August, 2008. The streets of Bangkok were awash in protests, the airport was shut down. The Beijing Olympics were winding down. Sarah Palin was introduced to the world. As for me, I was laying low on Batu Ferringhi beach in Penang, reasonably oblivious to it all. Other facts that I was happily ignorant of – Malaysian food and beer at the beach bars were massively overpriced.
I returned to Penang earlier this week. This time, I lodged in George Town rather than the beach, and I was only on the island for under 48 hours. I was there on business. Due to a quirk in Thai visa regulations, people are only issued a 15-day visa when crossing into the country overland rather than the 30-day visa issued when flying. As I was already in northern Malaysia and bound for southern Thailand, flying didn’t really make sense. Fortunately, 60-day Thai tourist visas are available in Penang for about $40.
Coming from low-key Tanah Rata, I was ready to party in Penang. Fortunately, I immediately met up with some Aussies at the hostel bar who shared my ambition. I ended up closing the bars with them and sleeping late. I had my hostel sort out the visa thing so that I wouldn’t have to get up early and go to the Thai consulate myself.
The next day, I headed out to the beach just to see what had changed. It was dead. Middle of the afternoon, prime beach time, and there was nobody on it at all. The water looked murkier than I remember. This place must have been better in 2008, right? I had no idea how I spent 5 whole days at this beach. This time around, I was there for maybe an hour eating lunch before hopping on the bus back into town.
George Town itself is a pretty cool looking town. Take a look.
Woo Hoo! I’m totally caught up on blogging this trip. I’m off to Koh Lanta, where I plan to give the scooter thing another go.