Monday, August 27, 2007

Penang - Disappointment All Over!!

We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Penang about a fortnight ago. W planned for this trip several weeks ago and had made reservation at a beach resort there. Our intention was primarily to visit Fahrul's parents in Perlis, further north of Penang, and spend the rest of the time leisurely in Penang. By coincidence Ayako, the daughter of a very close Japanese friend came alone for a week's holiday with us from Kobe, Japan. We took her with us to Penang and made reservation for a second room at the resort. The resort was full on the first night, so we hod no choice but to stay in another hotel closeby on the first night.

We left PJ early on Saturday morning. Just about an hour out on the double lane highway we were caught in a traffic 'snarl' moving at a snail's pace inching our way at one car space at a time. True to the habit of our local motorists, the two lanes became four and cars changing lanes often, God knows for what reasons, when it was pretty obvious that all lanes were moving at the same pace. All that could be gained was no more than one or two car lengths of space!! Huh, never mind others, I want to go first attitude shone around us!! One good hour later we came to the place causing the traffic snarl. A heavily laden 12 wheeler lorry was blocking the major lanes of the two lane highway leaving a small gap for just one lane of vehicles to pass through at the side. The two front wheels of the lorry were broken with obvious signs of its chassis scraping the road surface some distance. A sign of the lorry having been driven at high speed, skidding and hitting the centre divider. The four rows of cars had to squeeze into one lane through that small gap left open to traffic. The rescue people were already there then to help clear the grieving lorry but was no help to the crawling traffic just then.

We continued our drive to Penang, stopping at several rest areas to rest our legs and ease ourselves. I bought several types of cut local fruits for us to munch in the car, partly for me to keep awake while driving and partly for Ayako to see and taste the local fruits. We arrived at the bridge at about 1.30pm to cross to Penang. We drove around Georgetown a little bit and then headed for our hotels located in Tanjung Bunga touristy beach area, had lunch in the hotel and rest for a while. I managed to catch about an hour sleep. We went out for another drive around the island in the evening and had dinner at the famous seaside foodstalls in Gurney Drive.

We had our meals at several places in Penang throughout our stay. We tried almost all the 'so-called' Penang food but it was disappointment all around. Even those at Gurney Drive were not the same anymore. The Penang food in KL or PJ are way much better than what we had in Penang, in terms of taste, food presentation and also cost!! We could not find the regular food outlets we used to patronise the previous times we were in Penang. They have either closed down or moved to other locations to make way for development. Of course the fancy restaurants serving fancy 'global' food located in the tourist areas were still there but we were not about to get ourselves into these restaurants, no no. Our trip to Penang was not about including food Italian or Western or any foreign style. We wanted local but the local food we had were disappointing to say the least. We visited a food-court, spanking new, clean toilets and wash basins, uniformed stall operators, very modern but...... the food was nothing to shout about. We ate only to satiate our gnawing hunger. We talked to one or two stall operators and found out that most of them were not happy. The rentals are very high and they have difficulties balancing income and expenditure. So something got to give and I guess quality would be the first one.

We drove North to visit Fahrul's parents and on the way we stopped at several places including the famous Pekan Rabu in Alor Star where one can get most local stuff like dresses, handicrafts and also foodstuff. Ram bought some traditional foodstuff, cakes and sweets. We continued our journey and visited the border town of Padang Besar, bordering Thailand, and browsed at the mall and at the stalls that were selling mostly Thai products. The place was crowded with people. We spent about an hour there and then proceed to Fahrul's parent's house. We stayed a while and had heavy afternoon tea. They also served local fruits including the durian. We could see that Ayako was not too comfortable eating the durian but she was ok with the other fruits. We had a good time there and left just before dusk after paying a brief visit to Fahrul's sister who had just recently moved into their new house not too far away from the parents' house. We arrived Penang at about 10pm.

On one of the days we visited the butterfly park. Ayako was not too keen on the beaches and just wanted to visit some place leisurely. She suggested the butterfly park after reading one of the tourist brochures and off we went to the park. It was quite crowded with mostly middle-eastern tourists. Very interesting crowd they were! Loud and noisy as well as not having regard for rules and regulations. Anyway, the park was also interesting. There were butterflies everywhere, of a myriad of coulours and sizes. The plants planted in the park were also of varied species, some ornamental and some with medicinal values. I befriended one of the staff of the park and learnt quite alot on the properties of the various plants available there. He was very helpful and described in detail about the various plants and also on the butterflies and insects. We spent close to three hours in the park.

The rest of our time in Penang were spent whiling away at the stalls and driving around the island. The old buildings in the town centre with their unique architecture of old were still standing and I hope these buildings will be maintained and will not be torn down in the name of development. Never mind that the streets are narrow but since they have changed the traffic flow system it was not much of a hassle going through them. The ferry system plying the channel back and forth Butterworth to Georgetown always remain nostalgic to me and I hope that this means of crossing over will also be maintained except that they have to display clearer road signs to direct traffic to the ferry. I got lost trying to find my way to the ferry coming back from Perlis at night. There were signs directing us to Butterworth but not enough signs to the Ferry. We lost our way and ended taking the bridge instead. It would have been nice crossing over in the ferry at night.

Crossing Over Using The Ferry Service

We noticed that the tourist in Penang were mostly from the middle east and we also noticed that most of the operators of the stalls and night markets could speak some Arabic. I cant help chuckling when I heard Chinese and Indian stall operators speaking Arabic to his potential clients. Will we go back to Penang sometime soon? Not urgently likely. There are no more interesting attractions for us to see in Penang now.........

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya