Travel Journal

Penang - (it's long... watch out...)

(Friday 2 October 2009) by Jon Paul & Sarah
Sarah and I arrived in Penang by yet another bus on September 24th, not really sure where we were since it was already dark and we just needed a place to stay. Given what we found, it seemed like we had gotten into the city center of Georgetown, Penang - closer in the area of Chinatown. We awoke on Friday the 25th resolved to find our way to the beaches on the northern coast of Penang and to find cheap lodging in the process.

We found a bus nearby to take us toward the touristy north beaches and began wandering around until we found a little guesthouse across the street from the beach. It was really more a matter of convenience until we found another place because hiking around with our massive packs, constantly asking different places about there rates was getting a little tiring. Luckily, we found a great place to spend the rest of our 5 nights and we spent the rest of the evening on the beach and getting dinner at the packed little touristy food area.

Another fun element about the northern coastal area of Penang - or Batu Ferringhi - is that every night it has a massive market along the street which they call a Night Bazaar. Basically, it's a ton of little street venders which have taken over the sidewalk with a canopy of tarps draped over their make-shift markets, selling everything from jewelry, handbags, candles, watches, clothes, crappy DVD's, and every kind of trinket available. It's fun just to walk through it all (since it goes on for what seems like a mile), if only for the humor of being stopped a million times over to look at a watch that you know will probably not be able to tell you the time come morning. Either way, we have enjoyed it every night.

Come Saturday, our first real day to relax, we headed to the beach and spent pretty much the entire time just lounging around and listening to audio books. It was pretty much fantastic, even if the water wasn't all that great for swimming given all of the sand that was kicked up near the coast. Sunday we decided that we would make our way back into Georgetown to take a look at all of the landmarks that we had missed in getting over to the beach area. Plus, we had passed a Methodist Church on the way in, and we wanted to see if we could make it in for church that morning before we explored. That morning we hired a taxi to take us to the church, constantly emphasizing that we wanted to go to the "Methodist" one... since we were stupid and didn't actually think to remember the name of it... So of course... he drops us at the pretty Catholic one... which would have even been fine if there were a mass going on, but there wasn't...

So, not knowing where the heck we were, we decided to walk and see if we could find it... brilliant I can hear you say... Well, as divine providence would have it, we ended up stumbling upon a massive Christian center a couple of miles down the road and it just so happened that they were in the middle of their English speaking service. It was great. Aside from sitting in on the service, we were quickly pulled aside at the end of the service and greeted by a couple of people that were dedicated to mingle with the new people. After talking with them (the Davids :-D over some coffee, we were joined by David #2's (what I'll call him since we met him second...) family. We sat with them for some time just talking. When it was finally time to leave, they insisted on cramming us all in their car to take us closer to the downtown area and all of the sites. I sat up front with David, while Sarah squeezed in back with his wife and the other 3 girls... mind you... this was a Corolla. I guess fitting for me.

David proceeded to give us a great tour before we were let out of the car, much to the amusement of the rest of his family. But it was perfect for helping Sarah and I get our bearings on the city. He let us out in a central area, and from there we were able to explore the coastal boardwalk, the old British fort there, Harmony Road (where we toured a Mosque and a Chinese Buddhist temple), and scoured for some more coconut pastry, which we had become quite addicted to during our time in Kuala Lumpur. After this, we had decided to take a bus back Batu Ferringhi.

- As a side note, for those that don't know, during my time on Semester at Sea in 2002 we had ported in Penang. While I was there, some friends and I had spent time at a little cafe alongside the beach, but which I had no idea where it really was. I was fairly certain that it was along the northern coast... but had made it one of my missions to find it again. -

We took the bus back from Georgetown with the intent purpose of getting off early to find that little beach cafe that I had spent some time at on Semester at Sea. We had the bus drop us off near a hotel on a windy stretch of jungle road that ran parallel to the coast. Unfortunately, I started us down a trail of stairs and to a beach that looked nothing like I remembered. I was a little frustrated since I was sure that this particular stretch of road was where I had been... After walking down the beach a bit further, I looked up only to slowly recognize that very same cafe that I had loved 7 years earlier. As we got closer, our suspicions were confirmed when we saw their massive tarp poster for Boat Cruises - which had a picture of me along with several of my friends from the ship from when we had gone out with them 7 years ago! It was a strange feeling to be sure, but a total joy to actually find the place and find that it was in the same ownership.

After Sarah and I sat down to have a drink while we were there, we began talking to the owners and found out that the reason much of the place looked so different was due to the fact that the Tsunami had ripped it apart at the end of 2004. Horrifically, in addition to that, we found out that their daughter, who was only weeks old at the time, had been carried out by the giant wave on her mattress.... only to be brought back still laying on it safely. Truly a miracle baby. She will be 5 this fall, and she readily obliged to describe her story in detail for us, accompanying it with a frequent smile of enthusiasm. We had to get a picture of her and Sarah and I caught one of her while she was finishing up the story as well. Either way, it was a great time and it was fun to see the parents glow when they told it as well.

- Break - (go grab yourself something tasty, stretch, whine about how wordy and boring this blog is... then come back...


Alright, just a bit more... :-)

Monday, Sarah and I rented a motorbike and decided that we would put it to good use by heading to the northwest of Penang to look for the fishing huts that I had stayed in while I was here in 2002 as well as hike around the National Park area. We arrived at the entrance to the National Park, which also seemed to be the same place that I had popped out of the jungle when staying at the huts, but it looked drastically more developed than I remembered. We began hiking in, watching as a parade of junior high kids tromped passed us smiling. We had been hoping to stay in the huts, but as we came around the point where I remembered them being, we saw that the little cafe was not the only thing to be torn apart by the tsunami. The huts were sadly no longer there.

We kept moving through the jungle on to a canopy walk that stretched between the trees for a little bit. From there, we decided to head out to the western coast, a couple miles away. Unfortunately, we must have taken the path that people don't generally take much, because the first part of our hike was drastically more overgrown that the rest of the national park that we had seen up to this point. Plus, we were dripping with so much sweat that we couldn't tell if the tickling sensation on our legs were bugs, or droplets. We ended up popping out on a very remote and private little beach area where many locals enjoy camping. It was perfect for us and we spent some time hanging out on the beach there as well before hiking back out.

Tuesday, we woke up early in order to use the motorbike just a bit more before we had to return it at 11am. We rode out to the Butterfly Farm and found to our surprise that they honored our student ID cards!! Holy smokes... victory... at least we knew there was hope for us to find places that they worked. Of course... we ended up deciding that we didn't want to go there anyway... but it was nice to know just the same. :-) We then rode further south until we came across the Penage Fruit Farm (yes... farms of every type here...). We have continually been on the lookout for a local fruit called Durian (which apparently smells like sweaty socks or something - who knows, but Sarah really wants to try it...), but we found out that we had just missed it's season and contented ourself with another smaller variety fruit plate. Afterwards, we returned the bike and hiked our way back out of the touristy area of Batu Ferringhi where some of the more private beaches are. I listed to an audio book while helping collect things for a collage that Sarah was putting together. As you can see... it came together really well. Totally the beach artist...

Ok, so that's basically it. It rained a bit today and we've really just been relaxing for the most part. Hopefully I haven't bored you all too much :-). We head out for Thailand in the morning, but we'll try to keep you all posted whenever we get the chance.

  • i miss you guys by alair
  • Great Update!! Thanks JP by Aaron
  • Miss you guys! by Mary
  • Amazing by Mom(Ann)
  • one more commemt by Mom(Ann)
  • Divine appointments by Mom (Jill)


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