Family ties in food heaven
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
142Trip End Jun 18, 2011
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After our night in Singapore we got up early to catch our coach over the border into Malaysia. We never planned on visiting Malaysia originally and only decided to go when we were leaving Australia about a month ago, so we were really excited and a bit nervous to see what our new destination had to hold
We arrived in the outskirts of Melaka and caught a local bus into the town center; I think we must be getting more accustomed to traveling in Asia because we weren’t fazed at the prospect of getting on a bus where no-one speaks English, and we even ended having a nice 'sign-language’ chat with two girls who kept tapping me on the shoulder and then just smiling at me because they couldn’t speak English. The guesthouse we are staying at was recommended to us by a couple from Canada who we met in Bali; it’s set in an old Chinese house and while it was very basic (humble is a much better word) it was clean and had a really nice atmosphere
To be honest, there isn’t much to do in Melaka. Despite this, after 4 days here, Melaka turned out to be a highlight of our time in Asia so far. It is just lovely here! It is so relaxed and friendly; we spent days wandering the streets, chatting to locals, soaking up the atmosphere and browsing the amazing antique and trinket shops. As I said earlier, we don’t really feel like we have much of a home at the moment, so it meant a lot to us to know that my brother had been born here and everywhere we went, we kept saying to each other: "I wonder if Mark ever came here when he was a baby?". It felt like we had a family tie to Melaka even though neither of us had ever been there before. There was a huge night market down the main street for three nights running and we spent all night long wandering through the stalls and looking at all the pretty Chinese lanterns and flags which are still up from the New Year celebrations. There was also entertainment on each night at a big open-air stage in Chinatown and we were lucky enough to see a talent show by the local teenagers which was brilliant; there were girls performing traditional Chinese dances, singers, comedians (who made us laugh even though we didn’t understand what they said), an amazing martial artist, a local drama group and a Chinese teenager version of Ant and Dec who did the presenting. It was a really great night. The following nights there was a karaoke competition for the locals; this wasn’t like karaoke back in the UK though, there were hundreds of people watching and the singers had proper outfits and some even had backing dancers. We had a real giggle! The next day we even managed to stumble across a huge Indian film crew filming in the middle of the town square! We haven’t got a clue what they were filming, we think it might have been a Bollywood movie or a TV advert, but we seem to have a real knack when it comes to finding these kind of unplanned for moment
However the best thing about Melaka was, without a shadow of a doubt, the food! We had the best food of the trip so in Melaka. We got to try a really diverse range of foods, most of which we had never tasted before. We didn’t stop eating for the whole four days we were there and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten food like it before in my life. I became addicted to a Malaysian desert called Cendol, which is a bowl of shaved ice, palm sugar syrup, sweet coconut milk, little green wiggly bits of rice and red kidney beans. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it is one of the best deserts imaginable. We also tried another Malaysian dish called a pohpiah, which is like a huge spring roll that is made out of a crepe and has a hoisin sauce mixture inside; they were bloody incredible. Some of the other weird and wonderful foods we tried included: fried radish cake (which is actually made out of Chinese turnips), pandol sponge cakes (pandol is a green sweet gooey filling), sugar cane juice, pineapple tarts, lemon and prune juice, laksa (a really hot and sour curry) and fresh coconut milk (not actually very nice). However, the highlight of our Melakan food adventure was a Chinese dim sum café just three doors down from our guest house. Our guidebook had recommended this café as it is famous all over Malaysia for its sticky pork buns (which Tom became addicted to when we were in Hong Kong). We decided to give it a go, but when we tried to get in we realised that it wasn’t really a place for tourists; the place was packed with locals, there wasn’t a word of English in sight, we didn’t understand what any of the food was or how to order it and everyone was staring at us like we had just landed from another planet. We were just about to walk away when I plucked up the courage to go in and speak to the guy cooking at the bamboo steamers and the next thing we knew we had been invited back behind the counter so he could talk us through all the dim sum that was being cooked! It was amazing! He then took us over to a table and we ended up eating the most incredible breakfast of dim sum, pork buns, veggie lotus buns and Chinese tea. Everyone was staring and giggling at us because we had no idea what was going on, but we didn’t mind and we ended up laughing along with all the other customers after a while. The whole experience was amazing and we felt very lucky to get the chance to eat in a real dim sum café… needless to say we went back the next day and did it all over again!