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Goodbye Malaysia!

MALAYSIA | Tuesday, 19 February 2013 | Views [613]

The last time I wrote, we were on our way to the bus station to catch a bus to Penang in the north of Malaysia. It turned out to be way easier said than done. When we got to the bus station, we went down to the terminals below the station to wait for our bus and it was complete mayhem! There were roughly five guys with walkie-talkies moving groups of people from one end of the terminal to another,  while other men crowded around them trying to find out where they were supposed to go. When the buses arrived, everyone crowded the bus doors and pushed and shoved to get it. It was definitely not the Canadian way to do things, and after we found a place to stand, it ceased being a stressful situation, and actually became quite humorous. For the first two hours at least. Our bus was supposed to arrive at 3:30 and get us to Penang around 8:30pm. At around 5:30, another passenger asked the security guards when our bus was coming as he was annoyed at having to wait 2 hours already. The man with the walkie talkie came up and said it would be there by 6. And then at 6 he said 6:30. "It's on its way, but it won't be here until 7" and so on and so on until about 8:00pm when we finally got to push and shove our way to our seats. We didn't make it to our hotel until about 1am, and luckily there was a nice cab driver who knew where our hotel was on the mainland, and we were relieved to see the reception at our hotel was open 24 hours a day. 
The next day, we went to the island to try to find a hostel, for the next couple nights which also proved to be quite the ordeal. It was another long process as we had to push and shove and eventually run, to get on the ferry. Finally, we made it to the island and found a cheap hostel on the main street which was backpacker central (in a good way). The next couple days (after the horrid ferry ride again with our big packs) we spent exploring the beauty of the city. Georgetown on Penang is a UNESCO world heritage site, because it was settled by the British and all the heritage buildings and fort continue to be preserved. It is also known for its aspects of religious harmony, as Hindu temples, Churches, Mosques and Buddhist temples exist all on the same streets within blocks of each other. Penang is also known as the food capital of Malaysia. We experienced that portion of Penang at a food market called "Red garden" which was the biggest food market we had been to yet. We ordered about 4 or 5 small dishes so we could try as much as we good. Some of the dishes included dumplings, Chee Cheong Fun (gross!), Filipino lamb, and Thai special fried ribs. 
On one of the days we went up to Penang hill where we squished into a train and rode up 6 km above the city. The air up there was cooler than in the city and we stayed up there  (avoiding the thieving monkeys) until sunset and watched the city below light up. Because of Chinese new year, we could see fireworks in the different parts of the city which was really cool to see so high up. 
We then walked to the Kek Lok Si temple right beside the hill. It is the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, and for Chinese new year they allow people to tour through it until midnight. The temple was beautifully decorated with thousands of lights, and it made me feel nostalgic for going to see Christmas lights with my family when I was a kid and the new tradition with my sister to go see Christmas lights on boxing day. Once again we squished into a little cable car to go visit the giant statue of Kuan Yin (wiki says she was a boddisatva) which was filled with more prayers, rituals and beauty. Throughout the whole temple, it was so interesting to see all the Chinese and Buddhist traditions and to see so many people partaking in them. It was a beautiful temple made even more beautiful by all the lights and all the worshippers.
The next day, we went to Batu Ferringi, a beach on the island. When we arrived we thought it was quite funny because there were men on the beach with whistles yelling at each other and trying to organize where people were going to sit on rented beach chairs, which was kind of like the hilarious bus station situation all over again. The beach was very picturesque and it was nice to relax after the hustle and bustle of travelling. 
On our bus back from the beach we ran into our Quebecker friends we met on the Night safari in Teman Negara. It was so great to see them again so we decided to have dinner with them that night. They took us to a spectacular restaurant and overall it was really nice to hang out with some friendly and similar people. They are doing about the same trip as us, and are currently in Thailand, so we're hoping to meet up with them again. 
We had to stay an extra night in Penang as we wanted to go to the Island of Langkawi, but all the ferries were booked up. So we walked through little India and checked out the old town hall, and Fort Cornwallis, the original British settlement points in Peneng.  We had to hide in an ancient building originally used for gun storage as a monsoon-like rainstorm came on suddenly. We still ended up getting drenched on the way home. When we got home we were lucky because the hostel was offering a free buffet to celebrate Chinese new year. We tried some really good home-made Malaysian food and were really appreciative of the hospitality of the people. 
We left the next day, and took a short ferry to Langkawi. As Langkawi is mostly a resort island, we spent most of our time on the beach save for the last day where we took a 5 hour kayak trip. We work up early and picked up three more couples and heading to the Kilm Geopark. Before we got into the kayaks, our guide took us to  a bat cave and showed us the company fish farm where I got to touch a stingray! We then hopped in the kayak and I was surprised at how well we did. At least we weren't like the two honeymooners on the trip who kept getting stuck and couldn't go very fast at all. The guide took us to a lookout to see the Brahman-kites, or the giant eagles native to Langkawi. Our guide explained to us that other companies in the park feed the eagles chicken skin in order to attract them for the tourists. Their company refuses to do it as they are an eco friendly company, and they see the feeding as wrong because it essentially turned the eagles into fat pigeons and they no longer hunt. It was nuts to see how many eagles show up when a boat arrives, waiting for their daily meal. It's also very sad as it's really disruptive to the eco-system. I'm glad we went with a company that saw a problem with it, and refused to do it. 
We then took a quick swim and continued through the narrow alleys of the mangroves where we saw a grey viper. Lastly, our guide explained to us how the trees in the mangroves grow sprouts in their branches and then drop them in the water hoping they'll eventually root. Our guide collected some stems that didn't root and let us plant them in the mud, to contribute to the reforestation of the mangroves. You could already see some of the previous stem sprouting into luscious trees. It was a great day. I can't seem to get enough of the jungle!
After a delicious dinner and a drink on the beach, we decided that instead of going to Trang in Thailand, we were going to go to an island called Lipe to meet our friends Kim and James. So we left for Thailand at 9am. Hello Thailand!

Tags: beaches, ferry, food, kayaking, malaysia, unesco

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