Monday, 16 July 2012

Days 17-20: Melaka and final days in Malaysia.

I have to say it was a bit of a relief to get to Melaka. Singapore was so impersonal; it was too much of a big city.

The bus to Melaka, was long and slow and uneventful. We ended up getting there about six thirty in the evening, and everything was closed. Everything. We walked down the main street in Chinatown, and there were literally no shops open, not even the hotels were open. We were supposed to find a hotel for the night, but after walking down the main street and half way up the street to the right of the main street, and finding only two open hotels, one of which was way out of our price range we started to worry. Turns out we were just on the wrong street, we’d turned to the wrong left at the wrong point. 

Eventually we found a place, it was cheap and cheerful, and MUCH nicer than the place we had in Singapore, but we thought it wasn’t really the sort of thing we were there for, not one of the Baba Nyonya Houses. But by that stage we didn’t really care, it had been a long day, and very difficult to find anywhere at all to stay so we decided to go with it. 

After dumping our bags in the room we needed food, neither of us had eaten much that day and it was getting quite late. As I think I mentioned earlier, there was very little open. It was really weird, if we had been in KL, or even Penang there would have been hundreds of places open, and it would be just starting to get busy, but in Melaka, nothing. After walking for a while we found one place that looked open, but when we tried to sit down, we were told that it was closed.  Eventually we decided that our only hope was the big hotel, and that we were too tired and hungry to really care very much.

The next day, we decided to get some breakfast and have a look around Jonker Street. The place we went for breakfast was rather standard Malay food, apart from one of the starters – Top Hats. These are like spring rolls except they are shaped like top Hats. They were absolutely delicious. 
Top Hats, Mango Lassi, and Kopi Ice

Entrance to one of the boutique stores
China town is quite lovely, lots of little boutique shops.We found a lovely little shop that sold Kashmiri imports, clothing, cushions, jewelry and nick-nacks. We spent such a long time in there, we started looking at the clothes, and found some lovely trousers, I'd been trying to find some nice eccentric trousers for my brother, but they had all been way to expensive or too girly, or too short. But this place had so many different choices and the owner kept ducking into his house and bringing out more sacks of clothing for us to go through. We spent hours in there, so long in fact that the owner had to go out to pray even though his "brain isn't working and he's failing as a Muslim and a Human being." He left us in charge of his shop while he was out to pray, he'd decided that he trusted us because we talked and were friendly. 

By lunchtime, my uncle had arrived to meet us. So we went to get lunch, the local Melaka specialty is Chicken Rice Balls -  very tasty. The rice is cooked in chicken broth and then rolled into balls, the balls are served with meat, usually chicken and we also had barbeque pork, and chilli sauce. Very tasty.

M in a Tri-shaw
After lunch we went for a tri-shaw ride to the Portuguese fortress on the hill. The fortress is the oldest building in Melaka, it predates NZ by about 300 years. It really puts things in perspective. The building was quite impressive, although mostly a ruin. Melaka is always the first place to be occupied in Malaysia because it has a very convenient costline. In it's time it has been occupied by the Portuguese, the Dutch, The British (I think) and the Japanese, before Malaysia finally got independence. 

Chinatown, in Melaka, has a very fine night market, which was one of the main reasons that we were there. Each of the shops had a little stall outside, and there was Karaoke and lots of street food. We tried some delicious spicy deep-fried chicken and some chicken Satay. Very tasty.

We found a man making hand made personal stamps, which my uncle called chops. These stamps were used instead of signing your name in many parts of Asia. My uncle said that when he was working in Hong Kong every company had to have one and they used them instead of signing for packages etc. So M and I each got the man to make one of these chops for us with our own names translated into old Cantonese, which is somewhat like translating something into Runes, and then he made them for us while we watched. 

My "Chop"

Our final day in Melaka, well morning anyway, we decided to go for a boat ride up the river and look for some monitor lizards who like to laze around on the river banks. Was a pretty boat ride, and well worth doing.

Our final dinner in KL was at an Indian place that did a slightly different style of food. It was still curries and things and mostly the sort that you would normally expect, but somehow they made them slightly different. Hard to explain. We had Butter Chicken, Briyani, Mutton Curry (of some discription), three different types of bread, and dry Dahl which was so wet it had to be eaten with a spoon and I can't imagine what the normal Dahl would have been like. Even though it was strange it was very very tasty. 

The next day we got up bright and early and went to the airport. It was confusing trying to work out how to check in, although eventually we joined the right queue and waited patiently until we finally managed to check in. It was very sad to say goodbye to my uncle, it was lovely to see him and spend some time getting to know him.

Our flight was long (12.5 hrs) and incredibly boring, things seemed to keep going wrong. The entertainment set in my seat broke about halfway through and it was difficult to find my books to read. M's set broke too, but hers was easily fixed. 

When we finally arrived in England, it only took us twenty minutes from leaving the plane to walking through the gate. This was a very pleasant surprise as we had been hearing horror stories for quite a long time about people having to wait up to 4 hours to get through customs, which after such a long flight seemed horrible.

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