Flowers of Cambodia & Malaysia

Melbourne Time

Malaysia Time

Click On Your Flag To Translate

Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



70. From Green To Dingy

Finding the bus to take me into Georgetown wasn't that difficult and soon I was on my way. A lovely family near me said it was school holidays and they were going to Penang for a few days. They had two children and were from Johor which is the southern most state in Peninsula Malaysia.

Above: Scenes from the bus
There was a fair bit of greenery around - lovely trees and plants - and some interesting buildings. I was quite taken with the "Welcome to Penang Pearl of the Orient" sign which is the top left photo while the photo top right has different shades of green - see how manicured the lawn is? Wonderful isn't it.

Lower left is a group of houses or apartments. The colourful building in the lower right photo is the PSDC (Penang Skills Development Centre) which was the first skills industry-led training centre to be set up in Malaysia in 1989. For those interested, there is more information here.

It had started raining and by the time the bus approached the town area it was coming down in earnest. Asking the bus driver where I needed to get off and checking the map I was almost there. I had pre-booked my accommodation - the photos on the internet looked really nice. The area we were going through didn't seem to be all that nice. My driver pointed and said this is where you want. I looked around and my heart sank. Many of the shops were boarded up and all had security bars - there was a feel of deriliction about the place.

Stepping off the bus, one hand on the suitcase handle, the other battling with a folding brolly, I managed to walk to an undercover area outside some tppe of eating place. It didn't look non too clean. I sat on one of the chairs and with the speed of a racing car driver, the shopkeeper was in front of me. Explaining my situation I politely asked if he minded while I waited for the rain to ease. Hmmm..methinks he would rather I moved on if I wasn't buying anything, but he said alright. When you're in a tight spot, it is always a good idea to keep others happy, so I purchased a bottle of water.

Above: Dingy Streets
This was my view from where I sat - not a very salubrious area by any stretch of the imagination.
One thing that struck me straight away - there were no women - all the people were men. Many were sitting outside on makeshift chairs or wooden boxes. I thought this strange - I mean you always see men and women - and children. That was another thing - there weren't any children either. Only men. I began to feel uncomfortable and opening my brolly, started to walk towards the street where my guesthouse was. There were a lot of men sitting around, their chairs/seats blocking the footpath and not one of them moved - I had to go out onto the road to get past. In one section, it wasn't possible to do this the only way was straight ahead. I stopped, the man looked at me, looked away. I asked him could he move his chair so I could get past. He gave me a bit of a dirty look and eventually moved.

Above: An air of seediness
I turned up Love Lane which is where the Old Penang Guesthouse was located - and started counting the numbers. It looked worse and worse. I couldn't find it - I had a mental picture in my head of the photo of the place on the website and this is what I was seeking. There were some backpackers on the left side so I asked them where the place was. One young chap said "Just there" I looked, "Just where?" I asked him. He came over and walked the way I had come, pointed and said, "There." He asked how long I was staying, "Three nights" I replied, to which he said, "There's nothing here. Get out of Penang as soon as you can."

Entering the guesthouse, it was even worse inside than the outside. The man at the desk - he wasn't, well, let's just say he didn't inspire confidence of respectability. His first words were, "You wanna room?" I gave him my name and asked for Paul (the chap who took my booking) only to be told Paul wasn't there. He seemed very surprised when I informed him I had a booking. I realised later that this probably wasn't the type of establishment where people normally make a booking. I had to find some way to get out of staying there, but I also realised it had to be handled delicately - I could ill afford to antagonise this man.

Noticing the stairs I enquired were the rooms downstairs to which he replied all the downstairs rooms were taken - my room was upstairs. Herein lay my salvation. I have bad knees (arthritis) and climbing stairs is difficult. I explained this and very, very politely asked if he could help me find alternative accommodation with downstairs rooms. He wanted me to go next door to his "friend's place" but I was having none of this. I knew I had to play my cards right - I needed him much more than he needed me. I shamelessly played the "poor little woman" and appealed to his male ego. Yes, dreadful I know, but it was the only thing I could think of to do. He went to ask his "friend" - fortunately they only had upstairs rooms.

Showing him the accommodation brochure I had picked up at the airport, I asked if he could please phone a hotel for me. "Hotel very expensive" he said, "cost maybe 100 ringgit" I was past caring about price, asked again, he phoned the hotel and said, "They are booked out." Pointing to the next one on the list, I asked would he phone this one please? He did, but the answer was the same - they were booked out. This also happend with the third hotel. Beginning to feel that perhaps not everything was above board, I said, "Surely they can't all be booked out. There must be some hotels with a vacancy"

So...I had another quick look at the brochure, and chose one (I liked the name and description) and asked if he would be able to phone just one more for me. I could see he didn't want to, so before he could say no, I appealed to his better nature by saying something like I appreciated his help and he had been very kind and how grateful I was for the trouble he was taking (yeah, I began to lay it on a bit thick! - flattery will get you everywhere!) He relented and picked up the phone. I reminded him, "Tell them I need three nights"

Putting the phone down, he said, "They do have a vacancy" I was so relieved and said something like, "Oh, that's good" but he said, "They only have a vacancy for two nights". My heart sank. Damn, I needed three. Doing a quick think I said, "Oh well never mind, I'll just have to take that" and could he ring them and let them know I'll take the two nights. Quick as a flash he said, "But you need three nights". I looked at him and said that yes I did, but I'll just have to leave a day earlier. Again I thanked him for his kindness - he picked up the phone, made the booking.

I really was very grateful - I had no idea how to get to a better area, no idea which were the better areas, no mobile phone and was completely all at sea. I asked if would be able to call me a taxi. He did and judging by the converstaion the taxi driver was a friend of his. How much for the taxi? Ten riggit. I didn't care if that was the right price or an inflated price, I just wanted to get out of there.

Ten minutes later the taxi came and we were off. As we approached the hotel, I noticed the streets became wider, the buildings cleaner and more spacious and - there were women and children around. Stepping out of the taxi, I looked at the hotel and smiled. I knew I was going to like staying here. Below is the Bayview.

Above: Bayview Hotel, Georgetown

Edited to add:
There are probably 3 main areas to stay in Penang - Georgetown (main town area), Gurney Drive (night food markets & mall shopping) and Batu Ferringhi (beach). Each are quite different, and not walkable between locations. Penang Tourism is a good website.

Yes, the airport is on the south side of the island, but it's easy to get into Georgetown from there. Have a look at the local bus website The bus you want is the 401A. Rapid Bus

Old Penang Guesthouse website says "Old Penang Guesthouse is a beautifully restored pre-war building in the historic city of Penang, Malaysia and still retains much of its old world charm." It is not restored in any way and is seedy looking and dirty. There are no "Inner courtyards for relax and enjoy tea break" and it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the website.
I would not recommend that place to anyone.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...