So you think you can drive!

Penang Travel Blog

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From the bus station
I might have made my funniest travel mistake for me, ever.  The day before we walk around the hotel neighborhood and I wanted to explore more of the island.  There seemed to be a good tourist friendly bus service on the island and I love buses so what did I do.  Of course I rented a car.  For a few years I have wanted to drive in Asia just to say I had done that task.  Drivers in Thailand do not seem to know any rules so driving there was out of the question.  Things seemed to be calmer in Malaysia and on Penang it seemed to be downright sedate in comparison.

Inside the hotel was a independent car rental counter who was willing to rent me a small car with my Canadian drivers permit.  Benny was not very convinced I was ready to drive in Asia but she was willing to let me try even if she looked very scared.
the little rental car.
  The clerk walked us out to the parking lot and showed me one of the smallest cars I have ever been in.  I have a small car in Canada but this thing was way tiny.  I took a photo of it and you can see the car beside it actually smaller then my Chevy in Canada and you can see how much smaller my rental was.  It think was Malaysian built Proton (Just learned it is called a Perodua Kanci.  I almost canceled it.  Thanks Karen.)  Whatever type of car it was the car was small and felt like a small recycled juice can.

So as I have made a huge point it was small.  It was also right had steer, as most cars are in Malaysia.  So here I was about to drive a car at least ten time smaller then my bus at home and about to drive on the wrong side of the road for me.
The little train that could. Well it could half way at least.
  Add to that and all the hand controls where on the opposite then my brain thought they should be.  At least the gas pedal and brake where in the correct place and it was an automatic transmission.  I can drive a manual transmission but trying to do it with my left hand rather then my right might of been too much.

The worst part of this was the hotel was right on the busiest highway on the island.  The was no possible way to drive from the hotel and not be directly on the highway.  So as I drove out of the hotels lot all I kept saying to myself was to stay on the left side of the road.  If nothing else stay on the left side of the road.  I entered traffic safely and made the first turn off the highway I could which was likely only 100 meters down the road.
The main station.
  I was hoping to practice on some side streets before endangering the Penang drivers with my lost tourist technique.  Too bad this road led directly to the beach and went maybe 200 meters before ending in some huge house gate.  So my practice consisted of a quick 3 point turn and I was back on the highway heading into Georgetown.

The first ten minute where okay.  This was only because I stayed in my lane and went straight but soon I was in the city center and had to make choices.  My girlfriend kept telling me I was driving to far left and near the parked cars and I of course knew I was okay and she was just nervous.  That was until my left hand mirror banged into a parked car's mirror scaring the shit out of me.
Why not have dangerous dogs at a tourist attraction.
  I quick look and I realized no damage was done and I started to listen to Benny more.  It hard as my mind did not seem to be able to keep the car from drifting left.  My bus is almost 3 meters wide and takes up most of a normal Vancouver traffic lane.  This little Proton might have been 1.25 meters wide.  It really think if I could lift the car it would fit into one of my luggage tanks under my bus.  

We spent the rest of the day getting lost.  Trying to read a map that seemed to have no idea what scale was and was missing most of the roads.  The few highway signs we saw were only in Malay and made no sense to us.  The only good this was there were lots of gas stations were I could stop and get directions.

The highlight of the day was the train that went up Bukit Bendera the tallest point on the island.
Looking at Georgetown.
  We were told this would give us the best views of the island and it was beautiful.  Too bad the signs directing drivers to the hill are so bad that we got very lost trying to get there.  Also too bad that we found out that the train was only going halfway up as the the tracks above the mid station where broken.  I learned they had been broken for a few months and would be for a long time.  We decided since we spent so much time gettign here we would still go up and the risk was low as the tickets cost like 2 dollars each.

The train looks almost exactly like the ones called Inclines in Pittsburgh PA.  There are small cars that slowly go up the hill on a single cable track.  Each car sit either a few feet above or below the ones in front and behind so in theory you get a great view.
  The only trouble was the cars were full of Indian tourists enjoying their vacations so were jammed in like sardines.  It was made even better as it was a hot tropical day and these cars had no air con.

The view from the mid station was actually very nice.  We could see out over much of the island and back down into Georgetown.  As the day was clear we could see all the way back towards the mainland and the city of Buttersworth.  One of the workers invited us to walk up the stairs to the higher station but looking at the steepness of the stairs and how hot it was I decided to sit in the shade and drink my water and wait for the train to head back to the main station.

After this break I seemed to get a handle on my little Proton and wanted to do some more exploring but I think Benny's nerves were shot so we headed back.
Someone lives up here.
  We did manage to get back to the hotel without getting lost and and without any more crashed.  I have decided to keep my future driving limited to Canada and the US.  Maybe I am not meant to drive on the left side of the road.
karen618 says:
Hi the name of the car is Perodua Kancil. Second national car after Proton. My first car in Malaysia;-)
Posted on: Jan 08, 2009
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From the bus station
From the bus station
the little rental car.
the little rental car.
The little train that could.  Well…
The little train that could. Wel…
The main station.
The main station.
Why not have dangerous dogs at a t…
Why not have dangerous dogs at a …
Looking at Georgetown.
Looking at Georgetown.
Someone lives up here.
Someone lives up here.
Penang
photo by: Aurora78