Friday 5 June 2015 – Malacca to Penang
I have decided to skip Kuala Lumpur on this trip – I’ve visited a couple of times recently on work trips – so I bought an express ticket on a bus from Malacca to George Town. I was up at 7am to catch a taxi to the Melaka Sentral bus station to be ready for the bus departure at 9am. There was nothing appealing for breakfast on offer, certainly no fresh fruit, which seems a rarity here.
Of course, the bus (quite comfortable) went via KL first to a terminal which appeared to be for the high-speed train to KL International Airport, then to the big bus depot in KL’s busy Chinatown, via lots of snarled traffic as ever in the centre of KL. Fortunately, I didn’t need to get off and kept my ‘extra legroom’ seat – at least there are some benefits of the ‘express’ service!
We didn’t leave KL until after 1pm and with traffic jams, road works and having to stop at toll gates (‘Plaza Tol’) every few kilometres, it was a slow trip despite Malaysia’s excellent system of freeways. There was only one rest stop, at a petrol station on the outskirts of Ipoh where I bought a packet of cheezles – my only food so far for the day.
Eventually the bus stopped on the outskirts of Butterworth where the driver, with all the lack of charm that seems to be a hallmark of their profession in this country, screamed ‘Penang, Penang, Penang’ to indicate that those bound to actually cross over to the island should get off. Which I did, and another coach took us over the long bridge to a bus terminal at Queensway, still 10km south of George Town, leaving the weary traveller again to rely on a local taxi (RM35, no meter) to get me to my hotel. It had been a similar deal in Malacca, costing RM20, so altogether the taxies to and from the coach terminals at either end cost more (RM55) than the bus ticket (RM50).
I had booked a hotel called Chulia Mansion. It was on Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia), right in the heart of the old, now World Heritage Listed, town. Very helpful and communicative staff who could actually solve problems (such as Wi-Fi not working). The tariff included complimentary laundry service and a welcome drink at the rooftop bar each day.
After checking in I took a short walk up Lebuh Chulia and had a quick dinner of char kway teow then returned for a drink at the rooftop bar (the very friendly bar keeper insisted that I was in a double room so was therefore entitled to two complimentary drinks!)
I was slightly nervous when I noticed that there was a small mosque right next door, adjacent to my room and wondered how I’d cope with the early morning call to prayer.