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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Friday, 20 Apr 2007

Location: Penang, Malaysia

MapWe left the Perhentian Islands for a long journey to Penang by a variety of transport. First off the watertaxi from the beach transferring to the last ferry leaving the island at 4pm - not the easiest thing to do with your heavy luggage, but at least the sea was calmer than on the journey out. We then shared a taxi to Kota Bharu, which took about an hour. We had tried to get our hotel to book us the overnight bus to Penang but they told us they were all full - but we decided to give it a go and find somewhere for the night if we couldn't get one. Anyway, we managed to get seats on the 9.30pm VIP (wider seats) bus.

We then went off to an internet cafe to see about somewhere to stay in Penang - we had previously considered a pre-birthday treat at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Georgetown but hadn't booked it as we weren't sure how long we were staying on the islands. As it happened we found a good deal - the "Return To Elegance" package including a deluxe sea-view suite and 24 hour Butler service so we booked it.

Next stop - food. In our time-honoured tradition we wanted pre-bus journey pizzas and ended up in Pizza Hut (McDonalds, Pizza Hut - where will it end? - actually we now know it's Starbucks in Langkawi).

Can't recommend taking a night bus on winding mountain roads, but it did mean Colin was lucky enough to see an elephant when the bus came to an abrupt halt to allow it to cross the road in the middle of nowhere. We arrived in Penang in pouring rain a lot earlier than we had expected - 4.30am instead of 6.30am. We shared a taxi into Georgetown with an Irish girl who had a big argument with the driver over the price - taxi drivers in Georgetown are a law unto themselves - he wanted to charge a lot more to take her right to her hostel claiming it was a long way away, even though it was only about 2 minutes further on.

So we turned up at the Eastern and Oriental (E&O) at 5am and they had no trace of our reservation as internet bookings don't update the system until 9am which meant they could sell rooms twice. Anyway, we printed off the email confirmation and they let us check in early so we were able to catch up on some sleep. Our room was great - huge with a lovely bathroom, crisp white sheets, robes and a lounge area to lounge in. We had no problem in accustoming ourselves to 5 star luxury - all too easy in fact. The only slight disappointment was the lack of biscuits to have with our tea and the so-called fruit platter - two green apples on a wooden board does not constitute a platter in our book - but the breakfasts were very nice.

We did some sightseeing round Georgetown - Chinatown and Little India yet again and the very impressive Kek Lok Si Temple with its 120ft statue of Buddha. Apart from that we enjoyed the hotel and pool - although the outrageous price of a pint of Tetleys and half of Carlsberg was a bit of a shock. We were lured into drinking by a nice American couple who we met at the temple and had come to the E&O poolside bar for a drink.

We also did some useful things. Sue had her trousers repaired in Chinatown. (Note to people who think Sue should just buy some more - she has looked for some but they don't fulfil traveller requirements - with lots of zipped pockets for cash, tickets etc and it's only 5 weeks before we get home). We also had our final dodgy foreign haircuts at a very strange salon - one man and his poodle wearing a dress (poodle not man)! Colin's classic comment on Sue's hair - "It's not too bad, do you want your hat?"