Catching Up ( Part 1 – Penang )

Ok. So the traveling finally begins and the posting falls off. Nothing new. We’ve been in Malaysia for 3 days now and are on a sleeper train headed for Singapore. I’ll try to do the last few days justice, but know there’s no way that will be possible.

The interesting stuff all begins pretty much as soon as we landed in KL. We picked up our bagage (with out any trouble!) and headed out to the bus stop. It was pretty easy to find and there was a guy, Nazir, sitting there waiting for the bus that we later we would later become friends with. We checked with him to make sure that we were at the right stop for the bus we wanted and waited a few minutes.

After getting on the bus, an old guy (who we now refer to as A.Star) started asking me where I was from and such and so I moved over to talk to him. It was clear from a distance that he wasn’t entirely there, but we were on a bus filled with a lot of people, so it was pretty safe, and so I figured I’d talk to him. He told me stories about how he went to the US, used to play guitar with McJagared, and knew The Rolling Stones, amoung some other rock stars.

At this point it was easy to see he track marks on his arm, his eyes watering when he talked, the sole tooth in his mouth, and that he had a ‘pos top, so I was taking everything he was saying with more than a grain of salt, and found my way back to my seat after singing a verse of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” with him. Later Nazir would tell us that he didn’t know this guy’s full story, but did know that he had been to the US and played with big bands and so it was possible that his stories were reasonably true…

So we finally arrive at Komta Square and get off the bus with A.Star, and Nazir. A.Star tried to talk to me some more but Nazir brushed him away for us. Starving, we took this act of kindness as an opportunity to start talking to Nazir and asked him if there were any good places to get some food. He told us of a place andwas going in the same direction and offered to show us it.

We walked maybe 10 minutes or so with Nazir ang go to know him a bit. Grew up on Penang. Was a graphic designer. Had four kids, ages 4(?) to 12. Etc.

When we got at the resaurant/street vendor that he recommended, I offered to buy him lunch (which would cost about 5RM / $1.75) for showing us there and being so nice. He declined lunch but stayed to get a milk tea and talked with us.

He was great, and it was a lot of fun talking to him and getting to know a real local, and apparently he thought the same. It turned out that the woman that worked where the poster he was carrying and had to deliver was out today and so he didn’t have anything to do and offered to show us around. We didn’t want to intrude, or take advanatage of his generousity, but he persisted that he nothing else to do, and so we had our own local guide.

Nazir showed us all around. Where the local backpacker inns were, which was on Lover’s Lane. This was apparently also where all the ‘Lady Boys’, a local term for men in drag, hung out which seemed like an awkward thing to mention, but I don’t think there was anything else to it. He showed us some pre-WWII houses, the local school, some old colonial buildings that had been renoated an repurposed as the local court house. He also showed us the esplenad, and commented on how the beaches that used to be here were, and how all of the construction in the area ruined the water.

We walked past the first fort built on the island by the British, which was supposed to be used to protect the island from the Dutch, but was really used to take control off it. He showed us the local beachnut tree and fruit which the island was named after and then the financial district.

He then took us back next to where we got lunch and into his mosque. He showed us where they cleaned themselves before prayer and the original well built there back in what I think was the 1800’s, and explained a bit of it’s history. He explained how often they were supposed to prayer, which we asked if he was missing today, and he told us how he was also supposed to be kind to others and that this was a special day and that it was ok. He gave us some material on Islam and terrorism, and how not all Muslims believed in such extremes. He commented that he wasn’t trying to convert us at all, but that he really just wanted us to educate us and kind of clear the name of his religion a bit. I know that I at least felt really honored by him showing us all of this, and think Jason liked it to. It was definitely an experience we would not have had on our own if we had not met him.

It now had to be at least mid afternoon, and he wanted take us to his classmate’s food stand and buy us a snack. We stopped by and aquirum/fish and pet store on the way there, and had more milk tea and some of the brightest neon pink colored tapioka sweets and some traditional donut like pastry. Both were pretty good, especially if once you were able to get over the extreme color.

It was now about time to go and catch our ferry. We took a longer route back, passing by the esplinade again on our way to Penang. Nazir told us it was a shame that we only had one day on the island and that if we came back he would find us some scooters to use and show us more of it.

After a second calculation on how much time we needed to catch our train, we found out we had more time to kill, so we offered to share one more milk tea with Nazir before leaving. I thought about offering him something for spending litterally close to 8 hours showing us arround, but really think that it would have been rude, and so got his address instead and am going to send him something later ( a book on Whitey Bulger maybe, since we talked about Boston a bit, and he said he liked to read biographies and mobsters).

I’m not so sure what Penang would have been like if we hadn’t met Nazir, but since we did, it was amazing. Especially since this was the frst day of our trip. I really can’t imagine a cooler way to have kicked it all off.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *