Like A Frog With No Limbs

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This blog entry about the events of Saturday, February 12, 2005 was originally posted on February 15, 2005.

DAY 483:  On a world map, the island of Penang off the coast of mainland Malaysia at roughly 6° N latitude, 100° E longitude is a mere speck, if it’s even there at all.  However, when you zoom in on that little speck (by Googling for a better map), you see that not only is the shape of Penang Island that of a frog laid out on its belly with its limbs torn off, but that it is an island with an area of over 90 square miles, a formidable area of land that can’t exactly all be covered on foot.

“You have a driver’s license?” Jimmy at the Love Lane Inn asked me that morning.

“For a car [not a motorbike],” I replied.

“U.K.?”

“U.S.”

“It’s okay, [the cops] don’t know what it looks like.”

Renting a motorbike on Penang wasn’t as easy as it was in Krabi, Thailand, but not as hard as it was on Zanzibar, Tanzania (where I had to have motorcycle class on my license in order for me to rent one).  At a shop on the main street, I filled out paperwork and showed my American car driver’s license, and soon I was handed a helmet and the keys to a Suzuki motorbike to zip around Penang.  With a tank full of gas from a Shell station and a stomach full of char kuey teow (a Penang specialty of noodles, bean sprouts and seafood) from a food stall, I was off to see what Penang had to offer outside the main city of Georgetown.


TEMPLE APLENTY GEORGETOWN IS JUST ONE “SCENE” of the many scenes of Penang.  I drove out west from the northeastern city — the “stub of the right arm of the frog-shaped island” — passed “St. Sanders,” and the affluent suburbs, down a road that got more rural the farther I went.  The curvy coastal road hugged the northern edge of Penang and led me to Batu Ferringhi at the “head of the limbless frog,” the island beach resort district where foreigners came to do beachy things like horseback riding, jet-skiing, parasailing, swimming, or just lounging out and sunbathing.  Away from the public beach area (picture above) was a ritzier scene, with resorts by Grand Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Shangri-La taking up plots of the white sand beach for the exclusive use of their guests.

Batu Ferringhi was the most expensive area of Penang; as I continued westbound to the “left arm stub of the frog,” I saw that it was all downhill from there — figuratively speaking of course — since at the end of the road was Teluk Bahang.  The name translates to “The End of the World” since it was the last village the road would go to when the locals were pushed westward after the colonization of Georgetown.  Not much has changed over the years; Teluk Bahang is still a humble fishing community of locals and their fishing boats at the rickety piers that I dared not drive on, even though locals were driving their motorbikes on it.  West of the piers was less developed; it was the Sungai Tukun Recreational Forest, a 23-hectare reserve of tropical forest for anyone to enjoy, with sitting areas and hiking trails.


THE WEST SIDE OF THE ISLAND (the left side of the “limbless frog”) wasn’t as developed or as crowded as the east at all and I pretty much had the road to myself — perfect for my inherent “need for speed.”  I couldn’t go too fast though because there weren’t many straight-aways; it was lots of curvy, undulating mountain roads — U-turns, Z-turns and N-turns.  Along the way there were many roadside tourist traps, from orchards and craft villages, and I only stopped and visited one, for it boasted to be the “largest butterfly sanctuary in southeast Asia,” the Penang Butterfly Farm.

Not only did it have dozens of varieties of butterflies (hatched from cocoons in incubators) flying all over a big area surrounded by wire mesh, but it was also a scenic garden and miniature zoo with giant millipedes, ducks, oriental whip snakes, water scorpions, geckos, and gift shops.

I revved the engine and maneuvered the curvy southbound road as fast as I could without tipping over — I had to counterbalance with my legs at times — and went passed the touristy durian and clove orchards and the waterfalls.  I rode and rode passed the palm trees and explored dead ends and saw that Penang was a lot bigger than I had thought.  I got lost a couple of times in some of the towns in the south, but eventually found my way (after a near-miss with another motorbike), and stopped at Teluk Kumbar, a humble fishing village at the geographic “rectum of the limbless frog.”  Thankfully, the limbless frog thing was just a metaphor.


THE AFTERNOON WAS GETTING LATER AND LATER and I kept on getting lost as I sped down the highway back northbound towards Georgetown.  There were two must-sees left for me to see that day, which I couldn’t exactly find until I got directions from a 7-11 employee.  The first of these must-sees was the Kek Lok Si Temple, arguably the showcase temple of all of Penang.  The colorful Kek Buddhist temple complex built on many tiers on a hill (linked by funicular) had many pagodas, prayer halls, pavilions, and Buddhist shrines and statues.  The main statue was the towering figure of Kuan Yin at the top of the hill, a giant 120-ft. bronze sculpture,  the tallest of its kind in the world. 

It’s only 5:25; I’ve got time, I thought, looking at my watch.  Before leaving Penang I’d see all of it from above at the top of Penang Hill, just down the road from Kek Lok Si.  My plan was to go up and down via cable car and then get back to the guesthouse at the suggested time of 8 p.m., which would give me ample time to get to back to the mainland to catch my overnight train to Kuala Lumpur. 

The 5:30 cable car was booked solid and I had to waste half an hour for the six.  Another half hour was “wasted” after that since the cable car didn’t exactly have a “need for speed” desire like me.  It took fifteen minutes to get to the mid-way point for a car transfer and another fifteen to reach the summit at over 700m. ASL.  You had to book a time to go down, and I really needed to get the next one down, which was listed as 6:45. 

The people ahead of me were getting time slots of 8:00 and when I got there, I was to be the first 8:30.  Shit.  “Is that the earliest?”

“Eight thirty.”

“Is there anything earlier?  I have to catch a train.”

“Seven or seven thirty.”

“I’ll take the seven.”  The guy manually wrote it down since it was just me — one advantage of traveling solo.

In my half hour on the top of Penang Hill I wandered around and took in the view of Georgetown at the northeastern “right arm stub of the limbless frog” below.  The summit provided more than a view; it had a huge park that definitely warranted more than thirty minutes, with several lodges, walking trails, a mosque, and Hindu temple.  I only saw them briefly before hopping on the 7:00 down, which took forty minutes to descend because there was a delay at the mid-point station. 

My “need for speed” because just that, a need instead of a desire.  I strapped on the helmet, hopped back on the bike, and sped back towards Georgetown, hoping I’d still have time to maybe eat some dinner before leaving.  However, I didn’t factor in Georgetown rush hour traffic.  There was a sea of red brake lights as I head back into town, and I did my best to weave in and out of cars in true motorbike chase form — and managed to do it without getting killed.  I made it back to the shop a little passed eight and ran to the Love Lane Inn to get my bags.  Fortunately for me, Jimmy the owner gave me a ride to the ferry.  I was in the mainland town of Butterworth by nine; fortunately, the ferry port was right next to the train station.

I made my 9:30 train with just a little to spare, sweating like a dog from the mad rush.  If only the cable car went a little faster, I would have had the time for a final Penang culinary specialty — I wanted a curry mee bad — but it was slow as a frog without its limbs.  It’s not easy being green — and having your legs and arms torn off.

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TRAILER. 
PLEASE R.S.V.P. WITH YOUR HEADCOUNT BY POSTING A COMMENT HERE.






Next entry: V Day in K.L.

Previous entry: From All Over The World




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Comments for “Like A Frog With No Limbs”

  • GREETINGS FROM MELAKA!  I’ll be caught up soon enough!

    More to come as the countdown to 503 continues… 

    (And no, I’m not gay—not that there’s anything wrong with it.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  11:00 AM


  • yeah!  I’m actually first.  Now to begin a long boring day at work…..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  11:37 AM


  • You and SPEED - sometimes you gotta know when to say when…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  11:49 AM


  • curry mee bad…hehe….food looks damn good…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  12:18 PM


  • Apparently GAYDAR is never wrong.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  12:23 PM


  • NOELLE:  Funny; the whole time I was leaning into the curves on the road turns, I heard you in my head saying you’d kick my ass.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  12:39 PM


  • So I finally saw Napolean Dynamite and Harold and Kumar over the weekend…..silly funny.

    The funny thing about Harold and Kumar is that the majority of it is filmed in Toronto…..and the stunt co-rodinator and stunt guys I actually went to high school with…..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  01:21 PM


  • Re 503: I want to come real bad! I mean, I have the power to rep not only Canadians, but also 1981’ers the world over! And we all know that “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

    But, I’m experiencing logistical difficulties.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  01:50 PM


  • TDOT - better stick out that thumb and start hitchhiking….

    jetsgo has flights on fri nite (4th), but no more flights down on the 5th…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  01:52 PM


  • hey globaltripper, watch out for the super storm

    http://sg.news.yahoo.com/050215/1/3qlwz.html

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  04:09 PM


  • Tdot:
    I’m a 1981er in Toronto, Canada too!
    If you figure out a way to get to NY let me know! Maybe we could both rep!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  04:21 PM


  • Hey, Erik. I found your blog a month ago and started reading from the beginning… I finally caught up with you, now that you’re almost done. Or are you?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  08:02 PM


  • Alright, you’re not gay.

    But what’s a pun?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:03 AM


  • Gaydar, when used live and in-person, is NEVER wrong. Hehe. Me and my girlfriends can always sense when one of us is going out with a closet case. It’s been known to happen…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:08 AM


  • Laura: This is a common problem?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:51 AM


  • How do you mean? You mean like, does it happen often?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:24 AM


  • It has never happened to me, but it happened to quite a few people I know. I don’t think it should be called a “problem”, it’s nothing. But why do you want to know if it’s a common problem? Do you have a problem with homosexuality?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:46 AM


  • CONNIEUSUK:  Yup, almost done; I’m amazed how many people are discovering this Blog right at the homestretch.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  10:56 AM


  • Laura:  Uh, no.  Just seems like something that shouldn’t happen too often.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:23 PM


  • Weren’t Ferringhi the large-earlobed folk from DS9? Come on fellow Trekkies, I know you’re out there…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  06:06 PM


  • CHRISTY:  What’s better than that is George Lucas naming the squid-like race in ROTJ the “Calamarians.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  06:51 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
V Day in K.L.

Previous entry:
From All Over The World




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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