They say travelling makes you wiser and I can attest to that statement after having one trip just across the causeway. A trip that I doubt I can ever forget. Suppose to say my friends and I decided to go on a short vacation Malacca just before my enlistment date (12th Nov 2013 if you’re keen to know). We picked the UNESCO city on accounts that it’s been years since we last visited the Malacca state and since it’s a relatively small state in Malaysia, . It was suppose to be a leisure trip enjoying the sights and scenic views along with the constant barrage of food but I totally didn’t foresee the madness throughout the final days of this trip.
It is as everyone heard my story and summaries in one phrase: Truly a nightmare trip…
I can’t recall the number of times I recite (and still) the story to my friends and interested individuals but essentially everything that couldn’t AND SHOULDN’T went wrong just went terribly wrong. Imagine after taking a 2hrs coach ride from Malacca to KL and then proceed onto a 6hrs car ride from KL to Penang. Then arrive at a supposedly posh suite hotel with a room that resembles a classy two room condominium in Singapore only to hear the faint voices coming from the air vents (which we thought was a lady singing in the toliet above our room.) But we slept through the night anyway given we were so tired from the travelling.
Plagued by frequent blackouts which one wouldn’t think is normal especially after changing six rooms across 3 floors and assured by the hotel staffs that our last set of rooms were reserved strictly for datuks only. But the reality was every rooms we moved into, the blackouts followed and even intensify in frequency and patterns. Can you envision two guys chatting leisurely over champagne and out of the sudden, the lights went flickering without anyone meddling the switches. Then hearing the wooden floors along our beds creaking as if someone was pacing up and down our room. The only comfort were the bibles and prayers we made and requested from friends and families alike and we broke out in cold sweat the following morning despite being in an freezing room.
Even after changing hotels doesn’t help and every technician that came up to our room couldn’t find what’s the problem. Some even entertained the idea that we were troublemakers thinking what fun would it be having the staffs running up to our rooms five or six times in an hour. We did a test by leaving the room lights on when we are out and surprisingly, the lights remained on till we return. And just about we let our guards down and begin our showers, without warning, the lights went out again. Did I even tell you about the ringing of the door bells when no one’s at the door?! Talk about creepy yah?
Stayed way due our return day because of a unforeseen festive season period (Deepavali) and we were told by the (Penang) airport that all flights back home were fully booked. For days we seeked help from everyone and anyone. From the airlines back in Singapore, travel and coach agencies and even entertaining thoughts about driving back Singapore but all to no avail. We were so desperate that we almost wanted to take a transit flight to neighboring countries and back home despite the expenses we or my friend would incur.
But no doubt the weirdest was yet to come till we rang the hotline of Singapore embassy in KL city. Instead of being assured help was on the way, we were turned down even when we said we have national service to serve in a week’s time. And in the officer’s words, this was what she said: Unless you lose your passport, there’s nothing we could do. I mean what kind of answer is that? Aren’t we a citizen of the republic?
I should have realised something was wrong at that time but it was so convincing until I shared this with my well-traveled friends upon reaching Singapore. Analyzing every fact I painfully recalled and piecing the links together, it sounded like we were targeted by syndicates out to swindle our or more specifically my friend’s money. You see everything from internet banking, credit card transactions and even calling were made via a smartphone and we all know how easily it is to hack into “smart’ devices. It all makes sense now and the more I was told how these organised criminal organisations worked, the more frighten I am. Imagine calling the actual airlines but unknowingly your calls are diverted to a bogus person on the receiving end, feeding lies and instilling terror. I thought these were just fictional tales I only see in books and blockbuster movies but the truth can’t be dismissed.
Whatever it is, I am just glad to return back Singapore in a piece with help from my family. I ought to doubt I will travel anything soon since I’ll be serving national service real soon but if there’s anything I learnt from this disastrous trip, it will be trusting your family more than outsiders, planning everything in advance and making sure you have a return ticket before you enter the country. I learnt my lesson well and this experience serves as a new definition to the term free and easy.
Amidst the horror and the unexplained there were still moments of fun and laughter. I will share in due time once I have the spare time out of my army camp…