Driving & Dinner

Today is “D-Day” – Driving Day.  This is when I hit the roads in Melaka behind the wheel.  We will see how I do driving on the wrong side of the road (to me that is).  

First off, some observations about driving in Malaysia in general and Melaka specifically.  Some of these observations had been made prior to my first day driving, others are the result of experience and observation (more of the latter than the former) in the days since then, not only in Melaka, but in Johor Barhu and even in Singapore.

Berhenti (Stop) signs and speed limit signs are merely suggestions, usually not to be take seriously.  Speed limit signs do not seem to be all that prevalent, other than on the primary highways, which also tend to be toll roads.  Berhenti signs, on the other hand, are all over the place, and appear to have a number of meanings.  On rare occasions they mean stop, usually they are treated as we would a Yield sign (to hopefully exhibit caution), and the rest of the time they don’t seem to mean a damn thing.

Now traffic lights, they are a different story entirely.  For the most part they appear to be quite strictly adhered to, with only a very occasional vehicle driver not obeying one.  A large number of the traffic lights have a very interesting feature as well.  If you look over the vehicle to the right, you will see a red light with the number 109 beside it.  That is telling everyone that it will be 109 seconds until the light turns green.  When green, there are green numbers that count down the number of seconds until it turns red.  Also, the lights are set in such a way that it is very rare anyone would have to make a right turn across traffic (readers remember, here they drive on the left side of the road).  Although the wait at lights may be longer than those in North America are used to, it seems that the traffic light system here works extremely well, likely why there seems to be no great impatience at the lights (especially when compared to the rest of the time).  Another aspect that one can find at traffic light intersections (and to a lesser degree at other intersections) is a built-in, fully configured U-turn.  Quite a number of the roads here are at least partially divided and the structured U-turns make getting somewhere somewhat simpler.

In Malaysia they do have legislation about what you can, or can’t, do while driving.  Back in Canada it is commonly called “distracted driving” legislation.  For instance, here one is not allowed to use a cellphone while driving, for talking or texting.  However, distracted driving laws also seems to be more of a suggestion than anything else, as demonstrated by the photo on the right (and yes, that is the driver).

Now I’ll say a few words about traffic lanes.  Once again these seem to function, to a great extent, as suggestions.  As I believe I mentioned, the vast majority of cars here are small, of the sub-compact to mini-sub-compact variety (and I don’t mean the Mini Cooper or Smart Car, as these are both very expensive here).  I have found it amazing the number of cars that seem to fit into one lane side by side on a great many occasions.  The expression “if my car had been dirty there would have been contact” springs to mind.

Now you will note that I have not said a word about motorbikes.  The reason being, the actual rules pertaining to motorbikes seems to be completely unknown, particularly to motorbike riders.  I actually believe that the number one rule is that there are no rules.  Therefore when driving a car it is wise to expect absolutely anything.  Not only do car drivers appear to utilize all of their mirrors (shoulder checks are pretty much unknown), they actually put little convex mirrors on their mirrors (both sides) to increase their field of vision.  You have probably noticed the photo of the mother and daughter on the motorbike.  This is a very usual happening.  I have seen a family of five on a motorbike and seeing a parent (or older sibling) with one or two children is commonplace.  Another thing, helmets are required by riders on motorbikes, by law.  The majority of riders wear them, although it seems many do not fasten the chinstrap.  Others carry them (go figure) and quite a number just ignore the whole concept.

Now I know all my readers will like and appreciate this (said in words dripping with sarcasm).  Malaysia is the land of speed bumps, sleeping policemen, traffic calming devices, whatever you want to call them.  When driving in any area near (notice I said near, not only in) residential areas there are at least one or two speed bumps every (I will say that again – every) block.  At least one or two.  I think you get the idea.  It is the land of speed bumps, some of them moderate, some of them pretty darn big.  Everyone really slows down when going over the bumps, however not everyone drives slowly between the bumps, making for some interesting traffic at times.

So, how did my first driving day go.  Well I did much better than I had anticipated.  The one thing that I try to keep in mind is that the driver sits on the side of the car closest to the centre line.  That seems to work quite well.  By the way, I was driving an automatic, the challenge of a standard is still to come.  Interestingly, some of the cars have the turn signal stalk on the right of the steering wheel and some on the left.  The can result in un-necessary windshield wiper activity when changing cars.

I likely will have more to say about drivers and traffic in different cities in a later post as there are some distinct difference between Melaka, Johor Bahru and Singapore.  A trip to Kuala Lumpur is in the works.

After the excitement of driving in Melaka for the first time, there was a need for a nice relaxing dinner.  Henry and Cynthia had just the location in mind.  They took us to a lovely place called the Sunset Bistro, with a beautiful ocean beach, just on the outskirts of Melaka.

We got to enjoy our dinner as we watched the sun go down, wrapping up a good day.  Good food, good company, good view, what more could one ask. 

So long until my next blog post.  Still trying to do a couple a day to catch up before we leave.  Once again, I hope you enjoy reading.  As always, comments are welcome.

One thought on “Driving & Dinner

  1. Great read Richard! Love your description of driving on the wrong side of the road. Reminds me of driving in Grand Cayman, although much, much less traffic.
    Thanks for doing this!

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