Our return to the UK was a little like leaving for a trip but in reverse. Although we were going back in the worst of circumstances we couldn’t help but be excited that we were going to see our family and friends albeit for a very short stopover. We’d opted for just 4 days in the UK, just long enough to say hi and to attend the funeral but not so long that we’d get settled back into life in the UK. As we were both sat back at Heathrow Terminal waiting to return to Asia we couldn’t help but feel a little sad that we were leaving, we didn’t get those butterflies you have when you are going on holiday or setting out for a trip and we could only hope that being back in the sunshine and warm would get us going again for the final few months of our trip.
The flight back was exhausting, neither of us were looking forward to it at all especially after doing it in the opposite direction just 5 days ago. We have a lot of respect for those business types who do these journeys on a regular basis as it
really does takes it out of you. That said we’re sure that that if you are in business or 1st
class the whole experience would probably be that bit more comfortable. We had flown with Qatar and would rate them highly for the whole experience but it’s one we were glad we wouldn’t have to repeat again for a little while.
Back in KL we had already booked a room at the Grocers Inn expecting that we would be tired. We arrived at 9am and had vowed to try and stay up for the day so we could get back to the Asia clock but it was just too much. We managed to visit our roti breakfast place for a bite to eat but soon after we returned to the room and promptly fell asleep for the next 6 hours! We managed to drag ourselves up and out that evening for more food opting for our favourite Chinese just down the road, that really took it out of us and it was soon back to bed!
Our initial plan was to leave KL the following day but we must have really needed our sleep as we weren’t up
again until 11am and the idea of moving on soon changed. As we’ve said before KL is such a homely place for us we always need a bit of a kick to get going again. The food court in KLCC was calling so we went up there for some lunch and a wander round to stretch our legs (and purse!) before returning back to Chinatown a little later on. We stopped at Puradaya bus station on the way to confirm that the buses for Melaka did go from TBS which they did as it is a Southern destination and we were definitely going to leave the next day with no excuses!
It was an early start the following morning but we managed to squeeze in a last visit to the roti place before we left then it was over to TBS so we could book our bus down to Melaka. Again a very easy experience, we booked on the next bus going which left just 10 minutes later and we were on our way. It’s only 2 hours to Melaka and at 11RM (£2.31) offers great value for money. On arrival at Melaka you get to the Sentral terminal
about 5km outside town, from here it’s another local bus to the centre which takes about 20 minutes. One point to note if you are coming this way is that in the opposite direction (Centre - Sentral) the bus takes almost an hour as it’s a roundabout route.. we almost missed our bus back again as we hadn’t realised!
Melaka is an old British colonial town and Dale was interested to learn all about this and how things had developed. When you come from a country that once held an empire so vast and changed so many lives around the world it can be a little strange to learn about it. It's hardly ever discussed back home due to the parts that people are slightly embarassed of and people rarely have any interest in this part of our heritage any longer but it is our history and makes us part of what we are today.
We had opted to stay in Chinatown which is the most interesting part of town with lots of beautiful buildings either side of narrow one way streets. Our room wasn’t the greatest as we had a ropey shared bathroom but we learnt that
this is a conservation area so most guesthouses are arranged like this in the older buildings. Room rates also go up at weekends which is when the masses pile in, we arrived on Thursday and couldn’t believe how many more people were milling around from Friday afternoon onwards, it’s like the rest of Malaysia & Singapore has descended… mostly in tour buses and of course they have to go round en mass which isn’t easy in such narrow streets.
To be honest we were a little keen in our planning and had pre booked our return bus to KL when we arrived. Being the eternal over planner that she is Sophie had read that buses get booked up quickly at weekends and we didn’t want to be stuck there until Monday so had booked a Sunday morning departure. It didn’t take us long before we realised that almost 3 full days would be more than enough time here.. a little too much really but the tickets were booked now so we would make the most of it. In fairness our bus was full for the return on Sunday and as we only just caught it in time we doubted
we’d have got one at all if we’d left it so it worked out ok in the end.
A little history on Melaka for those who aren’t familiar with it. It was originally (and still is to some extent) a busy harbour town which was used by many countries around Asia and the Middle East as a trading port. Chinese were the first settlers, they were taken over by the Portuguese who built some of the older buildings you can still see evidence of with the fort being the main one. Following this were the Dutch and then in approximately 1817 the British looked after the running of the town and it’s port while the Dutch were being invaded back at home. Some of the British architecture is still around today and it was this and learning about the history that Dale was very keen to experience.
Aside from the British history there are a lot of old influences from the Chinese, Indian and Dutch which can be seen if you walk around. Right opposite our guesthouse was the oldest Hindu temple in Asia, Sri Poyatha Moorthi erected in 1781 and just down the road was the oldest
Chinese temple, Cheng Hoong Teng Temple originally constructed from materials brough from China in 1645. The Cheng Hoong has a UNESCO award for outstanding architectural restoration and indeed the whole of Melaka is a World Heritage Site due to it's multicultural heritage.
We hugely enjoyed just wandering around taking it all in and spent the first few days doing just this. We also enjoyed the Maritime Museums which provided a lot of background on the history of Melaka from it’s beginnings though to today. They also had a bit of a random display on meteors and dinosaur eggs and we were both more than a little excited to be able to pick up the various bits of rock from outer space and marvel at the weight of them, we did however decline to purchase the meteor perfume presumably made from crushed up bits of rock!
On Friday, Saturday & Sunday night Jonker Street comes alive with a big night market which is hugely popular and is one of the main reasons prices go up over the weekends. We weren’t sure what to expect from the market but the owner of our guesthouse had raved about how amazing it
was so we were quite looking forward to it. Sophie had high hopes of local crafts but to be honest it was mostly full of nick nacks like phone covers, plastic jewellery and a lot of Chinese influenced products which we didn’t find particularly appealing. The atmosphere was great though and there were a lot of stalls selling all kinds of foods we’d not seen or tried before so we enjoyed sampling them. On the second night we discovered Hainan Street, a side street just off Jonker Street. Along here are a number of local hawker stalls with tables set up in between. Not so unusual in itself but here you sit at a table and chose from a menu which provided interesting information on each cook with their background and details on why they had been selected to sell their dish along this street. It was street food but with a bit of a twist and we really liked the detail that had gone into this street.. not to mention the food was incredible at the same price as the hawker stalls and we were happy to sample some of the local delicacies that Melaka is famous for.
Melaka is also famous for the river that runs though it which was an important trading avenue in years gone by. These days you can enjoy a 45 minute river cruise along it which we did on our last night, prior to this we had enjoyed watchign the boats sail past while sinking a beer at sundown, also a nice activity! It was only 15RM (£3.16) each which is a bargain and we got to sail past lots of beautiful historical buildings for the first part then into the more modern Melaka we hadn’t seen yet for the remainder. There is a lot of street art here and some of the houses are painted with beautiful murals which looks great as you sail past. There is even a little monorail in the more modern part which we didn't realise was there. If you fancied a bit more exercise you can do this by foot, it's about 7km and the local government have set up markers along the way telling you how many calories you have burnt off as you go!
We even had a little night out of sorts here which made a change from our usual early nights.
Sophie had been eying up a building which had been covered in cut out pictures of cats and her interest was immediately piqued. We weren’t sure what it was for the first day but a sign went out on Friday afternoon saying that it was a small café bar so we noted the 9pm opening time and bided our time until then so we could pay it a visit. The owner and his Swedish wife were a lovely hippy pair and although the bar wasn’t quite full of the hoards of cats we’d been expecting there was a lovely dog to pet! The chairs & tables were perched on the pathway and soon a very eclectic mix of people had formed all sharing stories on their lives and we had a great evening which went on until 3am… way past our usual bedtime!
We had a great few days in Melaka and enjoyed learning all about the history of the town and met some really interesting locals from all walks of life. The town is a mix of different ethnicities (much like lots of Malaysia) but they all seem to be that bit more cheery and more than happy
Chinese food stand in KL
Watching the rain, it rained a lot this day and a small river was formed running down the road
to share stories on all manner of things from Politics to history to family & friends. Although our visit was perhaps a little more extended than it needed to be we filled our days easily and weren’t sorry that we had a bit more time than most people.
Next stop was a quick night in KL (told you we can’t keep away!) as we had to pick up something we’d ordered from the market but we vowed it would be just one night and were secretly a little happy we would get to say hi to the guys in the Roti restaurant and enjoy just one more tasty China town dish before we left…
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