Day 1 – Disaster
We decided to take a weekend short getaway to Penang, Malaysia, a food paradise. From Golden Mile complex, we bought a one-way coach ticket directly to Penang bus terminal and the trip supposed to take 8 hours overnight (10pm to 6am). Due to high volume travel and last minute decision, we had to purchase tickets for 2 different slots with an hour away from each other’s departure time. It should not cause any problems based on my experience since we both would reach the same Bus terminal anyway. So he boarded and left first. Here was the catch.
I boarded the next coach. There was a massive traffic jam over at causeway link between Singapore and Johor Bahru (Malaysia). The coach was stuck there for more than an hour and I felt a little anxious. However, since we still had 4G, we managed to update each other on our whereabouts. And the last message he sent me was to say he already crossed the border. I slept a little. There was not so many passengers and I had two chairs for myself which was comfortable. As expected, I arrived at the Bus terminal two hours late, at 8am. I rushed to look for him around the Terminal but after an hour or so, every corners of the Terminal left no sight of him. I got really anxious. I went to level two and asked the counter for his coach Plate number and details. At first, they kept speaking in either Chinese or Malay and they did not bother to help me. I was so angry to raise my voice at them. The problem was I looked small and studios which made everyone kinda ignore me. But once I started being aggressive, I meant it. The boss came out to take a look at the screenshot on my phone. He took a call and he confirmed the coach was still on its way due to heavy jam. I took it as a relief.
An hour passed and more coaches arrived. There was one of the same company reached too. I quickly approached a passenger to ask on the traffic condition. He replied it was such a disaster on the road but the critical point that hit me was, his coach left at 11.45pm, after mine and way after Liyang’s. I was left speechless for a moment, thinking about all the worst scenarios might happen. But he then told me his friends on another coach (different company) leaving earlier had not arrived yet. His hunch was they might take a little longer route to avoid traffic. The guess sounded legit. So we decided to wait together. We kept taking turns to check with the counter but to no avail. Another two hours passed and no more Singapore coaches arrived. I felt devastated! Just awhile later, my new friend saw his friends’ coach and well, they reunited. I thanked him for accompanying me and wished him a nice holiday.
It was noon, I was hungry with an empty stomach since last night. I bought a bun and bottle of water since no appetite left to eat. I tried to think of better way to locate him. I decided to borrow the locals’ phones and made international call back to Singapore to the Bus Company. They should help me better. After a few attempts (and lots of fierce looks from those I borrowed phones from), I received the piece of information which seemed to clear all the dark clouds. His coach broke down 40km away from the bus terminal and they needed to wait for another coach to fetch them all, so he should be reaching in the next two hours or so. I requested to leave a message to him through the Bus driver saying that I would wait here at the Bus terminal. My hope was to have the message delivered. 3pm was set to be my limit. If I could not see him by three, I would definitely burn the whole terminal down.
Half passed three and he was still not here. I wondered if he reached the Hostel but it should not be the case without reaching the terminal first. I went to the Security post and talked to the Guard to borrow his phone. He was nice as he just passed me the old Nokia phone to contact people I could. The Singapore side kept saying that due to unexpected circumstances, the coach which was supposed to fetch them did not reach so they arranged other transportation for each passenger based on their destinations. I had nothing left to say, for that moment I just shut my brain down and waited. I urged to see him walking in from that gate or jumping down from any of the coaches with his nervous eyes searching for my sight. I told myself if by 5pm the situation did not change, I would head to the hostel which was an hour city bus ride from here.
5pm, I could not hold my tears and I cried like a little kid begging for her favourite toy. To wait or to leave? What if he would be on his way since we already set the meeting point to be here? Tired and blank minded, I just sat near the gate and spaced out.
7pm, as my eyes were dwelling in tears and my vision went blurry, I still could recognize the familiar figure rushing into the terminal. I cried the tears of joy and ran over to hug him. No word could possibly express how light my head just went and how relieved my heart just felt. 10 hours of waiting felt like a decade.
We then took the city bus to our Hostel. During the ride, I learnt from him about what had happened to his journey here. Apparently, the coach broke down but they did not allocate any coaches to fetch the unlucky passengers (that was what they ensured me). They were just dumped to a passer-by coach which brought them to another Bus terminal. From there he needed to figure his own way by taking another bus, a ferry than another bus to reach the Hostel. As the day was too tough, he forgot the Bus terminal name which we supposed to meet. He went to the hostel at 5pm to learn that I was not there and he left the Receptionist a message and went to look for me by identifying the correct meet-up place. So he rushed down and hoped I would still be there waiting for him.
That was how the supposed-to-be fun getaway began for us. I thought I was acting in a Korean drama!
We had a warm shower and headed out for the night food street right near our hostel at Kimberley Street. It runs from Penang Road to Carnarvon Street, through the heart of the traditional Chinatown area of the city. Kimberley Street was named after John Wodehouse, the Earl of Kimberley, who was the British colonial secretary in the 1870s. The road was created in the late 19th century and was populated by Teochews from Swatow, who made bihun (rice noodles) and mee suah (vermicelli), drying them in the open. The Chinatown ambiance of Kimberley Street was still there, and at night, Kimberley Street was a popular destination for street food.
We had a bowl of Kway Chap and a hot soft Beancurd. It was like heaven! At least, it helped us clear our minds from the disaster in the day and tried to enjoy as much as we can.
We woke up early at 6am in the morning to start hunting for nice breakfast place. We also did a bit of planning for the day. Before the trip, I researched on quite a number of good restaurants and good eateries in George Town.
We walked to a famous You Tiao store whereby they still make You Tiao the traditional way but it was closed. We decided to go for Dim Sum. And the best Dim Sum restaurant for breakfast was just around the corner at Kimberley. They offered two types of ordering method. One was self-service whereby you go to the counters to get your dim sum. The second type was the more traditional way which was the push-cart method. The ladies will be pushing a push-cart around to let the customers to order their own favorite dim sums. We ordered a few dishes from the counter first while waiting for the push-cart to choose more. Breakfast was accompanied by a hot pot of Chinese tea. We ordered a feast!
After the sumptuous breakfast, we headed to George Town, the famous area in Penang. The inner city of George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The enclave consists of colonial architecture built during the heyday of British rule over the Straits Settlements (Penang, Singapore and Malacca), mixed with Chinese shophouses, five foot ways and places of worship of various religions. George Town is awarded the UNESCO listing for its “unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia”. We enjoyed the street arts around the town and snacks too.
We managed to buy quite a bit of local delights, some nuts, dates, beans and herbs.
For dinner we decided to head back to Kimberley and explore more the long eatery street. So many food vendors and each of them had a long queue. We rushed to the longest queue of Chicken noodle (should be the nicest) and also bought other small dishes to try. The broth was super delicious and the chicken was soft and tender. Dessert store looked mouth-watering and surely we gave it a try too. We had Cheng Teng and Longan, it was just so good! And the dinner ended with another bowl of hot Beancurd, one of my all-time favourites.
We took a stroll to nearby night life streets and enjoyed the cooling weather. We had chestnut along the way. The sweet, comforting scent of roasting chestnuts was indeed an instant pick-me-up on a cold evening.
In the morning we went to the nearest shopping mall. Adjacent to Komtar, Prangin Mall is Georgetown’s largest shopping mall. Another bargain hunter’s paradise, in similar vein to KOMTAR, it has quite a collection of local clothing boutiques. Prices for apparel rarely go beyond the RM50 mark.
We browsed around those coach services to purchase our tickets back to Singapore at night and managed to get at a good price.
From Komtar, we took a bus to Batu Ferringhi Beach and our exact destination was Hard Rock hotel. The bus drove us along the coast line and up around Batu Ferringhi, the scene was gorgeous. We went to Hard Rock hotel for a Western lunch with Steak and Ribs. We also had Brownie and ice-cream for dessert. And we sneaked out to their private beach to chill. We spent nearly three hours there and enjoyed ourselves.
On the way back to Kimberley, it rained heavily so we decided to just head to hostel for shower and getting ready to go home.