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28 September 2010

Beautiful and friendly Penang

By Chee Wong

“Wake up, wake up! Its time to catch our flight to Penang” exclaimed mom, as she tried to wake the family. It was our first family vacation and definitely long overdue. The children had waited for this day to come patiently and it will be a disaster if we missed the flight departing for Penang at 8.25 am. Mom getting impatient summoned all her strength and with one last bellow she screamed, “We will miss the flight if you don’t wake up right away!” and it worked, everyone including me sat upright and shrugged off the sleepiness. One by one we marched into the washroom and freshened ourselves up. Then, it was a quick cereal breakfast before we headed out the door with our backpacks all stuffed with clothes and toiletries for the next 3 days.

When we reached LCCT at 7.00 am after an hour of bumpy Skybus ride from KL Sentral, we were amazed at the swelling crowd at such an early hour of the day. People were milling around local fast food restaurants for their breakfast and scores of tourists checking out the McD. The excitement began for our children as they had never been on a plane before. There were just too many questions about the flight that I could handle so I quickly told them we had to first get to the boarding gate before they close it. It worked and they stopped asking and started looking for the boarding gate. It was a good thing that we had checked-in online the night before the flight; we were just in time.

As we entered the plane, we could see our children debating who should get the window seats. Oh no, I dreaded this kind of moment especially at the beginning of our vacation. Finally, as expected the victor enjoyed the sights and the loser sulked at the lost opportunity. Although we comforted him that he will get the window seat on the return flight, it was not acceptable. Mom felt terrible for him and before it escalated into another argument, I suggested we make it up to him later at the beach. She agreed. Good, another rising storm calmed.

The take-off was a bit rough but the landing was soft and smooth. Here we are at the Penang International Airport, impatiently we walked briskly to the Rapid Penang bus waiting to take us to our hotel. We checked-in and unpacked. Then we practically ran back to the hotel lobby to get to our first tour; Penang Butterfly Farm. As we walked towards our bus, I looked back at the inviting beach right in front of our hotel. Sigh, it will have to wait.

Once we entered the Butterfly Farm enclosure, it was heavenly as butterfly after butterfly warmly greeted us. Some even rested on our heads and shoulders. There were fluorescent blue, green, yellow and red. Some could even camouflage the background they rested on. Amazing cocoons hung in the hatchery; some gold color! There were also Arowana and Koi fishes and lizards. We went at the right time as there was a show where the children got to hold an iguana, a leaf like mantis and other attractions. We also met friendly tourists from India, Lebanon and Egypt. After the fantastic nature tour, we bought some souvenirs as we exited the farm.


By now we were so hungry and thirsty so we headed to the nearest food center and we had char kway teow, rojak, satay, fried rice and loh mee but no sight of assam laksa and ice kacang. That will be the menu for our visit to Gurney Drive later in the evening. As we went back to the hotel, we marked down what we had missed and took out some items from itinerary as we had squeezed in too many items.

By now, we were sure that the Rapid Penang bus service was not only efficient but also very friendly. They guided us on the bus routes and also tourists spots we should not miss. When we arrived at our stop they would inform us. We like it. Thank you for providing a good service, we appreciate it.

Next stop was Batu Feringghi with all the water sports available for a fair price. The children were torn between the horse-back ride or the jet ski. After some bargaining with the owners, they decided jet ski was more fun and worth their hard-earned savings. Surprisingly, they took to the water with life jackets and mom audible objections, like a fish. After some crash course training, they roared the jet ski into the sun. The owner said if they continue in that direction, they will end up in Pulau Langkawi. Mom got worried and started waving frantically for the children to turn back. Fortunately, they did as they realized that they could hardly see the beach anymore. Then came the dangerous part where they switched seats in the middle of the deep green sea. From our video camera we were anxious monitoring the process. What a relief it was when they successfully switched without anyone falling into the sea albeit they had their life jackets on. They roared left and then to the right and then back again repeatedly until the owner waved them in after 20 minutes. What a thrill it was for them. It was also great fun for us especially the cheap and nice food. We will be back. In fact, I will book a flight to Penang now and have breakfast, lunch, dinner and fly back to KL in the evening. Whoever said only millionaires can afford do that obviously do not know Air Asia like we do; truly now everyone can fly.