Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Happy Birthday Claudia

Wednesday 15th December 2010

MP3 track of the day: Happy Birthday -

Weather: Bright Sunshine all day for the first time in George Town

Again I woke up a decent time; I did this so that I could say goodbye to Barbara-Ann, Anna and Stephanie. They were leaving just after ten and so I got ready and met them for breakfast. I was pretty sad; the group was splitting up and, even though I might meet the three of them in three or four days time, (we are heading in the same direction) it still felt a little like the end of my Alaskan tour. The taxi came, they all gave me a big hug, and I watched them go.

There were still three of us here; Mike, Claudia and I. It was also Claudia's birthday and so we wanted to make the day as good as possible. The weather looked great, however everyday at this time the weather had looked great. We headed out to the bus station (also met by a Canadian girl who was going to the airport) to take a bus to 'Kek Lok Si', a major Buddhist temple on Penang Island. Once at the bus station we met an Indian 'bus regulator' chap who was really friendly and helped us to get the correct bus … we were on our way.

The temple wasn't that far away; we were soon off the bus and staring up this hill at a giant pagoda and a giant statue … it already looked very impressive. To get to the temple we had to walk up this narrow staircase which was covered with tents and shops. We ran the gauntlet with stall owners on both sides trying to sell us everything from lanterns to a replica of Mr Beans teddy (I'm serious they had loads of them). Half way up we saw a round pool full of turtles where you could purchase leaves from a lady to feed them … we didn't bother as it was a waste of money and the turtles didn't look to be that well looked after, a bit sad really.

We finally battled our way to the temple complex where things got bigger, grander and more beautiful. We began to explore the maze of temples, rooms, walkways and footpaths. There were statues, monuments and shops scattered everywhere. The temple was covered in every colour imaginable and it was pretty impressive. We followed a well worn path through the temple and we ended up at a cable car to reach the top level of the complex. We wanted to walk up the stairs to the top level however we would have to go back to the start of the complex to find them … we decided it wasn't worth the effort and so we paid the two ringgit to travel by cable car.

Once at the top the sun was beating down; this was a little strange as, normally at this time of day, it should be raining. Not moaning too much I put on some suncream and went out to photograph the view. The view down onto Georgetown was impressive, but not as impressive as the buildings, monuments and the giant statue of a lady (must have been at least twenty stories high) located around us. There was such a lot to photograph that I need to get another memory card soon as I'm running out of space … again.

The whole place was beautiful, peaceful and colourful; Claudia, Mike and I chilled for a little while, taking it all in. Mike decided to take a photo of me, from a low angle, so that I looked like a giant (photo called 'Big Matt', which can be seen below) which, when I saw the end product, was quite funny. He explained that all he needed now was a photo opportunity for a 'little Matt'.

Instead of taking the cable car down we walked down a 's' bending road; whilst on the road we were wondering if we had seen everything at this temple. It dawned on us that we hadn't been to the top of the pagoda and so we headed back into the lower levels of the complex to see if we could find a way to it. We did find the way to the pagoda, however it was another two ringgit. Now I didn't mind paying as to look around the main temple was free, however Mike was wore annoyed with all these hidden charges that keep appearing and Claudia wasn't that bothered either … I could see Mike's point and so I was also happy to head back into town to get lunch as I was starving.

I was the only one eating lunch (the others are trying to stick to two meals a day … I can't do it). I had a small noodle meal that cost 80p and then went for an ice cream for a further 20p … not bad. Next up was the beach; we thought we might be able to catch a direct bus from where we were however it soon dawned on us that we had to go back to the central bus station, in Georgetown, and change there. Once at the bus station we saw some performing art which had something to do with newspapers; one guy was dressed head-to-toe in newspaper and the other was holding a giant newspaper. Mike, seeking his opportunity to take a photo of 'little Matt', asked one of the artists if I could hold the giant newspaper for a photo … which I did.

Fortunately we didn't have to wait long to change buses and we were soon off to the beach, like we promised Claudia. It took quite a while to get to the beach, however the driver did let us know where our stop was and directions to where we needed to go. The beach was very beautiful, okay not the same quality as Fiji, but beautiful in its own way. We found a shady spot where we sat for a while; we did have to be careful as there was quite a few ants and a little broken glass around. Still the view was beautiful and I think Claudia enjoyed it.

All along the beach people were trying to sell us horse rides, 4x4 experiences and shells with our names on, it got a little irritating but manageable. Just before seven we headed to a restaurant, on the beach front, where we had a drink and watched the sunset. The whole thing was extremely beautiful and we all couldn't believe how luckily we had been with the weather.

Once the sun had set we headed to a bus stop and went back into Georgetown. The bus took forever and we were all starving by the time we arrived back; as Mike and Claudia had arrived later than the other guys in the group they hadn't been to the 'Rose Garden' (I talked about this in my previous blogs). I took them there and we all stuffed ourselves until we had to waddle out of the restaurant.

Claudia and I were pretty tired where as Mike wasn't. Mike went into town where as Claudia and I went to sleep. Just before Claudia went to her dorm I asked her if she had enjoyed her birthday, she replied 'it was perfect, thank you' … mission successful.

Toodle Pip!

P.S. Below are the photos of 'Big Matt' and 'Little Matt' … which one do you prefer?

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