Malaysia has figured out buses. Three seats across, almost fully reclining, AND no people sitting in the aisle. Yes, they are a bit more expensive. So that was our 6 hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to George Town, Malaysia. We listened to NPR podcasts and even managed to doze off. Did I mention the highways are smooth and not windy? Amazing.
George Town is located in Penang, on an island on the west coast of Malaysia. It is the second largest city in Malaysia and is a UNESCO World heritage site. And it has amazing food. It was founded in 1786 by a trader for the British East India Company and grew as a prominent trading post. Its historic center has small streets, many museums, and great architecture.
Our first day, we ventured out in the rain and toured the National Museum, where we saw comparisons between the different cultures inhabiting the island. It is incredible how this country became mixture of Malays, Indians, Chinese and even Europeans. And they seem to get along pretty well, relatively.
We immediately discovered great food, not that it is hard in George Town. Tons of little stalls form around clusters of tables, for a variety of cheap eats all in one spot. We feasted mostly on Indian food, as their naan was really good, but also tried a fishy soup and pork dumplings.
We took the public bus out to the Botanical Gardens one day. While it was great that the gardens were free, it was obvious why. None of the plant houses were open and the rainforest walk we did was a bit run down. We did see some monkeys and came across a startled monitor lizard. Having been told the bus would run every 45 minutes back to town, we were surprised to see it leaving 15 minutes ahead of when it should have, according to our first bus driver. Which meant we had to walk to another bus stop. And this is where Malaysia is steps ahead of the countries we have visited. We pulled out the smart phone, found the bus’s website, complete with map, and walked 20 minutes to another bus route. Like I said in the last post, its like being back in civilization. You don’t get the local interaction though, pantomiming with some nice guy to figure out another way home (which is something we’ve gotten good at).
We made it back fine, and ate at our new favorite Indian place – we went every day and I got the same thing, despite trying to order something else. Except the last day, when they miraculously had the Tikka Masala I had been asking for all week.
BAG UPDATE: Christmas hit again, and I retired my $20 Saigon knockoff backpack for a slightly smaller, higher quality $60 no-name one. My former bag had lost some buckles and the attachments for the back straps were slowly but surely breaking one by one. I removed my New Orleans patch and emptied the various pockets, finding a few forgotten items in the process. Riki’s 30 year old bag still presses on. Lowe Alpine should hire us for a commercial.
On our last day, we took the public bus about an hour out to Penang National Park. It was muggy and extremely hot, but we trekked about 2 hours across the park to see the turtle sanctuary. There were loads of newborn turtles and three older, white skinned ones. It was cool to see them so close, but a bit strange as they were captive. Not at all like seeing them while diving in the wild. But knowing they would be released when large enough helped. Only about 1 in 1,000 baby turtles here make it to maturity, which is anywhere from 20-50 years. Many don’t even make it off the shore. So helping them out until they are a bit bigger seems like a good alternative. Even though they have to live in a blue plastic wading pool for awhile.
We trekked back and came across a couple of monkeys and a few monitor lizards (formerly known as Iguanadons). We took the air-conditioned bus back to town, which felt good to start, but we were so sweaty that we were shivering by the time we reached George Town.
Riki was able to get some night shots in George Town, despite the erratic rain. Its a very picturesque place, so if it hadn’t rained so much, there would be more than the 500+ pictures we now have.