Day 120: The Kindness Of Strangers

Nothing exciting happened today, so consider this page another one for my records. Look away now, there’s nothing to see here. Honestly.

• We started the day around 9:30am. Getting out of bed to shower, and have breakfast was as exciting as it got at Ryokan Hostel today!

• When I was ready, I found Anna, Sarah and Megan sat around a table outside. I joined them, with my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and we discussed what to do for the day ahead.

• With a plan formulated, we checked out from our hostel, leaving the bags behind, and made our way towards a nearby Mall.

• The reason for such a visit? Meg needed a new phone (after losing hers on a beach), and Sarah needed some shoes for future treks we’d be partaking in.

• Eventually we found a stall selling cheap mobile phones. Meg bought one, and Anna and Sarah bought SIM cards for our phones. This meant Sarah could use other apps to better communicate with friends and family back home.

• The next task was to find the shoes, then a 45 minute shopping experience ensued. Our plan was to go there, buy the items, then explore Penang to admire the street art. Sarah found a half decent pair of trainers for £10. With both purchases achieved we left the comfort of the air conditioning to embrace the heat outdoors.

• Anna was in charge, she found most of the wall paintings using a map on her phone. The farther we walked, the more we sweat. Even though I had consumed 2 litres of water that day it wasn’t enough to stop my perspiration. The pictures were amazing, and crowded by Asian tourists with their cameras. They are everywhere, always! I noticed, if our group stopped to look at random objects, we were soon surrounded by them and their cameras, out of fear of missing a photo opp.

• The street art of Penang is a big tourist attraction, the pieces were done by a young Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic. It’s a little bit like the Banksy work back home, only less ironic. The art is more a representation of Malaysian life. It varies from a man on a rickshaw, to a couple kids on a swing. There are lots of pieces dotted all over, and it’s not just restricted to paintings. There are big manipulated metal bars, shaped to represent historical moments. They’re less realistic, and more cartoon like in their appearance.

• It was too hot to see them all, plus we were against the clock, as we needed to catch a boat and a bus that afternoon. We soon returned to the hostel where we found Christine (as she’d be coming with us). She wasn’t up for coming with us for food, so remained there.

The four of us went around the corner to grab a meal at a nearby Indian restaurant. Feeling only slightly sated afterwards, we returned to Christine. Then a few places were looked up for accommodation in the Cameron Highlands. Looking like most places were taken, we decided to catch a bus to Ipoh instead, this was the nearest place, and was quieter.

• We said thank you to the hostel staff, then started walking down the street to the jetty. We stopped during the walk to take a couple more pictures of some street art. It was the one with the children and the swing, and the other had a basketball hoop with 2 children jumping up. There was a basketball cut in half and stuck on the wall to add effect.

• We had to wait 5 minutes before the jetty arrived. It took us on a 10 minute ride across the width of the river, then we had the pleasure of sorting a bus in a packed station. At first we were intimidated by the length of the queue, which appeared to be waiting for tickets. A kind person then told us we had to buy tickets at the other end of the station. “PHEW”, what a relief. It didn’t take anytime at all to get served, with tickets in tow we had to wait 40 minutes for the vehicle to arrive.

• The rain began to fall, and the constant bad smell in the air didn’t make matters and better. When 6:15pm rolled around, then began the confusion of which bus we were supposed to board. Three times we were told a different bus was ours, but third times the charm I guess. Sarah and Christine ran on aboard and reserved 5 seats, while Megan, Anna and myself shoved the holdalls in the undercarriage.

• Then began a 2 and a half hour bus journey where we got to enjoy a brief 20 minutes of Die Hard 1, and then the less impressive film “unstoppable”. At the end of the journey we were dropped in the middle of nowhere, at a random bus stop.

• Unsure of where we were Sarah darted over to a passing British looking man. His name was Mark, and unlike us, wasn’t backpacking. He was in Malaysia with his girlfriend to visit her family for the Chinese New Year.

Sarah then returned to inform us we could catch a taxi to town, which was all of 10 minutes down the road. After waving one down, Mark came over to us and said he’d take us in his car, if we could all fit.

So, me and my harem of women crammed our bags, and Sarah, into the boot. Then the four of us squeezed into the only two free seats. Mark’s girlfriend was kind enough to move up against the door, while Meg, Anna, and I sat alongside her. As for Christine, well, somehow she balanced on Anna’s lap. Oh and seeing as there wasn’t enough room in the boot, my bag had to fit on my lap.

The drive wasn’t that long, with Mark’s father-in-law giving the directions beside him. Before we knew it, he dropped us outside a large hotel. Close to where he was going for dinner with his girlfriend’s family. With many thanks, we left their company. Not before they told us how to wish people a happy new year in Chinese, by saying this to locals we were told we’d receive money from them. We forgot how to say it 5 minutes later.

• We tried the hotel but it was too much money. The staff were kind enough to give us directions to the budget hotels, so off we went. We tried a few out, not all to our liking, but eventually found a very nice place which could accommodate 5 people. They gave us two rooms, we dumped the bags, and headed out for food. With Christine choosing to stay behind as she wasn’t feeling great.

• We found a local food market around the corner, but seeing as it was close to 11:30pm, many of the stalls were shutting up shop. We managed to find one that would serve us, it filled a hole, we then returned to the room to get a heavenly nights sleep on the comfiest mattresses we’d experienced yet!

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