Malaysia – Penang and KL again


I took a bus from Melaka to the airport near KL, then flew to Penang – I was feeling a bit lazy and relaxed after the previous few days, and didn’t want to spend the entire day on a bus. I then ruined this plan by taking the local bus from the airport into town, rather than a taxi, as the bus a) didn’t arrive for the best part of an hour, and b) took over an hour to get into the centre of Penang. Never mind – I got to watch a brilliant thunderstorm while waiting, and I also saved about $10 in the process…
My hostel was in the heart of Little India, which is my excuse for eating at the curry house round the corner three times in my visit, though this pales in comparison to an Australian girl in the hostel who seemed to always be eating there. Penang is known for its food, particularly its hawker food, and I did enjoy plenty of this, particularly at the Red Dragon hawker food court. This place had a choice of about 30 different vendors all selling good cheap food, and also laid on some bizarre entertainment every night – mostly singing and dancing troupes doing bad covers of English and Chinese songs. Their rendition of Gangnam Style was a particular joy to behold, though keeping the laughter to a minimum in order to avoid offence was a struggle.
The old city, Georgetown, is filled with buildings stretching back through the history of the island. From Chinese clan jetties, and colonial-era blocks, to the remains of the town’s fort and new towers, walking anywhere in the city provided architectural interest. After bumping into someone from my hostel for the third time in the day outside one particular place, we decided to join forces and explore the interior of the island a bit – specifically Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si temple, which is the largest buddhist temple in south-east Asia. Penang Hill had reasonable views, but it was nothing really to write home about. Walking from the hill to the temple brought one of my favourite events of the day – buying some random unidentified food from a street vendor, I said thankyou in Malay (terima kaseh), and the huge smile and giggle she responded with really made my day 🙂
Kek Lok Si was enormous – a series of buildings marching up the hillside to a giant pagoda and statue near the top. The place was in the process of being decked out for Chinese New Year, and was festooned with lanterns and strings of fairy lights, though nothing was switched on while Lindsey and I were there. The view from the top of the pagoda was brilliant, though vertigo quickly sent me scurrying back to the safety of ground. As we were leaving, we bumped into another girl from the hostel who had just arrived, though I thought it was a bit late as the place was due to close soon. The temple didn’t close as advertised, and she managed to watch them testing the lights, and setting lots of fireworks off, which has taught me to ignore closing times on signs!

Penang Street Art

Penang Street Art

Sunken boat at the Chinese Jetties

Sunken boat at the Chinese Jetties

View from the pagoda at Kek Lok Si temple

View from the pagoda at Kek Lok Si temple

The big turtle is happy to give lifts - at Kek Lok Si

The big turtle is happy to give lifts – at Kek Lok Si

And KL again

The return journey to Kuala Lumpur was by bus – a VIP bus for a change, with big comfy seats that reclined nicely. The only issue with it was the occasional drips from the ceiling, though these mostly affected my temporary travelling companion, Miranda, who I had met in the hostel in Penang. Our hostels in KL were pretty close, so after we’d dropped our bags off, we went for a walk – Miranda foolishly trusting my navigation skills. This started out well enough as we found one of the nice scenic areas, Independence Square, where we paused for a drink and a chat. The various buildings around here included the High Court, the Royal Selangor Club, and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building which was soon nicknamed the ‘disco palace’ due to the extremely erratic multicoloured flashing lights along its rooftop. My directional judgement failed at this point, when I described the walk to the Petronas Towers as being ‘around ten minutes’. We did get there, but it took over 45 mins…
We arranged to meet for a drink the following day once I had dropped my passport off at the Myanmar embassy for a tourist visa. Unfortunately I made a bit of a mistake here, by handing it in on the Friday before Chinese New Year, and was told that I wouldn’t be able to collect it until the following Wednesday – both Monday and Tuesday were public holidays when the embassy would be closed. Oops. This slight hiccup soon faded after meeting Miranda, a girl that she had met at her hostel, and a pair of naval officers (NZ and Canadian) at the bar. The ‘quick drink’ escalated into a twelve hour session, accompanied with a variety of other backpackers who joined the group, which only ended when the bar closed at 3am! Fun was most definitely had, although the steep price of beer in Malaysia meant that the day’s beer cost more than three days accommodation.

Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad - or the Disco Palace, as it became known

Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad – or the Disco Palace, as it became known

Musical fountains outside KLCC

Musical fountains outside KLCC

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A monkey at the Batu Caves

A monkey at the Batu Caves

The next few days were spent exploring the city with Miranda in pleasantly aimless fashion – long walks through parks, too much time in the KLCC mall, a cocktail in the highly overrated Traders Hotel Skybar (though the views were stunning), watching Les Miserables (I cried far too much), and watching the multi-coloured light displays in the KLCC fountains. A visit to the Batu Caves was good fun – as we arrived, the local monkeys descended from the heights to harass people for food, and we obliged with what I think were pieces of pita bread. The food in the city ranged from cold midnight curry, an alcohol-fueled visit to the Petaling market food court (I have no idea what I ate), and BBQ hot pot (the table has a recessed tub of boiling water in which you dipped sticks of random food) with Lindsay – who was staying at the same hostel as me before heading onwards to Indonesia. It seemed all too soon when Miranda also had to leave – her company over four days had made my second stay in KL an unexpected pleasure.
I finally retrieved my passport from the Myanmar Embassy once it reopened, complete with my first proper visa of the trip. My original plan had been to take a train into Thailand via the west coast of Malaysia, but news of a bombing on the Thai side of the border changed my mind – I booked a flight to Surat Thani, and prepared to leave Malaysia. Not for the last time, I hope – the food and people would be a pleasure to revisit in the future.

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4 Responses to Malaysia – Penang and KL again

  1. Miranda says:

    Miss you.. even if you did tell me that the 45min walk was only gonna be 10 minutes.. also, didn’t it rain that night at some point too?? Hope we catch up soon!!

  2. Miranda says:

    Also, always remember, just go in somewhere until you get kicked out! That’s how you end up being in a pagoda tower watching a temple light up, and right next to Chinese fireworks.. 😉

  3. Suzy says:

    I love your descriptions of each place you go, you make me feel like I’m right there with you. Thinking about you and your travels, we had Mike and Andrea and baby Aria on a quick visit to the States last week and they are doing great. I can’t wait for the next entry.

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