Malaysia. Sounds like the name of an interesting bird, right? Well, she is. Malaysia an evolved collision of old world traditions, escalating religion, and new world fast paced desires. Our journey by train from Surat Thani, Thailand took us first to Butterworth, an industrial city with seemingly nothing in it, located in North Malaysia. Why stop there? Well, it is the gateway to Penang. From Butterworth train station, we walked to the ferry point and 15 minutes later, we were on our way to Penang. Penang is where this whole “interesting bird” shenanigans began. As we came into port, we walked outside the transit area to find what looked like an old version of London; London-esque architecture with Mandarin shop and hotel signs and red buses (too bad they were not doubly stacked). Not what we expected. And then, as we always do, we began to look for our hostel. Our hostel of choice this time was Kimberly House on Kimberly Street (go figure). This was the first time that Rob and I booked dormitory rooms, simply because the cost of traveling in Penang (hostel wise) was a lot more expensive than what we had been paying previously. It worked out splendidly. The location was great and we only had one other female staying in our room, all for half the costs of competing hostels in town. But, in any event, back to the “interesting bird” part of this story. Penang has a long turbulent history. The short version is, trade began with the Ming dynasty back in the 15th century, it was colonized by the British in the late 1700s, played a role in both world wars, eventually gained independence and today, is an amusing mix for the curious traveler. A backpacker in Penang will first set their sights on visiting Georgetown, situated on the Northeast corner of the island. Georgetown draws in us backpackers for its British architecture, Chinese shophouses, street art, street food, and numerous places of worship of various religions. This appeal is also why UNESCO deemed it a World Heritage Site. I can’t even count the number of selfies I saw taking place.
Our first few days in Penang, we mostly ventured around Georgetown and since renting a motorbike is impossible in Malaysia, we settled for long transit buses. Georgetown is spread out quite a bit, but by bus, you can pretty much see everything of interest, from Buddhist temples, to stunning landscapes to Chinese temples and Mosques. Only the final couple of days did we discover that the busses also ran to the opposite side of the island, offering beautiful beaches, cliffs and street drinking.
After our 6 day stay in Penang, we headed further south, by train, to Kuala Lumpur. I was really excited to adventure around KL, for friends of mine from my graduate study days raved over the city. After a few days in KL, I’d have to say that their raving was overcooked. It is really just a big city, and if you are not into shopping and expensive activities, it is not for you. The one thing I did love above KL is previewed in the photo featured on this post. The red diner, on the corner of the China town. Rob and I stayed at a hotel in China town and every morning, passing the array of fluorescent lights and ridiculously bright home decor, we came to eat at our local diner. These moments, I loved. Watching locals read their papers in various languages, drink their coffee, eat their morning soup and be off for their day. Leaving our morning coffee and breakfast, feeling like a true local.
We only got to see a small flash of her beauty, but she remains a beautiful bird.