12/14/09: Penang, Malaysia
Periodically throughout this trip, I’ve had some brilliant ideas.
After I wrote that sentence, I tried to think of some examples to share with you but had trouble coming up with any except renting bikes in Taiwan. But you have to admit that idea was pretty brilliant.
Anyway, today I had another one of my brilliant ideas – renting a scooter to ride around Penang! And really, even when Kevin needed someone to show him how to turn the scooter on and even when he then wobbled unsteadily off into the alley by himself (“You go ahead and practice! I’ll get on in a few minutes…”), it was still a pretty great idea. Really.
Kevin got the hang of the scooter fairly quickly, and aside from a couple of helmet bumps, we scooted along pretty comfortably, Kevin driving 15 kilometers under the speed limit and me shouting directions from the back.
We scooted to the Kek Lok Si Temple, which is the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Kevin and I aren’t very good at visiting temples, since we usually don’t know anything about them except whatever they say in the brochure they hand out to visitors.
Anyway, the temple seemed nice enough – it was really colorful, which made for some pretty pictures. We spent about half an hour there and were getting ready to leave when Kevin, who was at the front stairs, waved and motioned excitedly for me to come look. “It’s The Amazing Race! And sure enough, it was. Kevin offered up the idea of following the Amazing Race-rs around all day, which I promptly vetoed. I wasn’t going to let us spend our one day in Penang scooting around aimlessly looking for things we couldn’t find. (This is my employment of the literary device of foreshadowing: we will end up doing this anyway.)
Later that morning, we took the funicular train up to Penang Hill, which was a miserable half hour.
Z: What’s a funicular train?
K: I don’t know.
Ten minutes later, on the funicular train.
Z: At least I know what funicular means now.
K: What, an overcrowded, sweaty, smelly train that moves unbearably slowly up a hill at a 45 degree angle?
K: It’s funny they have a word for that.
I was hoping we would be rewarded with something at the top like, oh, I don’t know, a giant banner saying “YOU SURVIVED THE FUNICULAR TRAIN. HAVE SOME FREE ICE CREAM.” Instead, we ate an overpriced lunch and spent the entire time lamenting how we took the funicular train instead of scooting up on our beloved scooter. There wasn’t much to do at the top, so we took a few pictures and then took the long ride back down.
Disappointed by Penang Hill, we looked at our tourist map and decided that we would circle the island on our scooter, stopping by the Snake Temple and a few other places. This was another brilliant idea. At least in theory. The problem was, we soon discovered the roads that were on our very vague map were in fact highways. And also that we didn’t have a very specific idea of where anything was. So we scooted in the direction we thought the Snake Temple would be in. After about 15 minutes of driving, we realized the island might have been bigger than we originally thought (tourist maps are horrible with scale) and decided to just turn around. We were scooting back on the left side of the highway, when I spotted something that looked like a temple on the side of the road. “I think I see it! Get off here!” Unfortunately Kevin didn’t hear me until it was too late, but he was determined to go back to the thing I had seen. I tried to dissuade him – what if what I had seen wasn’t the Snake Temple? But he was driving, and I was only riding, so I had to follow him as we went back. This required a bunch of turning around, scooting down a one-way street in the wrong direction, and 10 minutes of frustrated arm waving. But we did finally get to the temple. And guess what?
Thank goodness. Otherwise we really should have followed those Amazing Race-rs around. Maybe we would have gotten to see Phil Keoghan!
Thought of the Day: I hate when they put actors on the front of books-turned-movies. You shouldn’t need a movie to sell a book.
Picture of the Day: