Getting lost in Melaka gone wrong

It wasn’t the first time I got lost. But this time, unlike the countless others, I ran out of luck when I got lost while looking for the bus stop that would take me out of Melaka, Malaysia.




I woke up to a cold and rainy early Tuesday morning. Just a few more days and it will be September soon.

The rain brought with it a certain melancholia that made me realize I have been traveling solo for a week now. I still have a lot of days left in my 2 months in Southeast Asia in my first attempt to backpack as a solo female traveler abroad.

Thankfully the rain stopped as soon as I stepped out of the hostel. Lucky too that there was no one in sight in the streets and there were only a handful of cars driving around. I was ready to say goodbye to Malacca.

I only had a few minutes before the bus to Sentral comes. D, my wonderful German roommate told me the night before that the bus stop was just walking distance from our hostel. Just a stone’s throw away from the elevated bridge.

Keeping that in mind, I walked briskly, eager to reach the bus stop. In hindsight, I should have stopped at that 7-Eleven store, bought a breakfast and asked for directions.




Instead, I walked to where the bus stopped two nights ago when I reached Malacca. I saw the bus stop sign but there were no other people in sight. It was only around 7 AM so I thought nothing of it.

After a few minutes of waiting, I decided to look for someone to ask. Northbound, I walked to the next intersection with my big backpack and shoulder bag in tow. At last, I caught sight of an auntie. But unfortunately, like many locals, she can’t understand English. My Bahasa was quite rusty so I mimed as best as I could. She pointed south from where I came from.

Dodging cars, I walked back to where I was previously standing and continued walking south. It took me another 10 minutes to find someone to ask. I didn’t have any mobile data or local sim to rely on. And the maps I took at the hostel were no help either.

This time, the auntie was a receptionist in a hostel that looked like it had seen better times. Thank goodness she knew a bit of English. The problem was, we still couldn’t understand each other so she tried to draw me a map. I asked her if she can accompany me at least outside to point what direction I should go to next, but she refused or maybe she just didn’t understand. Despondent, I thanked her and went back to where I started.

By the time I made it to my starting point, I was close to tears. How can I get lost in a city so small? I’m pretty sure I missed the first bus already but I haven’t seen any that passed by this road. For sure I would have seen it. But there was no bus since I arrived, only a guy on a motorbike who seemed to be driving to and fro a few times already.

This time, I decided to sit and wait.

It was the fourth time that the guy on the motorbike passed by me. I recognized his brown leather worn out jacket. I looked the other way like I did the few times I’ve seen him, pretending I didn’t notice him. He was looking my way again and driving slower now. I’m feeling even more anxious. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this“, my subconscious said.

I gripped my shoulder bag closer, trying to think of something to use to defend myself. There was still nobody in sight. I doubt anyone would hear me if I screamed my lungs out. Not that I can even know how to scream like that.

I wasn’t even wearing make-up, my hair was in its usual ponytail, and wasn’t even wearing anything revealing. “Why is he staring at me?“, I asked myself.




A few minutes passed and I thought he was gone for good. Still no bus as well. So I decided to walk back to 7-Eleven when out of the blue, he was already beside me. Startled and frozen, I held my shoulder bag in front of me, ready to throw it at him. He started coming on to me and walking closer, mumbling something in the local dialect, while I tried my best to walk backward, dodging him.

This was not the first time I encountered harassment in this country but compared to this, the catcalls and brush ups now seemed harmless.

Heart beating fast, I tried to think what to do next despite the shock. The wall was already closing in behind me. I still couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying but his lecherous expression and him gesturing lewdly to his nether regions were clear enough that he was up to no good.

My brain finally got out of its momentary funk and got me to run away. But as I was speeding up, he followed suit and tried to grab my hand. I never ran as fast as I did then. I ran and ran until I crossed the other street.

And what do you know, I ran straight to another bus stop. And it turned out that this was the correct bus stop I was looking for in the first place. How did I know? A few minutes while I was catching my breath, the bus to Melaka Sentral stopped. I got on and cried all the way, not caring if the other people on the bus thought I was crazy.

Girl got harassed while searching for the bus out of Malacca and finally found it while saving her ass.




Three years have passed and I only got the courage to publish it now. For months after it happened, I was ashamed to talk about it, for fear of victim shaming. This incident didn’t stop me from traveling solo, but it did definitely impact me. For a while, I stopped traveling solo even in my home country until I was confident in myself again that I could handle situations like these without freezing out. It also made me wiser, choosing to have a means of communication always just in case I get lost again.

I don’t intend to discourage anyone from traveling to Melaka or Malaysia. Situations like these can happen anywhere in the world, even when and where we least expect it to.

Read More Stories:

Chased by monkeys in Penang Hill, Malaysia

Left by bus in Johor Bahru border

Love-Hate affair with long bus rides


Has this happened to you too? What can you advice other solo female travelers regarding situations like these? 

#MeToo

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Photo credits: Feature image – Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash / Body image – Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

 

Darlene is currently on the road again and traveling full-time after being an expat/overseas Filipino worker in Qatar. She's rediscovering what it means to travel solo and in her 30s while working on her blogs.

Comments

  • This is tough Darlene. So glad you wrapped up with the idea this literally can happen anywhere on earth, not being reflective of most or virtually all locals. Some human beings have severe mental problems which manifest as what this guy did. Thank you for sharing your story; a cathartic purge I imagine. Tweeted and Pinned.

    Ryan

  • I’m so sorry to hear about this, Dada. Big hugs to you. Thank you for having the courage to tell this story. While it is sad to think that many would be able to relate to this, I’m sure there are also those who would be relieved, and feel empowered even, by this. And you’re right: this can happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, which sucks, but there it is. But this shouldn’t stop us from seeing the world. There is so much beauty out there, and the good far outweighs the bad. But it is important to be prepared and learn from our encounters. I hope to travel again with you soon. And til then, safe travels!

  • That sucks! I was hoping the guy would turn out to be decent as a twist..but l should have known. Glad it hasn’t stopped you from traveling though. It’s scary getting lost in a foreign place.

  • Christina

    So sorry to hear about this experience. I like hearing the truth instead of fabricated stories.

  • So sorry that you experienced this! I agree with you about victim shaming. If I posted something like this, someone would say, “That’s what you get when you’re traveling solo!” or you know, most people just don’t care. But it’s important to write about our experience knowing that other female travelers can relate and this way we can learn from each other. Although this has happened years before, the trauma can linger, and I hope you’re feeling better now!

    • Thank you for understanding, Kat! Even amongst us females, there will be ones who will say that it’s your fault or that you should have known better. But I’m thankful for people who understand that sometimes, even when you’re still being careful, bad things can happen. What we can control is how we respond to it. And I sure do hope the world can be a safer place not just for females but for everyone! 🙂

  • You’ve told me this story 3 years ago, yet somehow reading it makes me feel like I’m learning about it for the first time. I am so sorry that this happened to you, but I want you to know that I am very proud of you. You are one strong woman and you are smart. I’m glad that you were able to run away from that miscreant and thank heavens, you ended up where you should be. Indeed, if we have a choice, we wouldn’t want to meet such bad experiences when we travel. Though I am sad that this happened to you, I am happy that it didn’t stop you from traveling, which I know is one of your passions in life. Most of all I am so proud that you finally wrote about this. Not only were you able to speak your truth, you are also helping other travelers, especially solo female travelers to become more vigilant wherever they go.

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