Sunday, July 10, 2011

The slow buses of Malaysia........and the future of (our) travel!!

That night at Mr Lees we enjoyed a really nice stir fry, cooked by Joel and then as it was getting late, we went to bed. In the morning, Mr Lee had the breakfast all set out by 8am and then he drove us around the corner and dropped us off at the bus stop, for our bus to Penang. Mr Lee had been a really good host and is highly recommended for anyone staying in Kota Bharu!! The bus stop was actually a shop car park, but seems to be where everyone gets on the bus instead of heading in to the busy town centre. Our bus arrived on time at 9.30 and then started its journey – until it stopped 5 minutes later at the gas station and spent nearly 20 minutes filling up with diesel. You would think they would fill up before the bus journey started!!!
Anyway, 40 minutes after the journey started, we were still in Kota Bharu with a 5 to 6 hour journey ahead of us. I decided to get some sleep, but that didn’t last long as we soon stopped again, to pick up more passengers and the 2 seats I was laid across had to be given up to their rightful owners. We were all wide awake by now so we had a look through the guide books for South East Asia, to formulate our plans for the coming weeks.

The four of us travelling are all on different time scales and with differing ideas –
I have a good budget limit, want to see whatever I can and have no plans to go home any time soon.
Joel has a good budget, but flies home on 1st September. He wants to spend time with Buffy, his best mate and will see and do whatever she plans for them.
Buffy on the other hand, has a limited budget, wants to spend about 3-4 months seeing the region but has no set plans on when and where.
Finally, Nicki has a good budget, wants to see the best parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but flies home around 5th September. Taking that all into consideration we have made an outline plan.......

We will stay together as a foursome through Thailand, at least until we reach Bangkok, which will be in two weeks or so. From there we all head to North Thailand and at some point me and Nicki will start to go quicker than Joel and Buffy. The two of us will head through Laos for a couple of weeks, into Vietnam by plane and then take about 2 weeks in Vietnam, getting into Cambodia late in August. Joel and Buffy will lave Thailand later than us and take their time travelling down through Laos, into Cambodia, getting there once again at about the end of August. Hopefully, we will all meet again then in Cambodia, before Joel leaves, so we can have a get together. Then a few days later when Nicki flies home, me and Buffy will get a visa for Vietnam and spend the next month or so seeing the Country properly and slowly. That’s the rough outline!!

Back on the bus we passed through a load of the Malaysian jungle to our sides and up and over mountains as we crossed Malaysia from East to West. There isn’t much to see out of the windows except trees and more trees and a couple of beautiful rivers and lakes but we were all waiting for a rest stop, which still hadn’t come by 1.30pm. We did however pass an interesting road sign , warning us to watch out for elephants. We never saw any elephants though and spent the next 4 hours or so continuuing onwards and eventually arriving on the Island of Penang at 5pm. A short taxi ride, where the meter appeared to have be continually on all day and we were at the hostel by 6pm.
Its a cool place – modern but small, but also very comfortable. We have a tiny 4 bed dorm, but with really large beds. There are ipads available for free use in the corridor outside our room – but we have to pay to get blankets!! Its all a little bit backward – toilet paper in the corridor and not in the toilet – but its still pretty good. After a good chinese dinner in a back street restaurant for about £2, we had a quick lap of the town sites where we saw a group of blokes juggling chocolate milk on a stage?! It was then time for a beer before a well deserved early night.I finally gave up on my favourite orange T shirt tonight...It was getting worn and had a small hole in the back. I never would of thrown it away, so asked Buffy to rip the hole giving me no she did - she ripped a massive bloody hole, so that I looked like a right pillock. walking around town for the next hour or so. At least it has now been confined to the past!

Chocolate milk juggling - what else!

The end of my favourite t shirt.

The next morning, after a nice lie in we were awoken by the smallest 'Mr Johns' making the loudest walking and stomping noises in et corridor. This hostel has a no shoes policy as it has lovely wooden floors, but the other people staying in the hostel seem to think that the only way to walk without shoes is by banging their heels as hard as they can onto the floor. They did look at us strangely later, when we proved the point by first sliding up the corridor silently followed by stomping like a mad german in WW2 to make a load of noise. It weas fun though.

We went out and visited Penang Hill – an 800metre high hill with great views over the island and bridge, with a super new Funicular railway taking you to the top in style and at a good speed. It has just been upgraded at a cost of millions or ringitts too, so it is really a great way to travel up the hill.

After a look around the top of the hill, with its temples and great views we joined the queue to get back down and ended up at et back of the Funicular, right next to the driver, who sat there with his touch screen controls and watched us as we watched him drive the train down. It was then another queue, this time the wrong one as we joined the one for people going up the hill in stead of the bus stop queue!! The bus was due every 20 minutes and so after 45 odd minutes it finally arrived. and we squeezed aboard without paying and then waited for 15 minutes whilst the driver first had a ciggy and then chatted with his mate from another bus before moving his passengers from the other bus to ours and then the ones that couldn’t fit back onto the 2nd bus again!! It was supposed to be Rapid Penang transport, but after 20 odd minutes we still hadn’t moved and we didn’t do until everyone on the bus had gone forward and paid the driver!!

Looking up Penang hill at the Funicular railway

View from the top of Penang Hill

Coming back down

Lazy arsed bus driver !!!

Finally we got back into town and had a quick walk around the shops and found an internet cafĂ© to print out our plane tickets for tomorrow and then we headed back to the hostel to sort out the next week or so – hostels, boats and stuff!! In the evening it was dinner at a local pub, whilst watching the British Grand Prix on TV – once we had got the bar staff to finally turn to the correct channel.

In the morning, we finally leave Malaysia after a good 13 days and nights and go north once again – this time into Thailand and to the Island of Phuket.

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