Tuesday 3 July 2001 – Melaka to Penang
Checked out of the hotel and had breakfast at Heeren House, a very English style Bed and Breakfast establishment in the colonial Chinatown district, just over the river. The ‘host’ kept calling to the kitchen with orders ‘Meera, one full American’, ‘Meera, two continental’.
Then I humped my backpack through the labyrinthine back streets of Malacca to the bus terminal. The bus was comfier than Sunday’s, a 25 seater ‘Executive’ coach, but it ended up going to Penang via everywhere. First stop was KL, where it dropped off some passengers and then clearly had to fill in time before collecting the next lot and proceeding, as the few ‘through’ passengers spent half an hour or more on the bus zooming around the back streets of Kuala Lumpur, there presumably being no place to park or stop.
Finally we headed back to the Leburaya and to the industrial town of Ipoh, where the bus again stopped to drop off and collect passengers. Finally the bus stopped at Butterworth, across the strait from Penang island where it (apparently) broke down by the side of a road, after 10 hours on the road and just on dusk. Fortunately some local passengers (me being the only foreign passenger) spoke English and could let me know what was happening, otherwise I’d have had no idea.
After some talk about putting the passengers onto ferries and forcing us to make our own way, another bus came past and took us across the very long bridge and into Georgetown, where we arrived well after dark. Being exhausted I took the first taxi tout I found at the bus station. This chap, who was driving a private car, charged me RM10 to take me to the Cathay Hotel, a distance of about 500 metres. I was outraged but too tired to complain, and I kept reminding myself that there were two Ringit to the Aussie dollar.
I decided the Cathay looked pretty run down at RM65 so went next door to the marginally less objectionable Waldorf Hotel at RM49. It was basic, but had a large ceiling fan. During a short walk, I saw a much more modern looking hotel around the corner with a ‘special offer’ for RM69. Will check it out on the morrow.
Then I found what turned out to be a delightful Thai restaurant – MonSoon – again just around the corner. Friendly attentive service (they weren’t exactly busy), soothing music, pleasant tropical breezes (the tables were in an open verandah just off the street) and some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had helped to sooth the by now savage beast. Back at the hotel, at least the TV worked and I could watch an early episode of The West Wing before bed. The ‘aircon’ unit made more noise than a jumbo jet but didn’t seem to have much effect on the ambient temperature, so I turned it off and just used the fan, which proved to be much more comfortable anyway.
Following some loud and intimate noises from the room next door and some fascinating rhythms emanating from the plumbing, I actually managed to sleep like a log.