At Penang Airport there are posters recommending avoiding taxi touts and instead catching an airport taxi. You buy a coupon just outside, and this costs RM44.70, for example, to Pulau Tikus except very early or late when there is a surcharge. The price is reasonable, and in fact I have been doing this for the six or so years I have been living here when returning home from the airport. The quality of the cars is mixed, but the drivers have always been honest.
But not today. The passenger ahead in the queue was picked up by a new Nissan Silphy. Which means, on average, that our car would be an old Proton – and so it was. The driver barely spoke any English, but he seemed to understand more or less where we were going. Once clear of the airport and on the main road, the driver moved to the left lane and slowed to a crawl, while talking on his mobile phone. We asked what he was doing and he said he had car problems. However, it did not seem like it at all. We told him to get a move on and he did for a bit, and then pulled into a side street, and navigated into some narrow suburban lanes. We called someone who spoke Malay and gave the phone to the driver to explain, but he told our friend the same – that he had car problems. The driver stopped at a petrol station, and it seemed his idea was to transfer us to his friend’s car. So they could be planning anything from murder to kidnapping to just extortion for money.
All taxis have a SPAD sticker – transport department – so we rang – and all we got was a message to leave your number and they would call back – which they didn’t. Useless. We then just told him forcefully we’d had enough and to take us to our destination – and he did. No car problems at all. He understood much more English than he pretended – to we spoke another language to each other so he wouldn’t understand.
We got him to drop us at a nearby hotel so he wouldn’t know our house. Naturally I photographed his licence as displayed on the windscreen, and his car’s number plate. And now we are sending complaints to SPAD, the airport taxi company and the police.
Koplimo White Taxi:
firstname.lastname@example.org 04-643 3922
The airport administration really don’t want you to have a taxi driver you have arranged to pick you up. However, if you live in Penang it pays to have one or two trusted taxi drivers, and perhaps you should do just that.