Fun With Confectionary
23rd November, Penang, Malaysia
The plan for today had been ... well, we didn't really have a plan as such, truth be told. I had a few tasks hastily jotted on a notepad, as I usually do, and being as this was new territory those notes of things to do and things to buy was a little longer than usual. All very menial, but needs must. The first thing I wanted to do was find a new SIM for my phone. It seemed a little excessive getting a new number for just a couple of weeks, but experience had shown that having a mobile while travelling can be a really handy thing (phoning ahead for guesthouses/hotels, phoning our friends Stef and Am in Bangkok when we are having difficulty trying to decipher some Thai person's gesticulations/rantings, and of course just being able to send a quick message to friends/relatives back home). Besides, they are very cheap to buy these days - almost like disposable razors. I managed to find a place that sold them and got a top-up card at the same time - it's always good to get the phone shop vendor to walk you through the process first time!
Another mission was to find an ATM. In the area that we were staying, there didn't seem to be that many. It turned out to be just a ten minute walk away, but I wouldn't have stumbled across that particular bank of ATMs by accident. I did the usual thing of putting my card in an ATM in a new country for the first time and saying my various prayers to the gods of banking machines worldwide to please not retain my card. That would be a Very Bad Thing.
On the way back from the ATM, I stopped in at a 7-Eleven for a few more items on my list. I managed to pick up a few extras though. Not because I needed them, but because I had to. Well, who could resist Nips in the morning?
You can imagine the fun I had with these when I came back to the guesthouse - "Hey, do you fancy a nibble on my Nips?" I asked Manda, flinging the packet over to her, who was looking a little shocked at my verbal outburst. And that pretty much set the scene:
- "These Nips are a bit hard, aren't they?" (they are peanuts with a candy coating)
- "One of your Nips just fell on the floor"
- "Should your Nips be that colour?" (green)
- "Stop throwing your Nips at me so hard!" (Manda was throwing these rock-hard sweets at me at the time)
And so on. And so forth. So then I went out and got myself a can of drink. I ended up with this:
I have no idea what the drink - Kickapoo Joy Juice ("The Original Joy Juice Recipe") - is made of, but judging by the picture it's enough to make you elevate right out of a bathtub by several feet. I vowed from this point on to scour the shelves of every Malaysian shop I went into for more stupidly titled snacks/household products, but I doubt that you can beat finding a packet of Nips on the first day, in all honesty.
I spent much of the afternoon - it quickly moved from am to pm as I realised that the clocks were 1 hour ahead of Thailand in Penang - trying to work out the best way of getting around the town. I hunted for a local free tourist map that had details of the free 'Heritage Trail' shuttle bus, but to no avail. Eventually, I resorted to copying the route off a bus stop map onto my photocopied map of the area while the sun beat down on the back of my neck. The sun is very severe here. Damn, I wish I hadn't left my shades, even broken as they were, on the bus from Thailand!
We ended up doing nothing much to speak of today. A late start, combined with the loss of an hour and my usual first-day-in-country tasks soon saw to that. Must do better tomorrow, I decided. Must do something that will give us something 'cultural' to write about, instead of childish double entendres. Tomorrow we'd get a motorbike - forget about the free, but probably unreliable, shuttle bus service - and have freedom to roam instead! If only things would work out quite so smoothly ...