First Stop: Penang, Malaysia

It’s been a week since I got back from my solo trip in Malaysia. Can’t believe a week just flew by and I’m here, back in the Philippines, still alive and still overwhelmed about my achievement. It pays to be curious you know. I’m recharged and I’m ready to face a lot more realities now. I’d like to share a whole lot about my recent trip and my first stop: Penang, Malaysia.

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Penang Island or Pulau Pinang, is located at the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It’s the eight (8th) most populous state in Malaysia (no wonder) and is very diverse in culture, language and religion. I arrived last October 24, 2013, after waiting for 5 hours at the LCCT, KLIA for my flight. The best option was for me to take the plane going there as I was already at the airport. I arrived at 8:15 in the morning and to my surprise, it’s a rainy day in Penang. I didn’t expect the rainy weather, partly because I didn’t check the weather update before I arrived, and mainly because I know Malaysia to have sunny weather.

My misadventures started at the Penang International Airport. As a  tourist, I expected there’d be a lot of people to ask about directions. Sadly, there were none, if not a few. I made my way to the bus stop and waited for Bus 401E that would take me to Georgetown City. I was jittery because there’s no sight of Bus 401E in about 10 minutes. Because I’m not courageous enough to ask people at the bus stop, afraid that they’d put me in danger, I just waited. Luckily, a good man, dressed in suit, approached me to ask where I was going and if I was waiting for the bus. I answered that I was going to the Old Penang Guesthouse in Love Lane, Georgetown City. He was confused because he didn’t know where that was. My heart dropped. Another man, a Filipino (thank God there’s at least one!), treated me to my first bus ride in Penang. Luckily, he was going at the same direction as I was. I insisted on paying the Filipino man 2.70 RM but also insisted that it was okay. The Rapid Penang Bus is like the bus used to transfer passengers to planes in NAIA3. It has designated bus stops along the island. It took me around 30mins to get to the Komtar bus stop where, the Filipino man said, it’ll be easier for me to get to Love Lane. *gathering courage*

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I went down Komtar and bravely asked anyone how to get to Love Lane. Malaysian police told me directions so I thought it was just near..but no IT *clearly* WASN’T. It was an excruciating 20-25 minute walk. I say excruciating because I was already getting the stares and creepy smiles. I was a girl and I was alone, I half expected that.

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It was around 9:30 in the morning and Georgetown is still a quiet place so it’s a bit scary to walk alone. I continued walking, while it was drizzling, to find Love Lane and after an excruciating walk, I arrived at the Old Penang Guesthouse looking haggard and tired. *the backpacker in me screams* The kind receptionist, who happens to be an Indian, allowed me to check-in early. It was 10am.

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I freshened up a bit and found my way to the streets of Georgetown. For those who may not know, Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, named after Britain’s King George III. Together with Malacca, Georgetown is recognized as having unique architectural and cultural landscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia *thanks wikipedia*. Armed with my map, I walked and passed through Lebuh Muntri, to Lebuh Farquhar and then to Masjid Kapitan Keling. I walked along Lebuh Chulia, past Lebuh Kimberly, Lebuh Carnavon, Lebuh Campbell and some small streets they call lorongs. While walking, I kind of thought that the stares were just normal, but then it got scary when men were trying to have casual talk with me. My goal really was to have a taste of Georgetown through their food, but after around an hour and 30 minutes, I went back to the guesthouse. I still can’t let out the adventurer in me, not in Penang!

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I went out again and found myself at the Prangin Mall, near Komtar Station so that’s a 20-25 minute walk *again* from the guesthouse. I ate chicken rice for lunch. It was already scorching hot when I began walking again so I looked for a mall to cool myself. The malls in Georgetown can’t compare to those of HK, SG or some other popular tourist cities. Fair enough, I can say. There are a lot of local brands and local food. The fast food lover in me tried to look for Mcdonald’s, but there was none. Not leaving Prangin Mall without a souvenir, I bought myself a powerbank. The grandpa manning the store was kind enough to explain to me what he thinks the best power bank to buy. I settled for Lelow which costs 99RM. When we were both at the cashier already, grandpa asked if I was Filipina. I answered yes and he said he’s giving me a discount for being one and so I can buy myself another cup of coffee. I got the power bank at 90RM. Thank you Grandpa!

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For dinner, I gathered the courage to explore the hawker stalls at Chulia Street. Like any other city *I guess*, Chulia Street comes alive around night time. Night time in Malaysia is around 7:30 when it’s a bit dark. I say a bit because it really doesn’t go dark until 7:30. And yes! Just the street food I was looking for…there’s lok lok, char kway teow, nasi lemak, bah kut teh everywhere. I stopped by a stall of a grandma and a grandpa selling wan tan mee for 3RM. Because she smiled at me and because she saved me from almost getting bumped by a motorcycle, I bought myself a bowl. Yummy yummy!

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I went back to the guesthouse after to rest. I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night I arrived in KL so I called it a day early. I wanted to gather enough energy for my long bus ride to Kuala Lumpur the next day. Nevertheless, it was a fun first day alone, minus the Indian stares. I got home sick a little bit though but I guess it’s a normal anyway. Good night, Penang.

Kaye

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