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Published: March 4th 2009
Melaka, a good introduction to Malaysia Wednesday 4th March 2009
Melaka was a good destination choice for our first stop in Malaysia. The four hour bus journey from Singapore was very comfortable in a spacious air conditioned coach, passing through spectacular countryside, jungles, green hills, distant mountains and miles and miles of palm plantations (for palm oil).
Melaka is a lively little city, steeped in history and the locals are a cheery lot; even the Trishaw peddlers have a sense of humour, for example, “How about a ride on my BMW?” They don’t hassle either! It is such a contrast to Indonesia. Here one can browse around the shops and market stalls at leisure with no pressure to buy. We have a cheap, clean budget room on the edge of Chinatown and close to the old colonial district and the Melaka River (which is a bit stinky). One side of the river, the old colonial architecture reflects some of the city’s Portuguese and British past influences but mostly Dutch, with lovely narrow houses and old renovated Dutch wharves dominating the riverside and harbour estuary.
Our side of the river is a warren of old Chinese “shophouses” with colourful
and ornate fascias along narrow streets. The most notable street, the very heart of Chinatown, is Jalan Hang Jebat, but it is colloquially and proudly called “Jonkers Street” by the Chinese owners even although the term “Jonkers” was the Dutch somewhat derogatory slang by which they referred to their Chinese servants who lived here and it translates literally as “second class gentleman”. Well, the Jonkers became the rich financial wizards of old Malacca (now spelt Melaka) and stayed after the Dutch had long departed, so their pride in the name may well be a rather good tongue-in-cheek snub at their former masters. It is a great little street, festooned with the customary red lanterns, goods spilling on to the narrow pavement, colourful shaded Trishaws weaving in and out and noodles, rice and chicken forever on the woks.
Melaka is a city of great contrasts, as many Asian cities are; the old ways are lovingly preserved but at the same time the rush for modernity is at top speed. Melaka has its “Eye on Malaysia” big wheel just like London has and it also has its “Menara Taming Sari” tower with a 360 degree panoramic view as one travels up
Modern equivalent of the Rickshaw
to the very top in a circular rotating lift. We didn’t go on the “Eye” but we did go up the “Menara” and the views across the city and bay were pretty stunning. I am not too keen on heights; it was OK ascending and descending but we stayed rotating at the top a little too long for my comfort! It was well worth the 20 ringgits for the ticket, however (just under four pounds).
Tomorrow we are getting the bus to Kuala Lumpur and then plan to make our way to the Cameron Highlands and then up the west coast to Penang. We have decided not to go east, even although the snorkelling on the east coast is renowned as the best in Malaysia, because the rainy season is still dragging on over there (according to the “Lonely Planet” several places on the eastern coral islands don’t even open until April due to the weather so accommodation is very limited). Also we really want some sun! Since leaving Sydney in early January we have only had four days without rain (including today) and it is a long time since we have chilled on a sunny beach (the tans
A street for second-class gentlemen!
have faded and the feet are becoming webbed). We have had a lot of heat but not too many rays! The beaches in the North West provinces of Kedah and Perlis are beckoning! Well, that is the plan at the moment but we don’t plan much ahead so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, we really do like what we have seen so far of Malaysia. This country has a nice “feel’ about it.
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