We all were sunburned and had quite red skin, so we decided to skip the beach and explore the island that day. From our hotel’s reception table, we ordered a minivan. Our specific request was that the bus driver should not be the one we had yesterday.
In an hour, we had all set. The minivan with a new driver waited for us. First, we drove to the Penang Butterfly Farm. The entrance cost 12.50 ringgits for adults and 6.25 for children; an additional one ringgit was a ticket for a camera. Here we saw a lot of colorful butterflies. The farm is home to several thousand butterflies representing over 120 species. We also saw beetles, small lizards, and spiders.
We continued our day at the Tropical Fruit Farm. The farm in Teluk Bahang raises over 140 types of tropical and subtropical fruit trees, native and hybrids. Here, our driver suggested taking a guided tour, which cost 20 ringgit per person. At first, we were not sure, but then we followed the advice. And I would say this was a good decision. Our guide was a little dark guy. The tour was very educational, and it included a fruit sampler tasting.
The tour started with driving in the cargo area of the pickup truck to the small hill. The whole farm was relatively high in the mountains. On the farm, we saw many different trees: mango, mangosteen, different apples, Muscat nut, and many, many others. The tour guide educated us on the world of various fruits. At one point, a Japanese group joined us; they were excellent listeners. One fruit we tasted was called “Magic.” It was small and red with a big stone inside. This magic fruit gave a good taste to all other things. For example, even the smoke was sweet. The guide also gave us a taste of the fruit of the Muscat nut, which did not taste good, but after tasting it after the magic fruit, it tasted just delicious.
After the tour, we tasted different fruits. As the day was hot, all the other juicy fruits tasted good. We also tried durian, a fruit with an odd smell. We have heard a lot about that fruit. The guide introduced the fruit: “It tastes like having ice cream in the toilet. It smells awful but tastes good.” Even in the hotels, there was a sign: “Do not bring a durian inside!”. But now the guide opened our piece, and the smell was quite offensive! The taste was terrible, and nobody from our company enjoyed it, but I presume the bite can be delicious for some people.
Next, we visited the Kek Lok Si Temple, which was vast and impressive. Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia; it stands on a hilltop at Air Itam, quite close to Penang Hill. We learned that it had taken more than 20 years to build it. To reach the entrance, you need to walk through the souvenir stalls and pass a Kek Lok Siturtle pond and fish ponds until you get to Ban Po Thar, a seven-tiered, 30-meter-high tower. The design of that tower is said to be Chinese at the bottom, Burmese at the top, and Thai in between. The temple is imposing, although crowded with tourists and worshippers. We discussed that it was good that we left Kek Lok Si as the last temple to visit, as the others were small compared to that. The temple has an excellent souvenir shop. I believe that everybody in our company bought a miniature Buddha, but there are also a lot of other exciting souvenirs available. After those attractions, we were already quite hungry, so we asked the driver to take us to Gurney Drive, which locals call Hawker’s Corners. We have heard that there you can have authentic meals for little money. We walked around a little, but those food stands did not look attractive. Then we decided to take a taxi and drove to Batu Ferringhi, where it was easy to find a restaurant for our taste.
New Year’s Eve in Penang
We agreed that this day would be a lazy day-sunbathing, shopping, and partying at breakfast. We started the day at the hotel beach and pool. The seawater near the hotel was not clean; therefore, we were swimming in the pool. Maybe the water was opaque because of the tidal wave and tsunami. Still, we have also heard that Penang is not for beach lovers. Here lies the second largest town in Malaysia (1,2 million inhabitants)—Georgetown, and pollution from the city has made the waters dirty.
So, we were lying on the beach, enjoying the sun, reading books, playing in the pool—everybody had an activity to their taste. We all agreed that we had had the best dinner on the first evening, so we decided to return there.
In the afternoon, we went shopping in Georgetown. We went to the one 7floor shopping center, Gurney Plaza. We agreed that we have “free time” and would meet after two hours. When gathering together, we all had extensive and full shopping bags; we found very cheap and good clothes, electronics, and CD-s. The prices were better than in Singapore. We also bought a bottle of champagne for the evening. The cost of champagne was the same as at home in Estonia.
After going by taxi to our hotel, we changed into new clothes and met again at the hotel’s reception to go to Batu Ferringhi. Speaking of our hotel, it was excellent, and we all had two rooms–a living room and a bedroom. It was on the beach, but the location was not the best. As all restaurants and shops are in Batu Ferringhi or Georgetown, it was always necessary to take a taxi. Although the taxi ride was very cheap, it cost 15-20 ringgits to Batu Ferringhi (approx. 10 km) or Georgetown, even for tourists.
We started our New Year’s Eve in Batu Ferringhi at the Night Market. This is where you can buy everything, starting from small Buddhas and ending with CDs and fake Rolex watches. It was fun shopping out there; we bought many exciting things as souvenirs.
When our shopping appetite was filled, we went to our favorite, Kampong restaurant. As expected, the food was excellent, the atmosphere was cozy and friendly, and the bill for all that was tiny. Dinner for eight people with drinks costs 420 ringgits.
At 11 PM, we went back to our hotel beach. There were quite a lot of people. Although all fireworks and big parties were canceled due to the tsunami, people still wanted to celebrate the New Year and expected the next would be better. The celebration was much quieter than usual. We opened our bottle of champagne at midnight and wished all the best for the New Year.