Trip Report by Richard Freeman January 2003

Arrived :
We (myself, wife Beverley and 16 y.o. daughter Mandy) Arrived 5.30 p.m. our transfer to the Rasa Sayang was at the airport to greet us in an old but comfortable Mercedes. I was very excited to be back on Penang’s soil after so many years (40) and immediately tried to get some bearings. By the time we got to Tanjung Tokong I was grinning from ear to ear "gee there’s the Chinese Swimming Club and we lived just up that way a little and the beach I use to fish from and wow the Penang Swimming Club"

Day 2. Hire a car, Botanical Gardens :
Woke up at the marvellous Rasa Sayang resort and as we had pre paid breakfast this was our first stop. What a great breakfast everything that one could think of was there including cereals, fresh fruit, eggs and omelettes made to order on the spot, waited on for tea or coffee and much, much more. Gee one could get used to this. After breakfast I was off to hire a car (actually I was very uptight at the thought of driving here as I had already leant from the trip from the airport that everything that kayes had told me about driving here was really true) We hired a Proton Wira for RM130 per day which I found comfortable and easy to drive and set off to see what we could find. Easily found my old home at Tanjung Tokong and the old RAAF School. From the school past the Reservoir along J. Fettes and followed our nose to the Botanical Gardens. Spent a few hours just walking around these beautiful Gardens where we saw the cannon ball trees and Mandy took lots of pics of the monkeys. From the Gardens we went sight seeing and drove along Jalan Air Item to the Kek Lok Si (without stopping here). On our way back to the Rasa Sayang I failed to turn left into Jalan Scotland and finished up on Jalan Penang (grinning from ear to ear again). I was thrilled by the time we got back to the Rasa Sayang for I had found all the places I had set out for, had no drama with (or should I say survived) the traffic and even driven along Penang Road…I was on a high. We had dinner with Rainy at the ‘Long Beach’ hawker food court… good food here at a bargain price; Mandy and I had a serve of fried rice for just RM3.00 each. Soft drinks RM1.50 and Tiger Beer RM6.00. On the walk back to the Rasa Sayang the Pavement was lined with the Night Markets where Mandy has never had it so good with so many CD’s and DVD’s (most of which she could not afford in Australia) at prices that had her so excited that I doubt if she got to sleep that night.

Day 2. Kek Lok Si & Penang Hill :
Drove to the Kek Lok Si, which had so much to see here that we spent the whole morning walking around this magnificent temple. From the temple we drove over to the Penang Hill railway. Only RM4.00 each return to ride this famous little railcar all the way to the top stop. For those who are interested this two x two car railway works by a very ingeniously simple cable connecting the two cars via a very large pulley at the top so as one car travels down the hill it is pulling the other car up. Penang Hill was another great adventure, we had a late lunch at the hotel here where sitting down under a pergola overlooking Georgetown I looked up to see a Pit viper snake coiled up just above my head and another one not far from where Mandy was sitting. We continued eating but could not help but keep a close eye on the snakes!

Day 3 Around the Island, snake temple and waterfall & butterfly farm:
Started a bit anxious about driving or getting lost but soon got the gist of things by following the airport signs and easily found the snake temple. The snake temple is a “must do’ and well worth the exercise. I agree with Jim re donations, I spotted a donation box at the front and like we did at other temples and mosques made a donation, only to take a few steps to the right and be asked for a second donation. This was followed by a gong and we were led into an adjoining room where for RM30.00 we had a couple of great pictures taken with the snakes and directed to go out the back while the pics were printed. More snakes in the mango tree and a third donation was asked for and given however I was asked for another fourth donation (fair go) but this time said no. Left the snake temple and decided to drive around the island. Self-drive is a great way to go. We stopped at small towns and villages where we intentionally and unintentionally made detours and explored as much as we could. Spotted markets, children impeccably dressed in school uniforms, fishing boats, hawkers selling all sorts of things and much, much more. Two thirds of the way around the island we came across the waterfall I remember swimming in and chasing butterflies (Collection of which I still have). A strange looking big tree here with fruit all the way up it’s trunk like the cannon ball trees but these were more the size of golf balls? Many small waterfalls here and a nice rain Forrest walk as well. A bit further on we came across a very large and well-kept dam that was not here in the 60s and next the Butterfly farm. The butterfly farm was great with plenty of butterflies and other surprises of the creepy crawly kind here as well as a magnificent dried display where the lady was surprised at my knowledge of the local butterflies. The Butterfly farm gets the thumbs up and should be on a ‘must do’ list. Completed the circle back at the Rasa Sayang where Beverley decided we would try ‘Peppino Restorante Italiano’ (“but I love the hawker food” I said) Very up market restaurant, everything here is AAA five stars plus. The service and food was unsurpassed. Mandy, fresh from a hospitality course at Grammar school in Australia was thrilled to see everything on the tables position in its correct position and the waiters performing duties in the most correct manner. Good to watch the chef spinning pizzas above his head. Expensive to eat here but the trick is to go family hour 5.00pm to 7.00pm where we (3) would have a two course meal and soft drinks for around RM100.00. Beverley loved this place and told the staff that she was going to take this restaurant back to Australia in her suitcase. “With the staff? They asked. “ Oh of course”. Beverley and I made a deal; eat here one night and hawker food the next for rest of stay; done deal ok.

Day 4 Midlands & Georgetown:
Shopping day so after another super breakfast we headed for Midlands however not many shops here so headed for Komtar. Parked across from Komtar after big spiral drive up to 5th floor car park but found few shops here too??? Ha ha our mistake, shops open late in Penang and by mid afternoon where there was nothing, one could now shop for a week and still not see everything. Found some very cheap computer software shops here, will I or won’t I, could not help myself & bought a heap!! Oh and kayes I looked in at Merry Photo shop and priced a fuji camera, friendly sales assistance, I said that I would be back. (Unlike Singapore where these shops became upset if one did not buy. Word of warning if buying cameras in Singapore; know the brand, model and price of camera before shopping and stick to it or you may be sucked in with a cheap price then fooled into paying way too much for another brand!) Big joke on the way back to the car park when we walked ‘up’ a stopped ‘down’ escalator before Beverley noticed the working ‘up’ one right beside us, ha ha silly tourist.

Day 5 Reclining Buddha and across the road the Sitting and Standing Buddas:
Not very far from Midlands is Wat Chayamangkalaram or to me the Reclining Buddha and lots more across the road including the Sitting and Standing Buddas. I said to Beverley that this will only take us 20 minutes to see, ha ha two hours later I was running out to pay the parking attendant another RM1.60 because there was so much to see and marvel at.

Day 6 Georgetown / Campbell st china town:
Back to the fifth floor parking lot (RM2.00) near Komtar for more shopping and back to Merry Photo where I finally bought myself a Fuji dig. Camera and I took your advice Kayes and got a 128MB card with it. A taxi to Campbell St china town for more shopping (“dear o dear how will we ever get all this back on the plane?” I kept saying) Taxi back to Komtar.

Day 7 Thaipusam:
I worried a little about driving and parking for Thaipusam. I decided that my best route was along Jalan Perak and right into Jalan Dato Keramat and left into Lorong Kulit. But I missed the turn into Jalan Dato Keramat so I took the very next turn right and found myself in a big empty car park right next to the Stadium. Lucky, lucky only RM1.60 to park, no traffic and only a few minutes walk around the back of the Stadium to the piercing at Lorong Kulit. Just take a look at Kayes pictures and add loud chanting, the beating of the drums, the smell of the incense burning, and these guys getting really revved up and WOW there sure is some atmosphere in this place. We ran into Jim and Rainy but what about the handsome gentleman with a pace maker taking pics with a Fuji 401 camera, I wonder where he was?

Day 8 Georgetown for me:
Back to Georgetown for me to download pictures to disc at Merry Photo (about 200 pics for RM35.00). And I cannot stay away from those cheap software shops. Bev’s found a launderette to do our own washing and Mandy’s enjoying the resort.

Day 9 Kuala Kangsar, Taiping:
Early start over the long Penang bridge and turn right with a few clothes packed in case we make it as far as the Cameron highlands. Easy driving, the air con works well in these cars and plenty of things to see along the way. First stop was a roadside stall two thirds of the way to Kuala Kangsar. Purchased a big bunch of rambutans here for just RM1.60 and the toilets were good and clean. Turned off at Kuala Kangsar and found our way to the old but grand Ridzuaniah Mosque. The caretaker spoke no English, however he beckons us over and gave me a robe to wear before opening the doors and showing us inside. We felt very privileged to be allowed inside and gazed at the astonishing ceiling with its massive chandelier. Walked around the outside twice before getting back into the car and driving a little further down to road to the Royal Museum. Big heaps of Royal history to see here and Beverley enjoys seeing and reading as much as she can. Gee where did all the time go? And I have a bit of a headache so we decide to give the highlands a miss and head like Kayes suggested along the old road to Taiping. A heap to see along the way including more roadside fruit stalls selling among other things more lovely looking rambutans. Lots of shops in Taiping including one selling giant candles, no I think they were joss incense sticks. The zoo was only RM4.00 each to get in plus RM1.00 per camera. This zoo has a great assortment of animals and it is obviously working hard to improve the compounds however we found some areas depressing but still had a good time. Maybe we had been a little spoiled after our visit to the Singapore zoo, which was truly magnificent in every way. Just around from the zoo were the lake and gardens, very beautiful. Stopped here for a rest and a migraine tablet for me. Walked across the zigzag bridge. Kayes is this a replacement for the one that was here in the 60s or am I a little lost? Thunder storm coming so headed home and away from the storm, migraine tablet kicks in and I feel okay, could had gone to Highlands but never mind.

Day 10 Teluk Bahang:
Not far to the Rasa Sayang is Teluk Bahang, which interested me because of its large fishing fleet. Mandy and I wondered around here and walked the jetty inspecting and taking pics of the fishing boats and also watch some going to sea. Net makers on shore.

Day 11 Penang Swimming Club:
Back in the 60s my family were members of the PSC (Dad’s RAAF days). Every week I would spend hours in the pool. I loved that pool. We went to reception where I asked if it would be possible to have a look around. After a short wait the manager, Peter Pedley greeted us and kindly offered to show us around. He showed us all of the extensions and new ones planned then invited us to stay for lunch and said we were free to go wherever we wished. The pool looked a treat and I splashed in it with my hand, I just had to get some of that water on me. I bought a Penang Swimming Club T shirt on the way out. Good one Peter.

Day 12 Packing to go home:
Suitcases are all bulging and my pocket scales tell me that they are all a little overweight. Had a wonderful time in Penang and our best holiday ever. We drove nearly 1000 kilometres and took around 600 pictures. We did and saw so much more then I have been able to include in this report. We left in a mini bus bound for the airport and not far from the Rasa Sayang a troop of monkeys lined up along the road as if to wish us farewell. But there is no place like home and Beverley was singing “we still call Australia home”.

Very best regards,

PS We have been home for a week and Beverley just said to me “ I miss Penang”.