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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Love for Travel Rekindled in Penang


Penang 01
Ernest Zacharevic's Murals in Georgetown

It was an early 6am flight to Singapore on Friday. There were a lot of hassles and mishaps going there –waking up late, going to the wrong airport terminal, long lines and ques, and the immigration officer who thought it was my first time to travel because of my new passport. She asked for all my flight itineraries and hotel bookings, until I volunteered to show her my old passport. 

But I relished those moments, it’s been six months since I’ve last been in an airport, and six months since my last trip out of the country. I missed being on the move.


I arrived in Penang at around 4pm. It felt so nice to be back on the road again. I decided to ride the public bus going to Georgetown for only RM2.70, with taxi fares reaching around RM45. This really nice lady told me which bus to take and waited with me. When I got inside the bus, the driver told me that he didn’t have any change since I only had RM10.00. Which meant I had to get off the bus. It was so funny now how I remembered looking so helpless and with the lady looking at me and not knowing how she can help me without having to be left behind by the bus. Thirty minutes after, the next bus came and it was an hour ride to Georgetown. As we traveled from the airport to Georgetown, I was surprised at how progressive the city was with tall buildings and condominiums, and super stores as well. I initially thought it would be smaller and older. 

Penang 03

Once we entered Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I remembered Melaka. With those old architecture and colorful buildings, the narrow streets, and the mosques and temples. Once I got off the bus, I walked a few more blocks until I reached Roommates Penang, where I stayed at the first night. I was welcomed by a middle-aged Chinese man (who my new friend Vitali calls one of the ‘Chinese grandpas’). The beds were really nice and comfortable, with curtains and separate lights and outlets per bed. It was really cheap at RM32 or USD10.

After settling in, I went down to have coffee and had a nice chat with the ‘grandpas’. They gave me a map and recommended good food places and streets to visit, and to see the murals in Armenian Street. I also met Vitali, had dinner at this Indian place and drinks by the Reggae Penang. It was interesting to walk around the streets as it was the end of the Chinese’s Hunting Ghost Festival, with people burning incense and papers at the front of their houses. He also showed me how a Teh Tarik was prepared, the precision of pouring and ‘pulling’ the tea was really fascinating.

It was a really nice first day traveling again. And how I thought it would be so ideal to just continue on traveling for a few more weeks, or a few more months. But I had a job to go back to, I still had more saving money to do. But it was a great feeling to be back doing what I love doing. 

Traveling for me is more than just the sights to see. It’s the whole process from the pre-trip preparations – looking for cheap flights, booking hostels, and packing, to the excitement of waiting for the plane to take off, riding the public buses, experiencing the kindness of strangers, the random smiles from children, meeting new people and getting to know the place through them and their stories, trying out the street food. But what I love most is realizing how huge the world really is. How life and travel can surprise you in so many ways. How walking alone through the streets of a new place wakes up your senses and emotions for the simple things you take for granted back home. How everything is more real, how every moment is experienced fully. And how it can save you even just for a day, or for a short significant moment.

Chinese Temple, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Despite facing the things and memories I’ve been dreading by coming to this place and traveling again. I am sure that it will all fade soon and will be replaced by new memories. I would just have to do it over and over again.

My trip would not have been so great despite all the nostalgia without my superfriends (thanks to Skype!) and our new friends who welcomed us so warmly in Penang, Malaysia. The streets and tasty foods of Penang deserve a different post. :)

with Pong :) was so happy to see her after more than 2 years!