Okay, so first things first: traveling from Melaka to Penang by bus will take approximately seven to eight hours. Do not believe them when they say it will only take five hours. They’re lying, just like your blasted ex-boyfriend. Anyway, while there are many bus companies plying that route I highly suggest that you take Transnasional because they’re owned and operated by the Malaysian government and I have yet to see anyone complain about being offloaded by their bus drivers, which is something that cannot be said for other bus operators. Plus, their prices are cheaper. However, they only make two trips daily, one at 8:30 A.M. and another one at 8:30 P.M. If you’re going to book your tickets in advance and it’s already past 8:30 A.M., the ticketing officers will tell you that there are no more buses going to Penang. Just clarify to them that you intend to travel at a later date and you want to book your seats ahead of time.
So this blog post basically chronicles what happens during that eight-hour trip from Melaka to Penang (Butterworth). Hopefully this will give you a few ideas how to prevent pressure ulcers (yuck!) and how to avoid death by excessive boredom.
The bus for Penang leaves at 8:30 A.M. so The Actress and I woke up at around six in the morning so we would have ample time to prepare and travel to Melaka Sentral. This is my third time in Melaka and leaving it never gets easier because this place always gives me one helluva time. The Actress echoes my sentiments and says that four days weren’t enough.
We left the guesthouse before the clock struck seven and the whole town was still asleep. It was a stark contrast to the hustling and bustling Old Quarter we were so used to seeing during the day. We arrived in time just as the bus was pulling over and across the street we saw one of the Indian restaurants that we frequented during our entire stay. It made me feel hungry even though I just dumped a generous serving of breakfast down my gastrointestinal tract.
We arrived at Melaka Sentral an hour before our scheduled departure, and The Actress and I immediately parked our butts near our designated platform. I will say this again: Malaysia’s transportation system makes it easier for tourists to go around the country, which is one of the reasons why I love it here. Unfortunately the same thing cannot be said for my beloved third world country, but at least our transportation sector has extremely high suspense value… and the mortality rates to go with it.
At 8:20 A.M. our bus was still nowhere in sight so The Actress went to the ticketing booth to ask about it. They just told her to wait because the bus going to Penang sometimes turns up late. The bus arrived after 20 minutes and we left Melaka Sentral at around 9:10 A.M., which was 40 minutes later than the estimated time of departure. We weren’t bummed about it. That’s actually early by Philippine standards wherein 2 hours or more is considered an acceptable amount of time to be tardy.
Pit stop in Kuala Lumpur
I put on my earphones to drown out my surroundings and get some much needed zzzs. The Actress donned her sunglasses and went to dreamland, too. When I woke up we were already in Kuala Lumpur and the bus made a momentary stop at a gas station. As the bus was filling up its tank, I went out of the vehicle to stretch my hips and legs (hello, old age problems), take a much needed bladder break and buy snacks from a nearby convenience store. When I hopped back inside The Actress was still happily dozing off, presumably dreaming about her crush.
We arrived at Pudu Sentral at past 11:00 A.M. and the bus stopped there for about 15 minutes to drop off and pick up passengers. When we made our way out of Pudu Sentral the vehicle was filled to its full capacity, and unfortunately for me a lot of families decided to go to Penang on that day as well. Naturally my eardrums had to endure excessive talking and wailing that were coming from my most favorite abominable creatures on this planet―brats―oops! Sorry, I meant children. I stuck my earphones again, cranked up my phone’s volume and started watching the whole first season of Charmed to get my mind off pleasant homicidal thoughts.
Late lunch at Ipoh
It was past one in the afternoon when we reached Ipoh and stopped there for a lunch break. For some unknown reason I was craving for corn that time so out of the bus I went to try and satisfy this weird urge. I eventually found a stall selling the food I was looking for, but the line was reminiscent of an MRT station during the morning rush hour. I accepted defeat and instead settled for chips and a can of soda. Good thing I ate a lot (and by a lot I mean serving portions that can feed an entire barangay) back in Kuala Lumpur.
We were on the road again 30 minutes later and the varmints (yes, you may use Google now) have finally settled down and shut their mouths. Blessed silence. I have learned that afternoon that shoving an overflowing amount of food in front of their faces is an effective way to keep these rambunctious organisms quiet. Or you can always throw them out of the window like I prefer to do; that works, too.
We arrived in Butterworth at past 4:00 P.M. and we first made our way to the train station to buy tickets for the Malaysia-Thailand overland border crossing we were planning to do a few days later. After that was finished, we headed over to the port and waited for the ferry that will take us to Penang Island. The first time I went to Penang was by air and the flight only took around 45 minutes. So if you’re lucky enough to score tickets that are on sale, I suggest you travel by air to save time and to avoid disfiguring your precious butt implants. Anyway, I enjoyed the ferry ride immensely. I may have grave thalassophobia, but I oddly like seeing large bodies of blue, clean water, especially if it’s a sunny day and there’s a cool breeze to go with it. I closed my eyes and savored the moment before The Actress and I embarked on another adventure.