Melaka, Malaysia is cultural, colorful and slightly over-manicured, but maybe that’s just from us weary travelers far too used to the grime of Java. It’s a World Heritage City, and like all things once before, moves at a slower pace; but that’s mostly due to the outrageously hot weather. So when we saw that our hostel, Sayang Sayang Guest House, rented bikes, it seemed like a no brainer. Bikes offer people powered breeze and equal one pedal to every ten steps. We rode for most of the day until we met with people from our hostel to bike to the outdoor food market. We rode in single file in daylight across town, ate at various food stalls, chatted, laughed and had a nice evening.
It was night when we started to ride back. Everything was just as it was before, and we were only 1km from our hostel when we had to cross the street. The lead bikes caught a lull in traffic and made their way easily across. A timid Frenchman and I had to make our way across five lanes before coming to a roundabout. I looked both ways and then at him. I sensed his unease and said to him in a reassuring yet kidding manner, “Let’s try not to die here tonight.”
There was a momentary break with one motorcycle leading a pack of cars far enough away to go, so we did. Turns out it was only me. I made it to the fourth lane and for a millisecond thought the motorcycle accelerated. It had, and now 30ft away it was aiming right at me. We’ve seen this a million times in SE Asia, but motorcycles are always weaving through traffic, nimble, and self preservation makes riders very decisive. The bike closed in fast and one second before sideswiping me I turned my body and bike hard in an attempt to straighten out in the direction of traffic in a hope to make myself a smaller target. The motorcycle braked hard, slammed my back tire, swerved around my right bumping me body to body, and grazing my leg. The motorcycle wobbled and then fell into a ten foot slide of sparks across the asphalt.
Not one car stopped to help, however, there were some people standing around the street that ran to the woman trapped under her bike and over to me to see if I was okay. I was in shock and thought I must be hurt, quickly patting my legs, feet and other extremities. Not a scratch. Somehow after being shoved forward, wobbling, and almost going over the handlebars, my maneuvering kept me from not falling. My bikes lack of brakes I think is actually what saved me. I could have easily over-reacted.
Two gents pulled the motorbike off the woman and helped her to the curb. Turns out we crashed next door to a hospital and someone was treating her scratches in two minutes. The next five minutes were weird. The woman looked at me, said something I didn’t understand, and groaned in pain. I felt terrible for her, there was all this chatter, and finally some English. A random man came up to me and said, “You’re lucky, it seems as though she was going too fast.” He wanted me to say something, but I just wanted things to play out how they were going to. I’m not on home turf and accusations, questions, or anger were not going to help. It was four tourists (two French and us) within a flurry of Cantonese and Mandarin, so it seemed best to wait for authorities.
After another five minutes, someone said the woman’s husband, police, and the boss of our guest house were on their way. Surely this would not be good. Then as if nothing happened, we were told we could leave. Nothing would be required of us. I was confused. I asked if I should wait to see if she’ll be okay? Her bike was no longer rideable. It was explained to us by three people who witnessed the collision that she was going much to fast, could have easily avoided me, and they said, she said, she was unsure which side to pass me on and just hit me. Plus I was in front of a crosswalk. So we rode the five minutes back to the hostel where everyone was asking if I was okay. Yes, but the woman, and her bike were – “listen we are worried about you, not her, but more importantly is the bicycle okay? She will live and why she hit you we don’t know, but the bicycle is okay yes?” the front desk person asked. “Not a scratch,” I replied. Then the staff laughed and the jubilant front desk man said, “I guess you won’t be forgetting Melaka will you. Yes,” he said looking the bike up and down, “you had a good bike and it won!”
** Traveler’s Tip: There are two food markets, one for tourists a few minutes past the Renaissance Hotel and one for locals. Ask our hostel. Chicken Rice is amazing, ask for the best place in town, two shops after crossing the bridge on the main walk in Chinatown. Last, in low season there’s tons of availability, so don’t take the first place that comes after getting off the bus at the station. Bus 17 is 1 RN and stops at the Bell Tower in Chinatown and just as fast as a 15 RN taxi, so save yourself the money.