Category Archives: Penang

Peninsular Malaysia

Getting into Malaysia, I headed straight to Penang, an island in northwest Malaysia. An animated French woman that I met on my mini-bus served as my impromptu guide, and she promptly pointed me in the direction of a nice hotel. Then, she and I went to eat some delicious Indian food (masala thosai served on a large banana leaf which is pictured above) with a very tattooed British/Canadian man. Sometimes while traveling you meet the likes of him. He absolutely disdained anything that most of us deem as a normal life and applauded himself to the point of being really annoying for being a perma-nomad. Now, I love traveling for the experience, the food, the people I meet, but I also love returning home for the comforts provided there, and I don’t think that makes me a boring person or less of a person, but he made it seem that way.

But, once that was done, then I had a knock on my door and my friend Becca and her boyfriend Theis had arrived! It was so great to see a familiar face and Becca and I have traveled a bit together – Mexico, China, roadtrips all over the Midwest – and we are definitely two peas in a pod when it comes to well, a lot of things, but especially traveling. It was great to see her and meet her boyfriend and have some familiar faces for a few days.

Penang was great for the food. My friend Des recommended some great food, on which we imbibed. My favorite, aside from the fact that I can get roti with EVERY single meal, was the cendol, which is made of strands of sweetened pea flour layered on top of crushed ice, coconut milk and a brown sugar syrup. Delicious!

After Penang, we headed to the Cameron Highlands where it was cold at night! This is the closest to the equator I’ve ever been and being able to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt at night was a welcomed change from the unyielding heat and humidity of the lowland regions. We went on a self-guided hike through the area (it seems to be a big tourist destination for locals, as there are loads of tea plantations and strawberry farms). Our hike was great – through the thick of the jungle, and a good reminder how much the Annapurna Circuit is going to absolutely kick my butt. We ate phenomenal street food for dinner – all of our tasting a bit of this and some of that cost us well under $2 per person. We stayed for about $3 a night, so I’m happy to say I haven’t burst my budget yet. The plane flights to Borneo and around Indonesia might be a different story…

After the Cameron Highlands, I left Becca and Theis and headed to Taman Negara, which, at over 130 million years old is the world’s oldest rainforest. I went on a night safari, which was just a couple of us driving around in a 4WD jeep while our guide shone a bright light to stop animals in their tracks. We did see some animals, but it was a tad disappointing. Riding on the back of a jeep through the palm plantations and watching the nearly full moon was an experience unto itself though. The next day, I went hiking in the national park – it boasts the world’s longest canopy walk (40m above ground and 450m long). It was cool and despite its height and length, felt pretty sturdy. The picture is of me on the canopy walkway. It’s disgusting but it’s really hot and I got really sweaty (which you unfortunately can also see). I was going to stay longer here, but internet was really expensive and most activities were expensive (ie visiting a village and using a blowpipe for $13). I’ve done things like that before and opted against it. Instead, I headed to Kuala Lumpur for some good quality internet time. I still have to apply for jobs while I’m traveling and today is a great day for that.

Arrived at Long Last!

After nearly 40 hours of travel (Chicago -> Kansas City -> Los Angeles -> Taipei -> Hong Kong -> Bangkok), I arrived in the heat and humidity of Bangkok. After finding a room for the night ($6), I immediately set off to Khao San Road in search of some banana roti, which is pictured here. This is my favorite Thai snack by far (and totally for the tourists, so its authenticity can be argued, but I don’t care because it’s downright delicious). I ran some errands (bought a guidebook and a jump drive) and had dinner with a guy I met on the bus in from the airport. For all you LOST fans out there, this guy was literally a doppelganger for Charlie from the show. I went to sleep early and woke at an ungodly hour (thank you jet lag). The next day I just chilled in Bangkok with a couple of guys that I met. We spent the day eating, drinking and talking. It was very relaxing and much needed before my 24 hour bus ride to Penang, Malaysia.

Then, I hopped on a night bus to a town in southern Thailand so I could make my way overland to Malaysia. The bus for backpackers is a VIP bus, which means the seats recline, there’s a couple of movies that they show, it’s air-conditioned and it’s filled with other backpackers. Well, the one empty seat on the bus was next to me and a little while into the bus ride, I get woken up with a reserved sign that I’m to place on the seat next me. Fine. Shortly thereafter, the one Thai person gets on the bus and sits next to me. I had my blanket on me, his was behind his head. He grabs my blanket and starts wrapping it around his legs. I tap him on the shoulder and hand him his blanket. He just nods and then puts his blanket over both of us. Fine…. UNTIL I feel his hand pressing against my leg. So I kind of shake it off. Two minutes later, the same thing. And so we repeat the process for quite some time. Finally, he gets a little more aggressive, so I do too in my shaking him off. Finally, I sit up and indicated with my whole arm that he needs to keep to himself in his seat. After a bathroom stop at a non-descript locale, I make sure to take my own blanket. Long story short, he proceeds to keep putting his hand on me and at one point tries to spoon as he puts his hand on my waist. I don’t know if he’s just trying to cop a feel or steal my money belt, but basically I just told him “No” louder and louder and would pick up his hand and drop it back on his lap while saying “No touch.” He finally dozed off. It’s not that big of a deal, but just kind of a hassle to deal with.

And now I’m in Penang, Malaysia which is reknowned for it’s food – a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian. I had a delicious Indian dinner – served on a large banana leaf no less! And now I’m just waiting for my friend Becca and her boyfriend Theis to show up!