Last week Way received his work visa. Finally. It was only four months after he started his job and two more months later than we thought. As a result, the boys and I are now able to upgrade from tourists to non-immigrant residents. One would think we could do that in Thailand but NO. That would be too easy. The tourist visa for the boys had expired which means we needed to head out of country to apply. So we opted on Penang, Malaysia and when I found out Penang was an island, I didn’t mind one bit. Why? Because and island = beach!
We opted for the cheapest and slowest form of travel so I could spend a little more on my accommodations and get a hotel on the beach. That means we took a train, a ferry and a bus over a 24 hour time period to get from Bangkok to Penang. I know you are thinking “ugh” but honestly it wasn’t horrible. In fact it was actually quite nice and in the end I ended up with my feet in the sand which is all that really matters.
Unfortunately, most of my time was spent making sure I was at the Thai Consulate during the small window of time allotted for applying for visas and picking up the visas. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Penang and it was about an hour away from the consulate. I guess I could have planned that better. Actually, no I couldn’t. The hotel was amazing and they upgraded me to a suite! So it was totally worth the 4 extra hours of travel time.
We arrived on Wednesday and immediately headed out for a walk on the beach and ended with a Martini. Lovely. Just lovely.
While I didn’t get as much beach (or even pool) time as I would like because I was dealing with visa issues, I truly enjoyed my time in Penang. I can see us going back for the sole purpose of lounging on the beach with some amazing coffee and refreshing martinis. This just reaffirms the fact that I need to be living on the beach. Somewhere. Soon.
After I dropped off our passports and the mountains of paperwork (Thais love paper!), we headed to Penang National Park. Stunning! Our 5 1/2 mile hike started at the beach and headed up the hill through a rain forest and led us to another beach. There were times it definitely felt like Indiana Jones-ish but the beautiful scenery was breathtaking. Totally worth doing.
When we were done, we were drenched but thoroughly satisfied. We went in search of food, water and a dip in the pool.
The next day I had to be back at the consulate between 2 and 4 pm. So we decided to head over to the downtown area in Georgetown and walk the streets for some local flavor. We took the bus into town and ended up getting off in an area that wasn’t quite what I had in mind. I was looking for the local markets and ended up finding plenty of places to get your car worked on. Even so, we ate lunch out, strolled the streets and tried to find a bus back to the hotel to pick up my slip (which I forgot) to collect the passports.
As luck would have it, we were passed by plenty of full buses and after 45 minutes of waiting, we ended up walking to a nearby hotel to try and find a taxi. The bus system is pretty amazing except of course when you are on a time crunch. We found a taxi and went straight to the consulate in hopes they would allow us to pick up our passports without the slip. I was hopeful but fearful at the same time, as the Thai’s love their processes and paperwork. I was also not entirely sure we would get our non-immigrant visas so my anxiety level was higher than normal.
I do not know I have ever been happier to see a US government issued document in my life. I had my passport and a non-immigrant visa to go with it. After many months, tons of frustration and significantly more gray hair, the boys and I are now legal non-immigrant residents of Thailand. Phew!
When we got back to the hotel, the day was winding down but I wasn’t ready to stop playing tourist just yet. Brennan and I decided to head out to the The Tropical Spice Garden. It is a lovely man made garden full of all sorts of lovely plants focusing on spices. It has 3 different walks you can take and we did all three. It also has a cooking school, a spice shop and a restaurant at the top that overlooks the beach where you can hear the waves crashing into the surf. I could of stayed all day!
We had a cup of spiced coffee at the restaurant and it was THE BEST COFFEE I have ever had. EVER. When I asked if I could buy the coffee, they said no because they import it from … yep, you guessed it – Thailand. I need to find this coffee.
A perfect way to end our trip as we start our 24-hour long journey back to Bangkok the next morning. I definitely could have used a few more days in this beautiful locale enjoying the beach, the friendliness and sipping on delicious coffee and refreshing martinis. The only complaint I had, and it is minor, is the wifi speed at the hotel was atrocious. Otherwise I would have been making you jealous with all these pictures along the way.
Goodbye, Penang. I hope to see you soon. I am now off to find the best coffee ever.