I visited Australia at the beginning of my Around the World trip. I knew a few Aussie’s at the time and they all told me to buy a beat up old car to get around Australia in. Not to bother to rent a car. First of all, I was alone and know nothing about cars. Odds were: I was going to breakdown in the middle of the outback without a cellphone
signal and trapped. The intention was reasonable on their part. With a car, I could not pay for transportation, go wherever I pleased and whenever I wanted, and I could even use it as a place to sleep when I needed. It just was not an option that I saw beneficial for myself. After Australia, I flew into Malaysia.
Malaysia is quite small. It never occurred to me to even consider to rent a car or buy a car here. I even went to Singapore on an overnight train for 8 USD from KL! Can’t get much better. However. Let’s talk about public transportation in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur was fine. I had a better experience walking around the city than I did with the monorail though. Everyone jams onto it (like any Asian city I suppose), and you have to be very careful of your pockets. But to travel to beaches and outside of the city?
My English friend Martin, who had just spent a lot of time traveling around Asia (including Malaysia), kept insisting that I should take the time to go up to Penang and enjoy the town and neighboring fisherman villages there. He said it was beautiful and delicious, after all it is noted as the “food capital of Malaysia.” How could I not go?
After I figured out how to take a train outside of the city center to the bus depot area. The bus “station” was basically a massive dirt lot with a hundred buses. None of the buses were on and no one near them. I found out, after doing a couple of circles around the building structure, which bus was the one to Penang with only a few stops. They told me it was leaving in 15 minutes! Great! I paid and got on the bus. It was actually a nice interior and clean-ish. I sat there and waited. I wrote in my journal. Looked through my pictures on my camera. Read about Penang in my travel book. 40 minutes
had passed. I inquired about the depart of the bus again. The man who looked like he was going to drive it said about 15 more minutes. Ok. Cool. I people watched out the window and read a little more of my book. 30 minutes later (about an hour after original departure time) I inquired again. I didn’t want to miss out on my day in Penang. He assured me “really” 10-15 minutes this time. OK. I was a little anxious at this point because I was missing out on my time up there. 35 more minutes later there were more people on the bus and no signs of leaving. This time I told them that I really couldn’t be waiting that much longer or else I would only be in Penang for 2 hours. They then told me that the buses will leave once they are full. Ohhhh!!! Ok so…2 hours of waiting later….now they tell me.
So…I had to get off. It just wasn’t the best means for me to go. I should have found another way, but it would not have been a good use of my time. I then asked for my money back and they refused. They told me that I was a “stupid girl,” and that it was my fault for giving them money. Over and over again they told me to get out and “go away.” I told them that I would appreciate my money back and I wasn’t leaving without out it. A group of drivers stood around me laughing at me. They kept on calling me “stupid.” I was so embarrassed, but the more they kept on, the more stubborn I was to get my money back.
The man with the cash box tried to walk away and I followed him. He was getting annoyed. Finally they gave in. A couple of them followed me to the entrance of the bus depot shouting at me. Who knew that my morning/day would’ve ended so terribly. I was in tears from the whole ordeal, because it was just a lot to experience and very high tensioned.
I never made it to Penang on this trip. Never went to any beaches or small fishing villages like I wanted to. But I would still like to go back again and see all of Malaysia. Next time I will rent a car for certain, without any hesitation. The waiting is just not worth it.