Monday, April 29, 2013

Penang In Five Hours (Or Less)

While the night train journey went smooth, we got a sad news once we arrived in Butterworth: the tickets to Thailand were sold out. Well, it's a sad news for me because it meant this train brain person couldn't try the Thai train.

On a lighter note, there are buses and minivans going to Hatyai, Thailand. I prefer taking bus to minivan, so bus it is.

The bus terminal is actually located near the ferry terminal to Penang. Once you leave the stations, a group taxi drivers may approach and offer the 10-Ringgit-drive to the ferry terminal, but don't take it. You only need to climb this concrete stairs on the left of the train station. Once you're up there, there are signs pointing you to the ferry terminal and bus terminal.

Just climb the stairs as modeled by my friend Aneen

Of all bus companies in Butterworth, only one (Eramas) serves the Malaysia-Thailand border crossing. The last bus to Hatyai departs at 2 p.m., giving us six hours to explore Penang (we left the bus terminal at 7.30 a.m.). After securing our bus reservations, Aneen and I took the ferry to Penang.

The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes. You only need to pay the fare (1.2 Ringgit, if I'm not mistaken) when leaving Butterworth and it's a free ride from Penang.

When we landed in Penang, my cellphone rang and a local number appeared on the screen. At first, I didn't want to take it (international roaming is expensive). Since I gave my number to the girl behind the bus ticketing counter, Aneen thought it could be the girl so I picked it up.

It was her, informing that the 2 p.m. bus was rescheduled to 1 p.m. I said, ok, no problem, we would be there before 1 p.m. A few minutes later she called again, saying that the tickets were not RM 35, but RM 40. Argh, why didn't she say that when we were at the bus terminal? It's Rp 60,000 went down the drain :(.
Moving on.

These budget travelers hopped on the Free CAT bus, frantically pressed the hop off button upon seeing a restaurant that had many customers and successfully got lost somewhere in Lebuh Campbell.

Instead of cursing the fate that made us got lost, we tried to seize the moments and explore the nearby market. 

We bought three honey plums for 6 Ringgit. There is a good thing about getting lost :)

We saw these food stalls with tents and thought that there were something to eat...

But it turned out to be the center of all pork food stalls. Sorry porky, I can't eat you.

We finally made our way to that restaurant and had breakfast (nasi lemak and teh tarik, again, because we are that creative).

This was the restaurant we were trying to locate

Also called nasi lemak, but looks more spicy

After having a meal, we were happy and ready to hit the road. Here are the photos around Georgetown, a town that is rich in culture and heritage.

 Masjid Aceh

Masjid Kapitan Keling

I don't know the name of this building, it's located near Masjid Aceh

Kuan Yin (Kwan Im) temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Penang

 A man prays at this small shrine on a street corner. It's the "Om" Sanskrit word above the shrine.

 Sri Mahamariamman temple in Penang's Little India

The city informs visitors about local history through wrought iron installations like this one on Canon street

I don't know what this street art means, but it's cute :)

When the clock hit 12 p.m., we rushed to the ferry terminal to catch the bus. Not wanting to sound dramatic, but we missed the ferry by a few seconds and had to wait for 5-10 minutes for the next ferry. It was the longest 10 minutes and when the ferry touched down in Butterworth, guess what we found? 

Our bus was actually scheduled at 2 p.m. 

I didn't know what happen with the girl behind the counter because she didn't give any explanations. She only told us to sit and wait. If stare could kill, she would have died there and then. I mean we could have spend another hour in Penang! 

To cut the long story short, the bus arrived at the exact hour. We hopped on the bus and were more than ready to cross the border to Thailand.

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