Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penang Malaysia - beach?

I admit I am a spoiled kid.  I have been to many beautiful beaches, including Yalong Bay in Sanya, Hainan,  Sandy Bay in Exmouth, Western Australia, and Aruba.  In my view, a great beach should have crystal clear water, a long white sand walkway, complete nearby facilities, and of course good eating places as well.  Honestly I am not quite impressed by beaches I have visited in Miami Florida area and San Diego area (to be fair, I have not done a comprehensive tour of either of those cities' beaches, and we had bad weather in San Diego on my only visit there, but still...if you've been to the three beaches I mention above, you'll probably know what I mean).  I think the water is almost unbearable in Galveston and Port Aransas off the Texas coast (unfortunately, the closest beaches to me living in Austin).  In Canada, Wasaga Beach and North Bay (both north of Toronto) are just so so, and the water at Stanley Park (Vancouver) is too cold.  As you can see, I have very high standard toward beaches.  If it is not good enough, I'd rather stay at home and play in the pool. 

Beach in Penang

Yeng Keng Hotel is in the city center, and there are no beaches in walking distance.  I checked Lonely Planet, Monkey Beach looks good.  We decided to check it out. 

Transportation: after talking to the front desk, we found it was pretty cheap to take taxi to Monkey Beach, about 40 ringgit (US$13.33).  So here we go, Monkey Beach.  We actually only got as far as Batu Ferringhi, and found it was a public beach.  Other than couple of small resturants, we found nothing.  The Shangri-La and other locally-run resorts were right on the beach, but only hotel guests can use their facilities.  Once we hit the beach, people started approaching us for business, selling everything from massages to parasailing rides.  We had an offer to get a boat to Monkey Beach (being told it was only accessible by boat), but that it would cost 350 ringgit (US$116.67) for the round trip boat fare.  Our perception of relaxing on the beach is very simple: reading, daydreams, drink and swim. 

We ended up turning down all commercial offers, putting our towels on Batu Ferringhi were we were and starting our rest.  The quality of the sand is not bad, a bit yellow, a bit white.  The water is pretty good, it is blue, but not clear enough. Keep in mind, my benchmark is very high. 

We met two tourists from Holland, and they shared a lot of info with us.  For example, we learned we could take a public bus to the beach, it is very convenient (running every five minutes), and only cost 2.7 ringit (about US$0.90).  It was also them who mentioned Kapitan Restaurant from my last post.  And of course, we did our own due diligence.
I guess because we were not resort guests, Batu Ferringhi was not attractive to us.  We found nothing attractive to eat, no shade and no shower.  After playing in the water a couple of times, we decided to go home.  Just as those people from Holland said, the bus was really easy.
P.S.  Poor Steve, he got sunburn! It was quite painful for him for a couple of days.  Well, I guess he needs to put more sunscreen next time.

P.P.S.  I do not regret that we did not stay in the Shangri-La.  Shangri-La is a resort hotel, and quite isolated from the "real world" of Penang.  The purpose of visiting Malaysia is to get to know local life here, not stay in a glass tank resort.  If we had stayed in Shangri-La, I probably would not have learned as much about Penang as I did.

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