22nd November, Penang, Malaysia
After the previous day of winding down in Krabi, today was devoted to travel. We were awake at 6am, picked up by minvan at 6:45 am and then on our way, via a stop at Hat Yai, to Malaysia. I didn't really pay much attention to what we were passing along the way. There could have been spectacular scenery, but this was not a big bus that you could luxuriate in or stretch out. Consequently, I spent as much time as I could either asleep or getting that way, listening to music.
I did pay attention once we arrived in Malaysia. I noted that we crossed the border dead on 2pm and also spotted some subtle differences straight away. As if to make a point, the Malaysian side of the border looked very tidy, the surrounding countryside very ordered. The traffic looked to be pretty good too - the drivers seemed to have a good understanding of, and respect for, the local highway laws. It was all quite different to Thailand. (Heck, even the people on motorbikes wore crash helmets!)
After a ride across the ferry from Butterworth to Penang (or Georgetown, to be precise), we were dropped right in the heart of the old Chinatown area, a district that is well known as backpacker central. And this suited us fine - not too far for us to walk then! As it turned out, though, we both ended up walking back and forth along Lebuh Chulia (the main thoroughfare) trying to find a decent room. I looked at half a dozen and came to the conclusion that Malaysia, or at least this small part of it, was not quite as good as Thailand or Vietnam where catering for backpackers was concerned. Most of the rooms were in a shabby state of repair. In that they hadn't ever been repaired. One hotel appeared to made entirely out of those cheap, temporary partitions that are used in offices to quickly section off areas. It looked like you could probably push any one of the walls down without breaking a sweat ... and probably find someone next door giving some kind of presentation with an overhead projector. We didn't go for that one, nor the room that looked more like a horse's stable (minus the horse). In the end, we settled for a room that had excellent, if not a little too overzealous, air conditioning, a hot water shower (it has been a remarkably long time since we've had hot water, and this now seems something of a luxury), and lots of damp on the walls. Well, you can't have everything. Anyway, the people here seemed friendly, and the restaurant looked to be quite popular and reasonably priced too (judging by my fledgling attempts at currency conversion).
We didn't venture out after that, instead we vegged out. I would have a few tasks to do tomorrow before we could properly begin exploring Penang, and it had been a long and tiring day. It never ceases to amaze me how sitting in the same position and doing nothing can be such a tiring task, but I don't make the rules, I just follow them.