LAST STOPS IN MALAYSIA
Ipoh (ee-poh) is only 2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur by bus, so the easiest thing to do is to just head to a main bus station in KL and bargain for a bus ticket. We had to make sure we avoided the people yelling at us asking us “WHERE YOU GO WHERE YOU GO?”, but we managed to get a bus to Ipoh.
One of our ultimate frisbee friends from Ohio, Lindsey, had set us up with one of her friends living in Ipoh, Jason (or Punk). He was working as an expat chemical engineer in Malaysia for two years and had just moved there in January. He picked us up from the bus station (which felt really nice not to have to haggle for a taxi or walk) and took us back to where he lives in a very nice gated community with a golf course! Working as an expat sure does have its benefits. After getting to know each other for a bit, we all decided that we should get a workout in. It felt good to continue the workout streak we were on. I hadn’t done anything besides the occasional hike for the past 2 months, but we worked out 4 of 5 days in KL, and then in Ipoh. Finally, I didn’t feel like a sack of potatoes on the beach.
For dinner we met up with some of Jason’s expat friends, Rick and Max, and headed to town to find some local grub. We headed to the hawker food courts, which are the best place to eat if you want authentic local food, and it’s the places we have been eating at since Singapore. Hawker food courts are pretty much the same all over; a bunch of tables and chairs in the middle, and you can walk up to whatever food cart you want around the edge of the tables and order something. Some are selling drinks, some Malay food, some Chinese food, some desserts. You tell them what table you’re at and they bring the food. And of course people came by and tried to sell us more because we are white, cuz sometimes that happens. It wasn’t obnoxious though, so no worries.
With dinner in our bellies, we headed out in search of drinks and good times. It was a fun night bar hopping and hanging with some fellow Americans.
We were pretty hungover the next morning. I don’t think Jason was, but we were. We all play ultimate, so in good ultimate player fashion, we rallied and decided to hike 8 miles up to the top of Bukit Kledang hill (if you’re from the Midwest, it looks more like a mountain) in Ipoh. Took it slow, but it was a great way to cure the hangover. Rick and Max were champs too, and we all conquered the hill after a few hours.
We all met back up again after showers to head to a cave temple in Ipoh. It was similar to the Batu Caves in KL, but I liked this one better. We went in and admired the cave paintings, then climbed to the top for more shrines and a view.
At happy hour time, we headed to Bricks & Barrels where they had a deal on a tower of beer and it was Free Flow for the ladies…. where women drink cocktails/house wine free until 8pm everyday. Seriously? Every day? Apparently that’s a thing. I thought about grabbing Maria’s purse and going up to the bar…
At the end of the night we said goodbye to Rick and Max, maybe we will catch them again in Austin someday. A fun couple. The next morning Jason was back at work and we were heading back to the bus station. Jason was a outstanding host, and staying with him really made us miss home, or just simply having a home. I’ve said it a million times, but the ultimate community is full of the nicest, happiest, and strangely successful people around.
The next bus took us across a bridge to the island of Penang in northern Malaysia where our hostel was in the middle of the main city, George Town. A little frustrating of a travel day, we ended up having to take another local bus once we got to the island, but at 1 RM (0.33 USD) it ended up being okay.
We walked around the bustling little city, and found a hawker food court to eat our meals at. This one was right on the ocean, and included an Islamic side and a Chinese side. Same food, but the Islamic side doesn’t have beer. The food lived up to the hype (our guide book said that the food is what Penang is famous for) and it was great to see the ocean again. A highlight of this place: we got double orange juices for 3.20 RM. That might not sound that great to anyone, but let’s break it down. We want an orange juice, so we go for the double. He immediately grabs two oranges and puts them in the juicer, hands us the mug with juice. Uhhh… OK. Fresh squeezed double orange juice for 1 USD. Sure, I’ll have two.
The entire next day was stupidly (but importantly) devoted to figuring out what the hell we were gonna do next and how we were going to get to Thailand. We were recommended to check out this more distant island in southern Thailand called Koh Lipe, but getting there and figuring out a place to stay on Koh Lipe was the challenge. We thought of going to Langkawi (another island in Malaysia) and then Koh Lipe, or maybe skipping Koh Lipe and Langkawi and getting a bus further north in Thailand, or staying in Penang… we were indecisive and clueless.
We talked with a few travel agencies and figured out that we could get a bus to the Pak Bara pier (where the ferry leaves for Koh Lipe) in Thailand leaving at 5am the next morning. So that’s what we did, and we told ourselves we will worry about finding a place to stay on Koh Lipe when we get there..