16 November 2012

Penang and Kuala Lumpur

After Cameron highlands we continued our way to the coast and the island of Penang. Let's just make it clear, that when I say "island", I'm expecting not to see sky scrapers or constant traffic jams. I'm expecting not to choke on exhaust fumes all the time. I'm expecting that there will be a decent possibility to go and soak your toes in the sea, if you're so inclined. Well, sadly Penang managed to fill all the no-no's and not to deliver on the good aspects.

Not my idea of an "island"

We'd booked a room in Georgetown, at Moon tree 47. The place was somehow very Berlinesque, cozy and small. The room was tiny and we shared the toilet and shower with other guests, but that wasn't a huge bother, as there were 3 rooms in the hostel and we rarely saw anyone else. As it would turn out, the guesthouse was the only thing that we didn't have that many complaints about.

Chinatown... no, wait, it was Georgetown

Oh Penang, what should I say? You were hugely underwhelming. Noisy streets with constant traffic jams, not a lot to see or do (if you're not into shopping in huge malls or buying saris and other Indian clothing) and just all in all somehow very unappealing. Getting around was difficult as the buses (that ran seemingly without any schedule) and taxis were constantly stuck in the traffic jam.

As all the reviews seem to be raving about the food in Penang, we though that at least we could sit somewhere and stuff ourselves with excellent dishes. Well, naah. Don't take me wrong, we did eat good food, but I wouldn't say there was anything special about it: all the same things could be found in other, nicer locations as well.

Too much of everything and traffic jam pt. 1

So what's there to do in Penang? Apart from shopping at huge malls, not much. There's an authentic hawker stall food market on Gurney Drive which is supposedly the place to be in the evening, and we did manage to get there on our last evening after giving up on the idea of getting up on Penang hill (couldn't get there, too much traffic). Yeah, the food was good, but again, would I recommend Penang just for that? No way.

Hawker food

To be fair, we did manage to find one nice cafe/restaurant on the same street as our guesthouse, and there were two nice buildings along the seaside. But we still just had to leave for Kuala Lumpur a day ahead of schedule as I couldn't take trying to dodge cars and breathing exhaust fumes anymore. Yes yes, I knew that it would be even worse in KL, but at least there it was expected as it's such a huge city.

Traffic jam, pt. 2

The miracle of an empty street


Nice building #1

Nice building #2

To sum up Penang: Was it all bad? Well, no. Would I go again? No. Would I recommend it? No. That's that.

So we took the (surprisingly not ice-cold) bus and drove to KL. As we arrived one day ahead of schedule, we of course didn't yet have a booking at our hotel of choice, Furama Bukit Bintang. A bit travel weary, running a light fever and anxious to just go get a decent shower (the idea of changing clothes would've been nice as well, but as the laundry place in Penang decided that our laundry wasn't worth doing, we didn't really have that much clean to wear). So after hearing that there was only an executive suite available and the hotel was otherwise fully booked (it was Saturday evening...) I decided to splurge for the night and took the room. It wasn't huge or very luxurious, but it had a separate bedroom and a decent desk which came in handy as then plan was to work the whole week, and it turned out that the hotel people were kind enough to let us stay in the same room although we only paid for a normal deluxe room for the rest of our stay. And it had the *best shower in the world*. I kid you not, I've never experienced a nicer shower. Seriously!

Our digs

Our digs #2

Lovely, wide bed and even lovelier pillows <3

Posh toilet and the most awesome shower ever

So as we were now treated like important, wealthy people for the one night, we went to take advantage of the complimentary cocktail and snacks lounge up in the 25th floor. The food was really good, drinks and wine tasty and the view was extremely nice. It sure would be cool to be rich all the time ;).

Executive nibblies

Spot the Cameron highlands strawberries in the background

Weird Petronas/restaurant reflection combo

Dinner with a view

The KL week for us was slotted for work, so we didn't really do much. I went and saw a dentist as I thought it'd be wiser to get my cavity fixed there than on Koh Phangan, and was treated very well indeed on a clinic in Petaling Jaya. I also drove somewhere quite far with a taxi to go and shop at this tiny crafts store that I'd found in the internet. Of course I then randomly stumbled upon a similar shop at a nearby shopping mall two days after... We didn't do clothes shopping here either, although that seemed to be the thing most people did, as it was raining most of the time. We didn't even get to go see the Petronas towers up close as it was raining heavily on all the nights that we had plans to go there...

The highlight of my KL experience were Body Combat and Body Balance classes at a Fitness First studio. God, I'd missed that! Even though it was the loudest Combat class ever (small, echoing room, shouting instructor, bad mike and low-quality speakers), it was the most awesome thing in a short while, sportswise. And there was a sauna! Bliss.

This it what residential KL mostly looks like

Petaling Jaya looked quite nice

Testing the new wide-angle lens

To top it all, I nearly missed my flight back home as I idiotically didn't check if there was a different terminal/airport for the low cost airlines like Air Asia that I was flying. Needless to say there was, and after a frustrating taxi ride to the KLIA airport (the driver took a wrong turn twice. On a motorway with clear signs. How is that even possible?) I of course found out that I was at a wrong place. I was supposed to be at LCCT (low cost carrier terminal). I only had 20 ringit left and I was sure that I'd not be able to afford a taxi, so I found a bus, sat down and bit my nails and prayed fervently for it to take off. It did eventually, just to bump into a car in a roundabout close to my terminal. As I was almost sure that the check-in had already closed and I had literally no time to spare, I left the driver to sort things out with the car owner, jumped out of the bus in the middle of the roundabout and hitchiked into a taxi where this lovely lady graciously agreed to let me accompany her to the terminal (and didn't even take any money for it!). Of course the check-in was already closed, but there were luckily kind people coming my way from left and right that day, and the check-in lady took my bag and delayed the flight for my sake. It was supposed to be delayed only for 30 minutes but in the end it left 3 hours late... But I did manage to get back to the island and didn't even get eaten by our vicious guard dogs on my way up our hill. Pheew!

The favourite Malaysian past time: shopping

So all in all, KL didn't become our favourite city, and although we didn't dislike it as much as Penang, I don't think we'll go back unless we need to stay overnight in transit. The people in Malaysia were really nice and  friendly though, so maybe some more rural areas would be worth checking out.

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