Mugged In Malaysia – 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.
Table of Contents
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
This was our second visit to Malaysia, and it was a lot of fun returning to a place two years later to see if our impressions were different this time around.
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
Unlike in Thailand, the Malaysian people didn’t seem hesitant to show negative emotions, and didn’t at all avoid confrontations.
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 conversing 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.
6 Things To Do In Malaysia
Malaysia is a country where you will find an obvious West /East meeting point – combine the two and you get a crazy mixture – where Dutch clogs go with Indian curry and Portuguese churches.
It is a total mix of both the best and the worst of each culture, and you either hate it or love it, but you’ll never leave Malaysia without a strong impression.
I changed my mind about this country many times. At first I hated it, then I didn’t know what to think, and eventually I loved it.
For me Malaysia was one of those countries which grows on you, and will show it’s good side if you just give it some time.
These are my top picks for having the best experience on mainland Malaysia (I have yet to visit my dream location: Borneo).
Checkout our Kuala Lumpur City Guide
Cameron Highlands in Malaysia is full of exotic flowers loving the cool, wet climate in the hills.
Visiting The Malls In Kuala Lumpur
The crazy thing about Kuala Lumpur is that you can basically travel through the whole city never walking OUT of shopping malls!
Wherever you go you will suddenly find yourself inside another and then another shopping mall.
When you step off the tram you have already stepped into a mall – to be able to find your way in these mega malls you often need a map.
Visiting the malls in KL is an experience even if you’re not buying anything.
There is always something going on, beauty competitions, runway shows, shows for newly released watches and other luxury items, and in one of the malls they have actually built an indoor roller-coaster..!
Tea And Strawberries In Cameron Highlands
The fun and odd thing about Malaysia is the well embedded multi-culture of the country.
People from countries and religions all over the world have shared this land for centuries, and have settled their own traditions and cultures in the city.
In Cameron Highlands you will see the British culture with strawberry plantations, European flora and fauna as well as the tea plantations.
The climate is a lot colder, and I haven’t seen any place like this in South East Asia.
Great place to get away from the normally humid, warm Asia.
Our visit to Cameron Highlands turned out to be a very rainy one…
Chilling Out On The Perhentian Islands
These are a group of islands you literally will never want to leave.
We stayed there for two weeks instead of the planned 3 days.
It has that typical “hide away” feeling and the islands are far from exploited.
When we went there there weren’t many tourists at all, and they also tended to only stay on the most popular island and only on that very beach, not even looking around to see what more there was on the island.
The water is warm and crystal clear, and you can take your PADI diving certificate, go island hopping or just go snorkeling all day long.Places You Must Visit in Malaysia
Penang Food Famous Malaysia Sweets
Malaysia is know to have the best food in all of Asia, and it certainly is diverse.
Thanks to all the influence of different countries and their food traditions, Malaysia food is a mixture of it all together.
Some food is really strange, but much of it is pretty tasty too.
Don’t be surprised if you see Dutch Apfelstrudeln (apple pie) next to Indian Samosa on the menu!
Penang is famous for many things, but the reason we wanted to go there was simple: the Penang Food was supposedly amazing.
When we heard this we were sold, and left Thailand to indulge in Indian curries for one fifth of the price in Penang.
What makes Penang a food heaven are the many varieties of cuisine; Arabic food stalls, thai restaurants, Indian, Malay, Nyonya, Chinese, Lebanese… the list goes on.
Our favorite of the famous Malaysia sweets
Nyonya Kuih in Palm Sugar Sauce
Made of glutinous rice this steamed sweet is actually pretty tasty.
The palm sugar coconut sauce tasted a bit like licorice, and the nyonya kuih was also pretty nice, if you’re used to jelly sweets.
It’s made out of pea flour and Pandan juice.
There are many different varieties of the Kuih, but ours was pretty simple with one layer only.
The Nyonya kuihs are very popular in Penang.
Nyonya is a traditional Penang food, and refer to the Chinese migrants who came to Penang and other parts of Malaysia in the 18th century.
The food is a mixture between Malay and Chinese cuisine, and is called Nyonya food.
Green noodles in coconut milk, brown sugar and shaved ice.
Yes, you read it correctly, those are the actual ingredients.
It sounds crazy, but it’s one of the most common desserts in Malaysia and has been part of the Penang food tradition for decades.
Some have been selling Cendol since the 1920’s, and although it’s weird, it’s worth a try just to know what this combination would taste like!
Fried Ais Krim Goreng
The ultimate recipe for weight gain (although they’re small in size), but oh so delicious!
Some people might not like the warm oily deep fried crust covering cold and creamy cookies and cream ice cream inside – but I LOVED it.
The Fried Ais Krim Goreng is a Malaysian favorite treat, and you’ll see it everywhere on the Penang food menus.
The famous national Malaysian favorite dessert, Ais Kacang – is just so weird that you have to try it.
Beans, corn, fruit, nata de coco, grass jelly, cubes of agar agar, and ice cream on top.
Yeah, it really tastes as weird as it sounds!
If the Penang food isn’t surprising enough for your taste buds, I can guarantee you that this dessert will be.
This is even weirder than Cendol – this is the weirdest dessert I’ve ever had.
Red beans, ice cream, lychee fruit, corn, shaven ice and grass jelly?
All mixed up, and it tastes….interesting…
Parts of the dish are sweet and blend together really well, like the fresh fruit, ice cream and jelly.
But then you get these bites of bean, corn and water (the ice melts really quickly), which doesn’t blend very well with he flavors.
The Ais Kachang used to only consist of shaved ice and red beans, so the additional flavors.
If a little strange, definitely make this type of Penang food taste better.
When in Georgetown, you have to try the Indian sweets!
The Indian servings are pretty big (some gigantic, so look out!).
So you probably won’t feel like dessert when walking out of the restaurant – but buy it for later, because you will want to try and see what those bright colored things really taste like.
Don’t expect anything sweet like the western candy, this is totally different.
Karanji is a common sweet, but there are often whole stalls selling Indian sweets only, in all kinds of colors and shapes.
Steamed and Fried Kuih
Fried Kuih is a local delicacy in Malaysia, a mixture between Chinese and Malay style cuisine.
They come in all shapes and colors.
The Kuih is a rather strange part of the traditional Penang food, as it almost looks inedible.
It actually tastes pretty good, and is not as sweet as it looks.
Many Malays have a plate of Kuih only for lunch, and since they’re pretty filling, that is enough food to last you a few hours.
Ride A Trishaw In Melaka
If you think you’ve seen it all, you must check out the colorful trishaws.
These bike taxis outshine all other forms transports from around the world!
For the taxi-bike drivers it is fierce competition to have the coolest bike, decorating it with all junk you could ever find, and the more glitter and lights the better.
To top it, these guys take you around the city with techno music pumping out of their speakers at the highest volume.
The Crazy Multi-Culture Connection
People from all religions live together here, in a country with several cultural heritages, and it’s all just a mixture of everything;
Dutch clogs, belly dancing, karaoke contests – and temple dance classes.
Everywhere we went in Malaysia they were having dance classes.
Men and women, young and old, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, all practicing dance moves together.
This in all sorts of places, all from 90’s pop music in a public garage to “Pussy Cat Dolls” in a temple.
Enjoyment And Relaxation In The Perhentian Islands
I hadn’t quite been able to make up my mind about Malaysia yet.
At first I hated it, then I didn’t know what to think – and then we went to the Perhentian islands on the east coast.
Do I need to say more than – this was the view from our bedroom!
I truly believe that it is humanly impossible not to fall in love with these islands (if you despite this hated them, please comment below and tell me why!), it really is paradise itself.
We were going to stay for only 3 days, but ended up staying for a little more than 2 weeks (16 days!).
After some time in the bustling Kuala Lumpur we needed to escape somewhere quiet for a bit – and this couldn’t have been a better place to end up in.
We didn’t realize how much we needed this until we arrived at the beach.
I really enjoyed the peace and the fact that there was pretty much nothing to do but relaxing, swimming and reading a nice book by the beach.
If there would have been a lot of crazy adventure we wouldn’t have been able to stand against the temptation and would have continued to burn ourselves out – this place is the PERFECT stress release and relaxation place!
I guess we weren’t the only couple enjoying the island… 😉
These lizards were MASSIVE by the way – not something you really want to meet in the middle of the night, and then finding out they like to eat anything and everything – scary!
Perhentian Islands – Malaysia
If we weren’t so reliant on modern technologies like the internet, this would be the ultimate paradise for us.
On Kecil island you have corals right off the beach on one side of the island, and a long white beach with the clearest water ever on the other side.
Perhentian islands are close to each other which makes it easy to take day trips and go island hopping.
Aside from chilling out under a coconut tree you can take a diving certificate or if you’re there at the right time of the year watch turtles hatch and crawl from the beach to the water.
There is something for everyone even when it comes to accommodation, both cheap bungalows and luxury hotels.