GETTING on a tour bus makes them feel like “herded cows”, so cruise ship passenger Philip and his wife Randy Busch decided to strike out alone on their shore excursion of George Town, Penang.
They shouldered past a barrier of taxi drivers and trishaw riders outside Swettenham Pier hawking trips to the island’s attractions and asked two policemen near the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower how to get to the “old town”.
Philip said the policemen gave him confused looks.
“They told me I was already in the old town. That was strange because a trishaw rider told me he would take us to the old town for RM40 just a while ago,” he said yesterday.
The American couple, both 71, roamed on their own till they found Sri Weld food court in Beach Street.
When met, they were trying to figure out the food ordering process there.
“We are tired of bus tours. We want the freedom to explore as we like and go to places where the locals are instead of being shown things meant for tourists only,” said Philip.
The American couple paid about RM27,000 to travel around Southeast Asia for 16 days on board Diamond Princess, one of four ocean liners that made a day call to Penang yesterday.
“We love travelling and we like cruises because we get to see many faraway places in one trip.
“If we like one of the places a lot, we fly back there later for a longer holiday,” said Randy.
Surrounded by Beach Street’s bank employees on their lunch hour, Philip and Randy settled for oriental beef noodles and teh-o ais limau (iced lime tea).
“Delicious! This is how we want it as tourists!
“We love how we are in the old town the moment we stepped out of the pier,” Randy smiled, adding that they hoped to find the Children on Bicycle mural in Armenian Street next.
Some 68 buses, 45 trishaws and five vans entered the pier to take the tourists on packaged tours. However, about 4,000 chose to walk into the heritage enclave in search of their own adventures.
The other ships were Mein Schiff 1, Superstar Gemini and Star Clipper.
Star Clipper caught the attention of Penang Port Commission chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng, who walked onto the docks of the pier at 8am to watch her arriving.
A true sailing ship, powered only by the 16 sails on her four masts, two tug boats towed her in while her sails were furled up.
“Unlike large cruise ships, Star Clipper only takes a maximum of 170 passengers.
“She is a beautiful ship that offers an exclusive experience for her passengers and Penang Port is always happy to see the ship here,” Tan smiled.