For long, Malaysia has had a transitory presence in our travel itineraries – a temporary and forced stop on our way to our vacation spots. We had actually planned a trip within India, but then I chanced upon Batu Ferringhi, Penang. That led us to Georgetown, its street art and street food, and plans were abruptly changed! Meru, for the first time, gave us a scare, but we were rescued by Taxi For Sure. After a quick caffeine dose at the airport, we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur, courtesy Air Asia.
Based on our earlier experiences, we had expected to land at that glorified bus stand called LCCT, but were pleasantly surprised when we alighted at KLIA2. In fact, we had an abundance of choice for breakfast and found it difficult to settle on one place. Across three floors we roamed, until Ringgits were spent at Alessio, which offered a great value-for-money breakfast. (at least by airport standards)
A few hours later, another hour long Air Asia flight took us to Penang, the Pearl of the Orient. (that must be the most over used description ever!) The airport had quite a few useful free guides and they should be enough to plan the vacation even if you haven’t done so earlier! We took a cab from the airport pre paid booth to Batu Ferringhi. Our first impression of the place, during this trip, was that it was actually quite peaceful, despite the obvious urbanisation. Drivers followed road rules, there was minimal honking and not a lot of ambient noise at all. The driver got us to our destination in the promised 50 minutes for about 75MYR. The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang has a rather deceptive appearance. A lot of trees partially hide a clean, aesthetically designed yet minimalistic set of buildings. But once inside, you can actually feel the opulence. They were nice enough to let us check in a couple of hours earlier than standard, and a wonderfully refreshing welcome drink later, we were escorted to our room on the fourth floor, overlooking the pool, and the sea beyond.
A bath later, we set out for lunch. Tan Sam Guan Seafood was the plan, thanks to the overwhelming popularity on Trip Advisor. We found it in the lane between Golden Sands and Lone Pine. The concrete benches are what you should look for. A second generation is running the shop now and it opens only for lunch. After much deliberation, we asked for the Sizzling Beef and the Squid with the bird’s eye chili. You have options of portion sizes. We also asked for a fried rice and beer. The old gentleman who owns the place changed our order to one large bottle instead of two small bottles (it was cheaper in terms of cost and more in terms of quantity, he said, and of course he was right!) As we waited, we noticed a guy sitting outside. He was having conversations with an imaginary friend, and only paused to greet/abuse those who passed by on the street. A couple of other customers, obviously of Indian origin, chatted with us until the food arrived. The food was really, really good and even the ordinary fried rice made an impression. (they use ginger flower for flavouring, lends it a very unique aroma and taste) Around this time, we realised we hadn’t brushed our teeth, but that was a minor detail.
That heavy meal cost us about 60MYR. We slowly dragged ourselves back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep! The plan was to wake up and catch the sunset, but that was not to be! By about 7.30 – that’s when we managed to get out, the sun had set. But the (private) beach was calm, serene and did give us a glimpse of what the sunset might have been.
We walked along the beach, took the exit through the Tan Sam Guan lane and proceeded towards the night market. The peak time seemed to be around 9 from various visits. We passed ‘The Ship’, which is quite the dinner landmark (not for the food though!) and found our dinner destination – the Long Beach food court. It has a bunch of stalls selling all kinds of street food. You need to tell them your table number to place the order. So the first task is to focus and find a table, not an easy task at all! Drinks can be ordered at the table itself. We began with a white coffee and barley. Both were excellent and mildly sweet starting points.
Sting Ray was the first to arrive at the table. I loved the fish with chewy cartilage. The beef that came next reminded me a lot of Mallu preparations, and we ended the meal with another round of drinks – a coconut (what fantastic packaging and taste) and a shandy. All of that, in less than 50 MYR. The trishaws were waiting outside to take us back, but we wanted to explore the night market a bit.
You can find knockoffs of a number of international brands at the night market – mostly footwear and accessories. There are also pirated DVDs and souvenirs. D did some minor shopping before we walked back to the hotel. The next day was scheduled to be the most active day in the vacation itinerary.