It’s said being adventurous will spice up any journey. We’ve decided to try Couchsurfing on our way to Pulau Besar – Malaysian island we were going to help at. And even though it didn’t quite worked for us at the beginning it brought us to the pleasant ending.
We got on a train in Bangkok and took it overnite to Butterworth – the first station past Thai/Malaysian border. People complain about trains in SEA, I won’t. It’s a waaaay better than Polish railways PKP, waaay better!
Few days before departing I searched for a host in Penang, the island known for the great food and lovely scenic Georgetown. Got a few invitations but one seemed just what we needed! After all this traffic and crowds in BKK we chosed the CS host who accepted us and would welcome us in his family home in Taiping. Just a wee half an hour from Butterworth. What is 30 minutes in a bus when it comes to great trekking and off the beaten track place! We’re in!
To cut the long story short. 2 hours and 2 different buses later (no, Taiping is not half an hour bus drive from Butterworth) we ended up in a late afternoon in a sleepy town. Indeed – off the beaten track, no hostels, guesthouses or tourist information. nada….
The SEA darkness found us in Pizza Hut trying to desperately contact our host-to-be via the slowest WIFI poss. Unfortunately after the guy messaged us with welcoming email, he disappeared for a good few days from CS. Our luck 🙁
As mentioned it got dark, all the rats came out to rumble the streets and the surroundings seemed far less friendly. We had no choice but to book a room in the only available hotel in the sight. Peking Hotel. Well recommended by Lonely Planet ruin with a special atmosphere to it – Japanese used the establishment for a police station in WW II… No, we haven’t followed LP advice, as we never do. Peking Hotel was the only place we could use to stay for that nite.
Disheartened by the circumstances we didn’t fall in love with Taiping from the first site.
By morning still fighting uneven battle with WIFI we managed to reach another CS host, who’d be never found if not for the situation. Polish chef in Malay restaurant invited us in to The Gate Cafe and made us feel much better about the town. Later we also stayed at Lukasz’s place, a very basic but amazingly located flat with a Lake Gardens’ view. And above the food court he took us to try great food and meet his local cooking friends.
We’ve spent the next 3 days trekking the nearby Maxwell Hill (Bukit Larut), trying delicious things on each food court in town, chatting with friendly locals who welcomed uncommon tourists to their community and just wondering Lake Gardens with a dumb smile on our happy faces. Yes we are easy to please 🙂 Taiping (the name translates into City of Everlasting Peace) shared with us its calm atmosphere, at last we got a peace of mind we looked for in our journey.