Day 66: Penang, Malaysia. After breakfast, we packed our bags and moved to a new guesthouse just a few minutes walk away. We decided to extend our stay in Georgetown by a couple of days, and as our current guesthouse wasn’t available, we found another one right around the corner (there’s certainly no shortage of places to stay in this town).
Before we left the guesthouse, we had a lengthy chat with an animated New Zealand guy called Andy, who arrived in Georgetown late last night. He was eager to pick our brains on what to do in Penang and where the best places to eat are (tricky one to answer, given there are so many options). He’s travelling with his wife and son for 8 months around Asia, then Europe, and he admits they’ve got a bit lazy and ‘don’t do enough research’. Which is probably why he and his family found themselves at the wrong airport the night before, and had to throw away three flights, and book new ones. He arrived in Georgetown, thinking it would be a small village, and was blown away to find it’s a pretty big place.
Travel research is definitely time consuming, but it’s necessary if you want to arrive in places at the best times, stay in the best locations, see what there is to see and plot the most efficient routes from place to place. Lil does pretty much all our travel research – she’s good at it and enjoys it, though gets frustrated sometimes when information is tricky to find online or transport connections don’t connect well or at all.
Our new guesthouse is somewhere between a guesthouse and a hostel – rooms are very basic but fine, it has a communal kitchen area and is filled with lots of young backpackers. It’s also a little cat-centric – there are pictures of cats everywhere and three (very well looked after) moggies roaming around the place. It’s a lot of fun.
After settling in to our new place, and scoffing toast and coffee, we decided to check out the seaside. We caught a bus from Georgetown to Batu Ferringhi, a popular beach resort about 15km north of the city. The traffic was horrible again – the bus was well behind schedule, and the journey took about an hour. The beach was surprisingly quiet given how many European tourists there are in Georgetown. We also assumed there would be lots of locals there too, given it’s Sunday today. It was lovely to have a relaxing stroll along the beach, and enjoy the calm after the hectic streets of Georgetown.
Batu Ferringhi is billed as the second most popular tourist destination after Georgetown. There are lots of high rise apartment blocks and large hotels, heaps of restaurants and cafes, however lots of places seemed closed. High season is November to February, but even so it seemed weird that things were so quiet.
We got caught by the incoming tide several times, leading to wet feet and socks full of the sharp sand. And in the high tide line, we found a good reminder why we should keep our shoes on – a cone shell, which is highly venomous.
With wet sandy shoes, we caught the bus back to Georgetown, headed back to the guesthouse and had a late afternoon nap. Then we headed out for dinner – our guesthouse is in Little India and we chose a local Indian eatery. There are some amazing buildings around here too, and more great street art.
The menu selection was small – there seemed to be only one main meat option – a spicy chicken dish wrapped up in a big crispy dosa with a number of sauces to pour over the dosa, or dip it into. The guy also dropped some sort of bread on our table, and a spicy vegetable pastry. He was an expert salesman and tried to further upsell us on some Indian green sweet, but we said no thanks.
Afterwards we went for beers in Love Lane. Lil had lots of research to do, so we settled down with laptop and drinks. 20 minutes later, the place was getting really busy, the music had been turned up and we decided to head off somewhere quieter. We remembered that our guesthouse has a street-facing patio at the front, so we decided to go and sit there for a bit of peace and quiet. Turns out the patio is the social meeting hub for people staying in the guesthouse – before long there was a gang of us sitting drinking and chatting for hours.
It’s always interesting to meet new people, and hear about their travels. One of the other guys is a skydiving instructor from Melbourne called Aaron – over the winter he earns hardly anything in Australia, and said it’s a heap cheaper for him to go and live in Asia for a few months. He’s also a base jumper (in his own words ‘a real fruit loop’). Some of the others are long term travellers too, and some are just here for a couple of weeks’ holiday. All lovely people.
And of course, the guesthouse cats were happy to hang out with us too.
Tomorrow we’re planning a long walk through Penang National Park, and then doubtless more great food and beers.