Published: January 11th 2010August 27th 2008
Day 43: Port Dickson to Melaka
Thanks to our windowless room we pressed snooze on our alarm for an hour and a half, until 9:15. We'd noticed that we'd been needing more and more sleep. Stopping by an internet café, we discovered that we’d already received approval of our Australian work-holiday visas! (The visa is called that because the Australian government hopes that travellers will come work, and then holiday in Australia, thus spending the money they have made in the country, before departing.)
The response and acceptance came within ten hours! I guess Australia really is desperate for workers, particularly English speaking ones. And we were prepared to wait weeks! We were going to Australia and we were very, very excited! All of a sudden! What a change in plans! A whole new adventure!
Perhaps we would leave in only four days, when we reached Singapore. Flights from Singapore to Perth, the capital of Western Australia, were only $200! It was that close! We set off biking and encountered pouring rain three separate times in an hour and a half. This created massive puddles in the road, three inches deep in places, as the rain came so
fast and so hard. Soaked, barely able to see from the intensity of the water pouring down, we just giggled and biked on. We spotted a three-foot monitor lizard floating dead atop a puddle. Many more monitor lizards we passed met similar ends that day. The six-foot snake we spotted, thankfully, was also squished on the roadside.
We stopped for lunch in the late afternoon and met A.J., a sweet guy of 25 who had just finished culinary school and was currently working in his mom’s restaurant. His cousin alerted him to our presence in their family restaurant, and he ran in from another cousin’s store next door, elated to speak to foreigners from America. He told us he had gained 5 pounds during Ramadan (the Muslim holy month which was a few days away) last year, and it was clear that he had a great love for food. He brought out six small tupperwares, each holding a different variety of his mom’s special cookies. He pulled up a chair and said, please, let’s eat these together, my treat.
The cookies were delicious, actually a lot like American cookies. We told him he should come to Australia with
us, when the work holiday visa opened up to Malaysians the following month, and he could get a job cooking and make a king’s ransom to bring back to Malaysia. He liked the idea but told us as he didn’t have any relatives there, he probably wouldn’t go. I got the idea he has a big, close-knit family, from the numerous cousins hanging around the restaurant. He told us he worked in a bar before, and he drinks, because he’s not 100% Muslim. We exchanged emails, and promised to let him know if he should truly come to Australia, once we arrived there and found out what money and jobs were really available.
We biked on, along beautiful beaches with clean-looking blue water, quiet areas interlaced with big, fancy resorts. We were on Rt.5, a nice quiet road with only one lane each way and little traffic. Locals were pleased to see us, waving, yelling, smiling, once even screaming in delight. Delighted, we passed trees bearing our favorite fruit, rhambutan. But beware, when we picked a fruit, it was inevitably covered in big black ants. Just coated. This occurred multiple times before we sadly learned that we would not be eating rhambutan fresh from trees. We wondered how the vendors managed to rid the fruit of ants. Perhaps their trees were protected with chemicals.
Reaching Melaka, a major historical city, around 6, we rode around, struck by the giant six-foot tall candles and the copious amounts of incense sticks being burnt on the sidewalks by the Chinese locals celebrating the end of the Hungry Ghost Month. It was the most enthusiastic and united celebration we’d yet seen.
The city had an ugly new part and an old, historic part. The old part boasted only a few ritzy and beautifully restored antique hotels so we ended up in the new part, in a massive, hideous 30 ringit windowless dump with cold water, a fan and a sheet with three holes. We walked around town and near the end of the day the sun emerged, a lovely conclusion. A homeless vagabond sitting outside our hotel told us that he’d earned his MBA thirty years earlier in Alabama. But he couldn’t get a job, and somehow he’d ended up here. Nearby was a small carnival with a ferris wheel, toy animals kids could ride, trampolines and a climbing wall. Obtrusive techno music blasted from outdoor speakers. A pretty canal ran through this fair, lit by blue lights, and tourists could take rides on boats piloted by the locals.
We consumed an intriguing new food, like a giant spring roll, made from a stretchy bread wrap, filled with sautéed turnips, crunchy unidentifiable elements and sweet hoison sauce. We drank sugar cane juice and tea terek, J’s obsession, a delicious tea accompanied by sweetened condensed milk beautifully poured in to the tea from at least a two-foot height. Then came banana roti and tosai, a crunchy and ethereal pancake-like bread dipped in Indian dal, chickpea curry and spicy homemade Indian sauces. As usual, we ate our way through town. The car washes here, as in other parts of Malaysia, were called, “Snow Wash”, and were consistently popular.
A car hit an old man on a motorbike today. The old man was fine but he was enraged, screaming at the man driving the car. Both were going slow at the time of impact so there fortunately was not much damage. It happened at a four way intersection in old Melaka. The men disagreed, vehemently, over who had the right to go, and whose fault the crash was. It didn’t seem that there were any stop signs, or any signs at all indicating who had the right to go first. The fight ended when the man in the car, after taking the motorcycle man's abuse for ten minutes, simply drove away.