Travel Journal

Penang Island

(Thursday 21 May 2009) by Dopps Family
Sri Sayang Resort, Penang Island, Malaysia (May 19-26)
On Monday, May 18th, we woke early after a short and restless night of sleep and dragged out bags and children to the KTM train station in Johor for the day-long journey to Buttersworth, a town in the North of Malaysia on the shore across from the island of Penang. We opted for 2nd class seats (half the price of first class) which was a good deal since we had an entire back half of the train car to ourselves. Except for the fact that both doors didn’t work on our car (they kept sliding open and close all the time) so part of the time you could hear the sound to the movie and the other half of the time all you’d hear was the clanking of the tracks. It’s a bit ironic to watch a DVD movie on a new 32” Samsung LCD but cringe when going to the smelly and soaked bathrooms which empty directly onto the tracks. Here in Malaysia bathrooms are a bit mysterious and frightening. There’s always a mystery, sometimes its wondering if there is any toilet paper or if there’s a sitting toilet rather than a squatter, or if it’s a sitting toilet do you really want to sit on it? Chances are you’ll be disappointed with whatever you stumble into. However, I must say that compared to rural China, which are just communal squatters with short walls (if any at all) separating you from others taking a dump next to you, Malaysian bathrooms are still better.
We passed through many cities, including Kuala Lumpar (which is not very impressive), on our way to Buttersworth, the last stop which we arrived at around 9:30pm. Tuesday morning Anisa woke up with a 101.4 degree fever. As a parent you start thinking the worst possible scenarios; perhaps she’s got Malaria or maybe that new H1N1 Influenza A virus, or some other nasty bug along the way. Hoping for the best we loaded her up with children’s Tylenol and headed to the ferry terminal and crossed over to Penang Island, grabbed another taxi in Georgetown and drove to the north side to Batu Ferringhi, a resort area along the nicest beach on the island. Following the Lonely Planet recommendations, we first looked at one of the local guest houses right on the beach, but for RM100-120 all they offered was a tiny room with 2 small beds and no fridge or bath (just a shower in the toilet closet). Our taxi driver recommended an apartment closer to the larger hotels which was only RM108 for a 2-bedroom, 2 bath including kitchen and living room. Since the place has a nice pool and only a short walk to the beach we decided to take if for a flat rate of RM100 per night for the whole week (they also throw in utensils, microwave and toaster for free when you rent for the week) – so for $200 (US dollars) we have a place for an entire week – that’s cheap! The food here is also quite cheap. For less than $6 you get a 3-course dinner plus ice cream for dessert or $3 for a 2-course lunch also with ice cream, and, praise the lord, we can pay for laundry by the kilo (only RM5 or $1.50 per kilo) compared to South African lodges or Singapore which wanted $1 per pair of underwear. By Wednesday morning Anisa’s fever had gone down to 99 and by the afternoon was entirely gone and she was doing much better. Hopefully she just picked up a little bug or a cold and nothing worse.
The weather here in Malaysia is sticky and hot and never seems to cool off below the mid 80s in the evenings and the humidity is anywhere in the 80 to 90 percent range. Luckily though on Penang Island there is a cooler breeze from the ocean and the mornings and evenings are actually bearable to sit outside, especially when next to a pool with a cold beer in a frosted mug. But during midday it’s hot and the sand on the beach is too hot to stand or walk on for more than a several seconds as you hop from the shade of an umbrella or palm tree to the wet sand at the water’s edge.
Thursday, May 21st.
Yesterday we decided to lounge by the pool of the 7 star Shangri Las Resort, the very luxurious hotel between us and the beach. Since we are Westerners they assume we are staying there and brought us plush pool towels and asked if we wanted foot massages! I could really get used to this place except for the fact my 1 Corona cost RM28, that’s over $8! I can get the same beer in a frosted mug at our hotel for RM7.50, or a little over $2. Then again we heard the rooms at the Shangri Las run around RM1000 per night.
Anisa is doing much better but now Cianna and I have sore throats and I’m sure I have a cold – which sucks when you’re wanted to enjoy a beach vacation. Our plans are to explore more of the island and the temples and gardens up in the hills. The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia is on one of the hilltops and is a must see.

  • The Great Escape by Ron


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