Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Malaysia: Adventure by Bus

After traveling solo the last few days in Melaka, I was looking forward to meeting up with an art teacher friend and heading up to Penang. I left a window of several hours in between when my bus was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur and the departure time from the same bus terminal to Penang - just in case.  The bus left fairly close to "on time" and things seemed to be proceeding fairly normally until passing through a tollway. Some unusual sounds were heard as the driver attempted to shift the gears, with the bus failing to gain much momentum. The driver pulled over momentarily and then attempted to move onward. Judging from the time, we were not that far from the outskirts of KL. Unfortunately, just as the bus sputtered through the next tollway, it decided that was far enough. Now, a very foul smell and smoke was prominent. After several minutes of people muttering, the bus driver finally let us off the bus. 
After about a half hour wait with no one telling us anything, another bus stopped to let us on. A local assured me that the bus would be taking us to the originally intended station; alas, it wordlessly dropped us off at a different station. And so began the transport tangle in Kuala Lumpur. I did not see the name of desired bus station as one of the train stops when I looked on the signage, but two locals said they were also going that direction and provided some assistance. A few train stops later and a covered maze-like walkway later, I finally reached the intended bus station. My art teacher friend had already arrived and immediately spotted me, thanks to my height and red hair.
After a quick bite to eat, we were ready for our bus ride up to Penang. We waited by the platform in the tropical heat and I wasn't that surprised when that bus was late. The AC on the bus was welcomed and as it quieted down, we were able to snooze a bit. As we passed by the city of Ipoh about 200 km north, the landscape became quite beautiful. Huge limestone hills jutted into the very cloudy sky and were carpeted by thick tropical vegetation. Some of the trees were incredibly tall, poking their way through the dense misty clouds. It looked like illustrations of rainforests I had seen in books. What an experience that would have been to trek through the hills and up to its many caves. Between the speed of the bus and rain, capturing decent photos of the magnificent natural scene was difficult. I would have to settle for the few photos I managed to take and my memory of the scene; perhaps another time I could visit.
Alongside the edges of the fairly well-maintained expressway, women used weedwackers to keep the vegetation down. Others trimmed the flowering bushes that served as a median strip, forming interesting zigzag patterns.

A couple hours later, we arrived in Butterworth, a rather bland city from where it was an easy ferry ride to the island of Penang and to our destination of UNESCO World Heritage city of Georgetown. 

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