On Route to Penang – 18 November 2015
Up early this morning as we are taking the 9:00 a.m. bus to Penang from Kuala Lumpur. I’m getting very good at packing. I know exactly what is in the bag and whether something is missing. Can pack everything away in less than 10 minutes.
We left our friendly little hostel this morning with some sadness. With only 12 rooms which surround an open courtyard covered in astroturf – and a few desolate lawn chairs under umbrellas – there are few guests and no parties. The young Indian men who worked there were very friendly and chatty and of course Pat Henderson knew them all by first names. News of our adventure with the taxi cab yesterday was on the lips of all the staff. We were assured that staff had no idea that the company they deal with sent an unmetered taxi cab. It’s hard to know what to make of it all. At this point it all appears to be "much ado about nothing".
We decided to just pick up a taxi outside our hostel this morning. Pat Henderson flagged down one. We have now noted that approved taxis have a sign on the outside saying “Metered taxi. Haggling is not permitted”. So she was surprised when the taxi driver said it would be 60 MR to go to the bus station. We knew that it cost considerably less than that on the metered cab yesterday. Pat just said “no thank you” and walked to another much larger cleaner taxi. No problem. It cost 37 MR. The bottom line is that it seems you are better off just paying the sum on the meter than trying to negotiate a sum – particularly if you have no idea what the metered cost would be.
Our bus has golden curtains and the large arm chair seats are of red flowered velour with lovely reclining backs and leg rests that pop up. The bus seats around 30 people, there are probably no more than 12 people on the bus so we have spread out a bit.
We are again on a 6 lane freeway with lush green jungle or palm plantations on either side of the road with a clipped lawn verges. On the left green jungle covered hills rise in the distance.
Surprisingly, these lengthy bus rides are a welcome rest from being a tourist. The seating is much better than one could ever have in an airline – even first class. It is considerably less noisy than a plane.
Tourism is a bit of a chore sometimes – one feels that one is required that you try to see the “sights” in unfamiliar places - no time to linger as you must move on to some other place. It makes the other option - going to one place for a month or two - more appealing because you get an entirely different feel to a place when you actually live there. You set up a little nest and then make forays from the comfort of your home. All the uncertainty of where you will stay and the need to pack and unpack is gone.
Georgetown, Pulau Penang, Malaysia - 19 November 2015
Our little hostel here is fantastic. The Betel Nut House is charming. The owner spent a great deal of time with us providing information on the food in Penang and feeding us coconut tarts with ice-cream. Discussing food appears to be his passion. In addition to pointing out restaurants, he told us what to order and why we needed to try this or that particular dish. I'm happy to be on a food quest.
We have of course been following all the news on the BBC about Paris - indeed it is 3:00 a.m. here and I woke up and immediately turned on the TV to find out what is happening. Unlike 9-11 when I was in France and the topic was on everyone's lips, here in Malaysia, other than on BBC which seems glued to the topic - there is little discussion of the Paris killings. Perhaps that is because this is a Muslim country and there is a kind of cognitive dissonance going on.
Co-incidentally, I've been reading Ursula Le Quin's "Left Hand of Darkness" - a fascinating book which juxtaposes perfidy and cruelty of man against the humanity of mankind. Somehow it all seems to fit together.
I spent another day in bed here as my cold returned. Pat and Debbie did the town.
The next day we three took the Hop On Hop Off Bus to the other side of the island and visited the spice botanical garden. Well worth the long bus ride as they had audio guide which was informative and interesting and took our minds of the incredible heat. Debbie and I were dripping in the rain forest. Pat H. was cool as a cucumber.
Ha. Pat Henderson spent the next day sick as a dog in bed. Debbie and I spent the whole day using the local bus service to get to Ko Lok Si, a ridiculous Hokien temple dedicated to a 30.2-metre (99 ft) bronze statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, It was riddled with hawkers selling every kind of gewgaw you can imagine - throughout the long quarter kilometer walk up to the statue. I looked for the tiles that Larry and I purchased years ago -but alas we signed our name on the inside of the tile and it must have been used to build one of the growing number of satellite temples which litter the hillside
We were very impressed with the Betel Nut Lodge and the owner and staff of the Lodge. In the evening they plied us with healthy ginseng soup at 9:00 to help us over tour various he illnesses.