Ok, we got on the sleeper train from Surat Thani to Sungai Kolok on the Thai-Malay border at about 1am on the night of the 5th/morning of the 6th. This time the train wasn't half as nice as the Bangkok-Chiang Mai sleeper, the beds were tiny and the fans put in the aisles to keep us cool were blocked out by the curtains in front of the beds. I wonder what genius came up with that... We'd booked two lower bunks instead of uppers because they were wider on the last train, and I'm glad we did! We could barely fit in ours and the upper bunks were tiny. Two slightly 'larger' people were sleeping in them, they looked like they'd be uncomfortable haha
When we woke up on the morning of the 6th the rain was torrential - we could see floods everywhere as the train passed through villages. We'd heard it was monsoon season but started to dread 2 weeks in Malaysia after seeing that. When we got to Sungai Kolok it was a breeze getting through immigration. We didn't have to pay for the visa and got a 3month stamp - I wish all countries would do that. It was still pouring rain so we went straight to the bus station to book our transport to Kota Bharu. We planned to get to the Perhentian Islands, off the East coast, and were going to spend the night in Kota Bharu before getting the ferry. At the bus station we found out everything was closed... it's pretty much a totally Muslim population around that area so they were closed for prayer for a few hours on Friday. We ended up spending 8pounds on a taxi to Kota Bharu because we were miserable and wet. I was convinced we were going to die before we got to Kota Bharu though. I noticed the driver was swerving a little bit and that the air conditioning was set to freezing... I looked at the driver in the rear view mirror and noticed he was nearly asleep. It was another 15km or so to our destination and the whole way there I could see his eyes starting to close, then he'd jerk back awake again. I was terrified! Neither of us had seatbelts either... I just tried to talk loudly so maybe the noise would keep him awake haha. We checked into the first guesthouse the driver brought us to. The room was fine but the bathroom was so big it echoed and looked like it was used as part of the set in the Saw movies. I wouldn't have been surprised if there was someone chained to the pipes in there...
At the guesthouse they told us the boats to Perhentian Islands were cancelled because of the weather, and it would be weeks before they were running again. Great... we decided instead to go to Penang, on the West coast, so we went out into the rain to book a ticket and get some comfort food at KFC. I don't even like KFC so ended up in a worse mood haha. I'm so glad we're not still in England for the storms that are there at the moment, even in Malaysia the rain made the day seem horrible.
We killed time for the night, realised they didn't sell alcohol anywhere in Kota Bharu because it's a strict Muslim town (I only saw 3 other girls without their hair covered all afternoon), so we drank water and watched South Park on a tiny iPod screen.
We set off for Penang the next morning still in bad spirits from the rain. We were convinced it would be like that for the next 2 weeks. When we got halfway there we stopped for a toilet/lunch break and it's the first time I've wanted to immediately leave a country since we started the trip! I don't get on well with squat toilets, I just don't have the balance to cope with them, and the filthy toilets at our stop were all like this. We went inside to get food as we'd skipped breakfast and it all looked and smelled horrible. There were trays of horrible smelling food and dead fish lying all over the table so we gave that a miss and got a burger from a stand outside. Bad idea. The girl toasted some buns, squirted about 5 different sauces onto them, barely cooked some beefburgers and slapped it all together. I decided to let Ryan take a bite first and it was still bleeding... it might have still been mooing to be honest. We went hungry. The thing I hated the most though was the fact that everyone was avoiding using their left hand while they ate... I can put up with most things, but it absolutely creeps the hell out of me that muslims use their hand to wipe their bums. I couldn't even look at their left hands lying limp on the table while they ate without feeling sick.
When we got to Penang it wasn't raining anymore, it was lovely! We looked at a map and saw that Batu Ferrenghi was the beach area so asked around for prices to get there. Taxi driver = 9pounds, public bus=less than 1pound each. We got the bus. We checked into a family run guesthouse with a little labrador puppy (which they kept in a cage for hours and I wanted to set free). By the time we were at our guesthouse it was dark so we didn't even look at the beach across the road, we just went out for dinner.
There was an amazing food court about 10mins walk from the guesthouse with every type of food for 1-2pounds per meal. We ate there every night it was so good. We had noodles, rice, pizza, curry, kebab, satay skewers, more noodles... they had Japanese, Korean, Malay, Thai, Chinese, English, Turkish, Italian and Indian food under one roof - it was like heaven.
We explored Penang for the next few days. I'd heard that Malaysia was good for shopping, but I didn't realise how good. The shopping centres here are absolutely massive. We got lost in one in Penang and kept ending up in abandoned corridors even when we took the lift. We seem to be useless at figuring out shopping centre maps.
The only real sight we visited in Penang was the Snake Temple, or the Temple of the Azure Cloud. When the temple was built some snakes moved in and they've been there ever since. It was mad wandering around with poisonous snakes hanging off the altars and pictures. Next door was a snake and reptile farm with aboout 50 types of snakes, tortoises, turtles, monkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs. The best by far was a huge reticulated python, it must have been about 20ft long, and the king cobra they'd recently captured and brought in. The way the cobra moved was amazing, it stood right up in the air and was watching everything we were doing if we came anywhere near the cage. I wouldn't like to meet one of them down a dark alley...
On our last day in Penang we decided we couldn't be bothered doing much so we had a day on the beach. It was the first time we'd even looked at it since we'd arrived even though we were staying across the road. It wasn't the best beach... there was quite a bit of rubbish up by the restaurants and the water was a bit murky. Also, there was a strange man standing ankle deep in the water looking towards us for about an hour as we sunbathed. Nutter.
We got a bus down to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday the 11th. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the buses in Malaysia! The bus from Kota Bharu to Penang was awesome, they only had 3 seats across instead of four and they were like big reclining armchairs. It was proper luxury! It was really nice after some of the horrible buses we've been put on so far! You do end up shivering as the air con is so cold but that's what jumpers are for. The bus from Penang to Kuala Lumpur was even better - the seats even had pop up foot rests. I love Malaysian buses.
Anyway, the trip to KL took about 6 hours in comfortable seats and we had already decided to stay in Chinatown, the main backpacker area. 2 guesthouse workers grabbed us as we got off the bus and started walking us to their places, which happened to be about 3 doors apart. We got the tiniest room we've had so far in a nice guesthouse 5 mins walk from the bus. If i lay on the bed I could touch each wall haha. The guy that dragged us there from the bus station happened to have lived in Killarney for nearly 3 years, he had a Kerry accent and everything it was great! And he said 'like' after most sentences. It made me laugh.
We had 3 days in KL and as we arrived early we decided to have a wander about for the evening. We ended up spending hours wandering around another massive shopping centre when we originally just went there to check cinema times for the next day. We were starved after walking around - even though it was inside we must have walked for miles! Ryan treated me to dinner at Papa John's Pizza as a belated anniversary dinner, seeing as our actual one was a bit useless haha. We ate what was classed as a set meal for 4 people and waddled home.
Thursday was Ryan's birthday so we went out looking for a present which he never got. Sorry Ryan. We spent more hours walking around shops in KL's main shopping area and went to the cinema. 2012 was released that night and I'd promised to take him so we went to the cinema in Times Square shopping centre for the 7.30 show. We got there and it had sold out already... oops. There were shows at 11.30 with some seats available, but instead of waiting around we decided to try a cinema we'd seen about 10 mins away. We waited in the slowest queue in history at the Pavilion cinema and were told when we got to the front that there were only front row seats left that night and for every show the next day. It's a disaster movie with loads of special effects so we didn't want front row, we wouldn't have been able to see it all! The guy didn't even look at the seating plan, so either he was lying, he was psychic or out of 6 queues he happened to be the one who sold all of those seats and therefore knew this without checking. My vote is that he was lying. I couldn't be bothered arguing with some rude man who clearly didn't want our money so we went back to the Times Square cinema and booked seats for the next night. It was cheaper there and the man at the counter was very nice. We were planning on going to Planet Hollywood as a birthday treat but it had shut down, so we got the tube out to Hard Rock Cafe instead. The place needs to be renamed Bland Rock Cafe. The music was pretty terrible and I'd never even heard of the bands who's memoribilia we were sitting in front of haha. They did bring on some live music later who were pretty good but by no means hard rock. We both had to send back our meals because they were cold, but once we got hot food it was nice. I had a very large beefburger and Ryan had beef brisket, followed by an enormous chocolate brownie sundae (ie birthday cake) between us. The cake cost almost as much as my main course... It was a fun night though - hopefully Ryan felt better about getting so old by the end of it haha.
On Friday we wandered around KL some more. We decided to go up the Petronas Twin Towers that day to view the city from the sky bridge, but the tickets were on a first come first serve basis and were all gone when we got there! We used the toilet instead. It was quite an impressive toilet at least, it had an attendant and hand creams and all of that.
We finally saw 2012 that night, last night. The effects were really good but the story was predictable. What else can you expect from an American distaster movie? It was entertaining but don't think I'll watch it again... The highlight of the day was going to Kenny Rogers' Roasters for dinner. That's Kenny Rogers the country singer, god knows what he's doing with a chain of roast chicken restaurants in Malaysia. The whole restaurant was full of Kenny pictures, album covers and gold disks and the music was Kenny's back catalogue. It was great! Ryan had a quarter roast chicken with 3 sides (and one free because they got one wrong) and for some reason a muffin that they give with the set meals. I have no idea why you get a vanilla, chocolate or banana muffin before your roast chicken meal. I had a chicken sandwich as I wasn't that hungry and there was only a small sprinkling of chicken in the centre of it. I'm going to send a complaint to Kenny Rogers himself about the lack of chicken in the 'chicken' sandwiches. I'm sure he'd be disgusted that they're befouling his name like that.
After our chicken we went back to the hostel for an early night, we had a bus booked to Mersing to get the ferry to Tioman Island this morning. It was another comfortable (slighty less luxurious) bus journey for 6 hours. We got here and it's raining again. We had planned to get the afternoon ferry to Tioman so we could be out on a lovely island again and away from the cars and air con of the city but when we got to the ticket office the guy told us they don't go in the afternoons at this time of year - it's low tide. Oh well. We've got a nice room for the night and there's nothing to do in this town so we took a walk down the filthy grey beach by the jetty, in the rain, had a slice of cake and came to this internet cafe.
The weather reports says it will be raining on Tioman for the whole 5 days we had planned there, but maybe they're all wrong...