The bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang made me crazy—it doesn’t take much to make me crazy these days—so I decided to hitchhike the 350km back. Easy. Japan is far and away the best country in Asia—and the world, in fact—for hitchhiking, but Malaysia is a very solid number two and any other country is a distant third. (I do hear the rumblings that China is improving rapidly.)
The only hard part is getting to the highway, both in KL and Penang. Once you get on those highway rest areas, it is a piece of cake. It’s not just on the Malaysian highway where it’s a breeze either. Last time I hitchhiked up through the sparsely populated center and down the east coast on provincial roads, also pain-free, and as you can see, I am hardly easy on the eye.
Penang, although a food paradise, isn’t without a dark side. It can be a rough and tumble place. Earlier this year, just on the hostel’s street, Jalan Muntri, there was a problem of young punks racing on their motorcycles. The police put a nail strip just outside of the hostel and the punks would hit it and fly off their bikes, travelers at the ready with their cameras. Good fun all around.
For me, the dark side of Penang is seeing so many older travelers in their 50s and 60s here. Some show a vibrant spark, but most look to be glued to their chairs, chain-smoking in a morose, near-death stupor. Is Penang where old travelers come to die? They give me the skeeves.
Can you make out what the sign below says? 500RM fine ($165) for littering. Whomever litters makes it a point of littering right under the sign and there is a fresh new batch every day! That’s chutzpah. I don’t know if it is a Malaysian saying, but I heard it here first: “Britain ruled the waves, but we waive the rules!”