Monday, 28 July 2008

Highlights of AK6537

Date: Sunday, 06 Jul 08
Sector: Bayan Lepas Airport (PEN)-> Senai International Airport (JHB)
Aircraft: 9M-AHI, Airbus A320-216
Seat: 8A
Departure Gate: 6
Scheduled Departure Time: 2050 LT
Actual Departure Time: 2050 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 2150 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 2154 LT
Arrival Gate: 4

Following a fruitful spotting session at Butterworth Ferry Terminal on mainland Penang, we made the journey to the airport at 5pm after collecting our luggage deposited at our hotel earlier in the morning. Our final bus ride was on Rapid Penang 401E. 401E differs from its parent service U401 in the sense that an E prefix denotes that it is an Ekspres service that uses the Jelutong Expressway, but from the way it winds through Bayan Baru and detours into Queensbay Mall, the E might very well stand for Extended!

Cafe at the arrivals level where we had our final bowl of Asam Laksa for dinner before leaving Penang.
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View of the arrivals level
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Penang departures level
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Souvenir Shops at departures
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Cathay Pacific Silver Bullet B742F B-HIH
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Restricted area of the departures level
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Ocean Theme carries on throughout the terminal in the form of ceiling murals
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Gate area near Gate 6
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MasKargo B744F 9M-MPS that was parked besides our aircraft
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Penang Night Scene after takeoff from runway 04
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9M-AHI after arrival at Senai Airport and preparing to shut down for the night
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Senai Airport Ekspres to Kotaraya II terminal in the city operated by Causeway Link for RM8 per pax.
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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Penang Buses and Butterworth Station

Rapid Penang
Rapid Penang was set up on 31 Jul 07 with the aim of improving public transport in Penang. They have a fleet of 150 buses which comprises of 4 different types with varying lengths to better suit the route requirements.

Rapid Penang tickets are simple and fuss free, eliminating the need for fancy ticketing equipment.
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U307 operates to Batu Maung. Higer KLQ6108GQ. The Higers and Shen Longs are fitted with hard plastic seats without cushioning.
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Dong Feng buses are the longest in the fleet at 12m and feature high back padded seats. Seen here waiting for passengers at Weld Quay.
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JAC midibuses are specially bodied by MTrans and have an additional exit at the back. They also have manual transmission instead, presumably to help it cope with the hilly routes better.
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Other Stage Buses on Penang Island
The operations of the original operators have suffered a definite impact following the introduction of Rapid Penang.

KGN Hin now only operates one route from the original 3 to Teluk Bahang and Batu Ferringhi.
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Stage Buses on Penang Mainland
A much larger number of other operators have survived on Penang mainland due to the limited coverage offered by Rapid Penang.

Butterworth terminal is only a paved area located under a flyover besides the ferry terminal. It is obviously in very bad condition with numerous potholes everywhere as well as and unorganised flow of passengers and buses alike. A new terminal had been built besides it but has yet to enter operation as food stalls are still being constructed.
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One feels like taking a step back in time with this bodywork and livery on this Federal Bus running route 232!
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Bas Mini are also extinct on the island itself following the introduction of Rapid Penang. However, they could still be found in Butterworth, operating service 16 to Bukit Mertajam and service 616 to Seberang Jaya via Penang Megamall using a fleet of Optare Metroriders.
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Butterworth Station
Butterworth Railway Station is located just besides the ferry and bus terminal. Passengers have to cross the active railway track to get to the station. The sign says "You Cross The Line At Your Own Risk". The flashing lights and chimes serve to reinforce the warning when a train is about to pass the crossing.
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KTM Berhad has also preserved an old steam locomotive "Kuala Lumpur" outside the station.
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As well as an old diesel electric locomotive used for shunting duties.
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Next and Final Post: Highlights of AK6537

Penang Ferry

Penang consists of both the island itself and the mainland, on which the coastal city of Butterworth is situated. The Penang ferry used to serve as the only way for people and vehicles to get across to the other side, and still continued to be as busy now after the Penang bridge was built. The characteristic roll-on roll-off ferries are configured to either carry vehicles on both decks, or passengers on the upper deck and vehicles on the lower deck.

Fares are only collected in the direction of Butterworth towards Penang. It costs RM1.20 for both ways. This is the same for the Penang bridge which is likewise only tolled in the direction towards Penang. For the ferry, passengers first can change notes into coins at a booth and then slot the coins into vending machine cum turnstile. The contraption also dispenses change, which is often not collected by passengers!
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Waiting area for passengers at Weld Quay in Georgetown. Ferries that can carry passengers run at a frequency of approximately 15 minutes, and a maximum of 300 passengers (excluding passengers in vehicles) can be legally carried. A metal gate at the end of the waiting area controls the flow of passengers.
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Cars driving out from the upper deck of a vehicular ferry to exit the pier
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Contrasting old 'kelong' stilt houses besides Weld Quay and new high rise residential development in the background.
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Port Sweetenham is located besides Weld Quay and is used as a private marina and receive cruise ships that are anchored off shore.
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Ferries berthed at Weld Quay with Komtar Tower and Bukit Bendera in the background.
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Safety gates on the passenger gate being locked as the boarding bridge is being lifted up.
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View of the pier, where two ferries can be serviced simultaneously.
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Upper deck of the ferry. The backrest of the seats could be tilted back and forth depending on the direction of travel. There is also a small snack counter selling tidbits and drinks for the 15 minute crossing.
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Lower deck of the ferry which accomodates vehicles. The upper and lower deck are linked by a steep and narrow staircase at both ends of the ferry.
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A weary pigeon hitches a ride on the ferry for the cross channel crossing and poses for the camera with the Penang bridge in the background.
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Sampans anchored besides Butterworth ferry terminal with huge oil storage containers belonging to Shell in the background.
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For the three ferry rides that we had taken, we were 'fortunate' enough to be on board Pulau Rawa for all the rides.
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Next Post: Penang Buses and Butterworth Station

Komtar etc.

Komtar Tower
Komtar stands for Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak and is an integrated office and shopping development completed in 1986. There is also a bus terminal located at the ground floor of the complex which is served by almost all of the buses that passes into Georgetown. As the building gets increasingly unappealing due to age, a newer shopping mall called Pranglin Mall has been built besides it.

Postcard shot of the Penang icon. Photo taken from a perfectly situated stone bench at a junction near the tower
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For RM15 one could ride in a rickety manually operated lift up to the 60th storey where a viewing deck is situated. The ticket also allows for 2 free postcards and a cup of welcome drink. The windows are relatively clean, but there is a constant vibration of some of the windows and the fact that a red lamp shines directly on some panels at night hinders photography.

Looking towards the south of the island, with Penang bridge to the left of the picture
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Night shot taken in the direction of Butterworth. Georgetown still amazes me with the lack of high rise buildings for such a commercially important city.
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Queensbay Mall
Queensbay Mall is one of the newest and largest shopping malls in Penang. It is reportedly one kilometre long in length and is located in a new upmarket development to the southeast of Penang.

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Gurney Drive
Gurney Drive hawker centre is one of the famous open air hawker centres in Penang. Though huge, the stalls sell similar dishes which include Asam Laksa, Fried Cockles, Fried Kuay Teow, Rojak, Chendol and Soya Bean desserts. The atmosphere reminds me of Newton Circus hawker centre in the past where touting and chaos is commonplace.

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Next Post: Penang Ferry

City Bayview Hotel and Around

City Bayview Hotel
Compared to the small hotel rooms which I have always gotten in Malaysia, the large room on the 15th floor which we got came as a surprise. It could comfortably fit the three of us with a lot more room to spare, a separate shower/bath in the toilet, and served a very decent buffet breakfast. Only gripes are that the card key lock is kind of tricky to use and rather few bus services pass by the hotel for its location in the city.

View from the lift lobby towards Butterworth
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Sunrise Shots
We initially requested for a room facing the Penang bridge but had to made do with a room facing the sea instead. However, the view from our hotel room really was not bad after all as illustrated by these shots.
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Nightlife
A street of pubs and entertainment outlets are located besides the hotel, thus it might help explain why the hotel is quite popular with Caucasians.
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Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang
The majestic Eastern & Oriental Hotel is just opposite our hotel and it is impossible to resist a night shot of this beautifully lit up building!
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Fort Cornwallis
To our disappointment, Fort Cornwallis which was used for the defense of Penang during the British colonial rule has been turned into a theme park of sort with staff wearing period costumes offering fancy side attractions in the compound. Needless to say, there was an admission charge and we decided that a shot of the entrance with its drawbridge would suffice. It would definitely be better if it was preserved in its original state as an open attraction such as the Portuguese Fort in Melaka.

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Next Post: Komtar etc.

Penang's Star (Disappointments)

Kek Lok Si 极乐寺
Kek Lok Si is one of Penang's icons, famed for its gaudy temples, decorations and of course its pagoda. The entrance to the temple is accessed from the main road through a sheltered straight staircase flanked by souvenir shops on both sides, which helps to make the climb up the stairs easier by providing some distractions.

After passing by a pond filled with tortoises which are set free by devotees wishing to accumulate merits, visitors are greeted by a seated Smiling Buddha as well as pagoda with small Buddha figurines in the niches.
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Entrance to the temple
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The brightly coloured exterior of the temple and the decorations are best appreciated in great afternoon sun!
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An inclined lift links the temple complex with the statue of Goddess of Mercy, or Guan Yin above for RM4 both ways. The statue is reputed to the largest in South East Asia. Unfortunately, the statue is under refurbishment and is surrounded by scaffolding. However, the view north towards Georgetown is quite spectacular! The Komtar tower can be easily identified among the surrounding low rise buildings.
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Kek Lok Si as viewed from the main road. A pity indeed that both the statue and the pagoda are both under refurbishment. I don't understand why they could not stagger the repairs!
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Bukit Bendera / Penang Hill
Penang hill is located near to Kek Lok Si in the district of Air Itam and can be reached by Rapid Penang route U204. Much to our disappointment, the Penang Hill funicular railway has been suspended till further notice due to safety concerns.

Note the notice tied to the gate of the compound. On closer inspection, some rain stains could be seen which means that the suspension had been in effect for a period of time.
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Next Post: City Bayview Hotel and Around