The Charming Seaside Town of Melaka
Trip Start Aug 04, 2010
54Trip End Feb 04, 2011
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We left KL on the 7th of January. We had been forewarned about the madness of the bus station at KL. Our friend Yu Heng told us to bypass the men and women who are trying hard to sell us bus tickets before we reach the ticket counters. It was pure chaos, I lost Les and then we eventually made our way to a ticket counter with a sign for Melaka and then a young man heard that we were going to Melaka and swirled us off to another counter.....craziness!! So we ended up buying a bus ticket with one person, then they issued another set of tickets at another counter. When all was said and done we realized that we paid a few ringgits more for the young man in between, but not much. We had tickets in hand and were ready to go
We arrived in Melaka on another plush bus, we are seriously traveling in style these days and we aren't paying VIP prices, and then quickly jumped on another bus that took us into the center of town. We had a recommendation for a cheap guesthouse that was situated in the center of town so we went in search of a place to stay that hopefully wasn't too much of a dump. We secured an OK room for the night, but wanted to look around town to see if we could find something reasonably priced with a bathroom. After a few hours of searching we found the perfect place, but the kicker is that it is right across from the oldest mosque in Malaysia and they call EVERYONE to prayer beginning at 5:45am everyday. We look at this situation as a true immersion into the culture and I have come to like the signing in the morning. Having secured a nice place to stay for the next 10 days or so we went out on the town for supper.
We wanted to get right into the cuisine of the area so we had a supper of roasted chicken, steamed cabbage/carrots/onions, cucumbers, a yummy dipping sauce made up of chilies/garlic/ginger/vinegar and rice balls. We have had meals similar to this in other regions in Thailand and Malaysia, but what makes this dish unique is that they make the rice into round balls instead of just offering a dish of steamed rice. We ended the day with beers on the rooftop of our guesthouse overlooking the river that runs through the center of town....lovely!!
January 8th - We moved to our new guesthouse (the one across from the mosque) in the morning then spent the rest of the day walking around town to get the lay of the land
Jonker Street, known back in the day as Junk street for all of its antique stores, comes alive Friday thru Sunday with street vendors selling everything from wallets, to shoes to food and drinks. There is a square in the middle of the street that held a beauty contest while we were there.....we loved watching women of all ages come out in their finest to pose for the judges. Melaka is known for a number of handicraft items as well as food. Wealthy Chinese women have been making hand beaded shoes for decades in this area. There are a few shoemakers left who still make these hand sewn masterpieces....they are magnificent, but very expensive. Food wise you can enjoy just about anything on Jonker Street...we had radish cakes (blocks of rice mixed with radish) sauteed with garlic, egg, chili sauce and soy sauce...yummy!! We washed it down with a Chinese Herbal Jelly Tea. Not quite full we enjoyed Dim Sum as well as freshly made egg and pineapple tarts. Throw in a few beers and some people watching and you have the makings of a lovely evening
January 9th (I have to put in these dates, because otherwise the days all run together for me :) After the previous nights festivities, this turned into a lazy day for us...we got up in time to have Dim Sum at a famous restaurant a few doors down from our guesthouse. It was packed when we arrived, but we were able to find s table in the back of the restaurant. We ordered their steamed buns stuffed with pork. By now we have enjoyed quite a number of steamed buns on our travels here in SE Asia as well as China towns in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City, but these were the VERY best pork-filled steamed buns we HAVE EVER HAD!! Yum, Yum, Yum. After breakfast we read books, took naps and walked along the waterfront. Lovely Lazy Day......For supper we had Nonya Cendol (I think I described Cendol to you in previous blog, but just in case it is a mound of shaved ice topped with green pandan noodles, read beans, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup - sometimes they also top it with fruit like bananas, mango or durian)
Monday, January 10th - Another lazy day (two lazy dayz in a row, that's the beauty of staying 10 days in one place, we don't feel like we have to run around seeing everything all at once). Standard breakfast of Roti Canai and Teh Tariek (the cheapest breakfast we have found), we then dropped off laundry, spent time at the Internet cafe, had a pot of Chinese tea on the river, took naps and read books. In the evening we met a new friend from Denmark named Stephan. Les and I were sitting in the common area at our guest house and Stephan sat down with us for a chat. He is a retired man, traveling on his own for 3 months. We had a wonderful time sharing travel stories with him and eventually we invited him to have supper with us. Monday is day that many shopkeepers take off, so we had a difficult time finding a restaurant open. We ended up having a traditional banana leaf dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Although we seen the banana leaf meals served at other restaurants we have yet to try it ourselves. The bring you a clean banana leaf and then pile the food onto the leaf. They start with a pile of white rice in the center and rice crackers, then they bring buckets of other sides like potatoes, cucumbers, lentils (dal) and eggplant
Tuesday, January 11th - Having rested for a couple of days we woke up ready to go. We hit the ground running by following the route we took along the river during our river cruise to a historical Malay village known as Kampung Morten. Kampung means village in Malay and Morten is the last name of a British man who lent money to Malaysians in the community so they could build houses after they were resettled in this new area next to the river. We walked around the community and admired the well-preserved houses. We eventually stumbled upon Villa Sentosa, a living history museum right in the heart of the town. We were greeted at the front door by the youngest son of the houses owner. Our guides name was Haji Ibrahim and he was so wonderful to us, we can't thank him enough for his kind words and welcoming spirit
Wednesday, January 12th - Next on our list of cool things to do in Melaka - A Walking tour of Historic Melaka. A major worldwide trading port back in the day, Melaka was controlled first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British (Malaysia won their independence from Britain in the 1950s)
The rain tried to put a bit of a damper on the rest of our walking tour, but we just found a cool cafe to hang out in and waited for the weather to improve
One cool thing we witnessed today - there are a million stray cats all over the historical ruins in the center of town and towards the end of the day as we walked across the street we noticed a woman sitting on a kerb clapping her hands and every cat that heard her came flying in her direction. She is the resident CAT lady....with the clap of her hands at least 20 cats came a runnin' to eat some of the yummy food she brought for them. It was sweet and a little boy had a fun time helping the lady summons the cats. Made us miss our kitty at home even more!!
Thursday, January 13th - We met a lovely couple at our brunch spot just down the street from our guest house. They were so friendly and wanted us to feel welcome in Malaysia....we learned that they were both born and raised in Melaka and their grown children all live in KL. They were so kind and genuine that we hated to say goodbye
There are literally 20 different museums in Melaka, so we have had to be selective in choosing the ones we want to see...otherwise you can really go into overload mode. We chose to hang out at the Maritime Museum which included a huge replica of a Portuguese ship and 2 other adjacent museums. We ended the evening at Capitol Satay, a Celup Satay restaurant that had been recommended to us.
We had satay for the first time with our friend Yu Heng in KL, but this time we went to a place that specializes in a sort of "Fondue" version of satay. So when you arrive at the restaurant you are seated at a table with a hole cut out in the center. One of the servers comes over and puts a steaming hot vat of satay sauce in the center opening and gets it boiling. In the meantime, you get a tray and head to the self-service cooler that houses everything you could ever imagine on a skewer. We had tofu, stuffed peppers and okra, shrimp, squid, chicken, liver, mystery meat, bunches of greens and quail eggs. Some of items are parboiled and others are raw. Then once you are ready the server comes over with huge containers of hot chili and peanuts and swirls this goodness around the bowling satay sauce. Armed with small plates of chunked up white bread and cucumbers you are off to the races
Friday, January 14th - We finally got to try the REALLY busy restaurant just down the street from where we are staying. It is always packed with locals, so I have been asking Les for quite awhile if we could try it. Finally the planets aligned and we had a unique afternoon meal at this restaurant that from the outside looks like a hole in the wall. The owner, who spoke perfect English, made some dish recommendations and then did something unheard of, he told us how much each dish would be before he sent our order to the kitchen.....wow, this has NEVER happened to us. Usually when we get recommendations from the restaurant's owner we are given the most expensive things on the menu and it is only when the bill arrives that we realize we have been duped. We have wised up to this scheme, but this time we felt comfortable with the recommendations because we knew the cost up front. On the proprietor's recommendation we an oyster noodle dish, fried soft shelled crabs and braised pork ribs
The rest of the afternoon we spent checking out the last museum on our must see list - The People's Museum. The museum was OK...there was a beauty section on the 2nd floor that highlighted interesting beauty taboos across the world, including piercings, corsets, feet binding, head shaping etc... After and hour or so we decided that we wanted a dose of western life so we went to the local theater to see the movie Gulliver's Travels. Traditional Peranakan food was on the menu for supper. The chicken dish was doused in a huge amount of oil and the sauteed greens were equally as greasy. The barley lime drink was interesting, but that is about it. We probably need to give this traditional type of food another go, just to make sure we got to experience the regional cuisine. Being that we have 4 more days to go in Melaka we have plenty of time
In the interest of not being redundant and since we have had the luxury of going VERY SLOW here in Melaka, I am going to lump in the happenings of Saturday, January 15th - Monday, January 17th. The highlight of Saturday was an afternoon bus ride and visit to the Portuguese settlement 4km from the center of town. The Portuguese colonists intermarried with Malay women here in Melaka, the current settlement includes descendants from these original settlers back in the late 1800s. We immediately noticed a change in the architecture of the homes and the people had more prominent European features and they speak a Portuguese dialect called Cristang along with Bahasa Malay. The sky opened up on us just as we arrived so we found a spot to drink a beer to wait out the rain. We dined on a supper of Devil's Curry Chicken (this and seafood is what the settlement is famous for), accompanied with steamed rice, tea and Lady's Fingers sauteed in garlic (this vegetable is the same thing as okra to us). The food was terrific, but the portions were a little small for the cost. After dinner we had hoped that there would be some nighttime entertainment, but nothing developed. We checked out the short seaside boardwalk, walked around town and then headed home.
Lazy Day Sunday, involved checking out the replica of the local sultan's palace that was built without any nails, perusing through a very old Chinese cemetery and then flagging down a decked out trishaw (see photo) for a ride around town. The trishaws in Melaka take the concept of decorations to a whole new level. They use everything from paper-mached spiders, to flowers to barbie dolls to adorn their wheels. You can also choose your trishaw based on the crazy tunes he has pumping out of his ride
Monday, our last day in Melaka, we read the newspaper at 2 different cafes in town. We ate egg sandwiches on freshly baked bread and got ourselves ready for our road trip to Singapore tomorrow. The countdown is on....we only have 3 more weeks of travel before we head home, we are getting ready!!