|On Monday morning we met up outside of the Kuala Lumpur bus station and boarded the bus to Penang which is a small island accessible by bridge that is located off the Northwest coast of Malaysia. The bus ride was uneventful but an adventure none-the-less - It is not too often that Ben and I find ourselves on the bus in Malaysia with Mr. and Mrs Hayes. We stopped for lunch and all were scared of the food options so Ben and I had cup of noodles while my Mom and Dad opted for a can of Pringles and some dried peas.
We arrived in the main city of Georgetown at about 2pm and checked into the Cathay Hotel which is located in a beautiful old British building. The hotel's claim to fame is that some scenes from the movie "Beyond Ragoon" were shot on the premises. Despite being a bit run down, the rooms were still very majestic in a colonial sort of way and they had air conditioning so we couldn't complain.
I have to admit I was a bit flustered when we arrived because I was concerned about having enough time to do everything we wanted. After my Mom and I formulated a rough itinerary for the rest of our trip I felt better but we realized we would not have enough time to go to Taman Negara (http://www.taman-negara.com) which is the tropical rainforest located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia - Oh well - such is life - there never seems to be enough time.
That night we had dinner at a Northern Indian restaurant where the food was good and very spicy. The owner of the restaurant picked out a set meal for us and when it arrived he also brought a big bowl of plain yogurt with the instructions, "If it is too hot mix it with the yogurt." Eating in Malaysia is proving to be an adventure of its own.
The next day we went on a tour of the island which included stops at a Batik factory, a beach, a tropical fruit stand in the hills, a snake temple (if you wanted you could have your pictures taken with a snake on your head) and probably a few other stops that I can't remember. We skipped the butterfly garden which seems to be a reoccuring tourist destination throughout every Malay town and even though our driver was not very enthused about his job or Penang for that matter it was good to get an overall view of the island.
After lunch Ben was all toured out and decided to spend the afternoon reading his book in the comfort of our air conditioned room. My parents and I decided to escape the afternoon heat by walking across the street for a tour of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com). Cheong Fatt Tze was an extremely successful Chinese businessman who lived during the 20th century and his Penang house is considered a Feng Shui masterpiece. The mansion is really fantastic and the tour was very interesting as well - if you ever find yourself in Penang with nothing to do it is definitely worth visiting this impressive Chinese house.
That night we took a cab to Gurney drive and had dinner at one of the many restaurants that lines the coast. Malaysian food is a little scary at times. In other words, what doesn't smell strongly of fish either has flies on it or is a weird color like grey. So, that being said, we ate at a Thai seafood restaurant whose claim to fame was 'if it swims we have it'! We played it safe and had some shrimp, soft shelled crabs and fried chicken which was on the menu even though I don't think chickens are the best swimmers - ha ha - bad joke. After completely stuffing ourselves it was back to the Cathay Hotel and sleep as we had an early bus to catch in the morning.