When asked about the places to visit on Pulau Penang, Ms Rani, the lady who was manning the hotel check-in on my day of arrival, started to rattle on about the list of places which I had researched and jotted down in my journal before my arrival. Working as a service staff for the past 7 years at the seafront hotel situated conveniently at Gurney Drive, she must be no stranger to questions about places of interests from curious visitors.
“Whatever you do,” she said, pointing out to the vast blue sea opposite the hotel, “get to the other side of the road.” The hotel was separated from the water by a tarmac road no wider than 5 metres.
I took a mental note, partly due to her insistence, but did not place it on my priority list. After all, in my pre-trip research, the stretch of beach at Gurney was not exactly a tourist interest spot compared to its illustrious cousin at Batu Ferringhi.
“Besides its just opposite the hotel,” I told myself, wondering what the fuss was all about “I can go over anytime I have the time.”
And with that, the idea was dismissed.
Penang Island has so much to offer to her visitors with her attractions. A part of the Kedah Sultanate until its cession to the British in 1786, endless hours can be spent in her World Heritage Site, Georgetown. It’s a place where you can explore heritage trails on bicycles, visit architectural buildings that are more than a hundred years old, go on café hopping and food trails, and of course, there’re the famous street arts drawn by artists from all over the world.
I didn’t cross the road. That was the end of Day 1.
I started the next day with a visit to Penang Hill. It was a Sunday. And a bad idea.
If you think that queuing up 45 mins to wait for your turn for a ride at Universal Studios is a tough wait, wait till you try queuing up for your turn to ride on a funicular train up Penang Hill. It was a 3 hour wait from the time we bought the tickets to the time we finally got up the train. Though the crowd management leaves a lot to be desired, you cannot help but appreciate the quick ascent up the 833m hill which offers a panoramic view of Georgetown, the Penang bridge, and the mainland. I took my time in exploring the peak and its flora, wanting to make the best use of my time, no thanks to the 3-hour initial wait.
I returned to my hotel completely exhausted. I still didn’t cross the road. That was the end of Day 2.
It was a short weekend visit to the island and I lament the lack of planning in my time in order to schedule a longer stay. As I checked out of the hotel, I realised that I was too early for the night bus. I wondered what I should do.
The words of Ms Rani called out to me again. “Whatever you do,” I could see her pointing out to the vast blue sea opposite the hotel once again, “get to the other side of the road.”
I had an hour to wait. This time, I followed her advice. I got to the other side of the road.
A purple glow from the evening sun filled the sky. Children were playing by the beach. There was an ice cream seller that rode up and down the stretch of beach – we must have crossed path 5 times at least. The sounds of the waves approached the reclaimed shore, sometimes softly and sometimes as loud as a lion’s roar. In that hour, the beach offered solace and quietness to this tired traveller’s soul.
From the past 2 days of hectic activities, or a year of being busy in 2015, Mrs. Rani, right there on Day 1, probably knew what I was seeking better than I knew myself.
One thought that came to mind during my time across the road was my blogging journey. Before the start of this blog, I had been sharing my travel experiences during small gatherings and even in some Facebook groups from time to time. When asked about starting a blog, I was initially hesitant. I worried about the technicalities – how to register a blog, how to maintain it, and all of the practical questions which come when undertaking such a project.
I worried if I would run out of words and if I would have the time in the future to keep it going. I remember the fear of sharing my life online for everyone to see. Would people think of me as being a show-off? What would the response be to my words?
I remembered that moment I took the plunge and clicked the “Publish” button anyway. This journey has brought me a long way thus far – meeting new people, exploring new destinations, scaling new heights, and winning awards. Yet I also have a suspicion that as I continue on this journey in 2016, there is still much more for me to learn and experience.
We each have our own dreams to pursue. We have carefully crafted our plans for adventure, for life, and want to see them through. Pulau Penang provided a gentle reminder that our best laid plans, even made with the best of intentions, are not actually what we need sometimes.
Sometimes we just need to take the advice of a stranger and get to the other side of the road.