December 18, 2004
Jody writes:

See our Penang pictures.

We arrived in Georgetown on the island of Penang on Wednesday, falling foul to a final Thai con. When crossing the Thailand / Malaysia border, the passport control officer who stamped our passports demanded a fee of 20 baht each to let us through. We handed the money over, but were later told we'd been conned - by a man working for the Thai government for pity's sake!

Most people we've met who've been to Georgetown have hated it, but that's probably because they were expecting a beach resort that panders to tourists. What you actually get is a dirty great city squashed into the corner of an island, with few tourists in sight. We love it.

Penang's inhabitants are a nice mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian groups. We've been staying in Chinatown in a vast guesthouse called the Olive Spring run by a friendly Chinese family. Tan - the head of the family - occasionally sits me down to tell me something and though I always expect it to be some ancient oriental wisdom passed down for generations, it usually ends up being some hogwash about the man-eating fish he says he keeps at the back of the guesthouse, or something similar. One of Tan's relatives (who looks like a Chinese version of Jaws from a Bond movie) acts as night security and can be found sleeping in the corridors during the day. It's a nice place (yey!), but we have bed bugs (boo!).

The people in Georgetown are extremely friendly. The island doesn't rely heavily on tourism so there's no real need for the locals to be friendly to us foreigners like there is on the islands off Thailand, but they still go out of their way to make us happy. While waiting for a bus yesterday, a policeman, a lady from a shop and another man in the queue all asked if we needed directions. On a few occassions, we've been the only foreigners in packed Chinese cafes, but the staff still take time to explain what the hell the menu's all about.

While in Penang Museum today, I was chatting about the friendliness of the people here with the Indian security guard. "We are friendly because we all have a passion for Penang," he said. "Even to our most vile enemy, the Japanese, we are polite and smile." During the Japanese occupation of Penang during WW2 the security guard's grandfather was beheaded, I was told.

Yesterday we took a 30-minute train ride up Penang Hill with a girl we'd met called Kate. There's a small village at the top, 2,500 feet above sea level. (Here's a pic of Amy and me at the top). The houses up there are either derelict or owned by rich bastards (the British Empire were the first to build up there, so every house is huge and decadent). The three of us tried to find an apparently beautiful hotel that lays abandonded, but after an hour of walking up and down paths we were only rewarded by the presence of a big dog that chased us back the way we came.

We also tried a canopy walk (which is a bridge made of planks of wood, erected high in the trees and held up by rope). It only took 15 minutes to reach the end, but it was hell. Every step made the bridge wobble and because I'm a glutton for punishment I couldn't help but look down every couple of minutes, before wincing with fear. I took one picture of Amy while up there, but the rest of the time I was too terrified to let go.

Tomorrow we leave for the Cameron Highlands in central Malaysia, where we may meet even more jungle terrors (but hopefully no man-sized venus fly-traps - even Tarzan can't cope with those).

posted at 10:03 PM | link


  • The mossi bite meter continues to rise... the photos get more breathtaking, and the writing from both of you becomes more captivating... it's a real pleasure to tap into this travelog from time to time...
    ...what the heck will you get up to on Christmas Day and New Years Eve, I wonder...
    Whatever you do, have a good one.Lots'n'lots of luv, J,J,J,J and Alan.

    By Blogger Jonathan Ashby, at 8:53 AM  

  • Cheers and Merry Christmas!

    By Blogger Jody, at 3:15 PM  

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Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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