On December 29th, I got up at 3:50am and headed to the airport for Mark and I to catch our first flight of the day. We had a few hours stopover in Melbourne, then a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur before finally arriving in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. By the time we got to bed we had been up for 18 hours and we were knackered!!!
Day 1 – Penang
After a slow start (tired & with a headache) we set of to stroll the streets…
In our wanderings we checked put the mosque, Khoo Kongsi (an old clan house), Little China, Little India, the Clan Jetties, (many clans each had their own jetty, each jetty had a series of stilt houses along either side, and it was very interesting that you could see difference between the house styles of each of the different clans), the end point of the day was a stroll along the esplanade, where we stopped for some dinner as the sun went down. The highlight of the day was following the murals of Ernest Zacharevic…spread out around city are his murals, many of which depict a scene but include an actual item. Eg. Kids riding a bike – kids are painted on the wall an the bike is attached to the wall. Very cool…we managed to see 7 out of 10 of his murals.
Day 2 – Penang
Sleeping in a dorm room with no windows, it becomes difficult to have any concept of time, after 12 hrs sleep we suddenly realised it was 10am and we quickly got up.
The aim of the day was to see the Botanical gardens, walk to Penang hill, then walk to Kek Lok Si temple…however, that plan didn’t quite happen.
After shower and brekky, we headed out the hostel, only to turn straight back and collect our raincoats. in a light drizzle we wandered down the the bus station to get a bus to the botanical gardens. We waited about 45 minutes for the bus to turn up, the bus ride also took about 45mins, so around lunchtime we got the Gardens. The atmosphere there was lovely…tropical plants, lush and green with a bit of a fog. There were some monkeys to be seen…but some annoying teenagers were feeding them junk food, so they were getting a bit agro (with agro monkeys on the loose, we didn’t hang around too long to get pics). That was about where the gardens stopped being lovely…we headed to the upper end to see the waterfall..no waterfall to be found, tried the cactus house, it was locked up, orchid house, bromelliad house etc all locked up!
So we went to grab some lunch, but there were no food stalls…we did find some fruit & ice cream though, so that became our lunch. Then we were aiming to travel to the next destination. It was too wet to attempt the walk to Penang Hill, so we started looking for transport, we hadn’t seen any buses, so aimed for a taxi & for about 20mins we couldn’t find a taxi either.
Eventually we were successful, and caught a taxi (we’re pretty sure he actually wasn’t a registered taxi driver, but just someone driving for money) to Kek Lok Si temple.
The path up to the temple was full of hawkers. Near the top it splits into two parts Kek Lok Si & the big Kuan Yin statue.
We decided to start with the statue, it looked quite cool, but couldn’t actually get close to it. Opted to get ‘inclined stairs’ up to statue & thought there’d be a walk down, but there wasn’t & we had to walk long way down road. By this stage they were closing up, but being so far out of city we were determined to also see Kek Lok Si Pagoda, so we ran back up the stairs & were he last ones in before they closed the doors.
The pagoda was beautiful & had lovely little surrounding gardens with a water & turtle theme. Feeling as though we were about to be locked into the temple complex, we ran to very top of pagoda, quickly took pictures & ran back down. The nice people let us out, but the main passage out of the complex was locked…so we had to revert to using the road…a long, windy, roundabout way back to town. From there we managed to cram into a bus like sardines in a tin & we were stuck in traffic jams the whole way back to the city (apparently George Town is a very popular destination for New Years!)
Back in George Town we headed to the Esplanade, where we had dinner and watched New Years entertainment down on the esplanade. The funniest part was when the New years countdown timer broke and stopped counting at 6!!!
Day 3 – Penang
We got up and were yet again faced with some drizzle, but not letting this dampen our spirits (as well as our clothes) we wandered to the bus terminal and caught a bus to Penang Hill. From the base of Penang Hill we caught a funicular train thing up the super steep hillside. From the top it was still a little drizzly and hazy, but it didn’t take long to clear and and there were beautiful views of Penang to be enjoyed!
At the top we wandered around & checked out some gardens, monkeys, temples, had good lunch. At ‘monkey cup’ garden we saw all sorts of carnivorous plants, we got to see a Venus fly trap eat a fly. We also got to see a giant millipede, some weird leaf frog & enormous scorpions. Mark was game enough to hold the millipede and scorpion!!!
Monkey Cup is so called because of the pitcher plants that collect liquid…the perfect size for monkeys to drink from!
We headed back to George Town around 5ish, where we wandered around Main Street to find the last pieces of artwork. Then we pulled up some chairs to enjoy happy hour cocktails were buy one get one free…only we assumed if I got one, Mark would get one free….so we both ordered a cocktail and then we each received 2 cocktails!!! 4 between the 2 of us…oops!
After cocktails we wandered off to get some dinner. After dinner we discussed some more of our travel plans before heading to bed.
Day 4 – Penang
For our final day we planned to head a bit further out of the city, so we hired a driver for the day. We started with a visit to the Butterfly Farm. I was not overly interested in seeing the Butterfly Farm, but it kept cropping up as recommended thing to do, and I am glad we did. There were so many beautiful butterflies, and we learned a great deal about a variety of insects. It was such a lovely way to spend a morning. While the morning was slow paced and reflective, the middle of the day was a bit more adventurous. We headed to the popular beach destination of Batu Ferringgi, where strolled along the beach enjoying the sunshine before taking off attached to a parachute, behind a speedboat! we each had a go at Parasailing, which was heaps of fun and provided a great view! Mark chose to have his feet dipped in the water along the way, and ended up with damp shorts, I was a little less keen and kept my toes nice and dry.
After this adventure we enjoyed some lunch, before seeing a few pretty buildings on our way back to George Town – the Floating Mosque, the Thai Temple with a really big reclining buddha and a beautiful decorative Burmese Temple.
We spent the afternoon of our final day in Penang eating fruit and drinking beer on the porch of the hostel.