|The journey to Penang was pretty uneventful - a couple of hours on a boat with movies and refreshments - puts the British transport system to shame!! To be honest I slept most of the way - I seem to be becoming very adept at sleeping on public transport.
As we arrived at the port, I saw a couple of English guys that Irecognised from out and about in Langkawi so I plucked up the courage to say 'Hi'. We ended up sharing a cab to the area where all the hostels are and staying at the same place which was really cool as I was so apprehensive about coming to Georgetown. Nobody that I had spoken to had a good word to say about it and I'd heard some rumours that it felt quite unsafe and that single women were sometimes followed around! As you can imagine, I was pretty worried and really didn't know what to expect.
Rob and Rick turned out to be really sound guys and we all headed out together in the afternoon to explore the supposed colonial district of the city, down by the waterfront. It turns out that Rob has friends that live in Felixstowe (it's seemingly turning into the hub of Britain) and reghularly goes out in Ipswich so we had a good old natter about that. It always seems so weird to me, to meet someone thousands of miles away from home like that and still find common ground. As Mickey Mouse and the Disney crew once sang - "It's a small world after all!"
We headed straight to Fort Cornwallis, which is apparently one of the major attractions, but as I'm rapidly discovering - guidebooks have a habit of exaggerating things!! The fort was pleasant enough, if small, and the info. provided seemed to be a bit lacking. The best thing was having a cheesy photo taken with a guy dressed up as a soldier - I think that says it all really!? I even got to wear a hat and hold a gun!! (Yes, I know that I'm easily pleased).
Next we took a wander through what is said to be the 'Heritage District' to see all of the old-style colonial buildings. Unless we went the wrong way, that wasn't too impressive either! Someone in Langkawi had described Penang to me as "faded" and to be honest, I can't think of a better adjective. Throughout the city, or what I saw of it, there were lots of traditional buildings with shutters etc., like the photos in all of the guidebooks, but they were just so run down and dirty, especially in the Chinatown area where all the backpacker accommodation and hangouts are located. However, with a bit of a clean up and a lot of paint, the place would be really lovely - maybe with a similar feel to how I imagine New Orleans to be. You do find the odd place that has been renovated which just gives a flavour of how it could be. I can certainly understand why people didn't particularly like the place, though.
In the evening, I joined up with the guys again. Rob is a big Liverpool fan and we had spotted a nearby 'Liverpool Bar' earlier in the day so he donned his shirt and we headed there to have a few beers and watch the matches live. Walking into the bar was like stepping into a different time zone! Behind the run-down exterior was a relatively modern bar with six T.V.s and a pool table etc. The walls were adorned with Liverpool memorabilia and loads of local guys sat around in Liverpool shirts, many of which Rob assured me had never actually existed. Still, football is definitely an international language and we all sat and watched the match together (and they consoled eachother afterwards, he he.)
On Sunday, we hit the tourist trail again. After visiting a local Chinese Clan House, we got on one of the local buses out to a big Chinese Temple, Kek Lok Si. To get to it, you had to walk up this long flight of steps, lined on both sides by market stalls so there was plenty of heckling going on. On one of the food stalls there was a crate of what looked suspiciously like turds!! I thought that it was some kind of dried plant that you can eat and having learnt that Rob is generally up for trying all kinds of weird food, I dared him to try some. However, when we actually asked the owner what they were and he replied 'shit' in a heavily accented voice, I thought that my ears had deceived me and we decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea!! Things only became clear as we carried on walking through the market - it seems that fake turds are a big seller, although quite what they were doing on a food stall I don't know!! Lucky escape though - that could have been very embarrassing!
We walked up through the market and grabbed some crushed sugar cane to refresh ourselves before wandering round the temple. It was really beautiful but apart from that, not really much to tell.
Next stop was Penang Hill. You have to take two tram-like things, which are pulled by ropes up to the top - yet another test for someone not particularly keen on heights!! The views from the top though were amazing and we looked out across Penang and over to mainland Malaysia as we had lunch in the restaurant at the summit. The waiter invited us out onto the terrace to look at some snakes that were there so I dutifully grabbed my camera and went outside to take a few snaps of the bright green snakes nestled in the trellis above our heads. However, when he told us that they were poisonous green pit vipers, you've never seen me move so fast!
After lunch it was time to tackle the canopy walk. To be honest, if I had been on my own I don't think that I would have bothered with the 2km walk there but I am so pleased that the guys egged me on. We were the last ones allowed on because it was raining but that just meant that we had the whole thing to ourselves and for us, the drizzle just added to the authentic Indiana Jones feel.
It was soo cool walking along these bridges that were blatantly just ladders with a scaffolding plank across the top. You couldn't really tell how high up we were because of the trees and canopies below but when you did catch a glimpse down to the ground, it certainly made your stomach drop!
So there we were - three apparent adults clambering across planks and holding onto nets in the treetops. It was like being on a huge climbing frame with platforms on the trees. We couldn't stop giggling and I for one, still had a stupid grin on my face by the time we'd gone all the way back down the hill again and caught the bus back into Georgetown.
The bus station is located under the highrise Komtar Tower and I'd heard a vicious rumour that there was a big shopping centre nearby - well, it would have been rude not to... However, we got a bit diverted - walking through the basement of the Komtar Tower, we must have looked a bit lost because a guy came up to us and said "viewing area, follow me". The next thing I know, I find myself in a lift destined for the 60th floor! Ok, ok, the views of Georgetown and Penang at night were pretty cool and we even got free tea and coffee but there was no way I was going to close to the window and I was definitely much happier, half an hour later when I was surrounded by six floors of shops!! After a spot of shopping (I was actually very restrained - its amazing what carrying a small bag can do) it was off for dinner and a few well earned drinks. We found a bar with its own resident dancer - a 70 odd year old guy who was probably doing a bit too much thrusting and grinding for a place that serves food!!! I also got totally sucked in by another little old man who proudly told us that he had curencyfrom over forty different countries. Ah, I thought, thats really sweet, he's obviously a bit of a collecter so I dug around in my bag and found a two pound coin that I thought he would be quite pleased to add. He then proceeded to pull out a huge wad of notes from his pocket, before moving on to the next table.
When the Malaysian kareoke started up, we decided that it was probably time to head back to the guesthouse. However, we did receive a bit of abuse from the local ladyboys on the way home, as well as a nearby guesthouse owner who thought it justified to call me a bitch because I didn't want to stay at her establishment. Its always nice to make friends with the locals!?