Great stuff, this’ll do’ “Hello, taxi to airport please?” “Yes, get in” comes the enthusiastic reply from the taxi dude. I firmly responded with “Meter” as I chucked my bag in the front seat. “No, no…fixed price, 50 Ringgits” “Forget it!” I couldn’t believe it. So it wasn’t metered at all then!?
I hailed the next red and white cabby down and opened the door and asked the same question. “Metered taxi to airport please” “No meter. I do fixed price only” “Well, why say you’re a metered taxi when clearly you’re not!” I was getting a bit hacked off with not just the taxi guys but just at how tourists can be treated in this way. I told him to get lost and walked away leaving the door wide open for all the rain to come pouring in haha! It was funny seeing this Malaysian taxi driver ranting what I can only assume to be bad words at me. I stood under nearby ledge for shelter from the rain and smirked to myself watching in amusement as the cabby driver frantically tried to reach to shut the door of his cab to stop anymore rain seeping in. I could then see him dapping the inside of the door with tissues before he then wheel spinned off…..good punishment for him really hehe!
A chinese man and his daughter saw the whole thing (and no, sadly it wasn’t my perfect stranger coming out of nowhere to whisk me off haha) but he asked what happened and was I ok. James was his name and his daughter was called Nikki. “I just picked my daughter up from her computer class. I live right by the airport so I can take you there” After much umm-ing and arr-ing, I thought it would be pretty safe as he was with his daughter and she’d be coming along for the ride too. So James and Nikki drove me to the airport and all for free, he wouldn’t take a dime for his efforts even when I insisted. There really are some wonderfully kind people out there…always trust your gut and go with what feels right and you’ll be ok! My instinct has kept me safe and believe me, your intuition grows tenfold when you’re out in the world.
And that was beautiful Penang! It was short but it was very sweet. However, I feel I need to come back just for the trekking one day!
Someone once told me ‘A wise man said, leave some things undone’ I’d like to interpret that to mean….’Because you can come back and knot the bits you left for they will then become the best bits!’ 😉
So farewell Penang – Bangkok here I come just for one last hit! I’m looking forward to saying my final goodbyes to my Thai pals and catch up with the movies, bowling, drinking etc 😀 Then it’s one final trip back to KL where it all began….