I don’t know how I decided I needed to ride one of the steepest cable cars in the world.
Perhaps because it was there in Malaysia, and I was there in Malaysia, and because- like a 5lb chihuahua- I always imagine myself dramatically braver than I actually am. Much to my supreme annoyance, I’m terrified of absolutely everything. Including heights. And closed-in spaces. And gondolas.
Day #10,672: The Langkawi Cable Car is the primary (manmade) attraction on the stunningly peaceful and beautiful island of Palau Langkawi, off the western coast of Malaysia.
After a day spent with our toes dipped in the clear, warm Andaman Sea, Mr. M & I grew restless for adventure and took a taxi to the uber-touristy Oriental Village and the entrance to the Langkawi Cable Car. As an aside: the Village may be best left untouched. Unless you require a trashy and/or offensive souvenir t-shirt, steer clear (the Village’s low-point consisted of a rack of mens t-shirts brashly proclaiming “Virgins Only Need Apply”… uggh…).
The day was young, and a thick cloud cover shrouded the top (steepest) portion of the cable car.
The 5lb chihuahua was feeling headstrong and sure of herself.
Time to dispel irrational phobias! To cast fear aside and seize the day! Let’s DO this thing!
So Mr. M and I hopped in the so-called SkyCab and headed for the peak of Gunung Machanching. (And by ‘hopped’ I mean crept in and threatened poor Mr. M to refrain from “breathing too hard, so as not to swing the gondola.”)
The ride started off beautifully, with a stunning view of the rainforest canopy.Then we got higher. And higher. The mechanical whir of the gears suddenly sounded a bit too clunky. Are we sure everything’s working alright? Mr. M? Are you breathing hard?? The gondola’s getting a bit bouncy, pal… I suddenly realized I was essentially hanging off of a thin cable hundreds of feet above the ground. And like the once fearless 5lb chihuahua who realizes he’s met his match in a snarling Rottweiler, I shelved my bravado and accepted the cold, hard fact that I was small and terrified. Deep breaths, deeeep breaths…
Then we got high enough for the fog to start rolling in.The whole scene was actually quite stunning. We were enveloped in pure white one second, then it would instantly drop away to reveal vertigo-inducing heights and the lush greenery fading into the distance below. Then just because They could, Someone Up There decided to throw in a light breeze for kicks. For all my balls-out attitude at the onset, I must admit that the end of the cable car (spoiler alert: we made it to the top) found me chanting, with eyes closed to avoid complete and utter freak-out. Ay, dios mio.
We stopped at the midway cable car station, perched 2132 feet up. The weather on the mountain changes rapidly… while we were up, there was hardly any visibility, but 30 min later, visitors had crystal-clear views. We opted to move on to the second leg of the cable car journey, a far less vertical and far less terrifying journey that I was honestly starting to enjoy. No prob, I told myself. You got this, player!
At the end of the second cable car, we reached the SkyBridge, a steel bridge supported by a single beam and hanging hundreds of feet (328 feet, to be exact) over a rocky chasm. It’s an amazing feat of engineering, to say the least.
And so, halfway across the SkyBridge, I looked down (never look down, kids, never look down!) and realized that the planks were spaced just far enough apart that I could see alllll the way down. And I froze. I may or may not have started hyperventilating and making a scene.
I was sooo embarrassed.
Until I saw another lady down on her knees, crawling along the bridge, with her husband next to her issuing what I can only imagine was a steady string of encouragement in their native tongue. As were many of the Muslim women in Malaysia, she was completely covered in black cloth, save for a tiny rectangle through which I could see her eyes opened reeeally wide.
We locked eyes, both of us clutching the bridge and petrified, and we could not help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
Some things break right through the cultural barrier.
Sometimes just knowing that someone else understands how you feel, regardless of how silly, is enough.
Sometimes we find confirmation in the most unlikely of places.
Amazingly, that was my turning point. As if there were any doubt, I made it down. And felt like a supahstar- capital S- with street cred to spare.
Despite my melodramatic storytelling, I’d do it all again in a (panic-ridden) heartbeat.
In fact, being terrified is usually a pretty good sign that I should absolutely, 100% do whatever I’m thinking about and not look back. And then chase it with a stiff drink.