During this trip, I developed a love-hate relationship with Malaysian buses. You’ll soon find out why.
I woke up around 7:00 am with an aching body from last night’s shopping spree. Good thing there’s no need to rush since we’ve already packed our bags before we slept and I had already booked our bus tickets to Butterworth (Penang) via BusOnlineTicket.com. Sure, you can just go to Pudu Sentral (Puduraya Terminal) and buy your tickets there, but since we only have more than a day in Penang, we don’t have the luxury of time to take whatever bus trip is available. When I checked the seat availability online, there were only 5 seats left for the bus leaving at 10:00 am so I booked it right away.
Email confirmation of booking
Original fare is only RM33.00 per head plus some transaction fee
After breakfast, we hailed a cab to Puduraya. It only took 10-15 minutes and we shortly arrived at the terminal. The terminal has several levels: the main level where you’ll enter serve as the ‘waiting’ or ‘boarding’ gates, if you will. Second level is where you’ll find the different ticket counters. And lastly, the basement or parking, where the buses are located.
So we went upstairs to look for Counter 42 or 45 as indicated in the email. I handed over the printed confirmation and the guy issued our tickets. We then went to our respective gate and found the bus.
Okay, so this is where I started to despise their ‘system’. I presented our tickets to this guy from Alisan Coach. After acknowledging it was the right bus, he asked us to stow our bags in the luggage compartment. My friend had a huge luggage and a backpack, and I have a backpack and duffel bag, and we had to put our bags in the compartment ourselves. Okay, so that’s not really a big deal…not yet.
The bus was still half empty so my friend went to the ladies’ room first. I was getting settled on my seat when the bus conductor asked me to get off and transfer to the first bus since it’ll be leaving first. It was only 9:30 am, and while it’s good that we can leave early, I didn’t appreciate that this bus conductor was rushing me to get off the bus and unload our bags from the compartment without helping me. As soon as my friend arrived, we transferred to the first bus, and it left shortly.
What I loved about the bus: There were only 27 seats so that means you have plenty of legroom and seats can be reclined. It’s definitely more comfortable than Cebu Pacific’s. WiFi is also available. Towels (yes, towels and not blankets) were also provided in case you get cold. My favorite though – even if I wasn’t able to use it – was the power outlet.
Photo from Alisan Golden Coach’s website
About 20 minutes after we left Puduraya, we stopped at a gasoline station for a restroom break. When I got back the bus, I asked the driver our estimated time of arrival in Butterworth and he said we’d be there by 1:30 PM. I figured I’ll sleep first since the trip will take more than three hours. I had a good nap for about a couple hours, but woke up because I felt the bus was taking a zigzag road, and saw that we were passing by mountains.
Woke up just in time to snap this view.
I think I saw a sign that says ‘Ipoh’. My heart skipped a beat and I tried to picture the Malaysian map in my mind trying to remember if we were supposed to pass by Ipoh. Then it hit me…there’s WiFi onboard. Idiot. So I Googled. Relieved to find the answer, I slept again. It was already around noon so I’m quite confident it’ll only be another hour or so and we’ll be in Butterworth.
We made a stopover and I thought it would only take 15-30 minutes so passengers can go to the restroom or have some snacks, but no, we spent about an hour or so. To make things worse, the driver turned off the air conditioning because they seem to be fixing something. My friend and I were chatting when this lady seated in front of us started a small talk. She’s Filipino as well and we found out she was planning to tour Southeast Asia. So we were giving her pointers on where to stay in Bangkok when the driver started calling out ‘Butterworth’ (which we can hardly decipher from his accent). He approached us and asked again ‘Butterworth’? We said ‘Yes’. He said ‘Come’ gesturing to follow him. ‘Hurry! Hurry!’ he said. Nagmamadali? May lakad ka kuya?
So we were wondering why he asked us to get off the bus. Turns out he wants us to get our bags (yes, we had to unload the bags ourselves — again) and transfer to this other bus going to Butterworth. What the heck?!? Is he telling me we were on the wrong bus the whole time? So we loaded our bags to this other bus’ luggage compartment while he and this other driver were conversing in Bahasa. Meanwhile, me and my friend were standing under the scorching heat of the sun waiting for them to finish their conversation. One wouldn’t let us board his bus while the other was trying to get rid of us. GREAT!
After their argument, they seem to have finally reached an ‘agreement’, and the driver let us back the first bus saying (in his broken English) ‘Hurry! Hurry! Take your bags.’ and looking irritated and all. Aba! Siya pa talaga ang may ganang ma-bwisit #$@#$@#!!! I swear, I would have kicked this driver in the face if not for fear of being charged with assault and being detained in a foreign country. I mean, we paid tickets to Butterworth so why the hell would he bump us off?
Anyway, after the brouhaha, we continued with the journey. It was already an hour after we left the stopover (past 2:00 pm) and I still don’t see any signs of Butterworth that I wanted to ask the driver ‘Kuya yung totoo, papunta ba talaga itong Butterworth o Thailand?’ But with what happened earlier, I figured asking him was futile. I just prepared myself in case we end up in Hat Yai, Thailand. haha
Finally, I started seeing signs of Butterworth. So when the bus stopped and people started to get off, I asked if it is already the ferry terminal and he confirmed it. So we got off and, again, unloaded our bags from the luggage compartment.
We walked for a few minutes until we reached the Penang Ferry Service where we paid RM1.20 each for the ride to George Town. The ferry just left so we were the only ones in the waiting area. After 10-15 minutes, people started pouring in. The waiting area was already full to the brim when the ferry arrived.
Ferry service to and from George TownFinally, first glimpse of George Town with the mighty KOMTAR Tower.
For information on where to stay in George Town, Penang, check out my review of Hutton Lodge here.