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Published: November 21st 2008
Melaka is a lovely little town which has been given world heritage status this year - and deservedly so! The Dutch, English and Portuguese settled there many moons ago, so the buildings are a mixture of styles and very pretty! The streets are very narrow and cobbled which makes you feel like you’re in an old Spanish town, and there is a river running through the middle - just a very relaxing, gorgeous place!
We arrived early in the afternoon on the 5th and didn’t have anywhere to stay booked, as there were a couple of places in Lonely Planet that sounded good, so we thought we’d try them when we got there. Hmm, after looking at the place which was Lonely Planet’s ‘top pick’ I think we’ll be going off our own judgment in future, as the place wasn’t all that, shall we say. So we ended up going with a place up the road called Ho Cheng Hotel, which was also in Lonely Planet but they didn’t really say much about it. But this place was much better - right in the old part of town, clean and we had our own bathroom - and it was as cheap as a hostel!
Melaka is also near the sea, so after having a spot of lunch we set off trying to find it! But this was a bit uneventful, as there is no beach and not much to look at. So giving up on that we headed to the mall to seek out some air con, and stopped for a cake break (we seem to have to have a cake or something sweet at least once a day - we think we may have a problem). The cake of choice today was donuts and Marissa decided to try a durian flavoured one, which is ‘King of Fruits’ in Malaysia - why we’ll never know because it is the foulest thing ever - it’s indescribable but Matt thinks it smells like poo, if that helps.
Next day we woke up late and had some breakfast at Dutch Harbour Café, which is by the river. It was so hot but there was a nice breeze from the river. After that we just walked around the town for the rest of the day, doing pretty much nothing - nice! There are lots of little antique shops which Marissa wanted to buy everything from, but her bag just wouldn’t stand the pressure. In the evening we went and had a couple of jugs of beer in Discovery Café, where there was a pretty awful live band on (bless). Marissa managed to get caught singing along to the tunes by the owner and he offered free beer if she’d get up and sing with the band - ha! Matt wasn’t impressed when she refused, claiming it could have been her one chance of stardom (and free beer).
The next day was probably our most pointless, disastrous day yet (even more so than the heap of junk bus day). We thought we’d take ourselves to the beach, and after getting directions off someone the day before, headed for the bus stop not too far away. Again, it was a boiling hot day. After walking to where we were told the bus stop was, it was clear it wasn’t there, so we asked in the garage and were told it was about 10 minutes up the road - okay, off we go! But after another 20 minutes, still no bus stop. We asked a school girl and she kindly told us to get to the beach we’d have to go all the way to the bus station across the other side of town (i.e. back the way we came!) and get on another bus from there! At this point we decided to grab a cab, as the sun was getting to us. We showed the taxi driver where we wanted to go on the map and he dropped us off at a beach resort - not the beach we wanted but we thought it could be worse. Hmm, no, not really - the tiny strip of beach was rubbish, there was a warning about jelly fish in the sea and there was nothing else around. We gave up there and went to get some dinner from a little local place, where there was a woman grilling whole fish on a BBQ (this turned out to be the best bit about the day).
Feeling refreshed after our fish dinner, we decided to brave it and try and get another bus to the beach we wanted. Eventually a bus came and we hopped on. The bus driver said he went to where we wanted to go - at last! So we sat there patiently, but after half an hour or so we started to think this may have been a bad idea and we should have cut our losses and gone home - we seemed to be getting further and further away with no sign of the sea. Anyway, after asking lots of people one lovely, helpful man told us that we were going to a place called Masjid Tanah and from there we could get a taxi to the beach - WHAT?! We eventually arrived in Masjid Tanah (a place we doubt any traveller has ever been before) and the lovely, helpful man got a taxi driver to take us to the beach for the price it would cost a local (bless him!). We arrived at the beach (it was now about 3pm) and were rather disappointed to say the least! It wasn’t even nice! Just a bit of sand and a few boulders! Now we were annoyed and just wanted to go home. We walked up and down, went and got a drink and contemplated how we were actually going to get home. A local boy came up and started talking to us and we asked him how we could get back to Masjid Tanah - taxi? No chance. Bus? No, as we were so far from the main road. Oh dear. We headed to what looked like a bus stop (opposite some army barracks) and there were three girls sat there. We asked if there was a bus to Masjid Tanah and after they managed to stop giggling at us for 5 seconds they told us there was a bus at 4pm. So we waited… 4pm came and went. The girls were still there - hopefully the bus was just late. At about 4.15pm a taxi turned up and the girls said there was no bus and kindly let us squeeze in the taxi with them - they were going to Masjid Tanah - yay! So we made it back thanks to the girls, then had to get on a bus back to Melaka Sentral Bus Station, and from there get on another bus back to our side of town. We made it home by about 6.30pm - after having spent about a total of 20 minutes on the beach - what a day!
Things got a lot better that evening though, as we went out for a really nice meal to Nancy's Kitchen. The restaurant served local Nyonya cuisine which is a mix of local Malaysian food and Chinese food, and hails back to when the Chinese settled in Malaysia many moons ago (anyway there will be more about that later). We had top hats again and a popiah (non deep fried spring roll). Then a duck and pork dish and some some rice. It's great that you can actually find somewhere that serves pork - don't know what the Malaysians have got against pigs? all that food and 2 beers for about 7 quid - not bad. Over dinner we heard a couple probably in their 50s explaining how they were on their way travelling around the world without using a plane - Matt got very jealous and started getting ideas in his head!
On a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night Chinatown turns into one big market with the shops setting up stalls down both sides of the street. They sell everything from jewellery to flip flops that stick to your feet (so you don't need straps to hold them on!!). At one end of the market there was the largest karaoke stage we had ever seen and hundreds of Chinese people queuing waiting for their turn to murder another song - ha. At the other end we noticed a crowd gathered so thought we'd take a closer look. It turned out to be a man who could pierce a coconut with his finger and had managed to get in the Malaysian Book of Records for it! It was all down to this magic oil he was flogging. We did see him do it and it was very impressive - we had a video but it was on the dodgy memory card, otherwise you could have seen the feat for yourselves.
On day four we decided to see all the sights. We walked up to the ruins of St Paul's Church on Bukit St Paul then down the other side to A'famosa which is the gateway to the old Portuguese fort - the usual touristy stuff. Then we just wandered round the town in the sun and probably had another cake - ha ha.
That night we decided to go over to the Portuguese settlement for tea. The food was good but the square itself wasn't much to look at. We had devil chicken curry and pineapple prawns while watching some traditional Portuguese dancing. Towards the end of the meal the owner put the TV on and Matt remembered that United were playing Arsenal at 9pm so begged Marissa to stay. We sat at a table but it was too far away to make out the players so we had to join a table with two Malay Indian guys. One of the guys started talking to us, asking where we were from and if we liked Melaka, and told us that he was a politician in Melaka. Then he started asking a lot of questions on what we thought about Obama and Iraq and started defending Osama bin laden saying that the trouble was all bush's fault - we were watching the football very closely at this point trying not to get into a big discussion. Anyway he has harmless enough and one of his friends even gave us a lift home in his Merc so the night ended on the up!
On our last day we went to the Peranakan museum which is an old Chinese spice merchant's house which we were given a guided tour around. It was full of the most amazing black wood and mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture! It was really interesting and you got to learn a lot about how the Baba-Nyonya traditions, created by the Chinese settlers.
That night we went back to the market and had sushi and dim sums whilst sitting out on the street - yum! A group of students from Kuala Lumpur stopped and asked if they could film us talking about Melaka, so we said yes, at which point Matt dived out of the way and let Marissa take centre stage - cheers! Marissa did it, but apparently said “lovely” about four times - so they definitely got that she thought Melaka was lovely!
That was the end of a “lovely” five days in Melaka.
Next stop, Singapore....................
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