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Published: December 21st 2008
Saturday 6th December - KL to Discovery Cafe and Guesthouse Melaka
Laden with backpacks for a short but exhausting 10-minute stroll through the humid busy streets of Chinatown, we made it to the sweaty melee of Puduraya bus station. Fortunately we had only five minutes wait there, then to our air-con coach, which was on street outside. The journey along mostly jammed motorway (due to it being a national holiday weekend) was interrupted by an unscheduled stop at a service station for puncture repair. It was a pleasant break where we bought a slice of refreshing local fruit (not sure what is was) and some delicious peanuts from a roadside stall. Driver had amusing technique of taking slip road off at most junctions and then muscling back in to jump the traffic queues.
Arrived at Melaka Central bus station with is a few kilometers outside town so then caught an ancient crowded local bus costing 1 Ringit (18p) each into town. Arrived to find a festival in full swing in the square just in front of our lodgings, which are wonderfully, located right by a bridge crossing the river on the border of Chinatown and Little India. A much appreciated complementary beer on arrival. For some reason Mr. Teng the owner thinks that I am Irish and kept going on about Guinness. He was so happy and enthusiastic that I didn't have the heart to correct his misapprehension. The room is very basic but has the luxury of air-con and fan - much needed in the tropical heat. With all the festive activity in the streets we soon headed out to explore and were immediately taken by the atmosphere of the place. In the evening we strolled the night market and eat a cheap rice and noodle dish. Finished evening with a few 'Myanmar' beers whilst chatting to a pleasant old English expat called Alan who works in KL but escapes to Melaka some weekends where he plays saxophone and flute in local bars. Mr. Teng insisted that we try a locally brewed Guinness on the house. It is far stronger and treacly that the homegrown variety and we told Mr. Teng that it was far better than any we'd drunk in Dublin! , which pleased him greatly.
Sunday 7th December - Discovery Cafe and Guesthouse Meraka
Good start to the day with croissants and coffee at the Dutch Harbour cafe (with free hour on internet thrown in). As camera still playing up, strolled through a modern mall (including a Carrefour) to check out camera prices (which unfortunately higher than UK - which is amazing as many of the Canon cameras are manufactured in Malaysia). Streets thronged with locals enjoying the holiday weekend. Strolled around the remains of the old Portuguese then Dutch then English fort on the hill and visited the impressive cultural museum, which is a re-creation of the sultan's palace. The building and gardens were very tranquil. Fleeting glimpse of what Jenny thought was a squirrel but I thought small mongoose. An unmissable feature of Melaka is the extravagantly ornamented bicycle rickshaws, which blare out tinny versions of pop music. Evening meal was a fine Indian fish curry served on a banana leaf. We had a few beers back at the Discovery. Embarrassingly Mr. Teng still thinks I'm Irish and insisted that that I try a free Danish origin 'Royal Stout' for comparison with Guinness so that I could give my valued opinion as an Irishman. It was delicious (and at 8%!a(MISSING) knockout brew). Mr. Teng said I was disloyal to my country in preferring it to Guinness. The bar was full of locals including a table of affluent looking Indian and Chinamen sharing a bottle of Dimple whisky. Live band / karaoke continued into the small hours which might have been annoying had it not been for the soporific effects of the Royal Stout.
Monday 8th December
Strange day because it was a public holiday and all the museums that we had contemplated going to, such as the maritime one were shut. There was a slow drizzle all day and the temperature was relatively cool so it wasn't possible to lounge around out of doors. We visited a local eatery made up of many stalls offering a huge variety of foods. We resisted one that offered something delicately called 'pigs organ porridge'
. The accompanying picture left little doubt as to which organ. We drifted from cafe to cafe ending up at the superb 511 cafe next to the Baba Nonya (people of mixed Malay/Chinese descent) Heritage Museum. I had a superb vegetable and shrimp mee (a dish of noodles in a spicy soup) and Jen some delicious vegetable rolls and slices of fish coated with a spicy paste. The culinary delights continued when in the company of Alan the saxophonist and another Brit we've met, we sampled the bargain delights of the Indian/Malay restaurant called Sevlam. A few more beers at the Discovery (including of course Royal Stout). Mr. Teng gave us a complimentary top up from a jug of beer and yet another free can of stout. Finalised our next travel arrangements, which we booked with Mr. Teng.
Tuesday 9th December
Packed and checked out for midday, but Discovery let us leave our rucksacks in storage because the only bus to Lumut available is not until 8:30 in the evening. The heat is back. It was scorching as we strolled around town. Near the bridge to Jonkers Walk we saw what we first thought was a dog swimming - but suddenly we realised in was a huge lizard. As I approached it submerged and then reappeared with just its head looking menacingly out of the water straight at me. I cursed my camera for not working at the moment. The lizard was joined by a smaller one. I seemed bizarre to see such creatures in the middle of town. We spent most of the day people watching and seeking shade and drinks. At 6:30 we headed for the Discovery for some food and they kindly let us use the facilities for a much needed freshen up having been out in the sun most of the day. The taxi took us to the bus station where we got talking to the only other westerner waiting for the same bus. I now know him to be Nicky (Nikolai) who is a Canadian passport holder carrying Bulgarian/Russian who is fluent in several languages. He is an intriguing and entertaining character very much a philosopher. By trade he is a mathematics lecturer at a university in British Columbia but on a sabbatical at the moment. Like many others we have met in Malaysia he was Bangkok bound and in his case got stranded in Istanbul. We boarded the bus for a tough sounding 7 or 8-hour overnight coach journey. The bus had the cheek to call itself an 'Ekspres' but made loads of long stops. However Jen managed to sleep and amazingly I found the journey strangely pleasurable although I only managed about half an hours sleep. I attempted the cryptic crossword in the Straits Times local newspaper. After hours of effort I'd only managed one answer. Must be the toughest one I've ever tried.
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