Cliff Notes on Penang and Phuket from Last Week

by francine Hardaway on June 7, 2007

I have always felt drawn to Asia, so when Mimi Solaire, one of my yoga teachers, and Willie Lim, a Malaysian martial arts instructor who also teaches at the studio, decided to take a bunch of students on a retreat, to Penang, Phuket, and Bangkok, my new hip and I decided to go.

After a week on the beach in Penang having a massage and a reflexology treatment a day, about which you can read here , we are now at the hotel where the tsunami hit in Phuket several years ago. It was closed for a week, but is open now, and the pictures are here.

From Penang, I was uploading video every day. But from Thailand, or at least from my hotel room, I can’t. So I have snippets of video on my computer that I can’t get up to Google or YouTube which are just gorgeous. Stay tuned, and I will try to upload them later. YouTube is just blocked: I can’t get to the site at all, which I think may be part of government censorship.

But here are my first impressions:

There’s a new Bangkok Airport since I was here two years ago, and it is futuristic and gorgeous. The ancient artistic traditions contrast with the ultramodern lights and peoplemovers. Worth clicking through to the photoset on Flickr and taking a look.

Malaysia is in the middle of a condo boom that looks like Miami. Forty story high rises are everywhere. Willie told me that the government has aprogram called something like “Malaysia, Your Next Home” for retirees, encouraging them to invest in these condos and come to Penang on the beach for at least part of the year. You can get a 6000sq ft. new floor-through condo for $1.2 million RM, which is about $380,000. Naturally, you don’t need to spend that much for something of more manageable size (I would lose my dogs in 6000 sq. ft).
People also buy them and locate their businesses in them.

Penang, although very close to the equator and in the southern hemisphere, is pretty comfortable because of the beach, except in the midday. The merchants don’t come out until sundown, so — like Bangkok–the place is full of night markets.

We just got to Phuket last night, so I don’t have much to tell you about it yet, except that it is drop dead beautiful on the beach where we are, Kamala Beach, which was destroyed by the tsunami and has been rebuilt after being closed for a year. You can still see the damage in the trees, Both the Malaysians and Thais are very anxious to please, and outside of the Zorro-looking women in black burkas in Penang, with whom you can’t even exchange a glance, very friendly.

Like my Africa and India trips, this one is not for the faint of heart or feet. Almost two days to get here, including about fifteen hours of waits in airports, checking and unchecking baggage, and trying to stay hydrated. Toilets where you squat on the porcelain foot-imprints on the floor, pee in a hole, and then wash yourself with a hose instead of using toilet paper. Fish staring at you from the dinner plate with sad eyes, and signs in a language you can’t even begin to comprehend, and a new shape of electrical outlet in every country.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael R. Bernstein June 7, 2007 at 4:34 pm

“condo book”? Did you mean ‘boom’?

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