From Singapore to Melaka (Malacca)
26.11.2012 - 29.11.2012
The journey from Singapore city into Malaysia is very simple - buy your ticket at the bus station near the Raffles Hospital, hop on board and wait. Pretty saoon after leaving the city centre you can see the long causeway/bridge that crosses the Straits of Johor, the newest gateway into Malaysia.
After going through the usual customs formalities the bus continues on to Kuala Lumpur via Melaka, which was where your scribe opted to alight for a few days. Whilst in Singapore a couple of people had told me that Melaka was not worth visiting and that I should head straight to the Capital but, me being me, I decided to delay my trip to KL and experience a smaller town. It turns out that Melaka is actually quite a fair size so I was somewhat surprised to find very little competition for my custom at the bus station - only one guy touting his pad in fact. After his spiel about running the cleanest, most popular and best value acommodation in town (complete with ring-binder file full of photos and blurb) and that, as I was on the late bus, there would be no other hostel owners coming for the rest of the day. Having just left the bus I sought refuge, some thinking time and a coffee at the fast food place in the bus station. Some 30 minutes later I was wandering around the now deserted bus station seeking out mine host who had, true to his word, remained nearby. Thus it was that I ended up at Ajid's "Travellers Planet" homestay.
My room was an internal one with the only window opening on to the corridor to the communal facilities so, despite having a ceiling fan, it was always pretty hot in there - my own little night time sauna. The communal areas were as pictured in his publicity folder with light and airy spaces and on-the-floor seating but the pictures were obviously taken just after decoration which appears to have been several years ago. That said our host was super friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and his liking for various recreational and exotic substances was glaringly obvious. Like the eclectic environment (a relaxed muslim/european fusion) the clientele turned out to be equally diverse - Luce the delightfully challenging french madamoiselle, Nils the tall german fella, Doug the (very) old colonial perv and Moja, a delightfully innocent and enthusiastic rastafarian Japanese lad (true!!)
In the early afternoon I decided to do my usual "first day, find my bearings" stroll around town, accompanied by Moja. The first thing that hit me was how damned hot and humid it was and within minutes my damp tee shirt bore testament to this. The homestay is conveniently situated for such a perambulatory excursion, being just off the town square and close to the river (complete with a full sized replica sailing ship docked near its mouth), the ancient fort ruins, the big old church on the hill, some original settlement red Dutch buildings and the iconic clock tower. Even chinatown and the coast are relatively nearby. After taking in most of the inland sights it was back to the abode for some fan time and a meal in one of the cheap and cheerful eateries around the block.
Next day my nomadic wanderings took me to the coast where I came across what is apparently a man made island. Underneath the connecting bridge there was a little hive of activity going on. Despite the water being murky, relatively shallow and fast flowing there was one old fella catching prawns with a net, another digging up shellfish on the shore and yours truly catching inedible little balloon fish using my telescopic tackle! All these endeavours were abruptly cut short with the afternoon rains setting in so it was back to the homestay for conversation and food.
Day 3 dawned and we (Moja, Nils, Luce and I) decided to tackle the heritage trail which runs inland up the river up to a "traditional" village - there are numerous boats which plod genteely up and down the river ferrying the sensible, if lazy, tourists both ways but we intrepid foursome opted to walk. The route mostly follows a sort of pathway between the river bank and the assorted dwellings and businesses that crowd in on both sides. These buildings ranged from ancient bedraggled wooden shacks, which were still lived in, to mural decorated units which drew the eye. Further up the trail the onslaught of tourism raised its head in the form of huge hotel complexes that are being erected as fast as the concrete can set. The village was quaint, picturesque and very clean with many residents filling their gardens with brightly coloured flowers and shrubs or with fountains, niknaks etc.
On the way back we stopped off at a riverside eatery which had been recommended to us as it serves the best chicken sate in the area, it was so popular that we had to wait quite some time for a table to come free. Needless to say the mixture of the stifling heat, the large fans they aim at seated customers, several cold beverages and the great food made a fitting end to what turned out to quite a long trek.
Evening came and we decided to venture into town for what our host informed us was ladies night - apparently the bars would be full to bursting as female customers would get free drinks and the guys would get access to all of the lovely ladies. The reality was somewhat less than underwhelming - most of the bars lacked any clientele and in most cases we were the whole crowd. Fortunately we had Lucei with us so we were not without feminine charms for the evening although the local bar staff did hit on her wherever we went.
My last day was a somewhat lazy affair with the only notable event between checkout and my afternoon bus to KL being poor Luce having to have a tooth extracted.
I really liked Malacca and am so glad that I decided to stop off there. The town has quite a number interesting sights and sites (many of which are not mentioned here), the people are friendly and my new homestay friends were an excellent and eclectic troupe.
Mext stop ......... the bright lights and dizzy heights of KUALA LUMPUR!!!