2am in our hostel in Kuala Lumpur we decided to leave the next day for the full moon party on Koh Phangan, Thailand. With four days until the full moon, that meant two full days of traveling, one day of relaxing and one day half relaxing, half partying. When we woke up we took a late morning bus from KL to Penang (an island off the north west coast of Malaysia) where we expected to be able to find another bus ticket all the way to Koh Phangan (an island off the south east coast of Thailand). The drive from KL to Penang was innocuous enough as we cruised for about eight hours through mostly palm plantations.

I bought a snack before we left, a huge bag of delicious Cheezels. I told Kristof who scoffed when I said “Cheezels.” When I showed him it was a real product, with original cheese, he replied, “Oh good! I hate imitation Cheezels.” To give you an idea of relative size, the bag is resting on my knee.

We arrived in Penang in the evening, getting dropped off at the bus station some distance from downtown. We asked locals for directions and took two public buses and walked many blocks before we were given our first hint that we might be close to the tourist area:

A bus in Malaysia is called a bas; a taxi in Malaysia is called a teksi. Here is a teksi. It is fun to yell out “TEKSI” when you want one.

The first thing we did was find dinner. Kristof was eager to find some of that famous Penang curry, but it was not forthcoming. Among all the usual Malaysian, Thai and Indian hawker stalls was a hambuger stand. This was the only food that has given me an upset stomach since leaving the US but I have to say it was worth it.

The next day our overnight bus for Koh Phangan (via Hat Yai and Surat Thani, Thailand) left at 4pm so we had some time to kill, which we spent wandering around the city of Georgetown on the island and checking out some of the markets. We also spent another good while looking for the elusive Penang curry; about two weeks later we learned that it is called Panang curry, after a place in Thailand, not Malaysia. Lolz.

The city is dirty by Western standards but not by Malaysian standards. Streets have deep gutters and the store fronts are sometimes covered in interesting art.

As I believe I have said, Malaysia is predominantly Muslim. Not all women in public wear shawls but it is rare to go to a market and not see covered women.

People are generally very polite and I never felt unsafe here, although we followed all common sense rules about traveling in an unfamiliar third world country. Malaysia was an enjoyable place, especially the markets. However, people are much more subdued and reserved here than in most other places I have been, and not necessarily happier. I’m glad I came but I am looking forward to seeing what other less socially uptight parts of SE Asia are like.

Here is one more picture of an indoor market in Malaysia. These places are busy and exciting but the vendors try too hard to get your attention.

The next 20 hours, from 4pm to noon, were spent on buses, a ferry and a taxi. So far I have had a miserable time driving between places in Thailand and an awesome time when fixed somewhere. Go figure.

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