I Remember When I Was Young… ‘TRASH ‘90’
By Shane Pinnegar
A few weeks ago – 23rd July – was the thirtieth anniversary of a particularly painful chapter of my travelling life.
In 1990 my best friend Wazza and I embarked on what was to be a superb holiday in luxurious surroundings… but it didn’t work out that way, not by a long shot.
We left Perth excited, revved up after some time in the business lounge, an unattended open bar at our disposal. A quick transfer at Kuala Lumpur and we arrived in our first stop, Penang, around half past midnight. We’d christened the trip ‘TRASH ‘90’, but after eight or so hours travelling we were happy to get to the Holiday Inn, wind down and get some sleep. The partying would start in earnest the very next day.
I don’t recall what we did during the day, but I do know we were full of energy and – at 24 years of age, footloose and fancy free – in possibly our peak physical condition. Cripes knows, I wish I were that shape now, thirty years later!
For our first proper night we were determined to make a splash on the town. Now, please forgive the details – thirty years creates a lot of haze in the memories. I know we went out for dinner, and then to the Rasa Sayang Hotel nightclub, which was some walk around the mountain road from our hotel.
My recollections are that a couple of girls approached us and asked for help to dissuade a few overly-interested local guys by hanging out with them. Waz remembers them being Australian sisters, one of whom knew one of his sisters. His memories are most likely accurate.
They were pretty girls, we were always respectful whilst also (always) looking for action, so we thought we’d help them out and maybe make a play for their affections as well. What could possibly go wrong?!?
We got action alright – the worst kind of action.
We danced and drank with these girls, and I thought we were getting along pretty well. There was no overt suggestions that romance might ensue, and Waz insists that any flirting was very low key because they knew his sis.
The venue finally turned the lights on and we made to leave, and who was waiting for us on (I think) the stairs on the way out, but the local guys who had their eyes on the girls earlier in the night. Now they had us in their sights after they were knocked back.
They wanted us to go down to the beach with them for a drink. As much as Waz and I were always keen to keep the party rolling, and ever open to meeting new people and sharing good times, we caught a vibe from these guys that this may not be a purely benevolent offer.
Accordingly, we politely thanked them for the offer but said we were tired and going home. We started walking up the road, the girls a ways ahead of us.
Waz: “We said goodbye at the club and started walking back with the girls a fair way in front, when we saw the guys walking with them – and starting to get a bit aggressive. So that’s when we thought – Captain America style – let’s help the girls. That’s when it went pear shaped.”
Little did we know that not only were we not going to get lucky that night, but our luck was about to run out, only 24 hours after our arrival.
I believe we intervened, politely suggesting that the girls had had enough, and made sure they got to the door of the hotel okay. We turned to continue the now-short(ish) trek to our hotel… and then it happened.
“Don’t look back, but those guys are following us,” Waz whispered furtively.
We were still in the hotel car park, and since I would be lucky to find a way to fight my way out of a wet paper bag on any given day, I didn’t have a clue how to brace myself for what was to come. We just picked up the pace, hoping they would lose interest.
I turned sideways and Wazza was on the ground, holding the side of his face.
I spun around.
Kicked right in the love junk. Now I’m on the ground as well seeing stars and watching my sex life flash before my eyes.
I saw multiple pairs of feet approaching and thankfully had the good sense to shield my head with my arms. They laid into us both, kicking us for a minute until shouts came from the front of the hotel.
I recall that the girls were stood at the top of the steps screaming, though Waz doesn’t think so. A couple of members of the hotel staff were definitely shouting at our attackers in Malaysian. The bad guys ran off – or, more likely, arrogantly strolled away into the night – and we lay there, writhing in pain, unattended and alone. Happy holidays.
The rest of the night is a blur lost to thirty years ago. I have no recollection of anyone helping us at the girl’s hotel. Certainly nothing ‘happened’ with the young ladies we had appointed ourselves to protect – even if they had been keen I wouldn’t have been able to do a thing by this point, as my naughty bits were throbbing in all the wrong ways. I presume we walked back to our hotel, but I simply don’t remember. Maybe it was concussion, or more likely shock.
The next day I was in pain, covered in bruises, and the very thought of getting excited caused downstairs to ache horrendously. But that was nothing compared to Waz. One side of his face had swollen up like a tennis ball and an ugly black bruise started to spread across his jawline.
He would later discover that when these bastards king hit him from behind, they fucked his jaw up good and proper. He would survive for the rest of our holiday on smoothies and runny omelettes as he couldn’t chew due to the pain.
Waz: “Yeah, a fractured jaw – no ability to chew solid food and shitting liquid for the rest of the trip! Luckily no need to reset it [back at home], it just healed over time. Fuck Penang.”
I got off lightly by comparison, not that it felt that way for the rest of the week.
The local police chief visited us the morning after the attack or the following one, coming to us while we tried to rouse our dampened spirits at our al fresco breakfast table.
He told us that he knew we were attacked, and he knew who had done it. He told us that the same guy and his gang had broken a US Marine’s leg and/or arm the previous week, and they desperately needed someone to identify him so they could lock him up and stop his rampage of violence (my words, but it sounds about right).
Waz and I looked at each other. Then I looked past the police chief and saw, standing on the sandy beach staring directly at us, one of the guys who attacked us. It might have been the ringleader, might have been another one, but I was certain it was one of them.
I could tell Waz saw him as well and a look of agreement and understanding flickered from him to me. I told the police chief that maybe we were attacked, maybe not. But we were there for another six days, and if this guy and his gang were as dangerous as suggested, we might be in serious danger if we said anything. There was no offer of protection, of course, merely a “come on, do the right thing” vibe. Nowadays I would make a stand for what was right, but in that moment, Waz barely able to open his mouth, me bruised and battered and my chicken tenders brutalised, we were scared.
All it would take, we reasoned, was for us to point the finger and next minute, we would expect the rest of the gang to descend upon us – and it wouldn’t just be with fists and feet this time. Besides, I told the chief, we had only seen them briefly on the stairs of the club, then in a flash in the dark car park. After drinking all evening and night. We certainly couldn’t reliably identify all of them.
The chief gave us his card, I think, and hoped we would reconsider, but we could still see that guy standing on the beach eyeballing us, and neither of us wanted to go home with broken bones or – worst case – in a body bag.
The rest of the week in Penang was not the holiday we were looking for. Waz was suffering, and there was nothing much I could do to help. We did a little sightseeing and had a couple of drinks, but we were on edge, wary of another attack, and they’d beaten most of the party out of us. We never saw those girls again.
Waz: “I don’t recall any further contact with the girls – certainly no help or thanks at the time while we were lying on the ground thinking ‘what the fuck just happened?!’”
Our trip was supposed to be ‘TRASH ‘90’. Sadly the only thing that got trashed was us, and not in the rock n’ roll sense.
After a quiet, sore and sorry for ourselves week in Penang we packed up and flew on to a few days in Bangkok.
And that is… well, that is another story.