Christine and Chris in Asia
13th Nov 2006
Shooting through to Penang in One Easy Bite
Had a great trip, if a bit tiring, through to Penang in Malaysia direct from Krabi. So now we are just a couple of bus rides away from Singapore unless we do something very rash, like flying to Bali and back on a cheap internet ticket to use up the missing days. However we are now stranded in Penang until the 16th so Christine can have her next rabies injection.
We decided to take the Green Tea Guest House's advice and book a ticket for 580 Bt each on a direct booking to Penang on a minibus, changing at Hat Yai for a cross border minibus to Penang in Malaysia. We have already been burned by these cross border connections, but decided to take it because the guest house acted as if it was reputable. For this we received no ticket but a teahouse receipt and had to wait on the street at 6.50 next morning. The minibus people then picked us up and exchanged our tea receipt for another tour company receipt to give the Hat Yai company and took off weaving forward and bactracking twice to pick up local passengers from all over the district, finally charging off down the highway about an hour later. In the event we got an air-con van for 10 people and the only lie they told was that old people going to hospital needed the front seats as an excuse for chucking us in the back with our musical instruments (so they could stock the rest of the van more easily). This caused a VERY bumpy 5 hour ride to Hat Yai but gave us a tad more leg room.
At Hat Yai, which was an unexciting large town with a market and industrial shops, they took us to another 'green' travel agent, literally Green Travel, where we connected with another air-con van which took us on another 4 hour trip, not only cleanly through the border to Malaysia, waiting for all the formalities, but all the way over the harbour bridge into Penang as well, avoiding the cross transfer and ferry ride from Butterworth on the mainland where most busses stop.
We then took a taxi for the exorbitant sum of 10 Ringat (cut from 15 at our protests since no taxis here have meters or this one didn't 3.67 ringat to the $US) and found the guest house 79 we chose full, ending up staying for another exorbitant sum (45 R ) for an air con room without hot water of a private shower - but it has the enchanting title of the Love Lane Guest House of Love Lane. The extra 10 was really for providing an ambient environment of TV and a travel agency for lazy backpackers, who want everything done for them for a commission and a free pint cup of coffee each in the morning.
We ate a pretty distasteful meal in the strreet because we didn't locate the best street stalls and today moved to a charming guest house called SD just up the street which has air con doubles for 35 R well back from the street where its quiet and a sunny spotless environment.
Spending the day taking it easy from nine hours of travel in cramped minivans. We'll visit some of the temples and look out for a hire motor bike to circulate round the island tomorrow.
Which we did, firstly hot and sweating in the thirties at ninety percent humidity and finally cooler in the evening after the daily thunderstorm around four in undated the area and cooled things down to a dull humid grey. We saw the old Kuan Ying Teng Taoist temple we visited in 1976 a little the worse for wear and the South Indian Sri Mariamman temple covered in a temple mounht of luschous images of Indian goddesses, and a stark Krishna temple with the god of the cowgirls playing the flute to his spouse, and several old Chinese houses and scattered temples, as well as a plethora of relatively featureless Mosques.
We also hunted high and low for food, among the rich choices of Chinese street carts, expensive European, Indian Thai and Malay, finally settling on the 24 hour South Indian / Malay chain Kayu Nasi Kandar, where we had a slap up banquet of Chicken curry with whole breasts, cabbage and spiced rice with roti done in the very clean way South Indian cooking excels at for 7.40 R each or about $2 US. Christine has thus finally been tricked back into eating Indian curry after swearing she never would again after the Delhi Belly in Varanasi.
We have also scored rental motorbikes from several outlets in Lebuh Chulia for 20 R a day and plan to drive round Penang Island tomorrow if the weather is right. We have heard there is a line of dentists serving toursits with cheap dental restoration along Batu Ferringhi beach like the cheap medical units in Bangkok that will perform cosmetic surgery, or even a sex change for less than an airfare, but don't know if I have time to replace my home bake superglue gel incisors and molars right now.
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