Tuesday, 17 February 2015
We are staying a 70 minute taxi ride away from the Penang airport, which felt like the absolute last straw after all our flights from Oslo, but in fact it's turned out to be really good as we're at the quieter part of the island (of course it's all relative - it's still fairly bustling, especially at night), but we're also just a few kilometres away from Penang National Park. Of course you couldn't walk there, as there's no pavement, and you couldn't ride there on the hotels bikes (as you'd be killed by the busses/mopeds/taxis & cars), but you can catch a local bus there for roughly 65c for us and 30c for the kids. nice!
So that's what we did today. The main attraction on in the park is a beach called Monkey Beach, and most people take a boat from the park gates to the beach and back - about 15 minutes each way . We chose to get a boat to the beach and then walk back (about 4k), as after a few days of sitting by the pool I was really keen to do some exercise (much to the kids horror).
So we organised a boat (which looked much like the one in the photo above) and set off. On the way we passed a small floating fishing village as well as lots of other fishing and transport boats. The sea was quite choppy which was quite fun.
Once we arrived at Monkey Beach we set off to walk up the hill towards the lighthouse - much to Zali's horror this was actually in the opposite direction to the park entrance and in her opinion completely unnecessary and torturous. Thus, only Jett, Jon and I made it to there and she waited half way up. To be fair it was a pretty hot and sweaty walk (each day the weather is 32 degrees & 66% humidity). Apparently (according to the park brochure), on a clear day you can see all the way to Sumatra in Indonesia. I'm thinking that doesn't happen all that often as today was typical of each day we have been here and you can see maybe 5k before everything looks a bit hazy.
Back together on Monkey Beach we stopped for a cool drink and a coconut (thus fulfilling one of Zali's and my wish list items - drinking from a freshly cut coconut).
Then we continued down the beach and started the trek back to the park entrance.
It was hot and sweaty work. The jungle headland sections of the walk provided some shade which was nice although the going was often slow and steep. Zali and Jon swam at one of the beaches but Jett and I didn't bother as the sea is so warm it wasn't very refreshing. Here's Jett sitting in the shade waiting for them.
After about an hour of sweaty walking, we were just about back at the park entrance. Here we are looking across at the floating village from the land this time. In the far distance (just out of sight actually) is a 15 storey abandoned hotel - apparently it was a 5 star resort which closed in 2006. As you get closer you can see that there are just weeds and trees growing out of all levels. Pretty eerie. Would probably make for some good photos of Nature vs Human if you could get inside.
Are you wondering about the Monkeys at monkey beach? Well yes there were monkeys, lots of them. We saw them there and also as we got close to the entrance of the park where there were also metre long monitor lizards as well. We only took one or two photos of them..
And the reason? Well the great big elephant in the room - these photos all look lovely and tropical and everything, and the park brochure advertises unspoilt beaches and the park rules are very strict about disallowing all forms of pollution including noise -so you are not even allowed to take in a musical instrument, but in reality, every bit of coastline, including monkey beach although in hindsight that wasn't as bad as the rest of it (due to local businesses cleaning it up I guess although it still really bad by our standards), was covered in rubbish. Tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of rubbish. Empty bottles, drums, plastic, fishing gear, washing baskets, thousands of halved oranges (very strange - perhaps a cruise serves fresh orange juice and just tosses the oranges overboard afterwards) etc etc. The coastline was a disgrace. A sickening, depressing disgrace. So we couldn't bring ourselves to take too many photos of lizards and monkeys crawling over rubbish on the 'unspoilt' beaches. ugg. It's not all washed up either, a lot of it is around the trails, bottles, nappies, everything. Gross.
I remember this in Thailand too on our honeymoon - the beaches near the resorts were lovely but if you walked five minutes further away than a typical guest would, you just hit piles and piles of rubbish. And again when we went hiking in Hong Kong, where you would have to use a rake to sweep away the rubbish left by other campers if you wanted to put up your tent. I just don't get it. I really don't get it.
So although this was disheartening it certainly didn't ruin our day, it was really great to get out and move and nice to see the jungle as well. I'm keen to go back early tomorrow morning just to get a fast walk or something in before our buffet breakfast. Then there will be plenty of time for the pool afterwards..