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Heather Nova part one

MALAYSIA | Monday, 11 May 2009 | Views [335]

I arrived on the island of Penang not in George Town as I was told when I brought the ticket the day before but at a bus station some place else. Ignoring the bleating of the various taxi drivers I stood in line and waited for bus 401 to arrive and take me the 8km into the centre of George Town

(The four hour ride from Kuala Lumpur was easy and the coach was the most comfortable one I’ve ever been on. There were only 3 seats across and each one was a cheap knock off of a lazy boy chair!)

George Town was an outpost of the East Indian Company and then even more English people turned up. The guy that 1st arrived and set up camp had a son who in turn went on to found another town, it’s called Adelaide in Australia

The old city centre is now world heritage listed and comprises of a china town, a little India and lots of small terraced shops lining the streets. There is a distinct lack of pavements. Dotted around the town are various “local government” buildings from the 1800’s and of course a fort complete with canons!

I’m staying on the main gringo street in a room that can only really be described as a cubicle. There is a staircase from street level that leads to a large 1st floor landing that doesn’t go anywhere else. So what to do with the space? Install several cubicles for us single travellers to stay in….great?

Later on in the early evening I was enjoying a cold beer when I saw that at the next table was someone who looked just like the paedophile Garry Glitter…maybe it was him, maybe not. If it wasn’t then the guy really should consider changing his “look”!

In the morning I got on a bus to get on a train. The bus dropped me off in the small town of Air Hitam. After a 10 minute walk around I headed to the train station.

Now, in Penang, it’s hot and you know how much the English like their hill stations….

Penang hill is just over 800m above sea level and it used to be the place where the island’s governor lived. In the late 1800’s a vehicular railway was built from the valley to the top. However they got the gradient wrong and the steam engine couldn’t cope. In the early 1900’s they got the Swiss involved and by the 1920’s it was al working.

The ride up was in 2 stages and by the time I got to the top the temperature had dropped by 10 degrees, so it was a cool 29 at the top…lovely!
On the top of the mountain there is a Hindu temple, a mosque, a hotel or two and some tourist tat stands. You can, if you like have a cream tea (yes you can!!!) complete with scones, thick cream and fresh strawberries…and no, I didn’t

Interesting fact number 175: the top of Penang hill was levelled off to enable even more strawberry cultivation back in the 1800’s.

On my last day on the island of Penang I got on a bus to the end of the line. There was a village…I walked around it and then got back on the bus to George Town.

If, unlike me, you don’t have much time in Malaysia give the island of Penang a miss!

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