After the day tour returned to Tanah Rata, I bought a bus ticket to Penang, picked up my stuff and hopped on. Due to my unexpected all-nighter, I had researched guesthouses in George Town, Penang and found two that looked like they’d suit my needs. As the bus left the terminal, I tucked in for the long ride with a chicken sandwich. Once I devoured it, I soon fell asleep.
Unfortunately, I was jarred awake too soon by constant stopping and going. It turns out that my bus was stopping at Butterworth to pick up more passengers. By now we were more than five hours into this four-hour journey and the sun was setting. I wondered how much longer the trip would be. I hadn’t booked ahead at any of the guesthouses so I had to hope they had an empty bed for me. I didn’t think this would be a problem, however, you never know.
After an extended break at Butterworth, the bus driver finally continued on his way. We finally arrived at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal after being on the road for more than six hours. I have yet to receive the correct travel time information from any of these bus companies. It amazes me because they do these routes a couple of times a day and still cannot get it right.
At Sungai Nibong, a local woman I’d been chatting with advised me and a French couple of the bus we should take to get into George Town. It didn’t match up with what my research indicated, but I figured I’d just go with the flow. When she indicated we should get off, we thanked her and disembarked. However, now we had no idea which way we were supposed to go.
The French guy hailed a taxi and asked the driver how much it’d be to get us to Love Lane (yes, that’s what the street was called, and no it wasn’t a red light district). Many guesthouses lined this street, including my first choice of Old Penang Guesthouse. We split the cab fare between the three of us and parted ways as the French couple booked into a different guesthouse.
I was a bit nervous about getting to Old Penang Guesthouse so late (by now it was past 9:30 p.m.) because their website said they were completely booked out of female dorms. However, lucky for me, I was able to get a four-bed air-conditioned female dorm for RM28/US$9 per night. There was only one other occupant my entire stay. Ah, it was almost luxurious!
After settling in, I went back to the front desk to ask about dinner. I was starving at this point. The staff recommended a night market a couple hundred meters away. Ok, on a regular day, I’m horrible with measurements (distances and otherwise), but on a day like today, using meters instead of feet, I was completely hopeless. By the guy’s tone of voice, I assumed a couple hundred meters was pretty close so I ask for directions and set off with a confident stride.
After a few twists and turns down some darkened streets, I was starting to question my judgement. I mean, people always tell you not to walk around alone at night in a strange country, especially if you’re a woman. But, like most times, my rumbling stomach drowned out any of that nonsense as it shouted, “Feed me . . . FEED me . . . FEED ME!” So rather than turn around, I kept on keeping on and eventually found the place.
And the place was huge! Many, many choices to satisfy my hungry tummy. I ended up ordering roasted duck, which came with rice, sliced cucumbers and a bowl of soup, from Kimpo Famous Roasted. I don’t remember what I paid (probably less than US$3) but it was truly amazing. Despite being alone among a sea of people in a new city for the first time, it was a perfect way to end my day.