My visa trip to Penang, Malaysia, was a good reminder why I have always loved backpacking solo so much. It's all about learning new and meeting people. Penang was a great place for this.
Some highlights of the experiences.
I went to eat at a local street food shop. All the tables were full, but one couple with their about 80 years old mother, said to me that I can eat with them. We chatted a bit and I told them that I live in Thailand. They left and I finished my food and left the place to walk on the Chulia street.
After an moment the man came to me and asked if I would like to talk and see the island. Quick risk evaluation told me that being kidnapped by an elderly couple with their mother, might not be such an huge risk, so I got in to their small car.
The group took me around the island to see some parts I had not seen. We went to drink some local tea and talk at a restaurant by the sea. I tried to pay for the teas, but that was out of the question as I was their guest. They were Thailand fans and wanted to know more about living in Thailand. After an while they took me back to the Chulia street to get to my hostel.
I visited a small shop and wondered why a coke light was RM1 on a bottle and RM2 on a can. I thought they have a recycling plan, so I asked the owner. She gave me a lecture that it was on promotion and I should always check the markings on bottles, to avoid being scammed. The next day I visited the same shop, the owner woman came to me and said "Hello my friend, I knew you would come back" and gave me a hug. I was puzzled, but this explains a lot how the local people there are.
On Thursday I did what I every now and then do, while in a new city. I took a bus, without knowing where it leads. So I jumped in to one bus and wanted to buy a ticket. When I said that I have no idea, where I want to go, the driver burst in to huge laughter and told my plan to the whole bus. Not in a bad way, just amazed way.
We went thought the city, small roads to the end of the line. There the bus driver asked me to come to sit next to him and I explained that this is one of my ways to see the real life and people out of the touristic areas. He liked the idea and from that moment he became my personal tour guide of the city. Sharing all kind of information, for example how folks from Sumatra come to visit a affordable local hospital, which gives them a good service. I had to pay a ticket pack, but as the driver remembered that I had paid overprice of RM2 instead of normal price RM1.4, the driver told me that RM1 was enough. The ticket payments are put in to a box, so no changes are given back. Part of the no scam honesty of the island.
Btw. One month ticket to use the busses is RM100, about THB1000.
Laughing bus driver / personal travel guide
These were just few examples of the encounters with the people. Lots of others, really good hearted folks. Ready to talk and ready to smile.