Trip Report by Andy November 2000
Having recently returned from a 3 week holiday in Singapore and Penang, my family's second such holiday in 12 months, rather than do a trip report which I did last time I thought I would post a general info sheet with useful facts and advice which people can take or leave as they choose: PRICES By any standard Penang is cheap. In my 4 weeks in Penang out of the previous 52 the only items I have discovered to be more expensive there than here in the UK is alcoholic drinks. I list below prices I found on my travels- rental of Proton Wira car for 1 week with insurance - 750RM - meal for 2 adults & 2 kids in hotel - 240RM - meal for 2 adults & 2 kids in Batu Ferringhi restaurant 75RM -150RM - pint of beer - 10RM (12-15 in hotel) - good fake t shirt from night market - 15-20RM fake rolex watch - 50RM (bartering required) good cd - 40RM computer/playstation/gameboy games (KOMTAR) - 10RM-25RM taxi ride Batu Ferringhi - KOMTAR -20RM fake man u kit for child - 50RM bottle of wine in restaurant - dont even ask
PENANG - THE POSITIVES. The people are friendly and helpful. There is none of the desperation that leads to so many problems in places like Indonesia. It feels totally safe. Even in Georgetown (Malaysia's second largest city) at night our family never once felt in the least bit threatened. The weather-fantastic climate-rains a bit but always warm. The scenery. The city is so colourful, the sea so blue and the jungle so green you have to see it. I look at my photos nearly every day the brightness of the place beams out at you -even from a photo. The monkeys on the road out of Batu Ferringhi.. The excitement of the kids if they see a wild monkey. The beaches the most scenic tropical beaches in Malaysia. The prices - see above. The excellent roads. We explored all of West coast Peninsular Malaysia using Penang as a base in 2 visits. Hire a car, it is as safe as anywhere else in SE Asia. We went into South Thailand and to Hat Yai and Betong. were later told we should not have because our insurance cover was for Malaysia only. Oops. The Malaysians like the British. They havent seen our footy hooligans or lager louts so they treat us as decently. There are historical links between our countries and most people speak some English. The history and culture of Penang in particular runs so parallel with that of Britain in the 18th & 19th centuries that it would be of interest to any Briton. Anybody with a speck of interest in Oriental culture, religion or mysticism would be fascinated with Georgetown. The view from the top of KOMTAR. Penang bridge - the size of the thing. Unbelieveably we found Malaysian Airlines to be superior to Singapore Airlines on the Manchester - KL (or Singapore route) The service was better and the plane was newer. In addition Malaysian let us off the plane at our stops-very important with kids and all this talk of economy class syndrome-and Singapore didn't.
PENANG - THE NEGATIVES. Yes there are some and in the interests of balance they should be aired: Driving thru Georgetown is a nightmare. Surely there has to be some sort of bypass to the bridge in the offing. Everywhere else driving is a pleasure but not in Georgetown. The sea often has jellyfish in it and so swimming is not advised. The big hotels are a pain. Unless you want to pay what a typical Malaysian earns in a week for your evening meal eat outside the hotels. The airport needs sprucing up. Whilst Penang is surely one of the most scenic of tropical islands the Batu Ferringhi - Georgetown route is very ugly close to Georgetown. It is not development it needs, just sorting out, with a bit of local character. It presents a very poor first impression to visitors. You do have to be a bit careful when eating at hawker stalls. Its not a major problem but do use common sense. All in all I remain a big fan of Penang in particular and Malaysia in general. The Far East gets ever more affordable and as a safe introduction to the exotic Far East you simply couldnt beat Penang. It really does beat Spain-honest.