Travelling Light

Penang, Malaysia, October 2013

Langkawi Eagle Wharf

Langkawi Eagle Wharf

We took a ferry from Langkawi to Penang, marvelling at the topography of the small islands between the two.

Day 4 – Langkawi to Penang

Encouraged by the clearing clouds and spectacular rainbow, we set out for Eagle Wharf to get the ferry to Penang. Although it was only a 10-minute walk, we opted for a taxi, because the packs were heavy, and Tom had hurt his foot jumping into the swimming pool the night before.

I know, I know – he safely navigated all the death traps of Malaysia’s sidewalks, and then injured himself in the Westernised safety of the hotel. Go figure!

So we waddled up to the ticket counter, under a combined 60kg of packs, only to be told that tickets had to be bought in cash, and the nearest ATMs were in the terminal (which, of course, this being SE Asia, the ticket counter was not) … read more.

Day 5: Dim Sum and Komtar

Komtar shopping centre, Penang

Komtar shopping centre, Penang

Although some things were similar to home, some things were very different in the shopping centre – some sections were mostly deserted, I assume due to the impact of the GFC. One store had created a whole new definition for the word “blog”, and some of the Chinglish T-shirts and signs were hysterical. The most amazing sight was the store selling old-school cassette tapes – obviously someone here still buys them!

We appreciated the air conditioning after the tropical walk, and a lemon iced tea, which also contained whole limes the size of cherry tomatoes – so good we had two each to recover from the walk – and bubble tea with black pearls, just like at home in Marrickville … read more.

Day 6: Finding Stardust

We now live above a cafe on the road that divides the backpacker district from Chinatown – and directly across the road from a mosque. We did that deliberately, figuring that the dawn call to prayer would wake us up in time for dim sum, and to help us adjust our body clocks for the 4am starts at the Vipassana meditation retreat. We definitely were woken by the series of calls to prayer, and the actual sermons are broadcast over the loudspeaker, too, but somehow the bed kept a firm grip on us until the noise subsided, and then suddenly it was after nine.

Our new B&B, Stardust Guesthouse and Cafe, is half the price of the previous one – just $17 per night – but doesn’t supply breakfast or kitchen facilities, so our food budget will be higher. The room is bigger, and has windows, but it is up a set of “stairs” (ie a ladder) which would never gain council approval back home. Climbing them with a backpack was interesting – I think we might go for lowering the backpacks down on a rope when we leave … read more.

Day 7: Exploring Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang

Georgetown, Penang

Red letter day! We found a street with actual sidewalks – we could stroll along side by side and hold hands, just like we used to do at home! It was in the vicinity of the street art sculptures labelled “UNESCO Heritage area buffer zone”, so maybe that particular street has been heritage listed, or has been designated the heritage tourist trap. Either way, we luxuriated in being able to walk along without watching every step.

And every overhang, too – yesterday Tom was so busy looking down that he cracked his head on a protruding lump of concrete. Fortunately, we deployed RoTai immediately,and there were no lasting ill effects. Tom has been giving his guardian angel a serious workout lately. Apart from imperilling his person, he left his phone in a taxi and, after it was miraculously returned, dropped it into an open drain …read more.

Day 8: Meeting Other Travellers

Last night was the first time we had one of THOSE conversations – the ones that most people only have when they are drunk, apparently (not that I’d know – I have spent my life waiting for the people around me to have two or three drinks so the real conversation can begin). We met a couple of Americans and a Spaniard who are staying at Stardust, too, and we talked until midnight, when Teng ordered us all off to bed and locked up the cafe area.

The Americans, Tom and Aaron, have been backpacking through Europe and South East Asia for quite a few months, and had lot sof useful tips on Thailand. Marc has just come from a yoga retreat in Thailand and a monastery in Burma, and between them they have just about convinced my Tom that the meditation and yoga opportunities on the islands off the east side of the peninsula outweigh the lack of decent waves for bodysurfing … read more.

Day 9: More Street Food!

Roti canai

Roti canai

The serious street food search has been on this week, driven by the closure of our favourite dim sum restaurant for a Chinese festival. This morning, we finally reached the roti canai stall before it closed and while we were still hungry – epic win! Roti canai with egg is a great breakfast, and Tom augmented his with chicken curry (as you do, apparently).

Yesterday, we found a pancake stall (at least they called them pancakes – they looked more like very large crumpets), and next to it was a stall frying up egg with rice cake and bean sprouts. By now, we are so desperate for vegetables that we take whatever option has even a hint of green, but this turned out to be a brilliant win of a meal … read more.

Day 10: Next Stop, Vipassana … 

It’s our last morning in the delights of Georgetown’s street food district – we’re off to the Vipassana meditation retreat today. We’re going to get a taxi, but we’re not sure whether the taxi driver will know how to locate Stone 21, Trail 39, Penang Hill. There is a meeting point st the bottom of a hill, about 4km from the retreat, and they organise car pooling from there. One way or another, we will get there.

Tom went to the Shao Lin doctor / kung fu teacher last night, and his foot is much better. It’s still sore, though, and he’s wondering if he chipped the bone… read more.

Image credits: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons