Bangkok to Bali - Penang, Malaysia


My second visit to the beautiful country of Malaysia started with a long coach ride from Ao Nang, acrosss the Malaysian border to the island of Penang.

The local tourist board describes Penang as ‘A fascinating fusion of the East and West, Penang embraces modernity while retaining its traditions and old world charm.’  A bold statement but on reflection it’s not too far from the truth.  I really enjoyed my time there, though only short, we had some great laughs and adventures!

We spent the first night at a nice food plaza enjoying some of the local delicacies whilst the following day a few of us hired some mopeds and took on a grand tour of the island.

Some of our gang: Andreas, Trine, Eric, Laura and Sam

Boy racer Eric shot off like a dart; much to our concern as he didn’t actually have a licence and was using another member of the groups licence to get the bike.  Also he had a motorbike accident a few weeks prior and we didn’t want him to hurt himself the second time around.  He does have a unique style of riding.  Confident, but he likes to stick one of his legs out so he is in a constant counterbalance.  A skill for sure.

Me and Naomi on the left, Eric and his stray leg on the right (though he was stationary at the time!)
Our first stop in the blistering heat was a nature park where you can opt to go on one two, three and four hour treks.  We decided due to the incredible heat to have a little walk in and then walk out again and grab more water.  The thought of walking solid for anything longer than thirty minutes would have simply killed us.

Me, Naomi, Sven, Gabby and Eric (pic stolen from Jen)
Sven, Gabby, Jen and Eric
The park offered some very nice coastal views and a simple rope swing onto the beach.  The next ten minutes were very amusing.  Both Naomi and Eric hadn’t really used a rope swing before, not least one like this (which seemed pretty normal).  The videos of them attempting to swing are hilarious – more so for the noises they were making.  Naomi screamed throughout finishing with a happy dance and Eric nearly fell off.  The noise he made even makes me laugh today (some several months later).

The reservoir
Back on the bike we headed to a reservoir for a couple of pictures and then to a fruit farm – a place, I must point out, that Naomi was so desperate to go to (others, including myself, were not so keen).  The fruit farm was perhaps the most boring I have been for some time, and I wasn't alone.  Out of everyones patience, the first to surrender of all people was Naomi!  But as we had to travel up the farm in one of their own vehicles we had to wait for the tour to be over, grab our free fruit lunch (where we really pigged out) and then made our way back to the mopeds.

Gabby, Jen and the flower from a fruit 

Despite the dullness the views were magnificent

Naomi, Jen and Gabby

Fruit addict Gabby pigged out a little on some nice looking fruit

The groups they took us in with were far too large for you to appreciate what they were trying to show you and a tour we had in Indonesia was far better and best of all we could try out everything (more on that in later posts!).

Our next stop was to visit a traditional fishing village.  This was some distance away but through some beautiful scenic roads that are best experienced on a bike.  On one of these roads Naomi and I passed a wooded place that had many cars outside and looked quite busy.  When we did stop and were about to get off our bikes the people did not seem very happy to see us.  The reason?  Naomi was not 'appropriately dressed' for what turned out to be a religious event.  This could be the only explanation why they appeared to shouting abuse at us and nearly chased us down the road.

As we caught up with the rest of the group it appeared that one person was missing....

"Where's Eric?"

As it was hard to deviate from the route we assumed the boy wonder headed off down to meet us at the fishing village.  That was until half an hour later when we saw him coming back the other way during some road works across a bridge.  He was unable to turnaround due to the contraflow in place so we told him that we shall wait for him at the nexy layby (which was about 15 minutes down the road).

We waited, and waited, and waited.  Then we thought that perhaps he's had an accident?  I decided to head off to find him and drove all the way back up to where we last saw him at the roadworks and he wasn't there.  Checking all the little side streets along the way we still couldn't find him.  Returning back to the group, I looked at them defeated and said...

"We've lost Eric".

There were a number of side streets along the way that he could have gone down, but one thing we were confident of was that he didn't have an accident on the main road.  It was impossible to search for him so we waited on the main road for another fifteen minutes (it had already been nearly an hour since we last saw him) and decided to head to the fishing village in the hope that he was there.

He was not.  A little about the fishing village at the south of the island if you ever do visit.  There is nothing that interesting there at all.  Which was a shame as it was a highlight of the trip that we were looking forward too.  We did a quick search around for Eric and he wasn't there.

By this point we were all starving and looking for something to eat.  We decided to head up to the north of the island to a mall that we knew would be open (most of the shops were closed for Ramadan).  Getting to the mall involved navigating up some busy highways (on our little mopeds) and selecting the right underpass and overpass to go on.

I took point with Naomi, as we had a local sim card and GPS on my phone.  Sven was behind me and the two girls, Gabby and Jen, were at the rear.  As Sven, Naomi and I arrived at the mall we lost Gabby and Jen.  Our group appeared to be dropping like flies.

Sven went off to find them whilst Naomi and I parked up and waited by the mall entrance.  And we waited, and waited.  We'd lost Sven as well.  About twenty minutes past when we spotted Sven and the girls coming into port and finally we were reunited, but still without Eric.

Refuelling with a pizza we had a few more hours of good light left and decided to visit a monastery located more inland and then take the route north of the monastery back to our hotel.  Naomi took charge with directions and after a few wrong turns we arrived outside it.

Stopping on the road for a few pictures we got our map out again to finalise our route back home.  Now I often tell people about the joys of travelling but also how friendly local people are.  As we stood by the side of the road a family pulled up in the car, noticing we had the maps out, and asked us in broken English if we were okay and did we need any help.  I could never imagine this happening to a group of Malays in the UK but in this country (and others that I've visited) people are so kind, so respectful and value looking after people, particularly visitors.

They gave us a few pointers and we were off heading straight back to the hotel, passing an amazing procession in the street too (the video of which is below).

As we got to the hotel, who did we find?  Eric.  It turned out that he ended up going to the same mall we did, pretty much at the same time and managed to find his way back!

Later that night we returned our bikes, grabbed some dinner and after quite a few beers by the water - and me securing a free Tiger Beer bottle opener after we all purchased what felt like a hundred bottles took a quiet walk home.

Sven and Gabby (pic from Jen)

(Left to Right): Emma, Jen, Naomi, Sven, Gabby, me and Nicole
All enjoying a few more beers 
Me and my 'well earned' bottle opener.

Gabby, Jen and I who walked behind the group saw a bar claiming to do Karaoke.  It was really late, we had an early start in the morning and thought to ourselves that we should head to bed and be fresh in the morning.  Jen was persistent and in a twelve angry men style (for you film lovers out there), she turned the jury round and we headed in.  The final premise on entering was that we will probably never ever get the opportunity to go to this bar again in our lives and therefore we should.  That sums up travelling in a way really.  Seize the moment, take every opportunity to experience new things.  And more importantly if it involves singing at a Karaoke then let's do it!

The night wasn't all that bad!
The bar itself was very local, and the people there (drunk and sober) were so welcoming and we had a really good time.  Now I have to be honest, I cannot remember how long we were there for and the short journey back to the hotel did not get stored in my mind.  Though I certainly remember the hangover in the morning!

Penang is a really good place to visit for a few days; there are lots of things to do and with the welcoming warmth of the local people you'll feel at ease and will want to return again.

1 comment:

  1. Ah now I get it ! Poor Eric. Lovely photos Dave.Video's not working,as yet.Love the moped'


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