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Penang, Day 8, Saturday

Written on: Saturday July 14th, 2007

A journal entry from: Elective

Today was a difficult day for me, with a big event happening back home that was driving me to distraction. Martyn's cousin, Paul, was getting married, and I had had to decline the invite as obviously it would be impossible to attend. I was really disappointed though, and throughout the day, as the time difference showed that it was growing nearer to the time, I kept picturing what everyone would be doing - how Hannah (Paul's fiancee) would be feeling, what she would be doing, if Paul would be nervous, what Martyn would be wearing and if he would get upset at me not being there... I found it really difficult, but managed to get through the day with nothing more than a sore throat from choking back tears. 

We had woken early again, ready for departure at 7:15am. After lugging our heavy bags down to the lobby, we loaded the bus and jumped aboard. We took the minivans again, which we had planned ahead for and bought some cheap English CDs so as not to suffer the dire Thai karaoke that we had been succumbed to on the journey there. We were bitterly disappointed, however, when our van was minus any sound equipment at all. 

There were a few stops on our way to the border, but the journey there took almost five hours. Before we reached the border, we stopped at Hatyai to fill out departure forms and change buses. From Hatyai, it was a forty-five minute journey to the border, and once there we had to leave the bus to go through passport control. We then got back onto the bus and drove for a couple of minutes through "no-man's land", an area of land that neither belonged to Thailand or Malaysia. When we reached the Malaysian border, we had to take everything off the bus, and go through customs, before reembarking at the other side. It was a fairly long process, but it wasn't as bad as we'd been expecting, and it went without a hitch. I found it very strange to go from one country to another so quickly, as normally when I have travelled to different countries it has involved a flight for several hours.  

As we drove through Malaysia (on the extremely well-kept roads, I might add), I took in some of the scenery along the way. There were hundreds of palm trees - not only the lean, tall ones that sway in the wind, but plenty of short, dumpy trees with an excess of leaves as well. The sky was an intense blue, which was certainly a pleasure to see after hoping there wouldn't be rain, and the sun was high and bright in the cloudless sky. Beautiful weather.

The buildings in Malaysia were all fairly modern along the roadside, with lots of painted buildings. The colours of choice seem to be light colours, with peach, orange and lemon yellow being the most popular. Accents of much brighter colours were in place as well, with bright blue borders repeatedly appearing.

It was interesting to see the English alphabet in use again for the Malay language, and not a symbolic lettering style. The country is very diverse though, with many different cultures, so chinese writing was also commonplace. 

We eventually crossed an enormous bridge that seemed to stretch for miles, over to the island of Penang. There were boats galore, bobbing around in the clear sea. Huge barges sat looking ugly on the horizon, while smaller longtail boats zipped around, dodging the choppy waves and fishing boats sedately went about their business.

We were staying at the Hong Ping hotel, which although not bad, was not the best we'd been in. Certainly no slum though! We had only just arrived when we had to quickly get ready to go out for dinner, and we were very rushed. We went to another nighttime food market, which was even better than the first in Bangkok. We had the opportunity to wander around the variety of stalls, taking in the masses of seafood available. There were live crabs, mini octupuses (octopi?), oysters and the usual suspects - prawns, shrimp etc. The smell was certainly interesting, but not for the faint-hearted, or those with a serious aversion to seafood.  I selected a fairly boring chicken biryani, which took an age to arrive, and was as dull as expected, but edible. We also tried the famous chicken satay, which was tastier, and finished up with an icecream dessert. The icecream counter had some bizarre flavours, including sweetcorn and yam. I stuck to my safe haven of chocolate and mint choc chip - the perfect way to end a meal! It was very cheap, coming in at 10 ringgets (just over a pound - 7 RM is a pound).

After the meal, we meandered around the shops that spanned the circumference of the market, but there was nothing unusual or of interest, so we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.