Posted by: Annette Huang | September 24, 2007

A week in Penang

Diary Penang 2007

Friday 14 September

Left Auckland after 1 pm. Uneventful flight. Spent time watching Shrek 3, reading Anita Shreve novel (The last time they met) and listening to music on the entertainment system.

Arrived KL at 8 pm, transferred successfully to domestic and left for Penang at 10 pm. Arrived at 11, had a short wait for my bag (2nd one off), then met Eddie. He was feeling fragile after a fall in a ditch on the way to the airport to meet me. He had a sore left arm, 2 sore legs and some grazes. I fixed him with what medicines I had (vitamins and arnica-symphitum compound) once we got to our accommodation.

Took a taxi to Leisure Cove — RM 47. A long drive in the dark and rain. Rain was heavy as we landed, and continued throughout the journey. The wind was strong most of the night, though we both slept well once we'd relaxed. Bed is comfortable, and it's great having a lot of room — a bathroom each and room to spread out.

Saturday 15 September

The wind stopped howling sometime during the night, and we slept quite well till about 6. We had not much to do till it got light, but around 8 we went out to see what provisions we could find.

The fruit and vege market I remembered across the road has disappeared, but the adjacent shopping centre doesn't look any more thriving. The bank has moved, although there was a pile of shattered glass outside it. We weren't sure if it was from an attempted robbery.

A walk further down the road revealed no more provisions shops so we went back to the first place and bought 2 frozen pies for breakfast from a place selling frozen and tinned goods. Once thawed, they were very tasty.

We had breakfast of pie, mandarins and chocolate, with my used tea leaves in the cup I take on the plane re-watered for the third time. They were getting rather pale.

We finally set off for the cemetery around 9. Found the entrance relatively easily, and were found by the sexton relatively easily — the same one who had refurbished the headstone 7 years ago. We showed him a couple of photos of the place we were looking for, and he recognized himself in one, so we gave it, and another, to him. His brothers were working in the area, so they quickly slashed away the overlying grass and rubbish, then scrubbed down the cross, which has lasted quite well through the years.

Eddie gave them quite a lot of money for their trouble, then we wandered off, as we were being bitten by something and the rain was returning.

Back at the
Midlands shopping centre, we found nothing to buy, nor anything to eat, so we walked on, getting hot, tired and hungry. We found a stall selling won tun mee and had a bowl of that before continuing on down the road towards Georgetown.

It was really too far to walk, so we caught a bus to the terminal at Weld Quay, and walked to the Tourist Information Centre, which was shut. We think it might have moved actually, but were not sure.

I was really tired by that time, and probably quite dehydrated, so we took a bus back to Tanjong Bungah, bought some more provisions (bread, baked beans, biscuits, tuna and chicken sausages), some of which we ate as soon as we'd washed our hands.

Then I had a shower, got into bed and stayed there for the rest of the night, too tired to do anything else. The wind howled through the sliding door, which is missing most of its rubber sealing, and the rain came over in heavy showers.

Sunday 16 September

Slept late for us, and we enjoyed watching the day arrive, with windows open, although we had to rush to shut them when the occasional squall blew over.

The roosters started crowing about 6, but other birds aren't heard. It was a pleasure to see them flying from tree to tree at the shore.

We had chicken sausages and baked beans for breakfast, followed by a mandarin. We are missing our cup of tea. After I cleaned up, we left for the supermarket at the Island Shopping Centre — it's a Cold Storage, but I found it rather limited with its supplies. However, we got provisions to last quite a few days, including bread, eggs, tea and water. We included a chocolate cake for a treat.

We caught a Chinese Hin bus down to the centre — we think they are cheaper than the air-conditioned Rapid Transit ones. It cost RM 1 as a flat fare.

We returned with the groceries and had an early lunch, then a sleep, so we weren't ready to get going again till about 2.

It was really pleasant lying with the doors and windows open, feeling the breeze come and go. Though it's been rainy, the temperature and humidity have been quite comfortable. We haven't needed to do as much washing each day as I expected.

We planned to check out a route for the airport, so took a Chinese bus to Weld Quay terminus, then caught another Rapid to Bayan Lepas (airport area). The driver helpfully showed us where to go, and we walked in the rain up the approach road, sloshing through the puddles in the car park till we found the terminal building.

Eddie wanted to find the ditch he fell in on Friday, but had to settle for a close approximation for a photo.

We spent a short time at the terminal, then walked back a different way to Bayan Lepas village, where we bought some delicious bananas at a stall. They were so tasty and we were so hungry we ate them all, and Eddie went back for some more.

We had difficulty getting a bus back – we waited on the wrong side of the road at first, and couldn't understand why people told us to cross over. Eventually we got sorted, with the help of a local shopkeeper, who passed the time talking to Eddie in Cantonese.

The bus took a very long time to arrive – we waited for well over 30 minutes, but otherwise the trip back was long but uneventful.

We were home about 9, had toast, tea, sausage and cake, did some washing, had a shower and went to bed.

I found out today why you are not to put cloths in the microwave longer than 2 minutes to sterilise them. Eddie's flannel got burned when he left it too long (and it was possibly too dry). It's a poor sad rag now. Lucky it was a 'foundling' from the New good View Hotel in Xintang!

Monday 17 September

We decided to take a trip to Butterworth to book Eddie a trip to KL on the train rather than by bus.

The day was hot and fine, and we took a ferry across to look around. We thought we had lucked in when we were told that the trip was free. So it was, but we had to pay RM 1.20 each to get back. It was a calm crossing, which took about 15 minutes once we took off. Ferries are very frequent, with every other one being a combined passenger and vehicular ferry. The vehicles and drivers load onto the lower deck – there are usually many more scooters than cars. It was interesting to look from our boat down into the neighbouring one at the drivers congregating together.

We thought we knew where to find the train station, but turned the wrong way and had to ask for help. The station is old and not very busy, but well-maintained with 2 museum engines outside. We read that the train went every day at 10, and decided that would be most suitable, till we enquired about tickets, and discovered the train left daily at 10 pm. So Eddie will go back by bus. The bus is actually a bit cheaper as it cost RM 30 by train. Eddie had difficulty understanding the girl behind the glass when she quoted the price, and she gave him an exasperated look. That was all very well but people seemed to hear us say ‘four’ whenever we actually said ‘five’ – so it went both ways.

There wasn't much else we found interesting at Butterworth, so we caught the next ferry back to Georgetown.

We decided to test the bus route to Nibong and took a U303 to the terminal. Once there we bought a ticket for Eddie on Friday on the 10 a.m. Plusliner, then looked for a lunch place, most of which were shut because if Ramadan.

There wasn't much else nearby, but we eventually found a stall across the highway selling 'economy rice', which we settled for. We were given a plate of rice and could choose from a range of toppings, to be charged accordingly. It was ok, but exposed to flies and not hot, so Eddie didn't enjoy it.

After eating, we waited a long time for a 401 bus back to the quay, where we decided to take a Chinese bus back to the hotel. This was a mistake, as we waited a long time before leaving the terminus, and even longer at Komtar while the driver tried to drum up passengers.

We didn't get in till nearly 4.30, by which time we were hot, tired and hungry. After tea and refreshment, we went for a walk on the local beach. It's rather grubby fishing beach, with mangy dogs – although fortunately they didn't bother us much.

We watched fishermen mending their nets, trudged along the sand and rubbish piles to the mouth of a small river, then went back for dinner, which consisted of eggs, potatoes and beans.

Tuesday 18 September

We had a reasonable sleep, and didn't get out of bed till 7. The washing hadn't dried very well in spite of the fan I’d left on it overnight, so I resorted to the hair drier for some of the damper things. In the end, I wore my trousers, which smelled slightly of damp washing, and hung the rest in the bathroom.

After breakfast of toast, tuna and tea, we left at about 9 for Batu Ferringhi. The bus took us through a winding road, with picturesque coastal views, and many cleared sections being prepared for high rise complexes.

Once arrived, we took a leisurely walk past some of the hotels we remembered from our first trip. We couldn't see the Casuarina resort and assumed it had been taken over or redeveloped.

We came across a handwritten sign: Waterfall 300m, and decided to have a look. A traipse through what looked like a deserted quarry brought us to a bridge over a small river, with an approach to the falls guarded by a dog that didn't sound too pleased to see us. Luckily, it was chained up.

At this point, I lost my desire to carry on, but eventually decided to keep Eddie company. We climbed some concrete and brick steps, clambered over some rocks, and enjoyed the small, pretty falls.

Retracing our path, we continued on up the main road till it ran out of footpath, when we returned to our starting point, discovering on the way that the Casuarina was being refurbished, hiding behind a length of metal fence. This explained why we didn't see it when we walked past.

Eddie decided to take a walk on the beach, so we spent a while on the sand, admiring the view, before carrying on. The beach was almost deserted, as was the whole area. It felt very empty for a tourist area. The few restaurants open were keen for business.

We went to the shopping centre, hoping to find a supermarket, but hardly anything was open, which was disappointing and disconcerting. We decided to have morning tea anyway, and ate banana pancake with honey and ice cream from an Indian stall – it was delicious.

We went back to the hotel after a long wait for a bus, had lunch, and set off again for Komtar to do some grocery shopping. After another long wait for the bus, we finally arrived and spent some time looking around the complex which again seemed tired and deserted.

I bought a sarong length from a shop there, then we went over to the second building which houses the Giant supermarket, where we got a few provisions. We ate some of our bananas in front of the people setting up the Ramadan night market, then bought some cakes from the first stall – 3 for RM 1.

After our refreshment, we decided to walk through Chinatown and visit the Khoo Kongsi. It took a bit of finding, but in the process we walked the length of Rope Walk (Pintal Tali). I had a vague memory of historical remains of the original rope walk, but if so, it wasn’t in evidence, despite the fact that we walked the length of the street. We met up with some friendly people in Lebuh Armenian, who gave us directions then invited us to have a cup of something with them, as they were sitting enjoying the evening.

They bought us some barley water, and chatted to us for a while in English and Cantonese. They picked Eddie for a Hong Konger, as people seem to do here. One of the men owned the shop, which was ostensibly a bicycle repair shop, but was stuffed with knick knacks and bric-a-brac – clocks, dolls, china were stuffed all around the walls, the fruits of 25 years of collecting, apparently.

We drank and chatted and exchanged addresses, till at 4.35 they said we had better go if we wanted to see the Khoo Kongsi as it closed at 5. We found it easily enough around the corner and tagged onto a tour party to listen to the guide's patter, which was interesting and amusing.

Once the place was shut, we walked on to the Weld Quay terminal and got a bus home. We had to wait a long time before the bus left, then we had a very long trip through the evening traffic. The bus driver did a U-turn across 3 lanes of traffic to get fuel on the way, to the amazement and derision of the loud Ferringhi passengers – they sounded most uncouth.

We had a short chat to an Iranian student who is at USM studying a PhD in environmental science and who was with her mother.

It was a relief to get in by 7.30 and get some dinner – chicken sausages, potatoes and cakes. After doing dishes, washing and having a shower, we were ready for bed. Eddie has turned brown, and I am sunburned, but it was a good day.

Wednesday 19 September

Were awake early but didn't get up till 7-ish. Had breakfast of an egg, sausages and baked beans, cleaned up and left just before 9. Had to wait a while for the bus, but reached Jln Utama by 10. We walked quite a way looking for the place where the man was feeding the monkeys on our last visit, but only saw a few animals around an Indian temple. We carried on up the road for a while but saw nothing likely, so we walked back to explore a road by the temple. Here we discovered a delightful park with fountains at every turn. It was peaceful, cool and pleasant, so we took our time, and many photos.

We continued on down the road to the intersection with Jln Gottlieb, where we hoped to find something to eat, but pickings were slim. We settled for an ice cream each from a cake shop and shared a tuna bun – the muffin I chose was disappointingly dry and crumbly and wasn't much better after it had been microwaved for afternoon tea.

Then on to the cemetery, where the sexton produced a pot of paint just as we arrived, and proceeded to paint he letters on the headstone while we waited. We wondered if he would have done it at all if we hadn’t gone back, though he commented several times about the recent wet weather. It was very hot by this time, and I got even more burnt.

We looked around the graves for a time, and Eddie took pictures of the marble dog, then we left before we could be persuaded to give the sexton a grave-keeping fee on an annual basis.

We found a bus-stop across the road and thought we could save time by using the U102 route, but no bus turned up, even after nearly an hour. We finally gave up and walked back to Midlands, where we got a bus immediately.

We stopped off at Komtar and bought presents, but I didn't enjoy the process as we were both hot, tired, hungry and cross, possibly exacerbated because our sugar intake has been higher recently than the beginning of the week.

We bought a few items from Giant, but again pickings were slim, and we settled for ice cream and water, which we consumed amongst the traffic at the entrance to the complex.

We continued on to find the grave of Captain Light in the old Protestant cemetery, finding a shop selling meat and rice on the way. We enjoyed that with a cup of strong sweet coffee for me and Milo for Eddie.

With a bit of map reading and a detour through a Kuan Yin temple, we finally found the cemetery, where we spent some time looking at the graves, which look like caskets above the ground. The cemetery operated from 1789 to 1892, so it was interesting to note the names associated with Penang's history, as well as how young many of the dead were. One family lost 4 children, another woman died in childbirth, after losing 3 others very young, and was buried with the infant.

Once the mosquitoes started biting, we went on to find the HSBC bank to enquire about opening an account. It was strange to be treated as honoured guests after fending for ourselves for so long, but the coffee and water provided were welcome. We need to go back to complete the process which we will do tomorrow.

Our bus back left about 4.50, meaning we had a faster trip than last night. After a cup of tea and something to eat, we went out to find something for tea. Again we couldn't find much, so we settled for some fruit – bananas, mango and a pineapple. We also walked to the Floating mosque which we can see fm our room.

Once back, we had fruit and tea and did our washing. Eddie took hours over his, but managed to get the stains from his fall out of his trousers.

Thursday 20 September

We had a reasonable sleep, although I had difficulty dropping off, and woke at 1 a.m. feeling as if I had slept a whole night. We got off to a slow start, but got a bus into Georgetown about 9.30. It was a fine warm morning with a pleasant breeze blowing and Eddie remarked how cheerful the Protestant Cemetery looked with the sun on it, as we rode past.

It didn't take us long to find the bank, where we spent the next 2 hours setting up our new account and getting all the paperwork completed. It took longer than we expected, but at east we know all the cards and security devices work.

After finishing at the bank, we walked to the Giant supermarket to get something for lunch. We chose our staples of bananas, cake and ice cream.

We spent a bit more time looking at the Parkson Grand store, then went outside to eat lunch, afterwards crossing the busy intersection to explore the Gama department store.

After checking out their goods and using the toilet to wash our hands, we returned to Komtar where we found a shop that would make a DVD copy of Eddie’s photos. We had a pleasant chat with the woman while we waited for the process to complete.

Next we caught a 103 bus to Plaza Gurney, a shopping complex at the end of Gurney Drive, where we had stayed previously. We walked the length of the Drive, noting how few of the original houses remained. Most sections are now taken up with high-rises and hotels. I found the walk interesting but tiring, and was ready to go back once we reached No. 1, our first timeshare accommodation.

Finally, we checked out Cold Storage back at the Plaza, but nothing appealed, so we left empty-handed.

We got a Chinese bus from the other side of the major intersection with Gurney Drive, expecting a fairly fast trip back. There was some slow traffic around the evening food stalls near the Tanjong Bungah Hotel, and the bus had to change lanes through it. Once clear, and near the Caltex service station, the driver started to move left again, swiping a car coming rapidly on the left, and forcing it into a power pole. Bits of the car were spread along the road, and we couldn't see if the driver was injured. We expected the driver to stop, but to our astonishment, he just kept going as if nothing had happened.

We got off about 3 stops later, and Eddie alighted from the front to see what the damage was – he said there were some scratches, but as the bus was so battered anyway, they hardly showed.

It was a relief to get back to our nest, have some afternoon tea and debrief. We couldn't have done anything, but we felt quite shocked that the driver didn't stop.

Once calmed down, we decided to have a look at the pool on the roof, since we didn't get a chance last time. We had a very quick dip (Eddie found it too cold to do more than get wet), sat in the sun for a while, the came back to our room for a shower.

Dinner consisted of leftovers.

Friday 21 September

We had a rushed and very early start to catch the bus at 7. We expected the rooms to be checked before we got our bond back, but the receptionist just asked if everything was in order before handing over the money when we assured her it was.

There was a very long wait for a bus at the terminus. I let one 401 go as I was waiting for a 303 to go right to the platform at the Nibong bus station, but in the end, as time was going by, settled for the next 401. Eddie was very anxious about arriving on time, but we made it with time to spare in spite of slow passengers and traffic. Then the express bus took a while to turn up, and actually didn’t leave till about 10.30. I passed the time talking to a woman who was farewelling her godmother, and she was kind enough to offer me a lift to the airport.

Once there, I had a very long time to fill in, waiting for my flight at 5 p.m. I bought a pair of earrings with my saved taxi fare, and had an expensive (RM 7.90) cappuccino which was really a flat white at the Coffee Bean restaurant. The rest of the time I spent wandering around in and out of the building. I ate bread and boiled egg in the terminus and out in the carpark just for something to do. I read an abandoned paper, where I found out about the Nai Yin Xue case, and changed clothes ready for the long haul. I watched a group of performers in various kinds of Malaysian dress get ready to greet some dignitary, and followed them for part of their procession. I was disappointed I couldn’t see the results of the preparation, as they disappeared into a closed off area.

I checked in at 3 – it was a relief to get rid of my bag – and waited around some more for the short flight to KL. There was only an hour or so to wait till we boarded the plane at Subang Jaya for an uneventful trip home.

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