As we approached the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion commonly known as The Blue House, in the old Georgetown section of Penang Malaysia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I immediately gravitated to the plethora of Rick-Shaws lined up on the front porch. I have no idea why I am attracted to these antique modes of transportation or why I take endless photos of them. I can remember my first visit to Hong Kong in 1973 and how common they were at that time, as a personal transportation source. They have fascinated me for over 40 years.
Over time the quantity and elaborate vehicles have waned and their use diminished extensively. They are still found in a select few cities, like the Georgetown area of Penang, but in most cases it is just a form of tourist attraction and there seems to be a perpetual contest to see which Rick-Shaw can be decorated the gaudiest. We stopped our first night in Penang and all climbed into our Rick-Shaws for a pre-arranged guided and moderated tour. I was fortunate that my guide spoke excellent English and was familiar with local history.
I was amazed that my guide was near my age, probably had about 1% body fat and I had to outweigh him by at least 50 pounds. He peddled like I was a feather and no sign of struggle or additional effort was displayed during our tour. I think he was used to this routine and when we stopped the ride I tipped him, thanked him and walked away. When I looked back he was lighting up a cigarette, as if to say “I got this covered and then some”!
I would recommend you take a whirl on one of these magnificent contraptions and try and visualize what is was like “Back in the Day”! They are in the process of being phased out and it is just another piece of history that we will not be able to experience before too long. Jump in and travel back while you have the chance. I feel fairly certain your brain will allow you to transport yourself back in time and you will be able to appreciate a little slice of history, when things moved at a slower pace and one could appreciate their surroundings.
*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.