When I visited Singapore I stayed at the Fullerton Hotel, a 5-star luxury haven centrally located on Marina Bay.  I "felt" safe within the large crowds, ritzy architecture, and clean city, and indeed no adverse events occurred to me.  After three days in Singapore, I took a two day trip to Malacca, a small Malaysian town rich in history and culture.  Upon arriving in Malacca, my first reaction was that the place "looked" unsafe.  Looking back, this was probably due to Malacca's sharp contrast with Singapore, a global city boasting skyscrapers, beautiful buildings, and upscale shops.  On the other hand, Malacca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its historical icons and preservation of traditional Malaysian culture.  
           My visit to Malacca went without incident and I had a wonderful time.  When I got home, I did some research on the safety of Malacca.  Unfortunately I couldn't mind many statistics or hard data, but a quick Google search, the consensus seems to be that Malacca is relatively safe.  Below is a sampling, the first two hits after searching for "how safe is malacca."  They echo what many other sources said.  
           I tried to dig further for actual statistics and found these news articles:  A 2011 article from The Star Online, a Malaysian news source, stated that Malacca's crime rate had dropped 8.73% from the previous year in response to new crime prevention efforts (1).  There has been an increase in robbery more recently, but Malacca is doing something about it.  According to a 2013 article in the New Strait Times, Malacca planned to increase its police presence in response to several robbery occurrences involving newspaper vendors (2).  The State Police took these cases seriously (2).  From the article, it seems like the robberies were instigated by recently formed gangs who didn't particularly target tourists (2).
           Now, I realize a Google search is not scientific data for a city being safe.  The newspaper vendor robbery cases also occurred, but the issue was taken seriously and addressed.  At any rate, I think it's safe to say that Malacca does not have a reputation for theft like, say, Rome in Italy,  Once a travel agent in Australia was helping me plan a trip to Vienna, Austria, and I asked about safety while traveling alone.  Her response was; "It's fine, it's not like you're going to Rome."  Also, I bet Malacca is much safer than Baltimore, Maryland, where I spent four years at Johns Hopkins University, where new notices about students getting robbed seemed to go out every month.  I do have one first-hand report:  A family friend's wife who is from Malaysia said that theft is a problem in the country, but Malacca is a pretty safe tourist town.  

If this is the case, then why was "feeling" unsafe my knee jerk reaction?  Here are some speculations...

1.) Is it because Malacca lacked skyscrapers and the buildings didn't look as upscale?  While there are certainly correlations between a city's appearance and economic status, and between economic status and crime rate, does a beautiful city keep you safe?  Theft occurs often in New York City, especially if you're not careful on the subway.
Malacca, Malaysia Panorama
Panorama of Malacca from 14th floor balcony at Hotel Equatorial (Bandar Hilir, 75150 Malacca, Malaysia)
Street in downtown Malacca, Malaysia
Somewhere in downtown Malacca
House next to Hang Jebat's Mausoleum
House next to Hang Jebat's Mausoleum
2.) Is it because Malacca's famous historical sites didn't look "glamorous" or "shiny" like modern, global, perhaps rich cities would?  Well of course they wouldn't, they were built in the 16th century.  They are the reason Malacca has a UNESCO World Heritage title; modern architecture might not qualify for that.  The fact that Malacca has managed to preserve them is to their credit.  
A'Famosa Fort
A'Famosa Fort. The remains of a fort built in 1511.
St. Paul's Church
St. Paul's Church. The ruins of a church built in 1521.
3.) Is it because Malacca had this unsightly ditch system, where dirty water flowed in ditches on the side of the street?  Of course, there are legitimate criticisms for this.  The first thing that comes to my mind is the safety of elderly citizens.  In my agile youth, I wondered if I was going to fall into one trying to avoid cars on narrow roads.  But I don't think the ditches were capable of mugging me, however ugly they were.  
The large ditch where all the small ditches lead.
4.) Is it because the banks of the Melaka River were not like the banks of the Singapore River, gloriously visible from the Fullerton Hotel Infinity Pool?  The Singapore River is gorgeous.  So is the Melaka River, just in a differently way.  It contains the history and culture of Malaysia, instead of showcasing modern accomplishment.  I don't even know why this would be "unsafe."  
Melaka River
Melaka River
Singapore River
Singapore River
           I'm certainly not arguing that it's impossible for Malacca visitors to run into crime.  It's possible anywhere, and safety while traveling should be every tourist's top priority.  There was one incident in downtown Malacca where this middle-aged woman kept staring at me, and then pointed at and talked to someone about me.  My original plan had been to walk to the end of the street, where there was a bridge crossing the Melaka River, and then backtrack and not cross the bridge.  Instead, I decided to cross the bridge.  She was probably just curious because I didn't look like a local, but I think all travelers should practice this type of vigilance, just in case.  However, negatively judging an entire city because it's not "modern-looking" or unfamiliar is overdoing it.  Robbery happens in San Francisco, a developed city in a developed country.  If someone looked creepy in San Francisco, I'd also walk in the opposite direction.  
Street in downtown Malacca
The street I referred to above, but I don't think that's the woman I'm talking about.
            In Malacca's historical center, if you're a young single girl hiking up the hill from A'Famosa to St. Paul's Church, several men selling souvenirs will try to talk to you.  Perhaps they're friendly and curious (many asked where I was from), perhaps they just want to sell souvenirs, or perhaps they have ulterior motives.  Either way, my advice would be to not get too friendly, just as a (over?)precaution.  This should not be taken as a sign that Malacca is unsafe for women though, St. Paul's Church is a crowded tourist area.  Plus, being female in Silicon Valley, California, where the male-to-female ratio is way unbalanced due to the concentration of tech jobs, will attract the same type of attention.  Except the instigators are not Malaysian men selling souvenirs, they're well-off American men working in highly-skilled tech jobs, some of who may be masterminding that new Google, Facebook, or iPhone feature.   Not that Silicon Valley is a bad place for women - I learned a lot in my job there - but it's amazing how differently we view the same occurrence (over-friendly men) in different situations (traveling in Malaysia vs. being at home).  Perhaps the feeling of safety is more about familiarity and control, rather than the actual probability of adverse events.  

1.) Murali, R.S.N.  "Malacca's crime index decreases 8.73% compared to last year."  13 Oct. 2011.  The Star Online   Date accessed: 6 Aug. 2013.
2.) Maketab, Hanis and Min, Kelly Koh Ling.  "More police presence in Malacca."  12 March 2013.  New Straits Times.  Date accessed: 6 Aug. 2013.  <http://www.nst.com.my/latest/more-police-presence-in-malacca-1.233472>

1.) AsiaSingapore and Malacca, Malaysia, June 2013: Singapore – Day 1Day 2Day 3 | Malaysia – Day 4Day 5 | For Future Travelers
  • Day 4 is most relevant.
8/12/2013 11:40:36 am

Great insight into what Malaysia is really like, good post!

8/12/2013 02:57:52 pm

Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for stopping by! Malaysia is a great place to visit. I can't speak for other Malaysian cities, but I think Malacca is fine for solo female travelers, as long as you're cautious and practice common sense.

3/21/2017 11:18:43 pm

London, England's capital, is a huge city full of great sights that must be seen. If you have never travelled to London before getting around can seem a little daunting. There are a number of ways you can get around the city, from the famous Black Cabs to the historic underground rail system. One method of transport that you might not have considered is a chauffeur driven taxi!


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