Published: February 13th 2010February 13th 2010
I did not have to go far in search of a place for breakfast next morning. As I turned a corner from the street of my hotel, I came across a shabby but spacious South Indian restaurant. I selected a table making sure I am right under a ceiling fan. Although it was not 9 in the morning yet, the heat was already intense. Even the white plastic chairs seemed hot to sit on. I ordered a roti telur (egg bread) and kopi (coffee). The man working on the hot plate making rotis was slim and agile. His arms were shining with perspiration and his forehead sprinkled with sweat. He did not seem to care the heat, masterfully playing with the dough to bring it to the right shape. My breakfast cost only 70 cents.
I did not waste much time there and was soon at Jalan Kota exploring the heritage sites. I started from the Portuguese Gate, the Dutch Fort, then popped into a museum or two, and climbed up the hill to St Paul’s Church. The panoramic view of the city and the harbour was magnificent from atop the hill. I spent 30 minutes soaking it all up.
It was followed up by more museums, more walk, more sweating. Another sojourn to Jonker Walk.
In afternoon I went back to the hotel for brief rest. As I had done the river cruise last night, I decided to discover the newly built Mesjid Selat (The Strait Mosque) along the sea and watch the sunset from there. I knew it will be a long walk but I did not imagine it will be as long as it was. I started from Mahkota, and the distance seemed never ending. I walked and I sweat. I sweat and I walked. I appeared to be the only person walking, while cars roared by. Soon the sky was covered with dark clouds. It was a relief, although momentary. Now I feared rain. A thought of making a hasty retreat caught my mind but I was virtually in a no-man’s land. I quickened my steps. I could not avoid the rain though as it started bucketing as I barely entered the gates of the mosque. I was drenched before I could reach the sanctuary of the mosque.
The mosque was empty. Not a soul around. No public transport goes in that direction. I
sat there patiently waiting for a stray worshipper who could give me a lift back to the town. Eventually a young couple turned up. The woman sat in the car while the young man went into bathrooms in the side for ablution and then in the main hall to do his prayers. I waited patiently. I kept an eye on the car while sitting on the stairs at the entrance. When the man finished, I asked him for the lift. He could not say a ‘no’ in a God’s house. His wife, more fluent in English than him, did all the talking in the car. He drove quietly and watchfully as roads had become flooded. They dropped me in the front of the main shopping centre at Mahkota, where it seems locals and tourists without a distinction have taken the refuge from the rain.
23 January 2010
There are more photos below