February 24, 2011

Monkey Beach

We wanted to check out the beaches Penang had to offer, so we took a day trip to the north western coast of the island.
We got a couple of taxies to drive our group along the coast, passing the beach resort area of Batu Ferringhi. I had no idea how built up this area would be. It had tons of major hotel chains like Holiday Inn and Shangri La. Our cab drivers told us many wealthy people in Malaysia have beach homes and condos here. He said it is also a popular beach destination for Australians.
We wanted to stay away from the super toursity areas, so we headed to a small fishing village called Teluk Pahang. The ride to the opposite side of the island took around 45 minutes (so you can get a sense of the size of the island). The fishing villiage, Teluk Pahang, backs into the very beautiful Penang National Park. We read that the best beaches were in the park and the only way to reach them was by hiking 1-3 hours or hiring a fishing boat from Teluk Pahang to bring you there. We opted for the 20 minute boat ride.
The boat dropped us off at a small secluded beach called "Monkey Beach". There was maybe only 10 other people on the whole beach and we finally felt like we had reached paradise. However, we were unaware of the attacks that were coming our way.
While we were swimming, we heard some screaming by where we had put our things down. We swam in and noticed a group of monkeys were scavenging through our belongings and stealing all of our food. We got some locals to help us scare them away long enough for us to grab our stuff and run down the beach to some safety.
They look really cute and friendly, but trust me Cynomolgus monkeys are everything but. Once they learned that we had food in our bags they kept following us down the beach trying to attack our stuff and us. They are not scared of human at all and will run up to scare you, with their fangs out, hissing aloud. A couple of times we heard noises in the bushes and all of us jumped up and ran into the water in fear. Finally our boat driver, a local Malay, came back to the beach to hang out for awhile. He offered to be our guardian, keeping the monkeys away with sticks and noises. We were finally safe!
On our way back to Teluk Pahang our boat driver let Julie drive!

Monkey Beach was a beautiful secluded beach, which was exactly what we needed to take a break from all the site seeing we were doing thus far in Malaysia. However, we all could have gone without the monkey attacks. From now on I think I am going to skip all beaches named after animals.

February 20, 2011

Penang, Malaysia

From Kuala Lumpur, we headed north up the eastern coast of Malaysia to Penang.
We took a bus from KL all the way to Georgetown, Penang for less than $10. The 4 hour ride was made a little longer by some mechanical errors, which caused our departure to be delayed for over an hour and a half. None the less we arrived on Penang safe and sound.
The Malaysian state of Penang has the third largest metropolitan population in Malaysia. It's capital city Georgetown lays on the north eastern corner of Penang Island and was named after Britain's King George III . Penang became the first British outpost in Southeast Asia and one of the first bases for the British East India Trading Company in 1786. Because of all this British colonial history, Georgetown and Penang have amazing heritage sites and interesting architecture.
We stayed in Georgetown at a great hostel called the Hutton Lodge. It had separate rooms and it was located right in the heart of downtown, walking distance from most of the main sites.
Penang is almost as diverse as Kuala Lumpur and it is evident in Georgetown. There are distinct areas such as Chinatown and Little India that are exploring with ethnic culture. Within these areas you can also see the remanence of a British run colony and a base of the once great East India Trading Company. All of these elements combined makes strolling around Georgetown an exciting and worthwhile experience. Here are some pictures from Chinatown, Little India and the British Colonial areas.
Little India


British Colonial and Fort Cornwallis

Also, we stopped to check out the Kapitan Kelling Mosque, one of the most prominent mosques in Penang. It was built in the early 19th century and named after a famous Indian Merchant.

One of the best things about Malaysia was the way they served their coffee 'to go'. You could get it in a large plastic bag with a wrist strap and a neon straw. All for less than $1. A coffee addicts heaven (Justine).
While we were touring Georgetown, we opted to take a trishaw ride (it was hot and we were getting tired). A trishaw is pretty much a two seater carriage pushed by a man on a bike. They are pretty common in Georgetown, but they are only used by tourists. It was fun talking to the drivers and seeing the streets from a different perspective (see video below).

Here are a couple more shots from around Georgetown.
Penang is also very famous for its food. It is known by all to have the best food in all of Malaysia. It has great samples from all ethnicities, but my favorite food in Penang was the Indian. One night for dinner we wondered into the Red Garden night food market. The market had a bizarre set up. There were a bunch of tables in the center of the market surrounded by 50 or so food stalls. You were supposed to walk around and order food from the various stalls and tell them your table number and then they would deliver the food to you. It was the perfect way to try a bunch of different Malay foods. We got tons of amazing food including coconut soup, laksa, oysters, frog in a clay pot, and fried ice cream.
The Red Garden did not only provide delicious food, but it provided a whole lot of entertainment. At the front of the tables there was a stage with live music. After a little while and a couple of beers, the Malaysians started to line dance to a slew of American pop songs. At one point our group decided to jump on in and learn the Malay step to Mambo Number 5.

Next post will cover our trip to Penang's National Park and Monkey Beach, where we all survived a serious monkey attach.

(Some photo's by Justine Colgan, Quinn Hubertz, and Zoe Jerchower) thanks guys!