Trip Report by The Webtraveller Oct/Nov 2001
Friday.19th Oct. Our holiday began with a wonderful flight from Perth with MAS to KL.Departure & arrivals both being on time. We found directions to the domestic terminal ok and the train over was good, then the fun started.! We like many other travellers had difficulty finding our way around in the domestic terminal and to the correct boarding gate for the flight to Penang. If you have a broken leg, no problem.! They will take you over in a golf cart!. We arrived in Penang and was greated first by customs & then our tourist representative who took us straight to our hotel.
We had chosen to stay at the Casuarina Hotel on Batu Ferringi Beach. This hotel was there on our previous visit to Penang in 1985, but boy were we in for a shock. We could not believe just how much the place had changed. We can only remember 5 restuarants being there before, but now, wow.! We settled into our room overlooking the beach, had a few drinks and then went down to dinner. Because of the lack of restuarants the last time we were here, we had booked a meal package which included breakfast and dinner. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, not because the food was not good or the price was wrong but because it did stop us trying many of the excellent restuarants outside. This will not be repeated on our next trip. Having travelled all day we were soon ready for bed and looking forward to re discovering Penang in the next 10 days.
Sat. Spent the day walking around B'F and taking a mental note of the vast ammount of changes. Restuarants and bars just about everywhere. No matter what your taste in food, you WILL find something to suit you. As evening set in the street took on a whole new image. Stalls were set up along the pavements almost from the Casuarina hotel down to Rasa Sayang. We walked, looked and listened to the sounds of the night, to say nothing of the wonderful smells coming from hackers stalls and restuarants. Sun. We ventured into Georgetown on the bus but stopped off at Midland shopping complex on the way. Mainly because they had a Golf Sale on. Checked out prices, had a few swings in the practice net and chose a couple of clubs. These will be picked up later in the holiday.
Went on to Komtar. Being Sunday, thought it may have been a quiet. How wrong can you be.! There was a computer expo on ( last day ) and I swear every body who could spell "computer" who lives in Penang was there. Nothing really jumped out to say " buy me " although there are shops of all sorts there. We caught the 202 bus and returned to the hotel for a swim before dinner. MON. Went back into Georgetown on the number 93 bus. These you will need to experience for yourself. Nothing I can say here will prepare you for them, but they do, most of the time get you there. We had arranged to meet Mai Loon ( as a result of these pages )and what a delightful lady she was. We met in her office in the sky, on the 52 floor of Komtar. We spent sometime time with her and she was good enough to supply us with loads of information for tourist and of course, her own local knowledge. Mai Loon, I know you will read this and again, I thank you for your warm welcome to Penang. We will be sure to meet you again on our next trip to Penang. Armed with all this new information, plus the info I had printed off from Penang Talk, we were ready to discover!.
Special thanks to :- KAYES. DENNIS BOOTH & DAVID ( UK ) We had a wander around a new shopping centre adjacent to Komtar, loads of computer shops here with plenty of software available for those who do not like paying high prices****, and then headed back to B'F. Tuesday. We came for a holiday, so today we spent on the beach and around the pool, relaxing. Also had to visit the local doctor as I had developed a bad sinus infection following a bad cold before we left. We arranged to take a trip from the hotel to discover the local markets the following day. Wednesday. Following breakfast we were off to the markets : Stadium Markets:- Loads of local fruit stalls, clothes, electrical, stationary, CDs and a good assortment of brick a brack and antiques. Wet & Dry Markets :- This is in the centre of G/t. The lower half deals with all types of spices, meat & fish. Not for the faint hearted, but if you don't know how your meal got to your plate, this is where it all started. Upstairs there is an abundance of fabric and clothes stores and of course SHOES. Little India & China Town. These areas would take a life time to explore and then you would need to start again. There are shops and warehouses everywhere and you can buy just about anything. In all, this trip was good value about 40r and although you dont get long at each location, it does let you sort out where you want to go back to and spend more time. We are constantly amazed as to how everybody makes a living. They all seem to carry the same type of goods.
ANGELA arrives today and we have arranged to meet up. Will let them settle in and contact them later. Thusday. Weather looked a bit unsettled but decided on a trip to Penang hill anyway. Now, we take buses when we are on holiday, mainly because we get to see far more and meet more of the locals. Taxis are fine, but they take you there as fast as possible along the shortest route. We caught the 202 from B'F into Komtar. From here we caught the No 101 to Air Itam. This small village boasts a lot of small bakers shops and a few good shoe shoes. To get to the Hill, catch the No 8 bus. Just reverse it on the way back, no problem. The total cost per person one way R3.5, experience- priceless. Buy the time we reached the top of the hill the weather had cleared and the views were spectacular. By walking around you can get a 360 panoramic view across Penang Island and beyond. Again a lot of tourist improvements on the hill that make it much better than our first visit. We decended the hill and the No 8 bus was waiting. Missed it as a trip to the restroom was needed. Had to wait for the next one. The 101 bus seems to terminate and meet up with the No 8, so no problem there.Back to Komtar to catch the No 202 or 93 for B'F. We left a note for Angela as they were out. Had dinner at the hotel and of course, we walked the night markets. This time all the CD stalls had gone. Some sort of crack down, so get them when you see them.! In all a very good day.
Friday. Had a long conversation with Angela on the hotel phone and have arranged to meet up tomorrow for " shopping " trip. AGAIN! Spent a lazy day just relaxing, but then decided to go to Island plaza. Here you will find the more " upmarket " type stores and designer wear. Gill getting difficult to please as she still can't find anything that screams " buy me ". Still plenty of time. From here we were off to Midlands as the Golf sales end today and I want to get my golf clubs. Ended up buying 3. 2 for me and one for my son in law. Just hope that they have been " trained " to hit the ball straight. We caught the 93 back to the hotel. The buses leave a lot to be desired and this one was no exception. There was as much smoke inside as out and they also seem to have a complete disregard for red traffic lights.!
Sat. Met up with Angela and John in the lobby. We found them absolutly charming people with a great sense of fun. We caught a taxi today and headed off to the Stadium markets. Our taxi driver was happy to wait while we shopped as things at this time were really quiet on the tourist scene. We shopped and Gill as always, managed to buy local fruit that seemed to weight half a ton. You ladies, please buy that stuff at the end of the day and not the start.! Us poor guys end up becoming pack horses for the rest of the day. We browsed and bought all sorts of stuff. We then got our taxi driver to take us into G'town and drop us at the Shangrila Hotel. This is part of the Komtar complex and has its own escallator to the shopping area. We had Morning tea and spent time getting to know one another better. Its quite amazing, although we had never met before that day, we found that we both knew many of the same people in Albany, WA were they live.
We ventured into Komtar and then went on to the wet & dry market via the new circle bus route. This is a great way to find your way around. Ask the driver for a route map it makes it much easier. John had picked up a bit of a bug somewhere so we avoided the lower half and went upstairs. Now the eyes lit up!. Shoes, Shoes and more shoes. John & I were left holding bags outside numerous shoe shops while the girls had a ball. We were the 2 lost, lonely "soles" that I spoke of in my first relpy to Angela weeks before. We then walked off towards the E&O Hotel where we had agreed to have a " counter meal ". Along the way we went into the "Garage" for a quick look.
You really must experience the E&O. It is magnificent. We sat in an elevated alcove and were served our drinks and given a menu. Angela and I being Poms, just had to try the " bangers & mash ". Gill had Welsh Rabbit & John the Plowmans Lunch. We settled down to wait for our lunch. We were surprised to see the Chef come over to our table. He introduced himself and told us that he had arranged for us to have complemetary horsd'oeuves of chicken ham and special chutney. These were excellent and most appreciated. Our meals arrived and looked most inviting. These were the biggest bangers I had seen in a long while. Gill & Johns meals were also very generous. We enjoyed our meal and the general ambience and would not have been surprised to see a safari hunter with his rifle over his shoulder, dragging a tiger buy the tail, entering the bar. Such was the atmostphere. We left the E&O and walked down Gurney Drive towards Gurney Plaza Again the girls shopped while John & I opted for the coffee shop. When we meet up again the rain had set in, so we hailed a cab and went back to the hotel. Sunday. Again, we needed to rest. Spent the morning on the beach and around the pool, Angela joined us alone as John still not 100%. It wasn't long before the girls were off again. The last I saw of them was heading down the beach towards the beach markets. By 4.45 they had not returned and I had had enough sun for the day and the Brandy was calling me. I returned to our room believing that they had probably been sold into white slavery! But I would look for them after a brandy or 2. They turned up about half our later, so saved me the trouble.
Monday. Kayes, you remained as elusive as ever. Despite our every effort to meet you. We were greatfull for the gift of local biscuits that you sent. Meeting you would have been better, but perhaps on our next visit?. I just can't keep looking for someone wearing a " Penang Talk " tee shirt. Headed off to the butterfly farm today. Loads of different types and a good display of other curious insects. Very humid because of the fine wire mesh that covers the area. To hot for me so retreated back to the comfort of the hotel pool. Had lunch at Poko 1 near the beach markets. Nothing to look at but the food is great. The same family also own the Kampong Cafe, just off the main street. Again fantasic food, priced right. As I said earlier, we did have our meals pre paid, but we did eat out several night by way of a change. Well, that seems to have made a real good start. Will complete this in the next few days. I hope this is of interest to those thinking of venturing to Penang. To those who have been, I hope it brings back pleasant memories.
Tues 30th Oct. Have not seen Angela & John much at all as they have been a bit under the weather. As they leave today, we will have to wait until our return home to catch up with them again. Today we ventured back into G/T and visited Fort Cornwallis.The city shuttle bus really is a help for those of us that can't walk as far as we would like. Along the way we were approached by a local trishaw operator. These guys are really great salesmen. He just would not leave us and was waiting for us when we reappeared from the Fort. We were a bit disappointed with the fort, as there really is not that much to see. Perhaps a lot of the more historic pieces have been relocated to a museum.? We were the " hijacked " by our friendly trishaw man. We are not exactly small people and had a bit of sqeeze to fit in, to say nothing of us feeling sorry that this poor guy had to peddle the thing around G/T.
Our first stop was at the fishermans village near the jetty. These people have their houses built on stilts over the water and spend their entire lives on or around the water. They also have their temples located among their houses. The houses seem quite small by our standards, but they are much bigger than they first appear as they are very deep, rather than wide. There is a system in place that determines who can fish on a particular day. Conservation.? Don't ask me where we went from here as we seemed to to weaving in & out of traffic and down some pretty small lanes. I think we must have seen most of the temples along the way which we entered and were give a very comprehensive explanation of all. This man really knew his way around, mind you, he told us that he had been riding " the bike " for 39 years so he should. He was an excellent ambassador for Penang. We continued along our way, visiting China Town and Little India. Here we left our friend to have a meal and do yet MORE shopping.! Mens shoes seem very cheap and don't forget, you can still haggle over the price even when the prices are shown. Gill still having a problem with shoes, but she has had an operation on her foot, so that is the main cause. There are loads to choose from.
Return to Komtar and dropped of a couple of letters to Mai Loon. By the way, whats happening with my suggestion Mai Loon.? Caught the 93 back to B/F. Now this bus really was the end.It had major problems with the starter motor, which seemed to be the only thing that kept the engine running. It stalled 4/5 times BEFORE it got out of the terminal and this was repeated many times along the road back.The ammount of smoke inside the bus only added to our sheer wonderment that it managed to return us to our hotel. We then crashed out by the pool for a couple of hours to recover & reflect on what had been an interesting & entertaining day in G/t. We ate out again this evening as by now we have found that whist our meal was good value for money, it has become somewhat monotonous and is something we will not be doing on our next trip. Yes, we will return. Walked through the night markets and had dinner at the " Kampong Cafe ". The food & service is first class, mind you, we have found this everywhere we have been.
Wed. Spent the day on the beach relaxing and thinking of all the places we had not seen and the things we had not done. Still, this only encourages us to holiday here again. Had a very relaxing day, so decided to try the massage at the Casuarina Hotel. Now, for those of you that have been to Bali, this not just another " oily rub down ". This guy found " tensions " not even I knew of. All that can be said is " there is no gain without Pain " but don't be put off, you will feel better after it.! This was unfortunately, our last evening in Penang so we again went out to dinner. This time we tried a small restuarant just along the road from the hotel called The Happy Garden. I can assure you we were very happy with the meal. Whilst we were there, we witnessed the most amazing site. 2 Large tour type coaches pulled up and loads of local people trundled out. They were all well dressed and wore a coverall over the top with " HASEL ". Now, being tourists we didn't have a clue what was going on, so we asked. It seems they were from the TAX dept and were conducting a survey of ALL the businesses. It seems no matter what part of the world you come from, you just can't escape these people.! Can you imagine this happening in YOUR local town on a busy trading evening.? Somewhere like London or New York would be a classic.! Still, we all pay taxes, so I suppose its only fair. Thurs.
Today we depart this wonderfull place. We leave the hotel at about 3.00pm so will spend some more time at the hotel after packing. Will have a meal before we leave as it could be a while before we get a meal on the plane. Had lunch at a small cafe near the hotel ( think its called TAP TAP ). Again very good food and service. We may have been lucky, but we have not once had a bad meal. Returned to the Hotel to await our transport to the airport. Its a pity but they hadn't forgotten us and we were whisked off to the airport. Our check in went without a hitch and we were soon winging our way to K/L. Managed to find our way to the international terminal and our departure gate without a problem. Seems to be just coming in is the problem. The meal we were served on of flight home with MAS is one of the best I have had on any airline. Well done, it makes a pleasant change to have an inflight meal that you can enjoy. This really is the end of our story, but it is the start of the next. we are now back home with fond memories of Penang and of the wonderfull people we met. We will now put the " nose to the grindstone " and save up again for our next visit. Should anyone wish to contact us, you can by posting on this board or by sending us an email. Now, its up to YOU to go enjoy yourself in wonderfull PENANG. Merry Christmas & a safe & peacefull New Year to you all. Bob & Gillian.