A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Day 0 Leaving BKK

BKK - Butterworth Malaysia (The Overnighter)

My friend Jay and her friend “X” met me at my hotel around 11:30. As I rounded the corner into the lobby, they were lounging on the couches.
Her friends eyes popped out of her head as she realized that I was Jay’s friend, the one with the 40 kilo back pack, my smaller 8 kilo day pack, and two stuffed bags. Immediately, the tipical Thai comments started about the farang. We walked out the back of the hotel, and were about to cross the street to Hualamphong Station, when I said, "wait a minute, there's something important I have to do." Actually, it was something I didn't want to do, but it was time to part. My green Cons were just too dilapidated, and every time it rained my feet would get wet; so I decided to leave my shoes there on the embankment by the subway exit. I was hoping that maybe someone who was crafty, and didn't any shoes might be able to repair these old things, and give them the love they needed. sneaks.jpg
After this departing ceremony, we went to the train station and dropped my bags at the left luggage. I got my usual laugh when the kid porter tried to lift my bag, and then we were off to lunch.

We laughed at one tuk tuk driver, then found one with a reasonable price to shuttle us over to Chinatown for one last dim sum and some yummy taro fried rice. After lunch, Jay's friend left us, I bought some snacks, and Jay accompanied me back to the train station for a farewell.
large_Goodbye_BKK.jpg A little blurry, but the photo is me. Thanks Jay for all your help, as usual!

The Ride

The A/C sleeper was really nice compared to the ghetto (fan) sleeper I suffered through from Lampang to BKK. My only complaint was a guy with a really annoying voice that wouldn't stop talking all night; and then when I woke up in the morning he was still talking. Also, for anybody taking this train in the future, when you arrive to to the Malaysian border you have to disembark with all your luggage and go through a building shared by both Thai and Malay immigration / customs. It's kinda inconvenient, but one of those formalities that you have to go through. We spent about an hour there, and you can find food there as well. One last thing, when you travel from Bkk to Butterworth or onward, you lose an hour (time zone).

Posted by culturfile 07.08.2011 01:33 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 02 Botanical Gardens

Today I took the #10 bus out to the Botanical Gardens, which is the last stop on the line. The bus goes out there every hour, so you should plan your trip accordingly. They have a very nice set - up with a paved walk - way that goes in a circle around the park; and there are trails that shoot off at various points, as well as many picnic tables where you can bring a lunch.

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You will also notice monkeys running around the park looking for trouble. There are two types: the typical macaque and a much prettier and more docile monkey called the Dusky Leaf Monkey or Spectacled Langur, Presbytis obscurus; the latter is what is shown in the following picture.
Wild_Monks.jpg botmonk.jpg But remember . . . . large_Don_t_Feed_Monkeys.jpg . . . these are WILD monkeys, so be cautious and DO NOT feed them or try to get your picture next to them.

All in all, if you have the time to spend 3 or more hours here with a lunch and a napping blanket, I highly recommend it. If you want to check out their nicely done website ahead of time here is the link:

[[http://www.penangbotanicgardens.gov.my/]

Posted by culturfile 09.08.2011 03:25 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Day 01 Georgetown

Walk - Explore - Walk - Explore

When you arrive to Butterworth, it's a really convenient walk to the ferry from the train or bus station. Things went pretty smooth since I already had Malaysian Ringet with me, all I had to do was get some change. The ferry ride cost ____ and when you take the ferry back to Butterworth it's free. This was my first time on a ferry of this size, so it a new experience. The ride was pretty smooth, and only lasted about 15 - 20 minutes.
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Once you get get off at the jetty, it's a short walk down the ramp to the local buses. You can catch a 101, 102, 203 or 204; they all go up the main drag, Lebuh Chulia, through Little India and Chinatown. Also, there's a small Tourist Info booth where you can get a map of the bus routes, other than then that, they really don't have anything worth while to offer.

After checking in and taking a nice cold shower, I headed out to do some exploring. One of the first side streets I ventured down, I came across this lady standing by this interesting looking cart; it's a tea cart.
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She sells different kinds of herbal / medicinal tea. There are also various store fronts that offer this as well. Since Chinese herbs are a big part of my profession, this instantly sparked my curiosity. She had about 3 or 4 different teas on her menu: chrysanthemum (Ju Hua), which is good for clearing heat; a bitter tea (which I believe to be Long Dan Cao); is good for clearing Liver and Gall Bladder damp-heatand she also had a green tea and a mixture of tea and brown sugar.

Later on I found my way to a stage set up at the corner of a street, which happen to have my surname on it. I was in awe! I had only been there for a few hours, and they already named a street after me. Penang ROCKS!

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Anyway, the stage was set up in front of the Kuan Yin Teng temple, which is the temple of Goddess of Mercy (Compassion). Kuan Yin is the Chinese version of Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara. There just happen to be a performance going on at that moment. A troupe from China was performing a Chinese opera to celebrate Bodhisattva's enlightenment.
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A little history . . . the Kuan Yin Teng temple was built by the first group of Chinese settlers in the 1800's. The temple also pays homage to Ma Chor Poh, who was a patron saint to seafarers. for more more detailed information visit: [[http://www.tourism.gov.my/destinations/detail.php?theme=CH&map_code=kuanyintemple&state=penang]

A quick peek inside . . .

large_Kuan_Yin_Teng_Temple4.jpgKuan_Yin_Teng_Temple.jpg

Outside view:

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Posted by culturfile 14.08.2011 04:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Day 03 Moving

Teluk Bahang

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Today I gathered my stuff and headed out to the fishing village of Teluk Bahang, which is at the far Northwest corner of the island, about 20 km from Georgetown. The main reason I headed out this way was for the National park, which has trekking and beach, and also for a little quite. I got on the 101 bus, and continued to the last stop, which is the one you get off at for the National Park (entrance shown below). It was about an hour + to get there, because the bus snakes through, and makes a bizillion stops on the way. National_P..ntrance.jpg

I was planning on staying at the guesthouse called Miss Loh's, so I ended up walking back about 100m. You turn right on the street after the building with all the shops in it, which is shown in this picture.

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After turning down this street you have to walk quite a ways, a little more than 1/2 a kilometer. I was drenched in sweat as I walked and baked myself simultaneously for 20 minutes; fully loaded. So you follow the curve in the road and continue for about 100m, but don't walk in the driveway on the right which enters through a metal fence, that's not it. You have to walk a little further and enter through a closed gate in a metal fence on the right. Sorry, no pictures for this. Anyway, here is the low - down on Miss Loh's. Yes, it has a chill environment on the outside, but . . . this is not a backpacker guesthouse, rather, there are many long - termers here (years); some of them are weird and others are bizarre. They go to bed early and expect no noise, not even a peep from a mouse. There is a older french guy who lives in the dorm room, and I think he took one too many hits in the 60's. I only saw one room, and it was quite basic (no lock on the door). The showers I saw were pretty good / basically clean. There is a kitchen. Here are some catches that Lonely Planet's failed to inform about: 1. There are about 4 or 5 dogs there that bark through night at everything. 2. local kids race there very loud motorbikes up and down the street in front. 3. This is quite a distance from the main road where all conveniences are located. 4. There is only 1 room for 20 RM, I don't know how many dorm beds there are, but remember . . . there is a weird - old French dude in there with a Bozo the clown afro. The other rooms go for 30 - 35 RM.

Now, the alternative, which is where I ended up for about 9 days, is the Fisherman's Village Guesthouse. First, how to get there: When you're coming into Teluk Bahang, the first thing you'll see is a roundabout with a statue of big pitcher flowers (usually there are no flags stuck in them).

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FYI, around the statue there are restaurants (Khelal's, End of the World, etc.), shops, a fruit stand, and Joe's burger stand (I recommend the special Double Burger). The bus will continue through this intersection, when you see this sign out the right window of the bus, hit the buzzer. Actually, most of the locals will get out here, this is 1 stop before the last stop.

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If you're going to one of these two guesthouses you should get out here. The street to your left takes you to Miss Loh's, and if you're going to Fisherman's you cross the street and turn right down the first street, which is called Nelayan 3 (there is a sign posted for Fisherman's).

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Walk down this street, and turn right on the second street, you'll see another sign on the fence for the guesthouse, which is the second house on the right.

Fisherman's Guesthouse, which is more like a home stay, because it's in the back of someone's house, is very basic. The rooms have a ceiling fan, their are 2 toilets and a shower which is shared; and semi - clean. There's also a small refrigerator for communal use.

A single room here is RM 18, but if you are staying a while, you can negotiate down to RM 15. Not sure how much the dorms are?

Posted by culturfile 14.08.2011 06:12 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Day 05 The First Hike

National Park – Monkey Beach - The Lighthouse

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Like most days I overslept, which caused all my plans to shift a little. Today was supposed to be “hiking to the lighthouse” day, since it fell through yesterday; which turned into “recuperation from cheap beer” day. So I zombie walked up the street in the scorching hot sun of another Penang late morning to Mum & Pops. Mum already knows what I want, so she passes on my order to the roti guy who slaps together one roti canai with egg and onion, and then informs Pops about the mug of black coffee. So the coffee shook off the morning zombie feeling, and I was feeling pretty fueled and ready to go on a hike.

Through the gates of the National Park, and into the jungle I went, although, it really didn’t feel like it, because I was walking on a sidewalk. I was thinking, “What the heck kind of trail is this? This is more like following the yellow brick road.”. I was hoping their version of a trekking trail wasn’t a sidewalk across the coast. After about a km or so, the trail came to a T- intersection and started looking more like a jungle trail, what a relief! After about another 45 minutes of hiking, and waiting for an oncoming stream of about 100 students, I arrived to the research center, which is the second unofficial checkpoint. I walked along the beach here and found a few shells, than picked up the trail again, which wasn't easy, because there's a major obstruction of a fallen tree and branches that you have to crawl through. In fact, it looked so old, I wasn't sure if I was actually on the right trail or not. I crawled though and proceeded, there was a sign posted that said, 1.7km to Monkey Beach, I was still on track. This section of the trail got a bit more challenging, and the obstructions got more frequent. Also, there were some stairs with missing planks and nail pops on the trail. In other words, you have to be extra mindful, because they obviously don't perform much maintenance; I guess that's part of the free admission. It's been my experience in Southeast Asian countries that safety comes last, actually, rarely at all. This section of the trail took a while, at least it seemed like a while. Finally, I came to the last set of stairs which descended down upon Monkey beach. I was so excited, hundreds of crazy monkeys! I stopped and got my camera out, so I could catch all the action of hoards of crazy monkeys as they danced around and did their monkey thing. Well . . . I got to the bottom of the stairs and there was only 1 monkey sitting on a big rock, and as soon as he saw me, he took off and disappeared into the jungle. The beach was completely devoid of life, not even a stray dog.

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Unfortunately, what I did see, was a lot of garbage. So maybe "Garbage Beach" might be more appropriate. Garbage has been a huge problem in Penang, and according to the locals, it's better now than it was before.

As far as the missing monkeys go, I talked to some other travelers, and it seems as though it depends on what time you go. Sometimes there's monkeys and sometimes there aren't. I arrived to the beach around noon, so maybe it's better to go earlier in the morning.

At the end of the beach the next trail head starts for the ascent to the lighthouse, which is located at 227m above sea level; another 1.2 km. I only brought a 1.5 ml bottle of water and it was well below the half mark. If you're going to do any of this trek, I would suggest bringing 2 bottles, because you do get really dehydrated fast here.

After a grueling uphill battle of trail and stairs, with 3 breaks incorporated into the climb, I made it to the top. I came up the last bit of trail and I could see the lighthouse, what an incredible feeling . . .

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. . . a short - lived feeling though, only to be crushed by the fact that the gate to get into the lighthouse area was locked and nobody was there. I immediately told . . . myself, "This is freakin crazy! It's only 13:30!". Pure craziness, a major tourist attraction for this little town, and it's closed and surrounded by a 4 meter fence with bobbed wire on top. I thought to myself, "No way did I just hike 4 km, 1 km of which, was a crazy stair-master hill, just to be turned away by a chain link fence. So walked around the perimeter of the fence, just to see if maybe there was another way in. On the 3rd side, there was a small gate with a padlock on it, but the padlock wasn't closed (that could be considered open, at least open for interpretation). So my fingers found there way between the links of the fence, and were able to pop the lock off. "Oops, the door's open!" Next thing you know, I'm given myself a guided tour of the lighthouse.
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The time for this trek was 5.5 hours round trip (with many breaks). In retrospect, the view from the light house sucks in comparison to the Penang Hill view or even the view from the park that connects with the Botanical Gardens Park. I would just go to Monkey Beach, find a hammock and chill out for the day. Watch your shoes and stuff though, if monkeys do show up, they will steal them.

Posted by culturfile 14.08.2011 06:19 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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