The Pearl of the Orient

After our interesting adventure in the Jungle we were happy to be heading back into George Town, Penang where both my sister and Mark were now staying.

We had a hostel in mind that we wanted to stay in, it was close to Emma’s hotel and in the centre of town. Clockwise hostel was on a small back road that was easy to find, however when we got there the road was closed and there was a Chinese film crew using the road to recreate the Japanese occupation! After a long time waiting and talking to security guards we were finally allowed through to the hostel slap bang in the middle of the camera shots.

Apparently we were lucky as normally the hostel would not be able to take walk in bookings so late but as no one could reach the place the were 2 free beds!

We both fell in love with this place fast. It has been open only 4 months, it was clean, cheap, and the staff were all very friendly! The owner himself was from Ukraine and due to the problems out there at the moment he had been giving away beds to people from Ukraine in exchange for a few jobs around the hostel so that they had somewhere to live outside of Ukraine. Everyone was lovely and breakfast was brilliant. We got the most delicious sweet roti and a flash back to the Japanese occupation from the roof!

Over the next few days we did some sight seeing and just relaxing with the family.

Penang hill was nice though very touristy. The view from the top was slightly blocked by some construction but the journey up in the tram was fun and the view you still could see was beautiful!

We planned to head to the national park but we had serious heavy monsoon weather every night lasting hours and we were told that in this weather the national park is really hard to travel around as it’s basically a big mud pit! So instead we took a trip to the spice gardens. I love my spices me, so I had a great time! Heading through jungle-ish areas with high trees and hundreds of different herbs and spices and audio tour. It was a great way to get shade and see and try a load of different things! Opposite was a lovely deserted beach that slowly turned into a photo shoot for an Indian dance school but until then we had a long stretch to ourselves and amazingly warm (but cloudy) water to relax in.

On the first night back we all headed to a Couchsurfing meeting held by a load of Penang hosts, including a host, Kla, who we had been in contact with for a few months planning to meet. This turned out to be exactly what we needs to retire our faith in Couch Surfing! There were 30 odd people there, a mix of surfers and hosts and people from all over!

We spent hours having the most fascinating conversations, hearing about Penang and travel stories from all over the world as well as a very animated discussion over the pure bliss of real fresh coffee (something difficult to find here).

As we left as some ungodly hour in the morning we planned to meet Kla the next evening for food. We turned up and were joined by another host and German couch surfers and followed Kla to a local street food market where we got a verity of dishes and puddings and with Klas help learnt a lot more about the local food.

As well as walking through Penang taking in the street art, little India, and the free coffee and chocolate museum (Emma and. Mark decided this would be a great alternative to breakfast – free entry and free samples of chocolate and coffee! Brilliant!)
We also spent a fair while relaxing. Rachel would head to an Internet cafe or go for a nap and Emma, Mark, Ben (who had appeared again with his family) and myself headed to the pool and introduced Ben to the game ‘Lemon in the Middle’ an awesome game that myself, my brother, cousin Matty and Mark had come up with in order to bully Emma in a swimming pool. Over the years the game has become more and more intense with more rules etc.

For me, Penang was one of my favourite places so far. Brilliant hostel, very kind people, amazing food – we discovered an Indian that made the best lassis and banana rotis! This became ‘lunch place’ and a regular spot to meet.

As well as all of this, Penang was where my dad was born and grandparents lived for 3 years in the 50’s so just seeing this place with my own eyes was pretty special to me. We spent a day touring the more residential area of Penang looking for my grandparents houses. I’ll do a separate blog for this!

We somehow managed to extend our time here to a whole week! So we’re skipping Lankawi, saying goodbye to my sister and heading straight for the Perhenthians on a night bus.

I think we’re both ready for a proper beach and a chill out!

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