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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MALAYSIA, THE BOX FACTORY

TRAIN FROM HAT YAI (THAILAND) TO PENANG (MALAYSIA)

I really liked the train station in Hat Yai.  It was almost cozy.

Unfortunately, the train turned out to be as well.

If you are going to Penang, you have to go way down to one end of the train to embark.  Turns out that later, they unhook the rest of the cars for some reason.

This is not a good thing.

When I first got into one of the only two cars going to my destination, it turns out that not only is it crowded but the beds people have recently vacated are still set up.  The train workers aren't very quick about converting those back into seats.

So it was a cluster fuck.

There were also an older couple of rude American tourists on the train.  They didn't want to share their seats because others didn't have to...  The usual entitled bullshit.  Fortunately, they got stung by karma soon after.  [Note, Logan doesn't really believe in karma but it helps illustrate the point.  The hope someone  will get stung by karma is done by people incapable of dishing out retribution on their own.]


Met up with four nice backpackers who I ended up visiting with on the way down.  They had made the mistake of leaving a lot of their stuff on a completely empty abandoned beach while they went and played in the water.  When they came back, everything - including clothing, electronics, etc was gone.  This is always a thought I have before going swimming - where do I leave my shit so it doesn't get stolen?  On the beach - even if it seems abandoned - is not a good idea.  "Haven't you guys ever watched slasher flicks?"  I asked.  "Bunch of sexy teens down on an abandoned beach - I mean - wow."  They agreed it could have been worse plus their travelers insurance covered all of their losses.  But now they are a bit wiser, a bit more wary.

After an hour, the train arrived at the border.  "Take off all of your stuff!" we were told.  Since the tickets had no seat reservations, this meant that no seats were reserved.

Customs was a very fast breeze.  There were various people along the way to guide the crowd along.  Stamp here, stamp there.  I was heading toward the exit when one of the bag searchers - I routinely ignore them unless they stop me - asked me to open up my bag.

Her nose wrinkled as I pulled out the top bag - the dirty laundry.  "Just clothes in there?"  Yes, I replied.  And that was the end of the search.

Dirty laundry always goes on top.

Everyone got back on the train.  At last, the all four of the young tourists had seats and the rude Americans got to wander around and hope someone was nice enough to let them share a seat with them.

After three or four hours and a time zone change, we arrived in Butterworth, Penang.  As I exited the train station (which was designed by a mad man) immediately a sleazy cab driver popped up and asked if he could rob me.


I had to do the Archer "Nooope!" about five times - pretty much to anything he said - until he fucked off and went away.  Then I discovered right outside the door a free van to take us all to the ferry was pulling up.

That'll do.

They managed to wedge me and all my shit into the van and took us the short distance to the ferry.  I would guess from the time I left the train station until the ferry took off was about fifteen minutes.  I was impressed.



BASE CAMP

It appears my luck is holding.

Obviously, my luck comes from the fact that in the USA people are yelling 'Irish' and getting as drunk as possible.  People in Ireland itself don't celebrate that day nearly as hard.

When I got in to town with two hours of sleep and my body threatening to shut down, I went on the tour of different places to sleep.

I questioned various people, tourists and locals, "Where do all the tourists stay" to get directed to the general location.  Holy shit, there are a lot of tourists here.  Why, I am not sure but this is the kind of place people are bringing their babies to.

Once in the tourist district, I  went on a tour of some full places as well as a couple that were so sleazy you'd expect to find several dead hookers already stashed there.  I'm talking over the top shitty with beds nearly in the shape of a 'U', wildly dirty sheets, no screens and partially broken off windows.  Took a look at them and wondered how people could possibly be charging $10 per night to have anyone stay there.  Wouldn't want to stay there if they were paying me $10 per night.

If you push the mattress off the box spring, you get to find something my buddy Matt hid.

Eventually came to a place that seems a bit pricey at $17 and small but seems to be the best.  Turns out there are a few expats staying here and they assured me this is the best for the money they've found.

The only downsides I've found thus far are that they apparently will rent rooms to families with little kids.  This sucks simply because - like most places - there is no soundproofing at all.  Also, after midnight the guy in charge of the desk crashes in the foyer.  It would be much better if I had my own balcony (or a common balcony) to smoke on.  Since I don't, I get to go into that room while he's sleeping.  Part of the disadvantage to my schedule of staying up till three in the morning and sleeping till noon.  Honestly, there is no good reason to get up in the morning.

Current hotel cost is 65 ringgits.  This is still a bit high at $17.55.  Without AC (which I haven't turned on yet) the cost goes down to 55 ($14.85).  I planted seeds of 45 ($12.55) in the guy who is running the places head if I end up staying for a week.  If I can get it down to even $15 a week and figure out where to eat that won't cost 20-30 ($5.40 to $8.10) and keep it at around 10 ($2.70) that would be great.  If I can do that, I'll probably stay in this town for awhile.

Note, none of that shit happened.  His 'ability to negotiate' was adjusting the price by the value of a cheap cup of coffee.  Not worth it to be locked into a town that seems to have all the thrills of a tour of the local box factory in the Simpsons.



But, it's a base of operations from which to explore the town.  Dull, dull town.  Which is amazingly hot right now.

Don't get me wrong - I firmly believe that people who bitch both when it gets too hot and too cold are just whiny pussies.  Pick one temperature you like and stick to it.  Or grow a brain big enough to figure out how to make the money to get multiple homes.


I picked 'fuck the cold'.  Totally OK with hot.  However, you have to respect the heat.  Malaysians don't go out nearly as often during the middle of the day and I'm working on re-tuning my schedule to match theirs.  Everyone goes out at night because the heat is brutal during the day.

When I say brutal, I mean "I think it may be physically dangerous for me to spend too much time in the sun here."  Not "I am too lazy to move and want to bitch about the weather."

It's quite a switch from South Africa where if you go out at night you might die.

Dying from the heat is bad but there are other brutal ways to go.



OTHER NEARBY PLACES

There is some island north of here (I forget the name - probably Langkawi - but you can get a ferry there) which is 'duty free'.   That sounded nice until I talked to expats about it.  Everything else there is more expensive - including the already overpriced hotels.  In addition, the city is very spread out so a taxi is required to go anywhere.

Doesn't sound like you'll save much money to me - probably why all of the Malaysians go to Thailand to drink.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Always make friends with (or at least be super cordial to) people on the train.  It makes the journey better, they can watch your luggage for you and may even save you a seat as the nice group of young tourists did for me.


If you don't have the nicer giant zipper opens the whole backpack and instead have the 'dig like a badger' model, stinky dirty clothing always goes on top.  Period.

Need help committing suicide?  There is help.  Oh - wait - just read the last line.  Never mind.



PRICES


Well, it's more challenging anyway...


Lodging:  Dorm, 25-35R, room about 25R for 'good to bang a hooker in only if she isn't picky' to 55R for a decent room, 65R with AC.  This is for a tiny room.  It's very easy to spend 100R+ on lodging.

Food:  Prepared who knows when and served to you cold meals, 10R.  Actually cooked (or at least warmed) when you order them, two to five times that amount.

Cigarettes:  13.50R

White coffee:  This famous in Malaysia drink tastes horrible to Logan.  A complex flavor of crap.  6R.

Ferry from Butterworth to Penang: under 2R.  Note that the guy in the booth does not cell you the ticket - he just gives you change which you use to get through the turnstile.



2 comments:

  1. If you are in Georgetown the obvious question is... have you met George yet?

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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