SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2006. KOH PHA NGAN TO GEORGETOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA. After travelling for 15 hours today (6 am - 9 pm) by boat and minibus (950 THB; $26), I have arrived in the city of Georgetown on the island of Penang in Malaysia (Half of the travellers on the minibus transfered to a bigger bus and continued on to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore). I was a little concerned in entering Malaysia as my passport expires at the end of this year and Malaysia officially requires six months validity on a passport. The immigration official let me in without any problems. Immediately upon crossing the border into Malaysia, it was apparent that Malaysia has better roads and buildings compared to Thailand (at least outside of Bangkok). We cruised at 100-110 kph (60-65 mph) on a well built double lane highway all the way to Georgetown. I have a double room in Chinatown at 75 Traveller's Lodge (28 Malaysian Ringgit; $7.70) and plan to spend tomorrow exploring this colonial English city.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2006. GEORGETOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA. Georgetown is the oldest English colonial city in Malaysia--older than Singapore and Melaka. The most fascinating thing about Georgetown is the mix of Indians, Chinese, and Malay. It's as if you created a country made up of one third Indians, one third Chinese, and one third Malay. Add a large percentage of Muslims, their presence largely recognizable by women wearing hejab (headscarf), and you have modern Malaysia. I spent most of the day just walking around the city and absorbing the atmosphere and ambiance. What an interesting country.