Month: March 2012

Road trip to southern Thailand – driving one’s car from Penang to Songkhla – and parts north

April 3rd, 2012 UPDATE

On Saturday March 31st, 2012 a bomb exploded in the centre of Hat Yai, killing several people, and injuring over 300, including many tourists. What I wrote below about safety seems now out of date. Further information.

The Thai border is only about two hours drive away, and the whole trip from Penang to Songkhla takes about four hours, excluding stops.  When we decided to retire to Penang, we intended to make frequent trips to Thailand, which was another country we had considered retiring to.  This way we could get the advantages of both countries.

Of course, one knows about the separatist movement in Southern Thailand, and how there is often violence, with innocent people, including tourists, being killed and injured. But that is on the eastern side of southern Thailand, in the far southern provinces (Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat).  It seems perfectly safe crossing the border on the western side of Thailand, and continuing north to Songkhla.

This blog aims to explain the process, not our trip particularly, but, for ease of writing, I will sometimes use the first person.  Malaysian immigration seems to change their procedure all the time, and I don’t know if Thailand does the same, so the procedure could vary somewhat.

Of course, once you have crossed the border you can head off to Krabi, Phuket, or Bangkok, or wherever you want to go.

the route


We stayed in in the BP Samila Beach Hotel – look on Trip Advisor for reviews or to find where to make a booking before going.

Consider making the outward and inward trips on a weekday, avoiding Malaysian and Thai public holidays and school holidays. Unless you enjoy long queues and bigger chaos at the border.

You will need the car ownership documents for when you cross the border.

Ich schreibe meinen Blog über Penang auf schrecklichen Deutsch – my German life in Penang

Neue Version – meine Lehrerin hat es korrigiert.

Es macht mir viel Spaß, Deutsch zu lernen. Eigentlich macht es mir viel Spaß, für mich Fremdsprachen zu lernen. Jetzt lerne ich Deutsch, und deshalb muss ich üben.

Ich möchte über mein deutsches Leben in Penang schreiben.

1. Zuerst versuche ich, zwei Stunden  jeden Tag Deutsch zu lernen.

2. Zweitens fahre ich samstags zur Malaysian German Society, um Unterricht zu nehmen. Vor dem Unterricht üben ein Kommilitone und ich eine Stunde, Deutsch zu sprechen.


3. Drittens lese ich ein bisschen deutsche Zeitschriften und sehe deutsche Filme ohne Untertitel.

4. Viertens mache ich zu Hause Sauerkraut und das essen wir mit Wurst, Kartoffeln und Bier. Wir kaufen die Wurst bei Tesco.


5. Fünftens essen wir manchmal in deutschen Restaurants. Im Moment gibt es viele deutsche Restaurants in Penang, aber ich esse am liebsten bei Ingolffs.

platter for two at Ingolfs - oops, in English

6. Sechstens trinke ich Bier auf dem Oktoberfest, das man hier im Oktober feiert. Es gibt verschiedene Oktoberfeste in Penang, aber das berühmteste Oktoberfest ist bei MGS. Letztes Jahr waren auch Oktoberfeste in E & O Hotel und anderen Hotels.

MGS Oktoberfest

viele Leute - MGS Oktoberfest, 2008

E & O Oktoberfest 2011

E & O 2011

And, in English, what I am trying to say in German:

It’s fun learning German. Actually I like learning foreign languages. Right now I am studying German, and I have to practice. So I want to talk about the  German part of my life in Penang.

  1. I try to study German for two hours a day
  2. On Saturdays I go to the Malaysian German Society for my German lesson. For one hour before the lesson I practice speaking German with one of my fellow students.
  3. I read German magazines a little, and watch German films without subtitles.
  4. I make sauerkraut at home and eat it with sausages and potatoes and beer. We buy the sausages at Tesco.
  5. We sometimes eat out at German restaurants.  There are many now in Penang, but I prefer Ingolfs.
  6. I drink beer at the Oktoberfest, which is held here in October. There are many Oktoberfests in Penang, but the most famous one is at MGS. Last year there were Oktoberfest celebrations at the E & O Hotel and other hotels.


Für mich ist es viel Spaß Deutsch lernen. Eigentlich, ist es viel Spaß für mich Fremdsprachen zu lernen.  Jetzt lerne ich Deutsch, und deshalb müss ich üben.   Ich will über mein deutsche Leben in Penang schrieben.

1. Zuerst, versuche ich zwei Stunden  jeden Tag Deutsch lernen.

2. Zweite, fahre ich am Samstags zu Malaysian German Society um meiner Lektion zu nehmen. Für eine Stunde bevor die Lektion, übe ich mit meinem Kommilitone Deutsch zu sprechen.

3. Dritte, lese ich ein bißchen deutsche Zeitschrifte, und sehe ich deutsche Filme ohne Untertitel.

4. Vierte, mache ich Sauerkraut zu Hause, und essen wir mit Wurst, Kartoffeln und Bier. Wir kaufen die Wurst bei Tesco.

5. Fünfte, essen wir manchmal in deutschen Restaurants. In moment gibt es viele deutsche Restaurants in Penang, aber ich esse lieber bei Ingolffs.

6. Sechste, trinke ich Bier in dem Oktoberfest, dem in Oktober hier feieren. Es gibt verschiedene Oktoberfesten in Penang, aber das berühmtesten Oktoberfest is am MGS. Letztes Jahr waren auch Oktoberfesten in E & O Hotel, und anderes Hotels.

Alternative Media this week

Maya and the reincarnation of Jesus, electricity, we are electro-magnetic beings, vibration, sacred knowledge, effect of mobile phone towers, earth is hell…

Some very different ideas about everything.  You may wish to start listening at minute 12 when the guest appears.

download podcast 105 minutes.

Interesting thoughts or articles I noticed from the alternative media this week. I don’t endorse or dismiss the ideas – and in many cases I have been aware of these ideas for years, but perhaps there is additional information or there is something new.

Japanese note / 日本のノート; 盆踊り

Checking my blog statistics I was very surprised to note that I had such a large number of visitors today. And the majority were from Japan.


I don’t know why. I haven’t written about Japan, or in Japanese. I did write about Korean food, though.

So, I will mention a couple of things concerning Japanese. Tomorrow, Sunday 25th March there is a Japanese theme at the monthly Upper Penang Road market.

A lot of Japanese do live in Penang.  More Japanese took up the MM2H visa than any other nationality last year. And many live here on tourist visas for part of the year, and live in Japan for the rest of the year.

Otherwise, my favourite Japanese restaurant here is Miraku, in the G Hotel on Gurney drive. Miraku details. But for all you can eat salmon sashimi, then the E&O lunch buffet is probably impossible to beat.

And my favourite Japanese event of the year is the Bon-Odori festival, held around mid- July.

A couple of photos from last year’s event.

Bon Odori


Walking in Penang for the non-suicidal – Walk 3 – Kek Lok Si

This is a walk up to Kek Lok Si (Temple of Supreme Bliss).   It the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia, apparently. We started from the bottom at 11.30AM, browsed at everything on the way up, and were back where we started at 2.30PM.  Mind you, it only took about 15 minutes to get from the top to the bottom, including a short wait for the inclinator.  You can, however, drive all the way to the top, and park there.  But then, it’s not a walk, is it?

This temple is really popular at night time during Chinese New Year.  Really, really popular.  It’s beautifully illuminated, and worth seeing despite the crowds, traffic, and impossible parking,  at this time if you can.  Well, we did that, once. But for this walk we chose a weekday morning, with only a few tourists and a few locals around. (In fact, it was the day of the spring equinox, when spiritual powers are much stronger.) Rain threatened, but there is plenty of shelter so we didn’t bother with umbrellas.

You can drive there in perhaps 15 minutes from George Town, and park legally on the roadside on Jalan Pasar if you can, or in one of the car parks – the latter being quite expensive.


Or you can catch the 203 bus from the Jetty, alighting once you see the RHB Bank on your left.

RHB Bank

It feels quite rural here.

Air Hitam

Turn left up Jalan Balik Pulau, and on the bend in the road, on the left you will see a covered walkway, which you follow to the top.

Take this walkway to the left of the shop

There are many shops on the way…


half of them selling t-shirts…


If you look down to your right you will see a place where they seem to be making Buddhas.

making Buddhas

So, first you come to Liberation Pond.

Liberation Pond

You can feed the turtles here. RM1 for some green vegetable they seem very happy to receive.

lots of turtles

Here are more photos of a few of the scenes you will see on your way up.


Walkway up.

walkway up

a Buddha

more Buddhas

You come across some wishing ribbons. For a RM1 donation you can choose what you want to wish, write your name on it, and then put the ribbon on a “tree” behind.

wishing ribbons

As you are facing this temple, go to the right to head towards the pagoda. You’re getting closer to the pagoda now.

approaching the pagoda

It cost you RM2 to enter the pagoda grounds.


The gardens and plants are well maintained.


You can climb up several flights of steps to near the top.

it's not too strenuous

There are some nice tiles on the walls – here is one example.

one of the wall tiles

You need to retrace your steps a little past the wishing ribbons, through another shop to the inclinator. This costs RM2 one way. You can walk instead, but they told me it is 2 KM.  I find that very hard to believe.

the inclinator car

It is quite steep, however.

up we go...

There is a nice view up there.


And nice gardens.



And then the star in the distance.

pavilion and goddess, inside

And the goddess.

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy

Returning is simply a matter or retracing your steps to the bottom.