Spending time in Pulau Penang has been an amazing experience. Though it was only a week, we managed to accomplish so much and make friends with some incredible people.
So why are we on Pulau Penang?
It was recommended to us by numerous people. It’s a big tourist attraction for foreigners and Malaysians. In 2008 Georgetown was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It also has a beautiful national park and some intriguing temples to see.
In 1776, Captain Francis Light who represented the British East India Trading Company landed on Penang Island and renamed it Prince of Wales Island and Georgetown was established. To my understanding, Penang didn’t become a part of the federation of Malaya until 1948. The information is confusing as to when the name was actually changed back to Penang or if the name “Prince of Wales Island” was ever accepted by the locals. Either way it is inhabited by Malaysians, Chinese and Indians who have all fused different elements of their cooking into the Malaysian street food.
Part 2 – Meeting People and Couch Surfing.
Not really knowing where to go or what to do in this town, we were fortunate enough to meet up with a guy from Couchsurfing, Harn. He had told us that he couldn’t host but was willing to meet us so we took him up on that offer. This was probably the best decision we made the entire trip. He was friendly, easy to get along with and eager to help us. He told us where to go and what to see. As a couple who enjoy nature, he recommended a nature hike in their national park and said he was willing to show us places to eat.
We managed to spend a few hours with Harn on most days and he was incredibly helpful when it came to showing us around and helping us see the Penang that he knows and loves. The more time we spent with him, the more we enjoyed our time in Penang. We were preparing ourselves to leave when he told us there was a Couch Surfing event the following night with usually a good mix of tourists and locals all interested in meeting new people and talking about traveling.
It didn’t take much convincing on our end to make the decision to stay another night.
8:30pm rolled around and it was time for the Couchsurfing event to start up. Harn was the host and we were with him so we were the first to arrive along with another girl. This is so exciting. We have been itching to meet new people and this was supposed to be a good mix of locals and travelers. We were the only ones there for the first hour and it was not looking hopeful. Apparently, three of the regulars walked by but didn’t stop to join us.
Then they started trickling in. One by one, we over crowded the table with about 17 people.
I was able to meet and chat with a lot of people but towards 11pm was when the real fun began. The place that hosted us, Mugshot, was an awesome coffee shop where we had iced coffees and homemade yogurt but now was time to get some cheap alcohol.
At this point, I had befriended a German guy doing his mechanics apprenticeship here and a local guy who was just incredibly friendly and happy to hang out with new people. I had also talked hockey with an Indonesian girl (so random). She even knew her players so we had a huge discussion about Sidney Crosby and why he is as good as he is, despite his stats in the playoffs. And back on track. It’s cheap beer time. Harn couldn’t/wouldn’t join us because he had to get up early in the morning to do some photography stuff. Nobody else seemed to know where the bar was so Kristi and I got to lead the way like true Canadians and show them where to get cold, cheap beer. Our group consisted of Kristi and I, three locals, the German guy along with a random German girl, a Chinese girl and the Indonesian girl (who happens to be a local).
We stuck around for 2-3 beers then the German girl insisted we go see her friend sing at a bar near where we were. When we got there, the guy had a great voice but the acoustics in the bar were terrible as it was a narrow room and the sound echoed off the walls. Kristi and I decided it was after midnight and we should go to sleep. There was a bus leaving at 10am that we wanted to catch. However, everyone else decided that wasn’t the atmosphere they were looking for and insisted we come out for another beer. Since the rule is “If you don’t give into peer pressure, you won’t make friends” we decided to join them. We were down to 6 people now though so we decided to buy an overpriced tower of beer and a grape shisha (or hookah as I know it.)
Spending time talking and laughing with all of these people has made this one of my favorite nights so far. One of the guys at our table was quite reserved and mentioned to me that he had never tried shisha. I told him there is no pressure if he doesn’t want to try it. He did. He coughed. I laughed and assured him that everyone coughs their first time.
At one point in the night, 2 guys from the table behind us got up with a guitar and grabbed a microphone. This of course was followed by them singing “I’m all out of love”.
I’m pretty sure the one guy looked a lot like poker pro, Johnny Chan.
Kristi and I were the first to leave, chipping in our share and saying goodnight. We got back to our room close to 3am. I have no idea how late everyone was out but I got a facebook message saying we shouldn’t have left so early… I guess I’m old because there is no way I was staying up later. Needless to say, we missed the 10am bus and booked another night at our hotel.
This night was awesome. We were happy to take advantage of this oppertunity to meet people and the people we did meet were all very easy to get along with. The more I think about it, everyone I meet is easy to get along with. Maybe the common denominator in this is me. Maybe everyone has such a good time socializing because I’m so good at it. This all makes so much more sense now. Glad we solved that problem.