This week I discovered something that I definitely cannot do. I cannot drive a motorbike. I cannot even nearly drive a motorbike – even an automatic. Despite the fact that shy 14 year old girls in every country we have visited manage it with no problem, it was beyond me. We spent a couple of days on the island of Pangkor and, with our friends from Red Boomer II decided to hire motorbikes and drive around the island. Scott and the boys had explored the island this way before and he had proclaimed it a 'piece of cake' as Pangkor has few cars and is quiet. So Jane and I decided to have a go. We didn't exactly tell the lady hiring the bikes that we couldn't drive, but decided to go to a quiet lane round the corner and practice. How hard could it be? Well, both of us found ourselves unable to turn, wobbly and barely in control. It was when I was giggling on the dirt verge of the road, unable to go forward or turn, that the lady of the bike hire place came around the corner (evidently to check up on us, and who could blame her) and told us that she wouldn't hire her bikes to us if Jane and I were intending to drive them. It was rather embarrassing. We decided to apologise, concede defeat and be passengers - luckily our two mates who had planned to ride singly agreed to each carry a red-faced passenger.
In the event, we had a great day riding around. Scott was remarkably quiet about my failed motorbiking career but I'm sure it will come up again when I say, about some other subject, 'well, how hard can it be?'.
Our last couple of days in Penang gave me more chance to wander around the streets. I found a string of shops full of paper replicas of all sorts of material goods – clothes, jewellery, shoes of all kinds, speed boats, cars, deck chairs, laptops, TV's and much more. They were all printed with great detail and in bright colours on paper, which was folded and tabbed into shape and then sealed in plastic. I asked the Chinese lady running one shop what they were all for and she explained that they were gifts for the dead to take to the next life. Whilst I was there, a man came in and bought a set of emerald jewels and matching 'beaded' slippers, another bought a red sports car. The gifts would be burnt at the funeral and would provide luxuries for the deceased in the afterlife. I have my eye on quite a few luxury items for my next life, so will make sure my loved ones make a dash to Penang when the time comes.
In addition to shopping for the hereafter, there were rows of undertakers, clusters of engineering shops, more printers than I could count and the most wonderful stationers. I really like stationery shops – something about their neatness, perhaps – but these were in another league. There were narrow rows of floor to ceiling shelves filled with every kind of pencil and notebook imaginable – I got lost in there for a while.
The weather has changed since we left Thailand. It is still sticky, hot and humid ( don't think I've mentioned the heat lately – don't get me started) but is now also raining more, particularly in the afternoons. It is certainly the right time to head South, though we won't be reaching the equator for some time yet. At present, we are having a relaxing interlude in Admiral Marina at Port Dickson. The air conditioner is cranking away and the washing is up to date so we can enjoy the marina. It has 3 swimming pools, tennis courts, bikes to ride and a gym (guess where I've been hiding?) - and all for the cost of a $20 a day marina fee. We intended to stay two days but so far we've been here five. Nice to have a rest from our hectic travelling from time to time. We have our friends on the same dock so the kids run backwards and forwards – and so do we. Seth found a gecko egg in the bush and he and Scott have made a home for the gecko (let's hope it hatches) so the boys are inspecting the egg several times a day and reading up on geckos on the internet. Will happily accommodate the little guy if he hatches, as he can eat any mozzies that stray onto the boat. Will keep you posted on his progress.