Tip: this website has a useful text description, plus google maps, of all the bus routes on the island. I wish I had seen that before someone sent me to wait on the wrong street for a bus!
Penang is both an island and a chunk on the mainland (most people don’t know about the latter)
The core of Georgetown is a World Heritage Site
Penang is multi-cultural, with a noticeable South Indian and Chinese population, and you see churches, Buddhist temples, Chinese temples and of course mosques.
At Penang airport, there is no separation of arriving and departing passengers in the gate area, presumably because it’s a smaller airport (undergoing some renovation and/or expansion)
Staff at the inn/hostel were all local and smiling and friendly/polite (yes, noticeably so, compared to my previous hotels/hostels on this trip)
Taxis have meters but never use them (the one I took even had an ironic sign on the door that says “insist on using the meter”). Besides the fixed fares at airport, you bargain the fare when you get in. Still, they’re pretty cheap compared to big cities.
There are lots of scooters and motorcycles, and they all wear helmets (and jackets on backwards, so that their arms are still covered). They also drive on sidewalks (when there are some)
I saw a number of cards with “McDon@ld’s drive thru VIP” stickers in the windshield. Now that’s scary.
7-11 seems to be staffed exclusively by Muslim women wearing western clothes with a head scarf (and the store may or may not sell alcohol)
A number of bus drivers were small Muslim women
Some buses have free wi-fi, and they are testing smart transit cards on a few lines
Passed a “World Red Swastika Society – Penang Branch” building on way to airport from Penang Hill, a Taoist religious charity organization, similar to Red Cross and Red Crescent, founded in China in 1922
Saw buildings (factories) for AMD, Western Digital, Bosch and Blaupunkt near the airport
Saw a few sights including an interesting tour of the Blue Mansion. The sun even came out for a bit this afternoon.
And I took a bus to a hawker centre along the waterfront on Gurney Drive for dinner, which while 1/3 closed (why?), still had a good 70 stalls to choose from.
Malaysia is still nowhere near a Top 10 favourite country.
And not just because it’s pouring rain right now. Maybe it’s the gray skies yesterday, my phone not working, the stress of falling behind on this blog, needing some downtime…
Yeah, the lack of sunshine definitely isn’t helping my photos or my disposition.
Walking around yesterday evening looking for dinner, I could barely be bothered to pull out the camera for anything.
And sidewalks are a disaster, when they exist, uneven with exposed deep runoff (sewer?) concrete ditches.
Hawker stall was tiny compared to Singapore.
Admittedly, my char kuay teow (flat wide rice noodles with fried egg and seafood) was much tastier here than in Singapore.
And the rojak penang was good too: cut up fruit & veg in a sweet and spicy peanut sauce (a “salad” of sorts).
Penang is supposed to have the best food in Malaysia (people fly here primarily to eat).
And there are some fine colonial buildings and a mish-mash of religions and their places of worship…
Update on my phone: after googling, this Android-hanging-on-startup problem isn’t uncommon, though the usual fix (clearing the cache) doesn’t work since that seems to hang as well.
I can probably fix it at home (via usb connection to my computer which has the right drivers and software) but I’m stuck for now. Though I may forego buying a new phone…
Immigration was quick and easy (no forms again) at Penang (although they used a fingerprint scanner on my two index fingers), used an ATM (though the network symbols like Plus were hidden on the side of the machine), and waited for the bus into Georgetown (the airport is in the southeast corner of the island). Snother bus driver said it would take another 30 minutes, so I organized two more tourists and we split a taxi into town for RM45/US$15 total (I was willing to pay it all myself, but I figured I’d see if they were interested. Good conversation in the 35 minute taxi ride (bus is 40-60 minutes).
We were all going to the same backpacker street, which was convenient.
My hostel here is nicer than in Singapore, about 2/3 the price, but better on several fronts (only 3 people in the room, power points at each bed, wifi that works in the room, lockable room)
Leaving Wed afternoon, returning Fri early evening. It’s only an 85 minute flight.
About US$160 round trip on Jetstar Asia (with basic seat selections, but no checked baggage – both of these cost extra). Also includes the S$18/US$14 booking fee that didn’t appear until the final confirmation screen. It could have been cheaper if I had booked a few weeks ago (e.g. I saw a one-way flight to KL for $2 + tax on one day).
And as a bonus, it looks like I can do a day boat trip to an Indonesian island from Singapore, which would make it 5 countries this trip