Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Bus Rides To and From St. Anne's Shrine - Bukit Mertajam, Penang
Imagine carrying 8 kilogram of baggage, arriving at an unfamiliar place and even before settling down to a hotel, you're already on your first itinerary an hour away from Butterworth. Adventure, right?
The long ride from KL to Butterworth was pleasant. The bus was comfortable and half full, thus I had enough liberty to move from one side to the other. It was a delight riding through Ipoh and its karst mountains. Just beautiful. But I didn't envision that we'd have so much commuter stops in between - Taiping, Kamunting, etc.
My transient destination was Butterworth, this mainland coastal town where ferry rides are taken to cross to the touristy Georgetown, the heart of Penang Island (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The bus terminal is conveniently situated just across the jetty. From the stop, I walked towards the local bus stand and inquired at the information counter. My next destination was the township of Bukit Mertajam, located 30 minutes south of Butterworth.
I like the way they use "township" instead of just "town" or "municipality" or "county". I think the terminology is also analogous to "prefecture" in Japan. It delivers a certain sophisticated ring to it, though to be honest about it, the town mostly slumbers.
I could hop into a Rapid 701 or 702 to get to Bukit Mertajam, which the locals prefer to call "BM" the way people use KL, KK, KT... But in my world, when I say "there is BM", we are ecstatic because a patient has exhibited the capacity to move his bowels. Yes, that's "bowel movement".
I found my Rapid Bus 701 and paid 2 ringgit (about PhP28). Bowel movement, please. The ride took 30 minutes until we reached BM. We parked at the back of a commercial building - BM Plaza, near Summit Hotel. They call this the Summit BM Bus Terminal. It took me quite a while to observe, before I finally asked people around for my bus to the Purim Bus Station (where I was supposed to take a taxi or a motor ride to St. Anne's Shrine). Fortunately for me, I was pointed to a craggy non-AC bus that would supposedly drop me off in front of the shrine. So I didn't have to transfer to another bus terminal. The driver was old, didn't seem to speak English, but had a sincere smile. We pulled out of the terminal and thirty minutes later, I was dropped at a deserted road facing the gated compound of St. Anne's Shrine, resplendent in immaculate white, rising from the foot of a lush hill.
THE WAY BACK
After navigating the shrine and offering my intentions, I crossed the street and waited for almost 30 minutes. During this time, I hardly saw a soul walking along this seemingly remote area of town. I had shivers trying to imagine this place when darkness envelopes the land. It would be eerie.
I waited for Bus 15 or 107. Bus 15 has its terminal destination at the Summit BM Terminal. Bus 107 stops at a different terminal (probably the Purim Bus Station that my guide keeps mentioning), which is 3-4 blocks away from the Summit BM Terminal. With such luck, it was Bus 107 that came my way. I didn't want to further wait for Bus 15. Standing there alone crept me out and these huge ants were starting to bite from where I was sitting - by the roadside gutter!
But what could have been a minor misfortune turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sure I had to walk under the sun with my luggage, but it also gave me the chance to see a little more of Bukit Mertajam. I liked that.
Upon finally reaching Summit BM Terminal, I found my Rapid Bus 702 which takes me back to Butterworth. It's slightly more expensive - at 2.70 ringgit - than the 2-ringgit on 701, but I didn't mind. Georgetown awaits.
This is the Eye in the Sky!