Crossing the border from Thailand into Malaysia was easy and straight forward, but we made one of the biggest mistakes ever while traveling. For this border crossing, we took a minivan that sat about ten people. A minivan is faster than a standard size coach for driving time and also for border crossing due to the fact there are fewer people to wait for.
We always travel light, no matter where we go or how long we stay. There are many reasons we do this, but the main reason is for the convenience and freedom we have with only carrying a backpack. We can always manage our own bags, we can take the stairs if we need to and if we cannot drop our bags down before exploring a city, it isn’t too much of a hassle.
Our mistake was made when stamping out of Thailand, before entering Malaysia. The driver of the minivan told us to leave our bags in the van; no need to bring them through immigration. We never check-in luggage when flying, on large coaches we keep our bags at our seat, but being on a minivan with less room, we had to put our bags in the rear to make enough room for all of the passengers. Our bags were the first loaded on the van, so needless to say, they were the most difficult to get to behind all of the suitcases. Without thinking about it, we left our bags in the van as we got stamped out of Thailand.
After being stamped out of Thailand, we got back on the minivan and headed to the Malaysian immigration office. This time, all luggage had to be carried in case the Malaysian authorities wanted to search it. We were never searched and we had a seamless time crossing into Malaysia. While in the Malaysian immigration and customs office, there were numerous signs and warnings about what items are permitted and not permitted in the country. As with many Southeast Asian countries, drug trafficking is punishable by the death penalty; the customs office does not let you forget or miss this.
When we got back on the minivan, Ming Hay and I both looked at each other and we knew we had made a huge mistake by not keeping our bags with us the entire time. What were we thinking!? In the time it took us to get stamped out of Thailand, anyone could have put anything into our bags.
To make matters worse, as we drove away from the Thailand-Malaysia border, we were pulled over by Malaysian police. Not being able to speak Thai or Malay, we had no idea what was going on. We kept our fingers crossed that nothing was in our bags, but we were scared.
Luckily, we did not learn our lesson the hard way. The authorities sent us on our way without searching the vehicle or our bags. When we arrived at our destination, it was clear that there was nothing “extra” in our bags. We had a complete lapse of judgement for a moment that could have cost us our lives. Lesson learned.