I got up to Penang from KL in the afternoon on the 21st July, where I was to meet my friend Laura and see a little of the island.
By the time I got to Penang I was pretty tired and not feeling terribly well so I took a little rest in advance of meeting Laura in our previously-agreed place outside a museum in Georgetown. It was great to meet up with Laura and I think she was glad to see a familiar face because she’d had a bit of a shitty time of it after having had her rucksack stolen the previous day on a cross-country bus: bummer! (she’s fine though, just meant she had a lot of shopping to do in Georgetown!)
Laura introduced me to a couple of her friends (Stacey and Anthony) and after a couple of beers we decided to head out, get dinner and chat about what we might do the next day.
The next morning I woke up feeling terrible and decided that enough was enough and that I needed to sort myself out and get to a doc. Laura very kindly escorted me to the clinic (which was difficult to find!) and the doc there gave me three different types of tablets to take as well as an order to take rehydration salts once a day. Add these to my daily anti-malarial tablet and I looked like one hell of a pill-popper!
After lunch we met up with Stacey and Anthony and took a look at Fort Cornwallis, once the stronghold of the British occupation of the island. Later in the afternoon we took a trip up Penang hill in order to get a decent view of the island from above but the sky was very hazy and we were fairly underwhelmed despite the efforts of the resident monkeys!
Penang Island is famous for its hawker food and this made my stomach illness all the more annoying since the doc had said to avoid greasy or spicy foods, something which I would normally love. Undeterred, we went to the hawker stalls and I picked up some lovely noodle soup (no chillies this time!) and a dumpling all washed down with some freshly made watermelon juice. To follow, we got some great banana pancakes. Total price: about one british pound!
We retired to bed early as we were all tired from our day of sightseeing and I wanted to be on good form for the next day when I was to meet my friends from Penang with whom I worked this year during my internship at an electronics company.
My Penang friends met me at my hostel at 10 and kindly said they were to take us (Laura and me) on a little tour of Penang by car. First stop was the Kek Lok Si Temple, placed on an uphill slope on Penang hill. This was an interesting place to see and somehow when we climbed up to the top of the pagoda, we found that the view was better from there than it had been the previous day from the top of Penang Hill. Also fascinating was the huge statue and surrounding pillars and, eventually, a roof which was still in construction – definitely one of the largest I have seen on this trip. We went for lunch in local shopping mall which had a great food court catering to all tastes with numerous food stations organised by country allowing everyone to mix-and-match what they wanted. After lunch we took a walk around the shopping centre and Laura picked up some things that she hadn’t yet replaced after their theft. In the evening Shee-Hau took us to his home back on the mainland and showed us his church which certainly had more activity surrounding it than many churches I have seen at home, something which I found intriguing considering I’m in Asia! From here we went to Shee-Hau’s home and met his lovely wife and their adorable two-year old daughter. We had an amazing meal at a local seafood restaurant: one at which you choose your meal while it’s alive from the saltwater tanks – food at its freshest! We had crab, ray, frogs’ legs, shellfish, huge prawn-like creatures and octopus. It all tasted amazing although it was all served whole so at times I needed help extracting the meat from my prey, especially in the case of the crab!
Thoroughly well-fed, Eugene and Thean-Siew took us back to Penang Island where we prepared to rent mopeds the following day in order to see more of the island.
After managing to get two mopeds we (mostly legally) made our way to Batu Ferringi, a beach about 10km from Georgetown, on the Northern coast of the Island. We spent the rest of the day chilling out on the beach and I even took a swim although I wish I hadn’t. I managed to get stung by a jellyfish. I want to say I acted cool-ly and strolled out of the water but in truth I bagged it and moved the quickest I have in a good few months. Stinging lots, I still managed to quickly rule-out the prospect of Laura applying the traditional remedy (despite her offers…only joking!). Some vinegar and lemon juice later, I was on the mend!
We decided it would be a good idea in the evening to watch the sunset at a great beach a few kilometres up the road (see photo – beautiful!)
Today we decided we’d take a drive on our scooters further along the coast road away from Georgetown and stop at places of interest along the way. First stop was a butterfly and wildlife farm which was great to see – some of the butterflies were gorgeous. Further along the road we stopped at a great waterfall and chilled out with some drinks and a bunch of mini-bananas.
The drive went along windy roads and went up and down the jungle-covered hills and it was great to see the countryside on our own steam rather than relying on a tour bus and going along with the usual tourist rabble.
Our last evening on Penang Island was memorable for the amazing Hong Kong dim sum from a local hawker food centre. We ordered 8 things off the menu (one fifth of all the menu items!) and even still it only cost about US$3!