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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

12 January 2011

Ready to explode

12th January 2011

Even as it happened I thought “well, at least it’ll be something to blog about”. Blogs seem to be a useful way of putting events into perspective; if your response to a mishap is “this will make today’s blog” rather than “oh noooooooo!” then it probably isn’t such a great disaster.

We arranged a car rental via our guesthouse, because we wanted to explore all of Penang Island and particularly the tiny national park which lies at the western tip. The car that arrived this morning was a tiny white automatic that had seen better days. It didn’t have power steering, which took me back a few years, and at some point in its chequered history the steering wheel had been replaced with a racing one; perhaps a clue to its state of health. Twenty minutes down the road, thankfully still in town, it overheated and came to a shuddering halt in a cloud of unfragrant steam.

Luckily I’d got it to the side of the road, so we left the scalding hot bonnet to cool down and went for breakfast at a nearby market. This included a local treat called Chow Cheung Fun, meaning pig intestine noodles. No, no, it’s only because they look like intestines. They’re served cold with three tangy sauces and sprinkled in sesame seeds, the whole dish being refreshing and sweet-sour.

Back at the car, a quick look under the bonnet showed a massive crack across the top of the radiator. So we limped back to the guesthouse and managed to park it with the temperature indicator right off the dial and another sudden stall imminent. I was entirely prepared for a big fight with the car hire people and the guest house if necessary to extract our rental money (a whole £14, darn it), but in the event they were apologetic, gave the money back, paid for the petrol I’d put in the car, and got us a replacement for the day.

It’s another tiny, battered old automatic, this time silver. It doesn’t overheat, but the speedometer doesn’t work and it shudders like a demented cow in its death throes if you leave it in Drive while stopped in a queue. It also slows to a wheezing 5mph when going up some of the steeper hills on the island, to the great amusement – or is it annoyance – of all the traffic behind.

Still, we survived our drive around the island intact and celebrated at the end of the day with a magnificent fish head curry for dinner. Yes, yes, this time it really is fish head. The curry broth was a real fusion of Indian and South-East Asian styles, including kaffir lime and lemongrass but also abundant curry leaves.


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