Melaka, home of the Asian Johnny Cash

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
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16
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Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Where I stayed
Samudura Inn

Flag of Malaysia  , Melaka State,
Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm pretty certain that I have a broken nose, at least Kanan has detected a minor kink in it beyond the swelling and grazes from the sand. Anyway it's our last night of three in the oddly European-feeling town of Melaka this evening, and we've just been serenaded through the impromptu monsoon rains by a toothless Malaysian Johnny Cash lookalike singing synthesized country and western songs (all of which I knew, which doesn't say much for my taste in music - thanks Dad!). In some cases he sang both the male and female parts, adapting his voice accordingly. There have been a quite startling number of western tribute bands all over Asia, but this chap will really take some beating.

We came to Melaka via yet another break-neck Asian road journey, this time in a taxi. Despite our repeated requests that he slow down our driver, perhaps in anticipation of the forthcoming Malaysian Grand Prix (which I hope to attend in KL), merely grinned and increased his speed. Only the onset of monsoon rains slowed him down. We're staying in a place just a short walk from the centre of town, which is a blessing given the increasing heat and humidity - it's 38 degrees today and we haven't actually seen the sun. Melaka has a rich colonial history, having been ruled in turn by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, Japanese, British (again), and finally the Malays themselves. At odds with what we encountered in India (where there seemed to be a sentimentality for British things), it is plain to see from the museums and their various information plaques that the Malays have a rather dim view of the British rule. Various (very) thinly veiled criticisms bear this out, bemoaning the British destroying this church or that fort. All of this is obviously completely fair enough, and not particularly unusual except that there is a real reverence for the Dutch period of rule of Melaka.

Anyway, Melaka has proved an interesting place with more than enough excellent museums to hold our interest for a couple of days. Outside of Melaka's old town and colonial heart, it's a very modern city of Mega-malls which sell anything and everything, including "Boutique Burkahs" (sadly not the actual name of the shop but my invention, see pics), a shop selling jazzed up versions of the veil. In fact I've been surprised (again betraying my naivety) at quite how much Malaysia is keeping pace (and outstripping in some areas) with the West.

One of our highlights here has been the Museum of Beauty, an odd museum which looks at the ways in which different cultures mutilate their bodies in the pursuit of beauty, eg tattooing, piercing etc. The most interesting (if not a little sickening) of these was the Chinese practice of foot-binding. Without going into all the gory details, Chinese women used to have their feet broken and bound at a young age to make them smaller - the smaller the more beautiful. We saw some astonishingly small shoes  made for Chinese women, some no more than four inches long. By chance later in the day we stumbled across a shop whose keeper claimed to be the only remaining shoemaker for bound-feet in the world. He rather creepily tried to convince us to buy a pair as souvenirs... ummm no thanks! Jacques Chirac has a pair though apparently.

Today we went to a traditional Malay house and were shown round by a local chap who has also given guided tours to a kings, queens and Winston Churchill. Sadly he spent so long reeling off the list of famous visitors that we didn't find out too much about traditional Malay life. We got some nice pictures though. We've just got back from the Chinatown Night Market too, which was spectacular before it started chucking it down. We witnessed a bit of OAP public Karaoke too (as you do), before the rain forced indoors for a beer with the Malaysian Johnny Cash.


We're off to Singapore in the morning, and have booked flights to Vietnam in a couple of weeks (conveniently for me just after the F1 Malaysian GP). We're both slightly terrified of the food options that may lie ahead of us for the remainder of our trip though. In Malaysia so far we've been hunting down the Indian Restaurants (there is a large Indian community here), but all of the local food is either meat or fish based. We did try a local delicacy this morning though, Roti Cani (pronounced like Chennai), a pancake-cum Paratha filled with cheese and onions (or indeed anything you like), and served with a Dhal. Just as Kanan was about to tuck in, a kind Indian lady stopped her and said that the spicy stuff in the Dhal was made of fish. I think it's going to be that kind of luck we'll need as hard and fast veggies for the rest of the trip.

Love to everyone

Jo and Kaa X

PS After visiting a Kite museum, Kanan was sulking that she'd never flown one. So I bought her a 50p kite and she proved a natural at that too (see pics).
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