A few weeks ago – we were sitting in a colorful Trishaw (bicycle taxi), touring the streets of Georgetown in Penang while filming a new travel episode and chitchatting with the old wrinkled man behind us pushing the bike. In reality, it would have been faster to simply walk, so it was a little funny to see people walking past us, but we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen – keep in the sunlight” – Benjamin Franklin
This was Georgetown’s Malaysia answer to the ‘ice cream truck’. The man was biking around the streets with a portable bread shop selling sandwiches. How he managed to bike with that thing in front of him is a mystery.
How We Got Mugged In Malaysia
Then, in the matter of seconds, it happened … Suddenly, out of nowhere, two men on a motorbike came up from behind us – the guy behind the driver was sitting backwards on the motorbike, turned towards us (obviously prepared).
He broke out into a big smile as if greeting us, while at the same time grabbing the camera that Nathan was holding in both hands by his chest, forcing it out of his hands at the same time as the driver on the motorbike accelerated to gain more power, and drove off.
It all happened really fast, but it was one of those moments when time suddenly stops and everything seems to happen in slow motion. Those who have ever seen me get mad, know not to let it happen again – it takes a lot for me to snap, but when I do I get a death look that shocks people in ways you can’t imagine. That guy on the motorbike was one of the few who got to see it.
I gave him “the death look”, let out a long, loud animal-like scream, and as I leaped out of the seat, the guy’s arrogant smile had turned into a look of pure terror.
I knew there was nothing I could do to get it back, but I would NOT let him get away with my camera while still smiling. That was the fastest way we’ve seen 4,000 US dollars disappear out of our hands ever. The poor old trishaw man was close to tears, and tried to pedal as fast as he could, helplessly repeating “wait, I tell my boss”, making his way to the “boss”. At the police station, I cried – not of pity, but of anger. I was so pissed off by how anyone can justify mugging someone. They have no excuse, being poor is not a valid excuse, especially not when they could obviously afford a motorbike and fuel, a luxury in my opinion. It was not losing the camera that made me so mad, it was losing the memory card with all our photos and video footage on it.
Sometimes Safety Is Not The Problem.
During the last 4 years of traveling, this has never happened before – which in other words means, I guess it had to happen some time. People can go on and on about how you have to be careful with your stuff, but there is a limit to that too. Sure, it might have been safer keeping the camera inside a bag, but what’s the point of having a camera if you’re not using it?
During our travels, we’ve met quite a few travelers who have chosen not to bring even a cheap point and shoot camera with them on their trips – in fear of losing it.
I think that’s taking it too far. It sucks to be mugged, but I can’t imagine having traveled to all these countries for so many years without having taken one single picture – just for the sake of not getting mugged.
What We Learned How to avoid getting mugged
How to avoid being mugged – Incidentally, we had just (a few weeks earlier) changed our insurance company from World Nomads to another company which we felt seemed more willing to help out rather than trying to find every opportunity to avoid paying out. It always stings a bit when you pay a lot for something you probably won’t need, but I was so glad I had my insurance this time, and while we didn’t get the full amount back, getting half of it was not too bad (the new insurance we use is called ERV). Having a good insurance makes things so much easier, and only two weeks after claiming the insurance we were paid without any further questions. I’m not afraid of buying another expensive camera, to be honest we probably got more money back from the insurance than we would have got by selling our second-hand gear – don’t let one bad experience make you expect it to happen again – it might, but it also might not. Checkout our Kuala Lumpur City Guide
5 Things Learned From Malaysian People
It became clear to me that many of my past experiences from the country had more to do with myself than anything else.
Last time I found it hard to decide whether I liked the country or not: sometimes I wanted to get away from it asap, other times I loved it.
This time I had a better idea about the place, but one thing that hadn’t changed, was that it’s still a country which I found hard to define.
There are so many culture mixes here that it’s hard putting a finger on what and how Malaysia is – but here are some things I’ve learned about the Malaysian people during our time here:
They openly show emotions
When you questioned something you got a straight answer and an honest opinion from them, whether it was a taxi driver, restaurant waiter or street worker.
It was all very straight forward, which we really loved.
They weren’t afraid of asking for your opinion and thoughts, and actually wanted to hear what you had to say about their food, culture etc.
They were also very open to show positive emotions, and would crack a joke with you without thinking further into what they were doing.
They point with their knuckles and thumb
This was something we had to get used to doing as well. Nobody points with their index finger in Malaysia, it’s considered really rude, but thumbs and knuckles are pointed everywhere.
They are talkative
So many words, so little time – the hawkers are experts at counting up everything they offer while you pass by.
But it’s not just the people trying to sell you something who talk a lot, the Malaysian people seem to simply like conversating with people in general.
While in many other countries salesmen only talk to you until you have bought (or denied) something, here they continued talking about other things even once they understood that you wouldn’t buy it.
Taxi drivers more than happily shared their thoughts about the city, government and people, shop keepers made jokes, and people on the street started conversations.
The Malaysian people are not afraid of coming on too strong and stare freely, even when they know that you know that they’re looking… They’re not being rude, just curious. The stares are not judging, so after you get used to it, it’s not very awkward anymore.
They’re multi cultural and have no private space
Chinese eat Indian curries, Indians eat Arab food and Arabs eat Nyonya food.
In many countries the people separate themselves and only hang out with their own “peers”, while here they seemed to hang out with anyone no matter religion or origin.
Another thing I noticed was how they didn’t mind sitting down at a strangers’ table in a restaurant and eat – talking or not talking to the one sitting in front of you, it was not a big deal.
This is something which is very different from my own culture, where it would take a lot for two strangers to share a table at a restaurant.