We were on the bus at 8.30am on our way to Penang. Along with us was a guy we had met at our hostel from Southampton. Ketul had pre-booked his accommodation but we decided we would stick to what we usually do and look around at a couple of places when we get there and try and find the best value.
Penang was to be our final destination in Malaysia and planned to stay about a week here. Penang is a fairly large island off the North West Malaysian coast. However, there is no need to get a boat to this island as its close enough to the mainland to be connected by a bridge - a pretty long bridge. We were heading to the capital of Penang, the town of Georgetown, but as our long-haul bus didnt take us directly there we waited about 45mins for a local bus that was heading to Georgetown. Our first impression of Penang was that it was extremely built up and populated. We assumed that the other side of the island would tell a different story. So as we found accommodation 'Love Lane Inn' on Love Lane (it wasn't anywhere near as romantic as it sounds) we planned to rent out another motorbike the next day to set about exploring the island. The advantage here was that a day hire would be a full 24hours and we managed to find a place that hired their bikes for 20 ringgit (4pounds) a lot better deal than Cameron Highlands which was 35 ringgit for 5 hours!
We picked up our bike at 9.30am and set about our day of exploration, but it was a whole different experience than that of CH. Firstly we had to navigate our way out of Georgetown. A complication made by four lane one way roads, and when I knew we had to be turning right up ahead and I was in the first lane it was a struggle to weave within the hundreds of cars and what felt like thousnads of other motorbikes. After about an hour we were finally out of Georgetown driving down quieter roads that was skirting the coastline around Penang. Just as we thought the day would get better we were pulled over by Malaysian police. No I wasn't speeding or doing a wheely, they were on the side of the road doing spot checks. Luckily I had my driving license on me though they seemed troubled that neither of us had our passports on us. They must have seen we were charming and well behaved young Brits and let us on our way.
As we rode around the island we only made a couple of stops. 1 was a spice shop that had a restaurant up in the hills, it was quite posh with the seating overlooking the sea and the prices being triple what we normally pay for food, but we stuck with a fairly basic continental breakfast costing 20RM for both of us, as much as what our 24hour bike rental had cost! Though the service was good on Fay's part because while i was off to the loo our Nepalese waitor asked Fay, "Are you rich?" where Fay replied, "No not at all, we are backpacking and when I go home I will have no money", but the waitor replied, "No I don't believe you, you must be rich, you are so beautiful". I don't think Fay knew whether she should have been really flattered or wierded out. I told her she should definately be flattered and of course I told her how true the comment is ;)
Driving on a couple more hours we had stopped to look at views, explore a tropical fruit farm and stopped in a town to get money out. Oh and this was the first moment we experienced that when an ATM is being serviced on for whatever reason they have two guards with full on massive shot guns! We didn't hang around.
Our last stop before heading back to Georgetown was to the biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Indeed it was an impressive sight on the outside which you can see in our photos, however the interior was spoilt by SEVERAL souvenir shops within the spiritual temple. We even noticed one of them selling 'Finding Nemo' teddies! That, as well as the few beggers in the heart of the temple lessened the experience for us, but we still had a great appreciation for the history and architecture of the building.
Driving for a while and feeling the effects of being exposed to the sun we decided we would head to our hostel. This time it was twice as busy in Georgetown, Fay couldn't even bring herself to watch as we were surrounded by so much traffic. But as I carefully navigated my way back I was sure to take it slow and pull over to the side when I was ever unsure. I didn't fancy the idea of driving through Georgetown at night so we took it back at about 6ish and claimed back our deposit.
By the end of this day we had felt that we didn't want to stay as long as we originally planned. There wasn't much more to see in Penang and it didn't have any unique charm about it. It was just good for food and shopping malls. We planned to leave and set off to cross the Thai border in a couple of days. During this time we met a guy in our hostel from Manchester. His parents are Malaysian but he had been in England all his life. He took us to a mall and showed us some Malay food we had not yet experienced. One of the foods was this white doughy ball that had different fillings. Some contained meat and egg whereas the sweet ones had custard, Malaysian jam, peanut sauce - they were all yummy!
Really the only other thing I can think of to talk about is the amazing lightening show we experienced. It was like a strobe light up in the sky, it was so constant. It was so impressive that we decided to walk to the water front to get a better view. Here, we were able to catch forks crawling across the entire sky. Even though I managed to catch a photo of one fork it doesn't do the big ones we saw any justice at all!