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Published: August 22nd 2006
Two days in Kuala Lumpur was more than enough to remind us why big cities are best avoided, and after numerous trips to the post office trying to sort out sending a package, tickets were booked to the old colonial port of Melaka. Arriving in the brand spanking new bus terminal was more like walking through an airport than an asian bus stop, and after some searching we found the local bus section, where we boarded a bus that had definately seen better days, and headed for the centre of town. After a short journey we found our way to a pleasant hostel that provided a great room (by Malay budget standards) and one of the warmest welcomes we have received so far. We took a walk across the road to the local Mall for some well needed air-con and an injection of western fast food. That night it was early to bed after watching a film in the guest house lounge in preparation for a couple of days exploring in the heat. Melaka has been ruled by a number of nations over the years including the Melaka Sultanate, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British (twice) and the Japanese, until Malaysia
designed by jullian clary
gained independence in 1957. All this history combined with ships docking in what was once a bustling South-East Asian port has left the city with a massive variety of architecture and cultural diversity. This means that there is plenty for the sight see-er, but not much in the way of nightlife for the backpacker.
The Chinese influence is the most striking with the centre of town being dominated by Chinese architecture and temples, and as the sun sets behind the buildings a large street market slowly appears. The town comes to life at night with a karaoke competition in the square and hundreds of tourists hit the streets looking for a bargain and filling the small restaurants and bars. A still remarkably sober Dave and Lucy resisted the temptation to join in with the drinkers and headed back to the guesthouse. The following day was remarkably similar to the previous one with yet more exploring and thus winging from Lucy as the heat got the better of her. Three days in Melaka was more than enough to see all the sites and get a feel for this very sleepy, laid-back place.
The next port of call was the
take it easy son
Tioman Islands in the south east of the country. The morning started with a pre-dawn awakening to get the local bus back to the bus terminal for an 8 o’clock departure to Mersing. All started well as we boarded a bone-rattler of a bus just as the sun was rising. Our connection to Mersing boarded and for the duration of the four hour drive, we were treated to heavy doses of Malaysian pop music that even S Club Seven would have been ashamed to perform. This combined with our route negotiating more bends than Michael Barrymore left all parties feeling particularly queasy once we alighted at Mersing to catch our boat to the islands. The fun continued inside the tourist office as after waiting around for an hour and a half we were told that we would be sitting around scratching our arses for another 2 and a half hours as the boat was full. After enquiring into the nature of their booking procedure and asking if they thought to check before booking us on a full boat, no further pleasantries were exchanged as a ratty Dave threw his toys out of the pram with some light swearing. KFC provided
air-con and some rubbish chips boosted blood sugar levels while we waited for the next boat. Our boat left 45 minutes late and due to the nature of Lucy's reaction to all things nautical, lady luck pissed on us again as the heavens opened and the 2 1/2 hour crossing was rough to say the least. Sitting up on the deck to help Lucy's sea sickness we were pelted with rain and spray from the bow of the boat as we headed at full speed out to sea. Arriving at the Tiomans the weather had settled and we left the boat without Lucy seeing her lunch again and both covered in more salt than a fish supper.
The Tioman islands were used as a location for the film 'South Pacific' and are regarded as one of the best islands for scuba diving in the world. Not where we were staying though. As we took a walk around it was clear from the outset that the beautiful white sandy beaches must be somewhere else, and the question was raised more than once if we had been dropped off in the right place. Things gradually went from bad to worse as
we were both struck down with a mystery bug contracted somewhere on the mainland. Our break in paradise therefore turned into 4 days of coughing, sneezing and runny noses. Our week got better and better after discovering that we were unable to use the phones to call home and missed speaking to Dave's sister on her 18th birthday. Unfortunately illness and uninspiring surroundings meant that our experience on Tioman left a bitter taste and we left a day early to head back to Mersing and get some medication from the pharmacy. These are the times whilst traveling that no-one tells you about, and getting mystery illnesses in unfamiliar surroundings can really bring the fun to a hault, but thankfully neither of us have been seriously ill since Cambodia so we've not had a bad run. After a night in Mersing we jumped on a bus to Singapore for a few days of experiencing the cleanest city in the world.
Singapore is exactly how you would imagine it to be. Everything is shiny and new and there are patrols all over the place watching out for the unsuspecting litter-bug. Fines are a big thing here, and even the most innocent
tourist could find themselves having to pay a fee for farting in enclosed areas. The transport system is light-years ahead of Rail Track, everything runs with meticulous consistency and the trains were never delayed due to leaves on the line. We had a great couple of days in Singapore staying in the best guest house yet. Annie and Percy were informative hosts and it felt like we were in our own flat as there was only one other person staying at the guest house and the owners were seldom around. Annie is 8 months pregnant and is still hauling her laundry up stairs to the wash rooms, they really do work until they drop. We took in the sights and were treated to a massive firework display every night as there was a competition on as part of the 8th August National Independence Day celebrations. Due to Lucy's love for Orang Utans a trip to Singapore Zoo was a must and turned out to be a real highlight. There are no cages in the zoo and the animals roam freely on large islands surrounded by a moat to stop any nikon wielding tourists from getting eaten. There were feeding times
all day for most of the animals and enables you to sit with the Orang Utans and watch them eating fruit from only a few feet away. It was great to see these animals at such close proximity, and was a constant reminder of how in danger the species are. We really enjoyed our time in Singapore and will hopefully return at some point to grab a few electronic bargains and see if its possible to get a 42 inch plasma screen T.V into a backpack.
We headed to the airport and prepared to say goodbye to Asia which has been our home for the last six months. So its next stop Brisbane for a trip up the east coast of Australia, we are going boldly where every idiot with a backpack has gone before.
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