22.12.2012 - 22.12.2012 32 °C
Today we got up a bit earlier as we wanted to leave Georgetown and see some of the island. We had our toast and porridge for breakfast with a most needed cup of coffee and after layering on sun lotion and insect repellent in equal quantities we set off. The bus comes just around the corner of our guest house and we only had to wait five minutes for the bus we wanted. We got on the 101 bus to Penang's national park, a protected area of land with jungle and beeches of great natural beauty. The bus took a long time and we were glad to get off as the air conditioning was really cold. A word of advice for anyone catching the bus in Penang, they don't give change so you need to board with the exact amount.
Once there we signed in and got a terrible photocopy of a map of all the trails and places of interest. We decided to go on the canopy walk and then carry on to Pentai Keracut beach which has a turtle sanctuary on it. We arrived at the park at ten past twelve and the canopy walk closed for lunch at 1pm so we decided to go straight there and set off on a speed walk. The path at this point was leisurely and paved and there were monkeys walking around. The path initially bordered the coast and the views were gorgeous, all white sand and blue sea with big rocks and trees. Along the way there were picnic areas on jetties that you could sit at and overlook the beach. We had to go inland for the canopy walk and the path soon became a jungle trail. We arrived at the canopy walk in time but we were totally knackered and boiling, walking at speed up and down a jungle trail at mid day is hard work.
The canopy walk is a suspended walkway from the trees attached by ropes with a plank running through the centre to walk on. When we arrived and bought our tickets it looked exciting but once we up there it was really fun but quite scary. We were the only two people up there and there were four walks of varying lengths through the trees. It was really high and when you walked the whole bridge moved and bounced up and down with your steps.
After the tree top walk we set off on route to the beach. It looked about the same distance as we had walked to the canopy walk on our map so we thought it would be easy but the trail was narrow and muddy with tree roots surfacing and wet leaves on it. After about ten minutes walking and after all the jeering yesterday when Chelsea left her umbrella at the restuarant Liam realised he had left his sunglasses. Half way accros the canopy walk we stopped for a photo and he hooked his glasses to one of the ropes up in the trees. We had to walk back and Liam had a lengthy conversation with the canopy walk employee while he was on his lunch as he wouldn't let him back accross. After Liam said will you please go and get them for me then the man let him go back accross. Liam (who is scared of heights) had to do the walk twice haha.
We then set off again to the beach. After an hour or so we thought it was quite a long way and we must be close but it took more than two hours to get there. The walk was really hard, through narrow slippy paths up and down hills. We just had to follow the path and we couldn't see where it was leading us as it was through dense jungle. On more than one occasion we thought we were lost and the map was zero help. We just had to carry on. On route we met a group of people in the same predicament who also didn't know where they were but we all followed the path and eventually we got there but we were totally done in.
We had totally underestimated the national park and we had drank all our water back at the canopy walk and this made the Indiana Jones style two hour trek through the hot humid jungle real difficult. When we got to the end we went straight to the sea for a paddle. The beach was lovely. We have since read that it is the national parks most remote beach. The sea water was really warm and the sand was white but was really corse like sea salt. It was hard to walk on and your feet sank when you walked. The turtle sanctuary however was not worth the work, there was a guarded area of beach where eggs were waiting to hatch but the actual sanctuary was tiny with several turtle skeletons and two small turtles swimming into the wall of a childrens paddle pool.
There was no way without the water, or Bear Grylls, that we were going to make it back through the Jungle. Luckily a boat makes laps of the national parks coast line. We waited on the Jetty at the beach until one arrived, when one finally turned up our joy was quickly extinguished when the boat man said it would be RM80 back. We were not going to pay that. To our relief the group we had met earlier also did not fancy the walk back and wanted to catch the boat, meaning we could split the RM80 between eight of us rather than just us. The boat trip turned out to be a good idea, it was real fun seeing the rest of the park from the sea and the breeze was a welcome relief from the heat. By the time we got back we were desperate for a drink, so we bought some water and cans of pop from a small shop before getting the bus back to George Town,
It is fair to say that our trek pretty much killed us off for the day. In hindsight we enjoyed it but at the time it was really hard work. We came back to the guesthouse to rest and take much needed showers. We were quite late going out for tea as we were so worn out. By the time we did go out we were starving having not eaten since breakfast. We decided we wanted curry and tried another Penang 'must eat. Nasi Kandar. Bascilly you have rice, with your chosen curry but you also get the sauce of every other curry they sell mixed in. It was mega and we had a mutton and vegitable curry and the obligatory freshly baked naan bread.
On our way back we strolled through Little India and noticed that everyone was walking around in Saris and traditional Hindu dress. The women were dressed in fancy embelished, colourful saris and they had fresh flowers in there hair, it was beautiful. We thought it could just be for Saturday night until we saw a large Hindu street parade working our way towards us. It was dedicated to Hari Krishna, there were three large ornate floats decorated with shrines and flowers. The first led by two huge well dressed cows, the others pulled along by dozens of people. Each one played loudly its own Hari Krishan chant while more people danced, played drums and crashed cymbals. It was amazing to see. We stood at the sidelines watching and taking photos before a older man came to speak to us to explain what was going off and telling us to join in. Before we knew it we each had a rope pulling a float along the streets in between the dancing and the music. We followed for a couple of streets, totally transfixed by it.
Everyone was extremely friendly, asking us to join in with the dancing, chatting to us and handing out sugar coated nuts. At the end of the parade there is a massive free vegertarian feast but it was quite a way away and it had taken nearly an hour to move two streets due to the roads still being open to other traffic, plus we couldn't take anymore walking and it was raining, so we stood and watched it carry on before returning to the guesthouse.
Today has been quite unexpected, but we have enjoyed it. The national park was great to explore even if it did almost kill us, and the Hindu parade made our day, it was brilliant. Tomorrow we are going to take it easy and recover though and plan to spend it ligged out on a beach on the north of the island.