Labour Day Public Holiday in Malaysia - 1st May 2015

The new month has me thinking about change again.

When we left the North Shore of Sydney and the comfortable life to take over a run-down Zoo just north of Brisbane it was a big change for us. However the biggest change was for the zoo animals as we poured all our money and resources into rehousing and improving their conditions.

The 2 Malayan Sunbears (Helarctus Malaynus) were in sore need of a new home as they were in a rather barbaric cage with a concrete floor that had been their only home since as cubs about 10 years prior to us arriving. Erica (the designer) concepted an open moated enclosure with running water ponds, bamboo, a palm tree, climbing structures made from tree branches and a floor of forest mulch that they could dig in. The public viewing area was over a glass wall with a deep trench below it so that you looked directly at the bears.

We built the enclosure attached to the old cage so that they could be confined at night as per Zoo regulations and installed a sliding gate between the old and new. The day came for the official opening and a large crowd had gathered including the local Mayor and a media contingent. After some speeches at the Rainforest Walk entrance everyone could hardly wait to see the Bears in their new enclosure in the “Jungle”. The TV cameras rolled.

All were very impressed with the exception of the Sun Bears! We expected the bears to walk out and be pleasantly surprised but they refused to leave the old enclosure when zookeepers opened the sliding gate. I eventually got one of them to poke his nose out for a moment by proffering his favourite food, honey so they still made the TV News but only by a nose!  It took many weeks before they were comfortable as the loose earth beneath their feet felt so alien compared to their concrete floor.

My apologies for this lengthy analogy but I use it to illustrate how difficult it is to entice the older members of the Human Species (homo sapiens) out of their secure “nests “to partake of the many delights that relocating to a new environment can provide. Taking the first step is the hardest as our 2 Sun Bears illustrated those many years ago. As the saying goes “life is a rich learning experience”.

Hanging on in Penang Rapid

Hanging on in Penang Rapid

We fear that we may now be addicted to Penang Rapid Transport travel. The thrill of standing in the bus with clear vision out the front as they drive at speed towards a stationary vehicle (much like a predator on the African Plains) and then apply the brakes abruptly with moments to spare  induces an adrenalin rush such that we have not experienced since we owned a Ferrari in 1976!

Yesterday’s rare sighting (first since 1967) of Erica waiting for a bus will be repeated today as we plan to “Bus It” around the island to see how the locals react to a Public holiday.

We mounted the 204 Penang Rapid bus at the Jetty expecting an exciting trip to Sek Lok Si Temple (the largest in Southeast Asia) but our adrenal glands were not used once on this trip. A boring driver!

Arrived at the Temples 45 minutes later and it was very LARGE! It cascaded down a hill from the massive Quan Yin Statue at the top via many different areas of worship. The steps were horrendous for Erica’s knees but she soldiered on. The crowd there (Buddha’s Birthday is on Sunday) was massive and would have made theme parks like Dreamworld on the Gold Coast look puny. The retailing efforts here almost surpassed the size of the temple. At the end of each set of steps another gift shop appeared and the main steps to reach the temple were like a street bazaar.

Took the inclinator up the last stretch to the top. It was packed and we were crammed in like sardines in a can! Under the watchful eye of the Gigantic Quan Yin, The Goddess of Mercy, (we have a very old human size wooden one from a southern Chinese Temple stored at my brother’s house back in Australia), we hung wish ribbons on the wish tree. My ribbon was a wish for “bodily health” and Eric’s for “increase in prosperity and longevity”.

Hanging Wish Ribbons

Hanging Wish Ribbons

Crammed like sardines in a can

Crammed like sardines in a can

Synchronicity is a funny thing and amidst the crowd of around 10,000 people (all Asian in appearance) on the way down on a narrow set of steps we heard a voice in the throng call out “nice to see you again”. It was the nice young man we met at the Queensbay bus shelter yesterday who works on Langkawi and is booked on the same ferry as us on Sunday. What were the chances?!

Hopped back on a 202 Bus back to the Jetty hoping for a more spirited performance than the previous driver. We were not disappointed! He was the iconic rapid accelerator and heavy late breaker. Braced ourselves and we were ready.

As it turned out the Adrenalin got too big a work out as he zipped along at high speed he threw the anchors out abruptly and Erica lost her grip and was thrown forward and spread eagled on a padded blue support for the disabled. This was a stroke of luck as I catapulted forward simultaneously and landed on top of her in a rather unfortunate position resembling an act that should not be pursued on public transport! She was crushed but unharmed and we soon regained our balance for the rest of the “thrill ride”. Wow what a ride!

Wandered through a large shopping complex and witnessed very large crowds just as one might see in an Australian Shopping Centre on a Public Holiday.