Malaysia - starting the year of the dragon in Penang
When we booked our flight tickets in October, we did not even know when Chinese New Year would be. We just decided to take the cheapest return flight. Then, we thought it would be nice to end our trip in Penang. I had been there last year and loved it - but for Markus it was something new. Furthermore, it is a good place for some decent shopping before going back to expensive Switzerland.
In December, we told our friend Serena in KK (Malaysia) that we will be in Penang and we asked her to join us - and she told us that it is CNY and she has no time to join us. That was a surprise. Well, we were sad, not to meet her. But, we were up to celebrate Chinese New Year in Penang - that sounded great.
Well, first we had to make our way from Langkawi to Penang. This sounds easy - but we wanted to travel on Friday before the long CNY weekend. The speedboat was already fully booked 3 days before we wanted to leave. Good luck for me, because on friday morning it was stormy and rainy and did not look like a pleasant day for a calm boat trip. So we took a teksi to Kuah on Langkawi (to the pier). We were on time and got 2 tickets for the ferry to Kuala Perlis. This is the closest city on the mainland from Langkawi (it is a 1 hour ferry ride). We had to admit that the terminal was really busy. The trip was calm as it passes lots of small islands. We arrived in Kuala Perlis and walked 5 minutes through heavy rain to the bus terminal. As there were no direct buses to Butterworth we were lucky to get a bus to Kangar. It is just a short bus ride away from Kuala Perlis (about 10 minutes) on the main road down south to Butterworth. And, indeed, they do have direct buses to Butterworth - but they were all fully booked. No chance of getting a ticket that day and Kangar did not look like a place where you want to get stranded. There is nothing to do there. So we decided to ask for a ticket to Alor Setar which is about half way to Butterworth. We got the same answer - all fully booked that day. We were getting a bit nervous till a young lady saw us. She told us to ask a driver (and not a salesman at a counter) of any express bus going south if he has 2 seats. For
a small amount for him there would be a chance. Well, what can I say, we asked the first driver, he said yes, we paid the regular fair (directly to him) and had 2 wonderfully comfortable seat to Alor Setar. We left after just 5 minutes and 1 hour later we arrived in Alor Setar. Here, everything went really smooth. They do have buses every 30 minutes to Butterworth, we got a ticket and were on a very bumpy ride further down the coast. At 4pm we arrived in Butterworth directly at the ferry terminal. The ferry terminal was busy, busy, busy. But we quickly got on the ferry. Georgetown was waiting for us with pure sunshine. We had prebooked a nice room in Hutton Lodge , a wonderful lodge where I already stayed the year before. We were greeted like old friends coming home - and we were so happy to be in Penang. The trip from Langkawi to Penang by speedboat takes 3 hours, a normal bus trip takes 3,5 hours - but it took us an entire day! We celebrated our arrival in Penang with a couple of drinks in the Monalisa Bar on Chulia street, our favourite bar! And of course we had a wonderful dinner in Little India. As you surely know, we love indian food - Penang is the place to have some great one. The next day we discovered the temples (the thai and the
burmese one), walked through old town and simply enjoyed the very special atmosphere of colonial Penang. All the streets in the old town were nicely decorated because of CNY. And of course we went shopping and enjoyed a nice massage. A huge highlight was our visit to the Kek Lok Si Tempel. The tempel was decorated for the celebration with hundreds or thousands of lamps. It was really impressive. We spent an entire afternoon walking around there. And then, it was time for the new years celebration. We had a nice dinner in little india, shared some drinks with a nice couple in the monalisa bar and finally went to the padang (=field) in front of the city hall. Here, big celebrations were already going on. But we just arrived in time before the famous lion dance which was really amazing and a dragon performance. We were standing in the front line (haven't you seen us on malaysian TV?) - wooooowwwww! At midnight there was a huge firework. It was a really nice and impressive evening - the start of the year of the dragon which is supposed to bring luck, health and wealth. We hope it will! After the firework we walked back through Chinatown
where huge candles were burning and people praying in all the temples. We enjoyed our first CNY celebration in Asia a lot. Unfortunately, the next day we had to leave - our holiday trip was already over. Air Asia took us back to KL from where we had an onward ticket back to Bahrain and Geneva. It was a smooth trip, but a long one. All good things have to come to an end. You can believe how horrible we felt by arriving in Geneva and getting out of the plane in a snowstorm. But those who know us, believe one thing: we are already planning our next trip.