We have just returned from our travels in SEA, Japan & Germany. We began our journey in Singapore and have just written out the first few sectors of our adventures. As TA has helped us with our travels so much we thought it was only fair to also post our experiences and hopefully help others too! We will be writing about Singapore, Melaka, Ipoh, Penang, Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Saigon, Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Berlin.
If you wish to read on please look for posting on those pages in the near future.
We had booked with Sri Maju and were bound for Penang soon after. This was the least comfortable bus that we had used so far but it was still really good and again Asia beats the UK! We had another pleasant, picturesque and scenic trip which just confirmed it to us that Malaysia is one beautiful country. It felt like the hours passed by so quickly and sooner than expected we saw the ocean!
Hello again Andaman! We crossed over onto Penang island via the bridge and soon arrived at the Sungai Nbong bus terminal yay! It was searingly hot so even though it was our intention to grab a domestic bus instead we grabbed ourselves a taxi to our hotel in Georgetown. This was another rickety ride in another beat up taxi! As we were pulling away the passenger door just flew open which was reassuringly scary! The traffic on Penang island is terrible and we got no where fast which is surprising considering that the island isn’t huge so there should be some sort of restriction as to how many cars and motorbikes should be allowed to enter per day. Despite the traffic the fare only set us back 30RM and we arrived in one piece! We were staying at the fairly modern Heliconia hotel close to KOMTAR which looked great online but in reality is pretty average. The staff were able to check us in rapidly and the no window room that we had booked wasn’t bad. It lacked basic things such as tea/coffee making facilities but it was clean, had just about enough space to place our backpacks, was air conditioned and had an en-suite (the shower had an awful design and the shower head was not placed by the screen but by the opening in which one would use to enter - a sodden floor will be imminent) which was all that we really needed and we had so many plans in mind that it was doubtful we would spend much time there anyway.
So after Mr had done his usual ‘man checks’ we trotted on over to KOMTAR to grab a bite to eat and as soon as we noticed the Subway we knew that was on the cards (at home we are healthy eating angels and almost never resort to fast food feasting)... so needed! We looked around the mall for a little then had a walk towards Georgetown to get our bearings together and look at some of the genius street art pieces! We did the typical tourist thing and snapped away before wandering off in the wrong direction then getting lost for all of 2 minutes… that’s when we realised that we could just use KOMTAR as a reference point. After a quick nip back into KOMTAR for air con reprise we walked back to the hotel for a shower (this is when we realised just how bad the shower design really was… it was also COLD! Not again!) and a DEET session. We popped around the corner to De happy garden for some late night food outside and to celebrate the fact we had over 3 months left of holiday we thought we would get a couple of Tiger beers in alas these never arrived but instead we received tea ‘o’ which was certainly a brew but not quite what we had in mind. We really needed our fill of veggies after all of the junk food we had recently indulged in so we ordered a few sharing plates of tofu, aubergine (egg plant if from outside of Europe), choi sum, mixed veggies with fried rice for good measure. De happy garden really is not the cheapest place to eat and probably not the best however it was very close by and happened to be open when other places were closing. We found the food to be OK, the only thing that ‘De not make me happy in the garden’ was the fact a damn mozzie landed on my forehead and as a result my darling Mr whacked me in the face to squish the thing! It came as quite a shock to me as one could imagine! Mr did explain why he hit me upside my head straight afterwards but this made me worry, in a typically girly fashion, that I would have a huge, itchy welt right between the eyes the next morning. Those horrid mosquitoes love me and noticed the only spot that I hadn’t doused heavily with DEET. The unbearable humidity soon got to us so we soon retreated back to the hotel for another cold shower. We… Are… Beat! Goodni...Zzzz!
Grooving around Georgetown. Having a room without windows makes it terribly difficult to tell what time of the day it is and as such we found ourselves waking up later than we had planned to. We were getting ourselves ready for a hot day walking around Georgetown seeing as much of the UNESCO sights and street art as we could. We began our journey by walking up Jalan Penang, taking in all of the sights and smells some of which were nice but most of them were not. Once we had eventually got the the first sight on our list (Chang Fat Zi’s mansion) we took a few pictures and I rather adored Chang’s choice of colour for his mansion which was a blueish/purple colour. We didn’t go inside to explore but instead continued with our mission to the second sight - St George’s church. Mr and I pointed out how humble this church is in comparison to many that we have seen in Europe and the UK. I felt that this church is the way that all should be, simplistic with no visual distractions so one can be with their own thoughts. Mr walked around and took a few pictures while I took a few minutes to clear my mind, reflect and send out happy vibes to all of our loved ones. We then made our way to the third sight which was the diamond clock tower but by this time the heat and the hunger pangs were really getting the better of us. So we took a quick picture and made our way to Lebuh Penang to munch lunch at Woodlands. What a wonderfully air conditioned welcome we had at the restaurant. It was lunch time and we were just in time for the special prices so Mr and I both ordered ourselves a Thali set each and a nice sugary drink. The food was fresh, authentic Indian and only cost us 7.50RM (£1.50) bargain! We soaked up as much cool air as we could before we headed on over to the Esplanade area. Considering that this is right by the sea, it actually seemed hotter there than inland which was bizarre. We sat on the wall and looked out to sea whilst getting blinded by the sun before we headed on towards Fort Cornwallis. This fort looked similar to the ones we had previously seen before in Melaka but just bigger, we only took a few photos before moving on again.
We had grabbed a local map the day before from our hotel, which featured a numbered map of the area with the sights, so had based our circuit on this map and accessibility to and from our hotel. Soon after leaving the fort area we had arrived by Whiteaways and had a little look around the few shops and tourist info before going around onto Armenian Street to view some of the many street art throw ups. That is when Mr pointed out a Chinese temple that he wished to look around. I was in a dress that day and feared that if I took my shoes off they would perish in the heat so I waited outside whilst Mr nipped inside and grabbed a few sweet shots. We were having a great walk but damn, it was HOT (the traffic only seemed to add more heat)! So in our pathetic state we just about made it back to KOMTAR where we were graced with air con and fresh carrot juice from Magic Garden food court. The juice stall is the bees knees! With new life we took the short walk back to Heliconia to relax our bones for a bit before our stomachs needed refilling. Mr and I craved some Japanese so we popped to the Sushi King that we had spotted earlier at KOMTAR. On a previous trip to Malaysia we had eaten at a Sushi King which happened to be lip smacking so it made sense to opt for this restaurant again. Mr and I both chose to eat a ramen each Mmm! Great service, reasonably priced dishes and as tasty as my home cooking (Yup, I tooted my own horn there!) so it had the Bianca and Mr thumbs up! Happy with our choice for the evening we merrily left with our bellies full and no mosquito slaps! There is something magical about wandering the illuminated streets at night which seems to be the case everywhere in Asia. It gives one the feel of being at the fairground and stimulates the senses but for now we we ready to fall asleep to some more American trash TV. Zonk!
Shuppping! We had plans to wake up bright and early but alas our dark, windowless room messed with our already out of sync body clocks so by the time we had got out into the world it was around midday. It was ok though as we had planned for a low intensity day filled with shopping then up to Penang Hill in the evening. We walked over to the KOMTAR area then moseyed around the stores although I wished to purchase many a dress, the Malaysian sizes don’t really bode well with me and my Eurasian hips (in the UK I’m considered ‘small’ - Malaysia I’m ‘large’). So instead I helped my bearded partner to pick out some new shorts. I spotted a cool pair of Vans branded shorts so he tried them on and they looked awesome! Well what can I say? I have style and I think Mr knows it. He seemed to be pretty stoked with his new garm! Hehe! I woke up feeling adventurous on this particular day so I decided to try something different, something I’ve never eaten before like Kaya balls! There is a stall on the corner of the second or third floor where a sweet old lady makes them fresh to order. So Mr and I stood and watched how she whipped these up. It is made from what looked like doughnut batter and then Kaya is dropped into the middle. I asked the lady what Kaya actually was and she replied “coconut jam” Mmmm! They smelt absolutely amazing and so once they were handed to us we eagerly dived straight into the scolding bag of doughy heaven! Mr and I agreed that this was in fact not very adventurous and was similar to a doughnut… but by heck it was tasty start! After walking around the many shops for a few hours we had another fast food blip, this time the golden arches. Tut Tut! Before we went to the bus stop bound for Penang Hill I picked up some Kaya from a store to take home with us. I wonder if my mum has had it before? She seems to have had everything before!
We waited for the bus at KOMTAR to take us up to Penang Hill for the evening sunset views across the island. I had read on trip advisor that this offered fantastic views so Mr and I thought we would take the opportunity to experience this whilst here. The bus only cost 4RM per person and considering the distance, this price is fantastic! The bus drove us slowly up towards the hill and we got to see parts of the island that are only frequented by locals so it was good to see a snippet of their lives as we passed on by. Once we eventually arrived at the terminus we realised that we were going to have to get the funicular up the hill which I didn’t expect but they always offer good views so this was a bonus. The cost of using the funicular however was pretty extortionate at 30RM per person for a return… but what can you do? The funicular was a lot faster and modern than we had anticipated so we arrived at the peak in good time. We got to the top at dusk just as light was turning into dark, which gives off an eerie feel but some amazing atmospheric shots. There was a bit of a haze so the view was not that great (every time we visit mountains, hills, peaks etc we seem to be cursed with no view!) so we decided to have a look around the top as there was a few attractions. First of all we saw a couple of wild Monkeys pottering about then we noticed a Hindu temple, then we heard the calls for prayer from the mosque (not very accessible) and then we saw a small fair that was just about closing up for the night. By the time we had returned to the edge of the hill it was well and truly night time and thankfully we were blessed with a great view of Penang Island and the mainland below! Wow, wow, wow! Needless to say we snapped away whilst in awe of the view! We got the very busy funicular back down then hopped straight onto the bus for a chilled ride back to KOMTAR and decided to grab a late dinner at Magic Garden. We opted for Chinese beef from one of the few vendors that was still open, maybe it was because it was almost the end of service but the food was rather lack luster. We returned to our hotel to have another cold shower before we got ready for the land of nod. Penang, you gorgeous island see ya in the morrow!
Beach and cocktails! We were woken up rather early this morning, not by our alarm but by our obnoxious neighbours being loud and ignorant! Good morning to you to! Mr and I had purchased cereal bars from the store yesterday so munched those for breakfast. An easy option for the morning, then just fill up at lunch! We had our sights for the beautiful beaches of Batu Ferrenghi this afternoon so we slapped on the sunscreen and eagerly headed for the bus stop to take us to our desired location. After a 30 minute journey we had arrived! We had found this part of the island to be a bit similar to Langkawi, but I guess it’s not far away! The beach at Batu Ferrenghi is like a stunning dream come true! A golden, sandy beach that stretches for miles with softly formed large boulders surrounding each side of the beach. Bliss! Mr and I ranked this beach to be number 3 of the best we have ever visited. As one could imagine the fluffy man and I spent most of the day chilling, listening to the waves and baking. We had waited for over a year for this and it was well deserved! We later headed over to Bora Bora for a cocktail, which like many establishments in Malaysia is not cheap and is on a par with London prices. These strong & fruity coolers hit the spot unlike the so called happy hour which was a bit of a cop out. We walked up and down the beach chatting to each other and taking in the sights for a bit before nature called and prized us from our escapism. They cost only 10 sen to use but it cost me more than that as my favourite sunglasses decided they had enough of me and made a break for freedom… in the toilet! Well to be fair, although loved they only cost me 50p a few years back. It’s safe to say that I made no attempt to retrieve them and just left a little bit pouty. Mr had spotted a kebab shop that offered decently priced meals so we ate our rather late lunch there. I was enjoying mine when I realised the guy had drenched my kebab in mayo (the worst condiment that has ever graced this planet!) nooooo! I had no idea that this was even an option damn it! So I ate what I could stomach out of sheer hunger and left feeling nauseous from what evil I had just ingested (serves me right for choosing fast food). The markets were setting up as we were heading back to the bus stop so we had a wee look at the stalls (same, same but different) whilst walking.
We alighted from the bus at the usual spot and as I needed a proper amount of food after discarding 80% of my lunch we headed up Macalister before spotting Putra - Nasi Camper where I chose to eat. I opted for a Thosai Masala whilst Mr only wanted a roti with mango juice, this happened to be the best mango juice ever! The food was cheap, quickly prepared and the taste hit the spot. I missed my mum’s food so spice was needed to transport my mind back home for a few moments. We didn’t have to walk far to get back to our hotel area which was handy as the sun had depleted our energy levels. So… another cold shower was in order before we hit the sack. The shower as a whole was starting to get silly so we were looking forward to getting to our next destination and maybe a hot shower! Yaaawn!
Last day. We wanted to make the most out of our fast full day on the island of Penang so we were early to rise and had decided yesterday that we should try and visit the remainder of the heritage sights in Georgetown. After a long, hot walk we ended up in the garden of a huge Mosque. I had my knee length shorts on so I thought it would be a bad idea if I decided to walk inside, so I suggested for Mr to have a look around and take some pictures. It was a sweltering day so whilst my companion was wandering through the mosque, I retreated for the shade. Once Mr had done his rounds he told me how some guy had shown him around and tried to convince Mr to speak to a cleric. Luckily Mr has a strong mind and his own beliefs are well grounded so he wasn’t going to take this guy up on his kind offer. Mr was continuing to explain his brief experience whilst we were walking towards Port Sweetingham which was the last place on our list. But it was difficult to make it there without a rest stop so we stopped off at what turned out to be a great little find, a hip little coffee store called ‘the Alley’ Mr and I got a tropical punch ice cold drink along with some complementary Malay candy. It was nutty with a wafer, candy floss like texture but tasted scrummy! Friendly, welcoming staff that play some tuuunes! Anyway Port bound… It turned out that we wouldn’t have missed anything by not visiting this point but as we had made the effort to get there we had a walk on the pier and done some fish spotting. Luckily for us we had spotted one of the free hop on, hop off busses by the jetty so of course we hopped on! We alighted at ol’ familiar KOMTAR once again and walked up Macalister towards the new world plaza. There didn’t seem to be much going on there as it was a bit of a walk away from the more popular areas and as such most stores were closed. The only part of the partially open aired plaza that was thriving was the food court so, as it was lunch time we ordered a round of chicken satay and a huge coconut to cool us down! This was the first coconut of our holiday so far and boy oh boy it was NEEDED! The satay was delicious, even better than expected and as it was more of a local place the prices were good. The temperatures were far exceeding what our bodies could handle that day so we seeked refuge back at the hotel for a bit to shower, digest and fall asleep to American trash TV.
We seriously need to refrain from booking windowless rooms! I mean by the time we had woken up from our so called nap it was time to grab dinner! So we took the short walk back up Macalister to Putra Nasi Kander again (good, value grub) for another Chicken tandoori before we headed for Samui the next day. Delicious, but not quite as good as before for some reason. Well at least my mum is safe in the knowledge that this restaurant has been unable to beat her epic tandooried goodness. We took a slow stroll back to the hotel knowing that this will be our last. We made damn sure to soak up the smell of roti’s cooking in the night, the fishy whiffs wafting from the hawker stalls and of course that humidity that seems to stick to your everythings! Penang is such a fun, historic, foodies paradise and we only got a sample to whet our appetites. Well Malaysia, you have been as great to us as ever and we shall return to the other slice in the distant future!
Today we fly! We awake early this morning as we set our alarms, the room however was still messing with us! But this was the least of our worries… we were off to Samui!