Monday, 25 August 2008

Climbing up Penang Hill's train tracks. Khota Bharu.

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Penang Hill

Yesterday consisted of a climb up Penang Hill (833m). Myself, Geir and Rose took a bus to the tourist trap at the foot of the hill only to discover the mountain train was not running. Consequently the place was subdued. Undeterred we decided to climb the ridiculously steep train tracks. It was tough going and Rose ended up being sick! At the half way station Rose and Geir turned back and I continued to the top. The sweat was unbelievable. I saw huge one inch ants and many monkeys on the gruesome ascent. The cicadas were making an incredible droning racket.

The  At the top I chilled at the Hindu temple on the summit admiring the views of Georgetown. I remembered been here in Jan '07 with Fen.

Arabs

I walked the 5km road back down to the botanical gardens passing many fitness freaks on the way. The gardens were beautiful and I enjoyed a pleasant stroll along with Arab ladies decked out in black robes with only their eyes on display. I was wondering how you can fancy a lass when you can't see her face? I was thinking how we used to sing 'Get your tits out for the lads' at NUFC games if we ever saw a woman. In Saudi they must sing 'Get your face out for the lads'.

Snuse

At night the three of us got drunk in the Penang hot spots - top night. I congratulated myself on not smoking during the boozy session. I didn't smoke thanks to the snuse that Geir gave me. This stuff is popular in Norway. You put a teabag looking packet of tabacco on your gums and let the nicotine seep into your body.  We were meant to go to Batu Ferrengu beach today but I suspect this has been cancelled due to severe hangovers.



23082008011.jpgThis young lad was with a Christian church group half way up the hill. We swapped emails and as I took out my phone he went: "Wooaahh....cool.....an E65!" I was laughing that he knew the model - obviously he's a swept up technology guru!

He told me how Malaysia has a population of around 26 million and that 26% of them are Chinese like him. 65% are Malay and 8% are Indian. I'm surprised that only 8% are Indian as I've seen millions of them. Maybe in the smaller towns there are fewer. I can verify this when I reach Kota Baru on the more Malay east coast. I'm glad the Indians are here because their food is delicious.

22082008002.jpgThis is Man Man my Penang friend looking quite serious. He's a laugh. We drink coffe in this place every day. He's a tour guide and generally takes rich Arabs around Northern Malaysia. The last time I saw him he was talking with a Kazakstan lady who was on a visa run from Pattaya.




23082008.jpgThis is my current bed complete with my new mosquito net. I've yet to see Geir smile on a photo which defies his true personality. He looks morose but he's  a great bloke. Rose compensates by having her gleaming white teeth on perpetual display. As my Granny would say: They're a lovely couple. Worth mentioning is the fact that Rose weighs a paltry 37kg while Geir is 95kg. We're trying to fatten her up.


23082008001.jpgEnjoying a cup of tea where I successfully completed my first ever bluetooth data transfer. I didn't even know the phone had this capability. I'm becoming a mobile wizkid.







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The steep track up Penang Hill. It's quite an exertion climbing this. I had to ring the sweat out of my vest.

23082008012.jpgThe mountain train reminds me of Llanberis in Wales where you catch the train up Mt Snowdon. I remember climbing Snowdon and being somewhat dismayed at seeing loads of Grannies from Rhyl drinking tea on the summit. It diminishes your sense of achievement. The Peak in Hong Kong has a similar arrangement to this. You can see Geir peaking out - I think he's almost smiling - naaah it's just the light.


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I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Almost there. The terminal at the top.











23082008029.jpgThese are the monkeys that reckon they are so hard. Here's a mother with her baby.








23082008031.jpgThis was a bit like gorillas in the mist. I spotted this creature in the bushes and endeavoured to get closer. I crept up slowly and was amazed he didn't scarper. I saw others like him but they were far too timid and legged it before I had the chance to get a shot. This guy kept on munching leaves even when I was only two meters away. I felt like Steve Irwin. He makes me think of Ewoks from Star Wars. That reminds me, I went to see Star Wars Clones at two days ago, it was crap!


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23082008036.jpgThis is one of the many Hindu temples. As elsewhere in Asia, places of worship are very colourful. Can you spot Ganesh and Vishnu? 




penang-st-george-church.jpg23082008043.jpgThis is a Muslim mosque in the center of Penang. This is St George's built by convicts back in 1816, it's the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia. All religions are represented in multi-faith Malaysia.


23082008020.jpgThe view of Penang from the top of the hill.

Olympics

I've just checked out the BBC sport pages and was amazed to see GBR 4th in the Olympic medal table. Not bad for a country with 0.01% of the World's population. I notice too that the Philippines has no medals. I'm not really surprised. If there was a medal for sleeping on your motorbike all day they would easily get gold. What a messed up country. It appears India have also under achieved. With a population comparable to China they only have a few medals. I think I know why. They are too fat. The Indian food in Malaysia is so good and the locals eat too much. Just look at the Indian women here - they all have arses the size of double-deckers. No chance of seeing one of these lasses doing a pole-vault!

tiananmen-square-tanks.jpgIt also struck me how much China has moved on since the Tiananmen Square bloodshed.

To think this was happening in Beijing less than 20 years ago and now that very city is hosting the most prestigious sporting event on Earth. This emerging nation is slowly opening up and has demonstrated its strength with an impressive haul of medals. Better start learning Mandarin!

Tandas - toilets

One year ago, I was flying from Jakarta to Taipei. I was excited at the prospect of jumping into the unknown. I was actively looking for gainful employment as an English Teacher. This time two years ago I was being moved to tears in Hiroshima at the Peace Park museum.

25082008.jpgAfter the Penang Hill ascent we spent two days at Batu Ferrengi beach. We swam a little and enjoyed an expensive Arabic meal here complete with sheesh pipes. It turns out that the women in the black robes with only the eyes showing are actually Arabic and not Malay as I first thought.




26082008004.jpgI purchased an obviously fake Toon top for 10RM or £1.50. They wanted 40RM but I got it for 10RM. I suspect it's not even worth that - Made in Thailand crap! Just look at the pathetic state of the badge!


I had an almost successful pulling attempt. I met Lillian, 30 at a bus stop. She works as an accountant for the posh Holiday Inn in Batu Ferrengi. Interestingly, she is one of identical twins (no......I wasn't fantasizing). She agreed to meet me for dinner but ended up cancelling some unexpected family thing - as is the way with Asians. You quickly learn that families come before boyfriends.

27082008001.jpgI ferried to Butterworth to buy a bus ticket to Kota Bharu. Coincidentally, I met Rem whilst waiting for the ferry. I first met him at the nameless Clinic Hostel in Bangkok in Feb '07, again in Phnom Phen in Mar '07 and again in Bangkok in June '07 before I went to Burma. He's now teaching English in Thailand. He's in Penang for a visa run and was full of joys of spring in his drunken haze. We spent the afternoon together talking bollicks. We were laughing how we've both been involved with English teaching in Asia.



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Rem's mates eating an Indian banana leaf meal with their hands - filthy buggers!

I caught a night bus and arrived in Kota Bharu at 0400. This quiet Muslim town is dead at 0400. Luckily I found a Chinese run cafe and watched Liverpool spawn their way past Standard Liege in the Champions League Qualifying round.


Perhentian Island preparation

My Guest House opened at 0700 and I crashed until 1100. After some Malay food I walked to the Thai embassy to see how much a two month visa costs (110RM + 2 photos). I'm typing this blog now since there's a tropical down pour. Also this internet cafe is only 2RM/hr whereas on the Perhentian Islands it is 20RM/hr.

I'm going to the ATM soon to get three weeks worth of cash. I'm going to the bankless Perhentian Islands tomorrow where I plan to spend time watching palm trees growing. Other than my mobile I will be incommunicado due to the extortionate internet prices there. My Austrian friend Armin is there now. He lives in Thailand and told me that these Islands are better than anything Thailand has to offer. I might even do some SCUBA!

28082008.jpgKota Bharu is very quiet, very Malay and very Muslim. There are fewer Chinese and Indians here. I'll look at some sights when the rain stops. People shout 'Welcome to Maslaysia' here. It makes you smile.

Me with a couple of canny lasses from the internet place. I felt like I was standing in between a lime and a tangerine!


28082008009.jpgThese kids were taking the mick. That drink the middle girl is holding is a coconut shake - they cost 1RM (16p) and are truly moreish.

I'm currently reading a book called 'Fortune's Bastard' by Robert Chalmers. It's hilarious and I strongly recommend it. I like it because the main character becomes an English Teacher in Barcelona after ruining his career as a tabloid editor.

Terimah kasih

Hujan - Rain

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