Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What I was doing two weeks ago today (3)

Drinking in Coco Island, the sidewalk café/bar attached to the Blue Diamond Hotel in Penang.  I was tempted to put "Hotel" in scare quotes, since I'm not sure the place offers accommodation at all, and if it does, it can only be of the most rudimentary backpacker variety.

The Blue Diamond was boosted in the Lonely Planet as the premier spot for cheap, divey drinking on the island.  As so often, I think LP's recommendations have been outpaced by events.  It seemed rather cheerless to me, with unremarkable food, slow and surly service (the only place in Malaysia I found this), and very few punters.  It appears to have been comprehensively displaced in the affections of foreign tourists by other, friendlier bars a little further down the street - notably the Monaliza Café, where I subsequently hung out every night.

Still, I was tempted in to try it on my first night, in a spirit of experimentation.  A big bottle of Skol was only 14 or 15 ringgit, which didn't seem so bad after the depredations of Kuala Lumpur and The Reggae Bar.  I later noticed a discreet sign advertising a special promotion: a bucket of Skol (5 x 330ml bottles) for only 33 ringgit. That was rather more bang-for-the-buck (or burp-for-the-ringgit), but I've never liked small bottles, and didn't feel like committing myself to a two-hour stay there.  (And the offer may have been defunct; the staff were doing nothing to promote it.)  In any case, the 12.5 ringgit asking price for big bottles of Skol at Monaliza proved to be - very marginally - superior value even to that.

Live music was promised - or threatened - every night from 10pm.  I caught a little of it walking past a couple of days later: the worst band I've ever seen!  Just two guys, a guitarist and a keyboardist (a drum kit was permanently set up in the corner of the beer garden, but was not being utilised on this occasion), who appeared to know only about 4 or 5 chords between them - and not the same ones. It had that uncomfortable gawp-magnet quality of a car wreck, but it didn't hold my attention for long.

There's probably a very successful blog (or several!) to be made from 'Bum steers I got from the Lonely Planet'.  (LP nearly got me killed in Fiji.... but that's another story.)

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