....South of the border
Firstly big apols for not updating over the last couple of weeks... I have actually attempted to do so on three occasions and three times my work was lost just as I was hitting save. The internet connection speeds in Maylasia are really slow and it's making keeping up the blog very hard work indeed.
Anyway will try again, keeping my fingers crossed and the text brief.
So I crossed the border from Thailand into Malaysia with little trouble. I've never done an overland border crossing before and didn't realise what a complex procedure it would be; all filing out of the mini-bus to go through visa checks out of Thailand and having to answer questions then back in the bus onto the next stage where you have to do it all again to get into Malaysia and takes your bags through with you and everything!
It wasn't the most pleasant journey actually because I was again in a cramped hot minibus and to top it off there was this American guy who kept talking politics with me even though I never actaully confessed what my old job was. He wasn't a fan of Hilary Clinton so you can guess what side he was coming from.
Anyway, my first thoughts of Malaysia were that is seemed very English with all the signs in English and the roads seeming very orderly etc and everything seeming quite civilised.
It was only a short ferry ride over from Butterworth to Penang - an ex British colonial base which was very big on the world spice trade market apparently but is now basically a tourist destination revolving around the capital Georgetown and some beach resorts along the coast.
Georgetown had a kind of faded glamour I supopse but under the surface it was actually very seedy and I didn't really feel comfortable there. Plus all the men sit in groups and make comments and approach you continually as you're walking down the street so I didn't apprecitate this much at all. My 'hotel' was pretty grim too, and I soon discovered it was right in the heart of the red light district, so I wasn't inclined to hang around for long.
Still I did the main sights around the city and the next day went up Penang Hill which is where the wealthy Penang types used to dwell - and presumably still do. You can either do a three and a half hour trek to the top or get a funicular train (which still takes half an hour); I went for the latter. It's 750m above sea level at the top and you suddenly find yourself in rainforest vegetation with amazing views over the city so that was rather nice.
After two days though, I was happy to move out to the main beach resort of Batu Ferrenghi, only a half an hour bus ride along the coast. It was nice, and a welcome respite from Georgetown, but to be honest, after Thailand, nothing jaw-dropping. Plus there were jelly fish in the sea and I got stung after my first 10 minutes, it really hurt!
Also, alas, not very single backpacker friendly. I stayed in a guesthouse which seemed the best choice but it was all couples - rather like my experiences in Thailand. Still I decided it would simply have to be a realxing and tan boosting stop and despite rain at some point over all the three days I was there (when it hadn't rained once in the last 6 months) I did catch some rays, and read, lots and lots....
Lots of yummy food to be had but again I think Thailand set a very high standard and Malaysian fayre, which incorporates a lot of Indian and Chinese food is a lot less healthy and extremely meat based. They also enjoy their cakes and sweet breads here which because they simply were't available Thailand I had managed without fine but am struggling to resisit the temptation now...
And there were more cakes (and super tea) waiting for me at my next stop in the Cameron Highlands, so I will add an entry on that asap.
Thanks for bearing with me!