Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back-halfing an almost disastrous weekend

Last weekend I underwent my first experience as a backpacker, travelling to Melaka, Malaysia for the weekend. But barely.

As the week came to an end, I made plans to take the 4 hour bus from Singapore to Melaka with several other PiAers on Saturday morning at 8am. Knowing that Friday night was a hallmate's birthday party, I decided to pack everything before the party, and made sure to zip up my passport into a secure pocket in my backpack, before heading out for a night of drunken debauchery. Good idea, right? So I thought too.

I woke up Saturday morning, or rather was woken up by a friend at 730, a mere 40 minutes later than I was supposed to wake up, in a drunken daze. I rushed around my apartment, trying to gather all my things and run out the door, all with the heavy weight of a hard night of drinking on my mind. I grabbed my backpack, after rushing through its contents, and sprinted out the door to catch a cab to the busstop.

Sitting on the bus, sobering up slightly, I decided to check through to make sure I had all of my important items. IPod for the 4 hour trip... check. Camera... check. Employment pass.... check. Passport.... passport... passport.... PASSPORT.... PASSPORT!!!!!!!!! Where the hell is my PASSPORT!!!!!!

It suddenly became brilliantly apparent that I did not have my passport on me. I started freaking out on the bus. I ran off the bus, hailed a cab back home to my apartment, and started tearing through all of my belongings. 90 minutes and a thousand expletives later, I was still passport-less. It suddenly dawned on me that my passport could have been stolen. I attemped to call the US Embassy, only to find that they were closed until Monday. On my way out the door to go the police station, after abandoning all hope of making it to Melaka for the weekend, I stopped at my friend's apartment to let them know what happened. He recommended checking one more time in my apartment to make absolutely sure it was gone before moving forward. We went back into my place, and I made one last cursory sweep of my belongings. Finally, I decided just to check my toiletry bag just for completeness' sake, knowing it wouldn't be there... EXCEPT THERE IT WAS. Holy shit, I was an enormous moron. At some point between the beginning of Friday night (and drinks) and sitting on the bus Saturday morning, I had unknowingly switched my passport to a place I would never check... I'm an idiot.

But now it was time to try to catch a bus! It was 10:30 am, the bus stop was a 25 min cab ride away, and the last bus I was willing to take to Malaysia left at 11:00am. I sprinted out to the nearest cab station, sweat ensuing, and fidgeted for the 25 minute ride to the station. Pulling up to the busstop at 11:01am, I had exact change ready, and literally jumped out of the moving cab towards a moving bus. Waving my arms, I got the bus to stop, as the driver leaned out and asked, "Melaka?" "YES!" I exclaimed. 20 Sing dollars later and I was finally on a bus seat, passport in hand, and able to pass out.

4 hours later, I arrived in Melaka. Rather than describing my whole weekend during this already lengthy post, you can check out my pictures at Some highlights: an amazing hostel for $11RM (~$4.00 US), karaoke in the center of downtown in front of hundreds of spectators, and little boys staring at us because we were the only white people in town. I was able to visit some amazing cultural sites in Melaka, including some original fortresses and churches from the Dutch and Portuguese inhabitations of Melaka in the 1600s, as well as various open-market stalls where hundreds of locals wandered through looking for assorted goods to purchase. I sampled baba laksa, a local specialty comprised of shrimp, chicken, fishballs, noodles, and a coconut/curry broth; this is my new favorite Malaysian dish. Later, I haggled with a shop owner for a piece of artwork from 139 RM down to 40 RM, which now sits proudly on my wall in my apartment. On Sunday, my friend and I took some time out to relax on the roof of our hostel overlooking Melaka to drink some local coffee and munch on pineapple tarts, which are omnipresent in Malaysia. Finally, we took a bus back home for 19 RM, and I enjoyed the luxurious afterglow of a successful trip that almost didn't happen.

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