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Penang and Malaysia Update

by Charlie Smith

December and January are by far the best weather months for west side of peninsular Malaysia. June and July for east side and East (Borneo) Malaysia.

The Tourist Guides Information Office in Komtar that I reported as being so exceptionally good, Jan 2004, and then as being so exceptionally bad, Feb 2005, is now closed and the room is mostly being used as an occasional meeting place for the tourist guide association.

It went to hell after the original lady who was there so long and knew everything about everything moved to England. But I have found the man who also was always there as her unpaid 'volunteer' associate. He is John Khoo, tel: 012-5867243, email: jkhoo1403@hotmail.com. If you need some info or help in getting around, phone him. He knows EVERYTHING, would welcome any calls or emails and has a wealth of information about almost everything and anything anyplace in Penang or Malaysia. If you would like a very rewarding tour he will take you around in his car, up to 4 people, for RM25 per hour, 4 hr minimum ­ so RM 100 total for car and driver, or RM200 for an 8 hour day. Dirt cheap if there are 3 or 4 people. RM3.77 = USA one dollar

He knows all the rest of Malaysia too and can show you things you would not otherwise find or know about at RM300 per day for his time and car for longer trips. And he pays for his own lodging and all the petrol and road tolls. ­ a good deal ­ he is retired and likes people and just likes to have something to do. Spends most of his free time doing volunteer work and clipping travel and points of interest articles out of newspapers and magazines and has been to all the places too so any trip with him would be for real.

He also told me about a new destination that has just opened up, Bulam Protected Area, on the Thai border. The Malaysia Govt has just recently decided to let tourists go there so as it has been a no entry area it is virgin jungle with rugged terrain, no roads, lots of wild life. He showed me pictures of a group that he has already taken there. But to enter there is govt red tape with requirements for permits from Police, State, and Military agencies and that takes about 2 weeks. He is keen to visit places like that so is making arrangements with a man who lives near there and who has 4 wheel drive to do some camping tours. Good opportunity for anyone who is interested and has the time to wait for the permit process. But he can tell you about other interesting places to visit while waiting.

In Penang the best place now for information is the Penang Tourist Association Office. A friendly place with tons of maps and pamphlets for all of Malaysia and they even give you the RM2 ‘Penang Tourist Newspaper’ for free ­ a very good price - and a wealth of info about things available to see and to do in Penang, including many maps and bus route #s to most of the more popular attractions. They are next door to the entrance to the Medan and Langkawi Ferries, which is across the roundabout at the north end of Lebuh Pantai (or beach Street) And that is also just over one block north of the General Post Office where travelers can pick up their ‘Post Restante’ mail (GPO, 10760 Pulau Penang, Malaysia) or make overseas telephone calls to home over direct lines.

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