A Travellerspoint blog

September 2010

Georgetown/Penang

Malaysia is TOO HOT.

sunny 35 °C

So after our EPIC journey, we made it to Georgetown, to a lovely hostel, the Red Inn. Friendly staff, small dorm, lovely layout with a big chilling out area, and yummy breakfast (Susie especially likes the banana bread. Yum yum)! Our favourite hostel so far definitely!

Georgetown itself is nice, but John wasn't feeling very well (he's all mended now though, so don't worry Mummy!) and it was SO SO hot that we took things pretty slowly really. Over the 2 1/2 days we were there, we did most of the touristy things that were within walking distance, as well as spending quite a bit of time at the hostel watching episodes of House (getting our Hugh Laurie fix!).

On the first day, we went to Fort Cornwallis in the morning, a British built fort on the seafront. There's never been a battle there, even in World Wa 2, and it was a bit pointless really, but Susie locked John in a dungeon, and John liked the cannons, and since it only cost 2RM (40p) each, it was probably worth it! As we walked back from the Fort, we went into the State museum, mainly because it cost 1RM (20p) each, and had air conditioning! It was quite interesting, with lots of information about the history of Penang, but the best bit was a games section where they had traditional games to play. Unfortunately the instructions didn't really make sense, but there was a draughts board, and we used a bit of artistic licence and guesswork and played the other games too!

After Susie was John's little slave girl and fetched him lunch to the hostel, we went for a wander to look at several temples around the area we were staying in. I'm afraid I can't tell their names as there was about 6 and they were very similar so they've all blended into one a little bit! At one of them there was a lovely friendly old man, who hardly spoke any English, but was obviously a bit of a fan, because he proudly showed us a massive portrait of the Queen that he had in a room next to the altar, and then later brought out a newspaper article from 2004 from when Tony Blair visited Georgetown!

The following day we set off to visit two temples that were supposed to be really lovely. According to the map, we just needed to follow the road down and they should be obvious - I mean how hard can it be to find 2 massive temples??? Apparently very. After going to another (wrong but still very pretty) temple, getting very hot and flustered, having an argument then asking a passerby, we eventually found them. First we went to Wat Chayamangkalaram, the largest Thai Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was very pretty, with a ridiculously big lying Buddha!
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We then went over the road to Dharmikarama Burmese Temple, which was much more spread out, with lots of little shrines and garden bits and things. The temples were very pretty andmight have been worth all the stress involved in getting there! We then walked back along the seafront, keeping our eyes peeled for something to eat. A long, hot walk and a drinks stop later, we found a restaurant that served up really tasty curries on a banana leaf. It was very yummy and the novelty of eating off a banana leaf instead of a plate certainly added somethin!!
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We walked back to the hostel, and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering from all our walking by watching House :)

In the evening we headed to a Muslim curry house, and after a ridiculous situation where we ordered drinks, then spent about 10 minutes wanting to order food but being too scared to catch a waiter, in this very locals place, when they seemed to be ignoring us! Susie was brave eventually though, and we order very very tasty food, which we ate with our hands (something we're getting used to as hardly any of the curry places offer cutlery - it's surprisingly satisfying!). Both of us agreed it was the best food we'd had so far, and it only cost us 10RM (£2) for both of us to eat, and including drinks! We want this place round the corner all the time! Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to eat there again, as it was off to Kuala Lumpur for us the following day.

Posted by Susiep539 14:28 Archived in Malaysia Tagged penang georgetown red_inn Comments (0)

Malaysia is too big.

overcast 30 °C

We woke up in the beautiful paradise that is the Perhentian Islands...and then there was a boat, and a bus - which was broken...so then there was a fixing lady, and a taxi, and another bus, and another bus and a REALLY long bridge and another taxi with the French and then 11 hours later, Penang, or George Town, or Butterworth or Pinang or whatever. Phew!

Posted by Susiep539 05:36 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Ahhh, paradise!

sunny 30 °C

Well, our last week has just been bliss! We've been in the Perhentian Islands in North East Malaysia for 6 nights. We've been staying on Perhentian Kecil (which means small stopping place - as opposed to Perhentian Besar, which is the other island, which means big stopping place). They are your picture postcard, traditional, white beached, blue sea type of islands, with jungle going straight back from the beach.

We had amusing journey from Khota Baru, where we tried to get a bus, failed as the next one wasn't for 90mins, then got a taxi with an absolute joker for the driver, who took a massive detour, then stopped for 10 minutes to have his breakfast. This was followed by a 5 minute burping session, which he apparently seemed to aid by shaking his arm violently!) We then got a speed boat (70 ringitt - £14 return) from Kuala Besut to the island. John's comment on arrival - "It looks just like Typhoon Lagoon...except it's real!". He spends too much time at Disneyworld, but it really is beautiful!
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Since then, we have spent 5 lovely days here. We're staying in a little beach hut thats about 10 steps to the beach. We've got our own room and bathroom, as well as a little porch, all for 40RM (£8) a night for both of us. Lots of wildlife likes it too though, which has its good and bad points. God = the nice kittykats and butterflies. Bad = ants (especially the biting ones) and mosquitos. The ants get EVERYWHERE! The nature also has its down right ridiculous side - these huuuuuuge lizards, that are basically just dinosaurs. The biggest we saw must have been nearly 2 meters long, and really did look like a creepy crawly dinosaur. Susie didn't like it, John did, but neither of us could really comprehend a ting like that calmly wandering around outside our little house!
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We have done lots of diving (Susie has done her Advanced Open Water - hurray! - and john has done his Peak Performance Buoyancy Speciality - and we've both done some fun dives - John's up to 25 dives now, and Susie's done 12. We're getting quite happy and confident in the water, even if Susie does seem to use her air up much quicker than anyone else! Between dives, we've done some snorkling too. Sadly the visibility hasn't been as good as usual here - it's been between 3 and 12 meters, but with all this time in the water, we've still seen rays, cuttlefish, angelfish, clownfish, parrotfish, pufferfish, small reef sharks and a turtle (who only had 3 legs!).
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During the time we've not been in the water, we've spent far too much time eating at a lovely relaxed and tasty cafe called Amelia's, that's just a 2 minute walk down the beach. It's been various forms of fried rice for lunches (all with a random fried egg - mmm we love random fried eggs), which cost 8Rm (£1.60) each - quite expensive by malaysian standards, but still pretty good! And then the same again or an amazing fish BBQ for dinner. Yum yum yum!! We've also spent lots of time reading - yes, even John! - and playing scrabble (John keeps winning).
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Tomorrow it's time to sadly leave paradise :( We're off to Georgetown in Penang, on the West of Malaysia for a few days, then it's on to Kuala Lumpur after that. I'm sure Georgetown will be lovely when we get there, but after 6 days of chilling on the beach, a 6 hours stuffy train ride does not appeal!!

Posted by Susiep539 04:18 Archived in Malaysia Tagged diving malaysia coral_bay malaysian perhentian_islands perhentian_kecil Comments (1)

The longest train ride in the world!

sunny 33 °C

Now some people think commuting is a pain. Getting up at 5 or 6 and spending maybe 2 hours on a train. They may have a point, but if they want a real challenge they should try the Jungle line from Singapore to Tanah Merah in Northern Malaysia (practically in Thailand).... Due to our ticketing cock up we were forced to take the day train rather than the rather more appealing sleeper (which leaves at 6pm and gets in at 7am). The day train on the other hand leaves at 330AM and arrives at 6PM....a very long day indeed! The process was also made all the more stressful because, due to political complications, the station in Singapore is still owned by Malaysia. You therefore enter Malaysia BEFORE you've left Singapore! You then go through Singaporean immigration before finally crossing the border. Part of the complication is that the Malaysian border police do not stamp your passport, or provide you with a visa, you get that when you leave the country (ridiculously). So of course noone explained this to us, which made for a very stressed Susie for the entire journey, half expecting us to get thrown into a jail somewhere and be deported! Fortunately this is not the case....

The train itself was pretty fun. You get amazing views of the countryside and how "real" Malaysians live. It does go on FOREVER though but fortunately (and unsurprisingly) John managed to sleep pretty much the whole way. Susie didn't.
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We finally arrived in Tanah Merah to be greeted by a rather pushy taxi tout and a suitably inept driver (more on this later) who assured us they'd take us to Khota Bharu where we would spend the night before going to take the boat in the morning for the Perhentian Islands. Upon arriving in Kota Bharu, after a drive of about an hour (much more than we had been expecting), we showed the driver the address and he semi-told us he didn't know where it was. Hurrah! NOT. He then proceeded to ask a random passer by who didn't know either, followed by a phone call to his friend, presumably the pushy one from earlier. He sent him in....well it was the wrong way to put it simply. We ended up on some country road in the dark on the way to an airport. God knows where we'd have ended up if it wasn't for us thrusting the phone number of our hostel in his hand and telling him to call it. As if we were in a monty python sketch, the hostel was completely the other direction and actually just a few roads from where we had turned onto the road to nowhere earlier! Eventually he found the way (after another call to the hostel, and his mate), practically threw our bags at us and was off into the night 80 ringgits richer but more than pissed off!

Fortunately the lady at the hostel, which was called Pad D (PADI?) was friendly and greeted us kindly (however she did tell us we'd got off at the wrong train station, a mix up by both of us, but not the end of the world). She told us we could get something to eat at the nearby night market so we headed there to fill our, now growling, stomachs.

The night market was down a dark alley (her reassuring words) and was a collection of stalls selling traditional Malay food, with not a drop of English in sight! A rather Taxi-stressed out Susie did not appreciated this forced cultural experience and sent John out to acquire something to eat. The busiest stall was inevitably the one without any signs, menus and, of all things BLUE rice! Of course John had to go there and "explore". He waited for a good 10 minutes until a rather burly woman said something along the lines of "go get that white boy some food2 in Malay. Soon I had blue rice and curry in hand (literally, because there was no cutlery anywhere). The food itself was amazing though! We even went back from seconds! (Irresistible at 5MYR (£1) a time!).
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Finally we headed back to the hostel to get some kip, and to prepare ourselves for another day of travelling tomorrow! These islands better be worth it!

Posted by Susiep539 04:06 Archived in Malaysia Tagged taxi train malaysia jungle rice blue d line pad malaysian khota bharu Comments (0)

Last day in Singapore

sunny 30 °C

We had a lazy start and didn't get up until after 10. We packed out things up and checked out and then went to the Arab quarter to get fried rice and murtabak (a bit like a naan bread with mince in the middle) for breakfast. We wanted to explore the Arab quarter more, but it was really quiet (probably since it was sunday morning) and so we just had a quick look and went back to the hostel, got our bags and took them to another hostel, where we'd be staying the next night, as it was close to the train station (since we had to be there at 4am, and the MRT and buses weren't going to be running).

We then faffed about changing money for the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia (we'd been told there was nowhere to get cash out near there), and then got the MRT to where Susie's Mum lived when she was a little girl. Unfortunately the house isn't there any more, but we had a lovely look around the area, and it was nice just to see a non touristy bit of Singapore! IMG_0257.jpg
We then got dinner at a food court in a nearby shopping centre, and treated ourselves with 3 different dishes - a dim sum and noodle soup, teriyaki chicken and rice and a selection of curries. Yum yum yum :)

We then tried to walk to the MRT stop to get the bus to the Singapore Night Safari (a zoo, but at night). However, it was (a lot) further than it looked on the map, and so we got one bus to the MRT stop and another to the zoo, and got there exactly on time :) Unfortunately as we got off the bus some IDIOT behind Susie stood on the back of her flipflop and broke it :( A big stress, and then a short Blue Peter moment later, the shoe was fixed with 2 hair clips, and off to the zoo we went!

We were both really impressed by the zoo - we saw lots of exciting animals, including a clouded leopard, a giraffe really close, lions, etc. There was also a really good animal show, and we got seats right at the front. It included hyenas, a wolf, and otters who knew how to recycle! We both loved them! It was quite eerie being in a zoo at night, but there were a lot of idiots being noisy (mostly stupid English people), but it wasn't too bad and we just waited for them to go past. We saw almost every animal there was to see, and we came away happy people!
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A slightly dark picture of some leopards

We got the bus and the MRT back to the hostel.We love the Singapore MRT. Partly because costs average about S$2 per ride, which is only £1, partly because its clean and efficent and 100% better than the tube, partly because the tickets are recyclable - you pay S$1 (50p) extra as a deposit which you get back when you return the plastic ticket - but mostly because of the singing ladies! At most stations, a message comes over the tanoy with 3 women singing "train is coming, train is coming, train is com-miiiing, please start queing, love yoooouuur ride". It's hysterical, and set to a really catchy jingle, so we're singing it a lot at the moment!
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The lovely singing ladies!

Anyway, once we got home, we packed up then fell into bed - 6 hours until we need to be at the train station!

Posted by Susiep539 07:24 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore Comments (1)

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