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We were out and about earlyish to get out bus for the six hour journey north to Penang. We had both expected the bus to be a bit of a bone shaker but it turned out to be pretty comfortable if a little on the slow side. Our route took us along the new road, which in some places is still being finished off, down to Ipoh.

Unlike our journey up to the Highlands, which was on a very twisty and bendy road, this one was much smoother although it still had its fair share of twists and turn. The views out across the valleys were superb with long vistas of rolling green hills covered either in tea or in jungle. It was a bit disconcerting when the brakes started to make a screeching/growling noise part way down but we made it to Ipoh without incident.

Pretty much everyone got off the bus here as it seems to be a bit of a transport hub. Our twenty minute wait for our onward journey inexplicably stretched to an hour, time enough to wish we were back in the cool air of the highlands. The road north was long, straight and smooth and had the same hypnotic effect on us as it had leaving Kuala Lumpur. Before long we were both asleep, waking only when the bus stopped at the next interchange.

Confusion reigned slightly here about whether we should get off or stay on the bus. A Canadian chap in front of us had been given conflicting information about what was the best tactic. He initially got off but then a few minutes later got back on. We headed out towards Penang crossing the thirteen kilometres of Malaysia’s longest bridge, which took us over the Straights of Malacca and on to Penang Island.

Here the stories the Canadian chap had heard came true. The bus station is no longer in the centre of George Town, the main town on the island, it is now about a forty minute drive outside. The bus driver waved broadly in the direction of the road and said “minibus” in response to our question asking how we got to Georgetown. With many taxis waiting for our trade we opted for the easier and faster route which for RM25, about £4, was worth the money. The Canadian guy was wandering a bit aimlessly and obviously on a tight budget so we gave him a lift as well – our good deed for the day.

Cool pool, fantastic

The mid range hotels are all pretty close to each other and after a quick shufty we opted for the City Bay View Hotel. It is a smart business/tour group style hotel but for £30 a night has given us a very comfy room with a view out to see and down over the hotel’s outdoor pool. The latter is a luxury but one that is a very welcome way to cool down after the heat of a Malaysian day.

We checked in and cooled down for a while before heading out for a little local wander. We walked past the front of the Eastern and Oriental hotel, a very grand affair over the road from our own, and just wiggled down and around through the streets. We stopped at a bar for what turned out to be an incredibly expensive drink and then started down the Penang Road.

In a strip along the corner there are a load of hawker stalls selling food from little carts on the pavement. It was Indian food and the smell was intoxicating and overpowering. Stef’s plan was to stop for a little snack but this turned out to be a full blown plate of food – rice, chicken, vegetables, omelette, all topped off with a variety of different sauces – a locally known dish called Nasi Kandar. It was basically rice with a bit of whatever you fancied thrown on top. It was delicious food and dirt cheap with it.

This diversion changed our plans for the evening of an amble about the old town with dinner somewhere along the way. Instead we simply headed back to the cool retreat of our room and had a quiet night in.