The chance of going on a solo trip has always crossed my mind since a lot of my travel friends have already done it and have recommended that it is a liberating experience. Some even said that they don’t see me as a solo traveler and it only fueled me more to take a stab at it. The crazy-stupid-beautiful thing about it is why I had to choose to do it in a foreign land!
By now my friends already know about what happened to my lonesome adventure in Malaysia. Those following me on Twitter witnessed my complaints and rants about how I got lost in the streets of Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, but very few only know the true story. But be informed that this is not a diss to Malaysia but an account on my inability to ask for directions and failure to read a map properly.
So how many times did I go astray?
1. KL SENTRAL STATION
I was never the type to ask for directions because pride insists that I can find things on my own. Upon entering the station, I was dumbfounded at how many connecting trains and ticket counters were there. I searched the level looking around for signs directing me to the KMT Komuter but found none. In the end, I gave in and asked someone who directed me exactly where I need to go… one floor down.
TIME LOST: 10 minutes
2. SENTUL STATION
On my way to the Batu Caves, I got off at the wrong station. I was so shunga for going down at Sentul station instead of Batu Caves. I figured that I was probably still in a morning haze, so I just went back and waited for the next train.
TIME LOST: 20 minutes
3. HANG TUAH
We were supposed to be back at the hotel by 10:30 am because a shuttle will pick us up for a meeting with Chartis. By 10:35, I just hopped on a cab, knowing that I am already late and by the time I arrived everyone was already gone. I looked at the map given to us but it had no directions on how to get to there. With my laptop and a city map of KL, and with the help of Google Maps, I figured out how to get to Sri Petaling without taking a cab.
I arrived in Hang Tuah station but couldn’t figure out where to go as all lifts seem to be going back to city proper. Afraid to ask for help from locals, I just decided to walk out and try to catch a cab. I don’t know what happened, but I just found myself walking aimlessly around unfamiliar streets and no cabs seem to be passing by.
Luckily, I saw this commercial building and decided to wait for a cab there. I never made it to the meeting.
TIME LOST: 2 hours
4. PETALING ST.
See, Chinatown has always been a tricky place as it’s packed with sidewalk vendors, tourists, locals, etc. It confuses you. Binondo is even much harder to navigate than Petaling Street since the latter is only made up of 2 intersecting streets. My problem was which exit to take to get to Sze Ya Temple? In the end, I decided to just have lunch and move on to the next destination.
TIME LOST: 1 hour
5. HANG TUAH PART 2
Aaaaand we’re back in Hang Tuah station. This time around, someone informed me that there were stairs going down to where I needed to go. It has already been a tiring afternoon of walking around to see the tourist spots of KL and I was now on my way to Melaka. Even though I didn’t get physically lost, I was already at wits end mentally and emotionally. Full story on a separate post (Yes, it deserved its own entry.)
TIME LOST: 40 minutes
6. BANDAR TALIK SELATAN
So I figured that I needed to get to this station first in order to reach Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, bus station for Melaka. After alighting from the train, I kept walking until I reached an alley along an endless construction site. This seems weird, I thought. Wasn’t I supposed to be heading for a major bus station? I’ve been walking for 10 minutes and all I could see were half-finished buildings.
After climbing some steps to an overpass, I decided to look back and there it was. A big sign that said ‘Terminal Bersepadu Selatan’ was on a building at the opposite end of where I was. It felt really good to realize that I had to go all the way back.
TIME LOST: 30 minutes
7. MELAKA (Night)
Isn’t it amazing how I managed to get myself lost during my first day in Malaysia? But apparently, the day wasn’t over. When I arrived in Melaka, I got lost at the bus station again. And that’s not all! When I finally reached the famous Jonker Street, it took me another hour just looking for a guesthouse. Apparently, the guesthouse was located far from Jonker and I was going back and forth Jalan Temengong several times because their signage was soooo hard to spot!
TIME LOST: 2 hours
8. MELAKA (Morning)
I had high hopes in the morning despite the burning hot sun piercing through my epidermis. Then I realized I took a wrong turn after the heritage trail and I was walking aimlessly again, unable to identify my location since I had no map of Melaka. After trying to figure out where I was, I decided to take a trishaw back to the hostel.
TIME LOST: 30 minutes
Kepong is a town north of KL and is mostly a Chinese community. Our reason for going here is to check out the Forest Research Institute and its many nature trails. Oh, and I was no longer traveling alone that time, but that didn’t stop us from losing our way and taking an hour’s worth wandering and looking for a cab.
10. FOREST RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF MALAYSIA
It wasn’t enough that I got lost in the urban jungles of Kuala Lumpur, in FRIM we became literally lost in a forest jungle on our way back from the canopy walk! We came down through an unfamiliar trail where we had to go past slippery boulders, spiderwebs, and uprooted plants. At one point, I imagined that 2 bodies of Filipinos were to be found deep in the forest the following day. If it weren’t for a Hindu family who came from the opposite direction, we would’ve gone to where the wild things are.
TIME LOST: 30 minutes (but seemed like forever)
FINDING ONE’S WAY
This experience has discouraged me about solo backpacking. From the looks of it, I may not be cut for solo traveling after all. But my doors are not entirely closed to the idea. At least now I can finally say that I have done it… and that I can do it again. =)
One thing’s certain, as I have come to accept, that when you can’t seem to find your way, there’s nothing wrong with asking for some direction.
Much love to Airphil Express (which now has Manila to Kuala Lumpur flights three times a week) for making this trip possible together with the Malaysian Tourism Board and Travel Guard Chartis for our travel insurance.