We really enjoyed the Batu Ferrhingi beach area on the island of Penang. The backpacker beach area had a half-dozen guesthouses along a dead-end road and across the road were a half-dozen bistros right on the beach, along with an internet cafe and a few beach-clothing stalls. The guesthouses and bistros were under enormous old shade trees with monkeys swinging through them eating their fruit and throwing down the rejected pits, sometimes on someone’s unsuspecting head. The bistros’ tables spilled out onto the beautiful sandy beach.
The water was nearly bathtub warm and for three days we had lots of fun swimming until I got stung by a jellyfish. My landlady said to put toothpaste on it and rub it vigorously; then in an hour the stinging was supposed to be gone, but it wasn’t. It took about 24 hours for the effects to wear off—not fun.
Marco went Flying Fish riding, horseback riding, and jet skiing on the beach.
The weather was mostly sunny although at times it would cloud over and sprinkle a little. The food at one of the bistros was surprisingly good—wonderful fresh fish, big prawns and one night I had a spicy clam dish. Marco enjoyed the seafood fried rice.
Originally we had planned to go to the Perenthian Islands on the east coast for snorkeling but given the fun at this beach and the eight hour bus journey required, we decided to forego that and do our snorkeling on an excursion from Batu Ferringhi. It worked out beautifully. The weather cooperated with full sun the whole day. We left at 7:30 AM on a bus, then a boat (two hours) arriving at the Langkawi Coral Platform about 10:30 AM. This big, roofed platform sits over a coral bed next to a small island with a gorgeous beach.
We were outfitted with masks, flippers and life jackets and could walk down the steps right into the water that was swarming with beautiful little fish. (The steps were definitely designed with Grandmas in mind!) I only snorkeled a little bit, but Marco snorkeled for as much time as he could.
We had a big buffet lunch followed by a boat ride to the beach from which we walked out on a long pier while a man fed the Tiger sharks. There were about six of them, about four feet long. Lots of other small fish came too, as did a three-foot long barracuda and a huge grouper. The water was crystal clear so I enjoyed photographing the fish.
We got back to our guesthouse about 6:30 PM.
After four days on Batu Ferringhi Beach we took a bus to Georgetown, the main city on the island of Penang. We stayed in Chinatown and explored the myriad of mosques, Chinese temples, Hindu temples and Buddhist temples.
We even visited the house of Sun Yat Sen who lived here from 1909 to 1911 where he and his followers planned the Canton Uprising.
Although we’re really enjoying Georgetown, it is hot and humid, and after visiting five sites yesterday we were ready to call it quits for the afternoon and took a bicycle rickshaw back to the hotel to rest, rehydrate, and cool off.
Later we visited a shopping center where Marco chose 10 games for his Nintendo DS which were put on a tiny chip and inserted into his Nintendo. This happened just in time as he had finished reading his two books (one was the sixth Harry Potter—the seventh wasn’t available in paperback yet!).
We made a visit to a supermarket in a shopping mall and bought gin (Lemons Gin—never heard of it—they didn’t have any brands that I knew), tonic water and limes (for gin and tonic for me) and Frost rootbeer for Marco. This Muslim country apparently takes a much more lenient view of alcohol consumption than Bangladesh does. Later we ate dinner in a very good Chinese restaurant right near our hotel.
Georgetown is certainly full of new 30-storey buildings but Chinatown is pretty much intact; which is where we’re staying. It still has lots of atmosphere although the tuk tuks that the Lonely Planet said were all over Georgetown aren’t. Not a sign of one. They must have been banned quite recently. The few bicycle rickshaws appear to be only for serving the tourists, not local conveyance. We can see the ocean from out hotel window, in between all the highrises—but that’s progress, I guess.
All for now,