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    Wednesday, 21 October 2009

    Charming & Historic Melaka

    Jumping Monkey [Enlarge & More]

    Cherating would have been a disappointment if it hadn’t been for the river trip. I was amazed at seeing all the different animals, the monkeys flying through the air were a particular highlight. I was, however, pleased that we left and headed to Melaka, another world heritage sight. It’s a coastal town first colonised by the Dutch and then taken over by British.

    To get to Melaka we first had to take a local bus to Kuantan and then get on a coach to Melaka. We hailed the local bus to Kuantan from the main road and jumped on board and made ourselves comfortable for the hour-long journey. I love to watch the locals go about their business and a local bus is just perfect for this. One thing common in all our journeys so far have been the women who are travelling with unbelievably heavy bags. It amazes me how agile they move about with such heavy loads were as I still only manage to fumble about with my backpack and hold everyone up. One oddity on this occasion was a man who had adorned on him chains made out of D clips. I could tell this was not normal behaviour as I caught the others on the bus taking furtive looks. Strange!

    Baba House [Enlarge & More]

    We got to Kuantan within the hour and headed for the main bus station to get our ticket. Once that was sorted we had time to kill so I thought it was about time I started to replace some of the clothes I’d been wearing constantly for the last 4 months. We found a big mall and I got myself a right bargain.

    The bus journey to Melaka was slow, we thought it was going to take 5 hours but after we stopped at every little town on the way it dragged out. I think by the time we got to Melaka, we were the only ones who did the whole journey. The scenery along the way was pretty interesting mainly because we got to see swathes of country side covered in plantations and even more swathes slashed and burned.

    We arrived in Melaka after dark and headed to the hotel we had chosen, Baba House, right in the centre of China Town. Checking in they only had a room for two of the 4 nights we’d planned to stay so we had a scout round some of the other hotels nearby but all were full for the weekend. This is the only time this has happened and it was because we were approaching the weekend. Luckily we asked at reception the next morning to see if there had been a cancellation and got a room for the remaining two nights, which was a spot of luck.

    Kampung Hulu Mosque [Enlarge & More]

    Melaka was full of character and had a lot to do and see. We easily filled our time there, ambling about looking at all the different sights and taking in the atmosphere of the place. Melaka is full of history and some of the more interesting sights were the Mosques, which, unlike the traditional dome roofs you see, had peaked roofs - very Chinese looking. I did wonder if they had been converted to mosques, but apparently they were built like this.

    Manara Taming Sari [Enlarge & More]

    The first thing we did was take a trip up the Manara Taming Sari tower. As you ascend, the platform rotates so that you get some fine views of the city. We went up on a particularly clear day and I think I could see Indonesia in the distance as it’s only about 50km across the sea.

    Eid Celebrations [Enlarge & More]

    As we were there at the weekend, the place had a real holiday feel to it. There were Eid celebrations still going on and even though Eid was 2 weeks ago, in Malaysia they have a month long celebration. We stumbled upon one such celebration coming off the tower. As we exited, we sort of fell into the celebrations and were being offered food. It was rude to say no so we had a plate full each of rice, chicken curry and beef skewers. While we munched on the food a band started playing and we were entertained by some singing. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and it reminded me of the street parties held back at the silver jubilee in the UK. Great spirit.

    Karaoke, Chinatown [Enlarge & More]

    That evening, just outside our hotel, a huge night market appeared and we found that it only happens at the weekend. It was great, you had everything being sold from roasted dried squid, which stank, to bric and brac someone had collected. Karaoke also featured heavily in the nooks and crannies as you’d hear the singing before you saw it. There was even a stage dedicated to it at one end of the market. Very brave for them to go up and sing in front of the big market crowd.

    We had one of the oddest experiences in Melaka, the shirt I’d bought in Kuantan turned out to be a bit too big so I decided to find a tailor to get it adjusted. Whereas in Thailand you were falling over them shoving their cards in your face, in Melaka they proved to be a bit more allusive. On the hunt we went and after roaming around for a while we came across one. We walked in straight to the back past all these people sat at sewing machines to ask if they could adjust it for me. I did notice that they were all eating and that there seemed to be a lot of camera lighting about but thought nothing of it. When I asked if they could help, I got an odd look and was told that it wasn’t a tailors shop. I looked puzzled which elicited that it was actually a film set and they were taking a lunch break. Anyway I did find a tailor and he adjusted my shirt for the princely sum of 90p.

    Base Jump [Enlarge & More]

    Oddly, we found some of the streets cordoned off to traffic, so we went investigating and we found a crowd looking skywards where we’d feasted on the free food the day before. As I looked up a man hurled himself off the top of the tower and what we’d stumbled across this time was base jumping. Amazing really, having been up there the day before I knew how high it was - pretty high, but not high enough to base jump from. I was so busy taking photos that as he landed I had to run out of the way as I nearly got taken out.

    Eye on Malaysia [Enlarge & More]

    Melaka is also hosting the Eye on Malaysia at the moment, it’s sort of like the London eye, but smaller and portable. You also don’t go round once but that may have has something do with us being the only ones on it. It’s a bit out of the main city, in the middle of nowhere so I don’t think it gets many visitors. The sun was setting as we were on it so the view were spectacular over the sea and I think we definitely got value for money by going round and round and round.

    To end a great stay in Melaka we found ourselves a restaurant serving Nyonya food, which is a mix of Malay and Chinese. To describe the food is hard but if you think of Chinese food but made by an Indian chef then you get a little idea. I think on the menu it described it as the original fusion food.

    Melaka is charming, it’s people are warm and friendly. The historical as well as the modern sights are worth a visit and the weekend is definitely the best time to come here and lucky for us that’s just what happened.

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