After our first few days in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, we take a bus to the North-West, on Penang island. Story of our adventures…
Big shock when we get into the bus. We don’t know much about what to expect after the crazy drivers of Vietnam and Lao destroyed buses. But it’s a pleasant surprise to (re)discover what is a bus in Malaysia.
Although we sit in the back, we have monstrously comfortable seats. You can tilt them, lift the foot, and be very comfy. Cupcakes and bottled water are waiting for us to our seats, it’s so cool!
And the best of the best: we each have a mini tv screen to watch movies already integrated in a catalog. It’s a bit like in a plane, but on the road…
We will discover later in other buses that some have even massage seats… So, you lost me! I say banco!
About the driving, the Malaysian people are the worst. They love speed and drove super fast on all roads. We jump as soon as we go through a hole. But at least, when they announce 4 h trip, you know you will arrive at you destination in the worst case at the announced time, at best with 30 minutes of advance. 😉
Hunting street arts
Now that we are on Penang island, we stay in Georgetown, the main town of the island. This is the main point of interest.
We put our stuff in our hostel and hop, direction downtown to admire the beautiful street arts that made the reputation of the island.
There are many dispatched throughout the city: on a front or next to an entry of a shop, in dead ends, etc. It’s very funny to find one at a corner. And one thing is sure, although some are not brand new, these works are superb. Artists played with objects and have integrated the 3D in their creations. So we find a basketball, a motorcycle, a swing, etc. on different street arts, allowing us to play even more with these. Below a small list of the works that we could find.
The Upside Down museum
We finally tend to become museums fans! We take advantage of our stay on the island to visit the Upside Down museum, literally. The concept? All the sets are backwards. You walk in daily life rooms and you take pictures to create incongruous situations, which will be very funny once it’s framed in a good way. To sum up, it is really funny and you are having a really good time in this museum. At the end, you are just wondering where is the top, where is the bottom.
Walk on the jetty
The city has hosted a large Chinese population from the 19th century until the 1930s. There are so many Malaysians with Chinese origin who are still living on the island. Many of them live on the jetties, these pathways on the sea. They built mini-quartiers with the ‘streets’, made of wood, on the water. Some houses are a bit dilapidated and abandoned, but others are quite nice and well preserved.
It is above all an attraction for most of Chinese tourists who come here. In fact, there are many shops of ice and cakes with Durian, this famous stinking fruit that Chinese people love so much.
Green on Penang Hill
Because Penang remains largely wild, it is possible to take a local bus that takes you to the entrance of Penang Hill, the highest mountain of the island. Once on-site, you have two choices:
- either you are brave and you take your little legs to reach the Summit on foot
- either you’re, like us, a little lazy, and you take the cable car that goes up to the point of view.
Let’s go for the cable car. But we decide that we can do the descent on foot with a map of the paths. The funicular is hyper modern, nothing to do with the one we know from Fourvière in Lyon… Let’s get a bunch of tourists in here! And… let’s go for ascension.
The way to the top is fairly quick and we simply need to walk 100 meters to arrive on the terrace that overlooks the entire island. Too bad the weather is cloudy because otherwise, we could see very far, across the sea, to Butterworth, on the peninsula.
We walk a little on the mountain before beginning our descent. And this is where it gets interesting!
We follow the trails that go through the mountain and come back regularly along the funicular. After a while, we can’t go down, or at least we end in a deadlock. A resident tells us that we must go on the left and follow a dirt road, we will eventually come down, at the entrance to the site. Let’s go.
It runs along a path that becomes a road for a while. We hear noises that clearly make us understand that there is life in this jungle… We might well fall on a Varanus Nebulosus (etymological nickname of the varan)!
We continue our way on a road which becomes super steep, where we cross several pickups that go up and down. They must have the engine which heats once arrived at the top, because it is really steep. It draws on the thighs.
We think about going back on a track at a time, but it’s not really clear and we are in shorts and small shoes. We will not go for a walk in high grass without seeing where we put our feet… So, we keep on walking along the road, going down and down, wondering where we are going to arrive.
After a few kilometres, we reach the entrance of the Botanical Garden, on the opposite side of the mountain… So no more chance to get the bus that will take us back to the city, to our hostel. Only one solution left, walk…
And 7 kilometers, when we have already done a dozen, it’s long, especially on large straight lines that never end. Fortunately, after a while we fix it and we can find our way back.
A Chinese resident in the hostel where we stay ask us where we come from because we’re all swetty and look tired. We tell her that if she wants to go to Penang Hill, then she should take the cable car return, it will avoid her 15km walk… #howtoscareachinese 😉
After this little adventure, we decide to stay quiet in the city to finish to discover the street arts and visit one of the oldest Chinese temples on the island: Khoo Kongsi.
It is really beautiful, because recently restored and really worth a look. You take full eyes once again.
Now is the time to go back to the ferry to return to the peninsula and take a new bus to Ipoh, in the center of Malaysia. But our adventures in the Center will be the subject of a future article. After Ipoh’s hidden temples, we will take you in the Cameron Highlands tea plantations and the Taman Negara jungle. See you soon for new adventures!