So Yesterday I decided to give myself a tour of the island. Unfortunately the roads are rather narrow and are not really pedestrian "safe", and the taxis were nearly as deadly, so I rented a motorbike.
Now I thought, how hard could it be? I'm a smart dude and I'd driven those lame-ass Vespa scooters before as well as a manual car and I'd even seen grandma's drive these in Malaysia for gods sake. So if Mama Matuta can drive one, by all logic I should be able to. Right?
So I confidently strove up to the receptionist in my hotel, rented a motorbike, and found it it the parking lot. I jumped on adjusted the helmet, inserted the key, and spent the next 10 minutes pushing things, pulling things and trying to figure out how the hell this ting operated. Finally at no small expense to my masculinty I was forced to ask the female recaptionist how to start the damn thing, which she was more than willing to do with a sly little smile.
I quickly high-tailed it out of there not wanting to embarrass myself an further and easily found some open road. The island has a road that circles all the way around it so I figured I would just drive in one direction until I arrived back where I started. Oh and just for your infortmation, they do not require a Driver's license, credit card, or any other form of collateral to rent a bike. Made me feel real confident in the ability of the other drivers on the road.
The island was pretty flat with a few little hills and some great views. I was having a great time when about 10 minutes out of town I realized that the Gas gauge was resting on empty. I started to panic and I secretly cursed those lazy Malays for not refilling the bike before giving it to me. What should I do? Turn around and go back? Or keep going? Maybe just fill it up along the way, but what if I ran out before I got anywehre. I figured I better go back and as soon as I started to slow down to turn around I noticed something. My spedometer was not moving. FOr that matter, the gear gauge still showed I was in Neutral. NOTHING on my entire dashboard was working, including I deduced my fuel gauge.
After solving that problem I settled back into my groove of Driving. I was starting to get the hang of the whole thing. Shifting at the right points, controlling it well and everything. The road steepened at one point and I rightly downshifted to get more torque and shifted up when i reached the top. The view from the top of the hill was wonderful and you could see a lot fo the lush jungle ahead blanketing the island.
I started to descend the other side and could see the little fishing villages of the east coast radpidly approaching. THey were tiny little shacks created of wood and Metal siding, and I'm sure they housed an entire family in each one. I tried to get a good glance at them but thye whipped by too quickly for me to see. Then I noticed... I was going a little too fast.
I pulled on the brake but the bike only slowed slightly. I downshifted, and the bike only slowed slightly still keeping up its rapid pace. I froze instantly. I had no control over the bike and a steep descent loomed ahead. My muscles tensed up and I crushed the brake as hard as I could. THe bike shuddered as the brakes tried to grab, but itcontinued to fly.
I rapidly tried to figure out what to do. Should I jump off? No way! I'd for sure get hurt and have to go to a hospital. Should I try to hang on and coast it out? Maybe, but what if I took a curve to quickly and lost control completely? Then I'd for sure be hurt, maybe gravely so. But what else could I do? I had mental images of one of Pangkor's hideaous bright pink Taxis swinging around the blind corner and wiping me out; like getting trampled by a pink Elephant. I didn't want that be the way I went. So I did the only thing I could think of.
I gripped the brake as hard as I could and began dragging the bottom of my sandals on the ground. The sharp turn at the bottom rapidly approached, but there was a little bit of a pull out at the bottom. I aimed for the enlarged shoulder and did everythign I could to stop. Slowly, and gradually the bike began to slow until finally with two feet to spare I slid to a stop next to the stone wall guarding the 20 foot drop.
I turned off the bike, got off it and tried to figure why I had thought it was a god idea to rent a motorbike in the first place. After catching my breath and checking out the bike I figured out what my prblem had been. In my panic to stop I had squeezed the brake so hard that I had simultaneously pushed the accelerator forward forcing me to faster down the hill. I laughed at loud for at least a minute trying to ease my nerves and just thinking what the hotel receptionist would have thought if she had seen me now.
Additionally, after the adrenaline had worn off, I realized that while desperatly dragging my feet on the ground I had in fact burned my calf on the exhaust pipe, giving me my first injury of the trip!
I continued my tour and saw the rest of the island without incident and returned to my bungalow to nurse my wounds and a few beers with a newfound respect for those motorbike driving grandma's of Malaysia.
My overall impression of Pangkor is not impressive. While it is a beautiful island, it is rather shabbily maintained. There is trash on every beacj and in the water as well as some unfortunate sewer scum in the water that can only be a sign of sewage going directly into the ocean. My friend in KL Rapheal told me this apparent disregard for cleanliness is not the Malays fault, rather in the old days everything they had was stored in Leaves and other natural products. So when they were done with something they oculd just drop it where ever and it would deteriorate naturally. Now however, the plastic, styrofoam, and foil containers many of their products come in are not biodegradable and so everything the inveitably leave around stays around, for a long time. Its sad really, because it feels like this beautiful place has been violated.
I only hope that this does not become a trend with the rest of the islands I visit.
Today, did nothing. It rained. So I chilled. Hiked to a waterfall, which was nice. Planned my next stop at a larger island further north. Puala Panang. I leave on Saturday and will be there for 4 nights at least.
UNtil Next time:
Stay warm ad Drive responsibly