Writer . Editor . Author
Phuket to Penang
Today is our last day in Thailand, and we are flying home on Firefly, a Malaysian budget airline which calls itself a “community airline”.
The view from my window is spectacular. The deep blue sea and the top of islands that are dotted with lush greens are captured on my sister’s camera.
On the hour flight home, I get to spend time with S. We talk about the latest book he is reading, the young adults group he is leading and how to make friends with people who are unsociable.
I love having time with people one on one, because it means I have the luxury of asking questions and there is room for meaningful conversation.
With the hustle bustle of family and friends to see, S and I didn’t quite have time to talk at length about anything. It’s good to have old times again.
I’m pleased with the journey as we touch down in Penang. I would fly Firefly again for:
1. Its jet-engine propeller (look, so cool!)
2. Its aircraft colour (bright orange!)
3. Its direct flight to Penang
4. Its lack of passengers
5. Its cupcake muffin
6. Its box drink
The Proton Saga
We arrive at Penang International Airport in the dead heat of 3pm and Big Sis comes to pick us up. It’s good to be home again, but just as we round the corner to leave the airport, a taxi car breaks down ahead of us.
The single lane is blocked and so we stretch our necks to look. The driver is prancing up and down, looking at the dislocated tyre, while his two European passengers are waiting hand-on-hips in the shade.
The Proton Saga – national car or national faux pas?
The four of us in the car are looking at each other, bemused. We are not sure whether to laugh or cry. The local Proton car is not known for its quality, but something this major in the presence of non-Malaysians is a national faux pas. We feel the need to apologise on behalf of the entire country.
By this time a queue has formed behind us. Big Sis turns off the car engine because we don’t know how long this is going to take. S gets out of the car to help, along with other men from the back.
They push to get the car to the side, but it won’t budge. We wait for about 5 minutes and more men arrive from the taxi stand by the arrival hall to help. They push and push some more.
We can see S talking to the European tourists. After another 5 minutes, a newer taxi car arrives to take them away. S shakes hand with the European man. The tourists hop into their new taxi, and S comes back into our car.
“What did you say to them??” we ask as soon as he gets in.
“I said, ‘Welcome to Penang’,” S replies.
We all burst out laugh. He can be so funny sometimes.
“I said, ‘I hope this hasn’t ruined your first impression of Penang. It’s actually a really nice city. I told them I was born and bred here’,” he explains. “They were Americans stopping by Penang on their way to Thailand.”
“Where were they going?” I ask.
“Batu Ferringhi,” he says. “Good thing this happened here. That car is so old.”
Indeed. Batu Ferringhi is a snakey stretch of road on the northern coast of Penang. With the hills on your left and the sea on your right, there is no room for accidents on that 13km stretch.