Melaka (not malaka)

Melaka – isn’t that the name people use to call someone a wanker? I think that’s spelled malaka. And it’s Greek, but this is Melaka. And it’s very far from being an idiot, no matter what the name conjures in my mind.

My journey from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka (with an ‘e’) was very short – under three hours if I were to put a time on it. Of course, that includes getting from Chinatown to the BTS bus station, by far the most modern bus depot I have ever been to anywhere.

My boarding gate - for my bus.

My boarding gate – for my bus. OH and that is an up to date screen for departure.

You buy a ticket at a counter with everyone going to southern destinations. (Northern destinations go to Pudu Sentral.) Buses to Melaka leave every 30 mins. Ticket – 10 Ringgit, so the lady at the counter booked me on the next bus departing in 12 mins. There’s no preference for carrier – unless that’s what you prefer. I said next bus, and she booked me on the next bus.

You then proceed to the gate area – where you are checked again for your ticket. People without tickets don’t get to go to the departure lounge. When the bus pulls up someone scans your ticket and lets you proceed through sliding glass doors to your coach waiting outside. It was very efficient and very easy. Felt like I was in an airport. Except I had to load my own luggage into the cargo hold.

You can walk around this ship for about 7 MYR. I didn't bother.

You can walk around this ship for about 7 MYR. I didn’t bother.

From Melaka’s main bus depot I took the local bus for 1.30 MYR downtown and got off close to where the hostel said I should get off. It’s always tricky when you’re riding a bus in a new city for the first time. A five-minute walk past two museums, an old fort, a replica of a Portuguese ship, a Dutch windmill and a church, and I was at Backpackers Freak Guest House.

This was not the most glamorous place I’ve stayed, nor was it the worst, and while I can verify it was cleaned daily, it’s just old and worn out. But I did feel very comfortable here. We watched some movies on the flat screen and there’s a basic kitchen at your disposal – one that reminded me of a place I had in Toronto when I was 20-years-old. I was very very poor then. Very poor.

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Malaysia has had its fair share of visitors throughout its history – and nearly everyone had a piece of Melaka. Culturally it’s very diverse, but so is much of the Malaysia I’ve seen. But this is why the attractions are very multicultural. The Dutch windmill, the replica of the Portuguese ship, the fort (obviously British) and Chinatown. Plus I saw a few French bakeries.

It’s a smallish city though, the majority of its attractions are in the downtown core and occurring on the weekends. From Fri-Sun Chinatown has a street market along Jonker Walk that is one of the better ones I’ve been to. There’s ample ethnic food and plenty of interesting finds. Albeit, many of the stalls sell the same things, but I haven’t seen any of the items at any other markets in Southeast Asia – apart from the flipflops.

For 2.50 MYR I tried Poh Piah. I think there's egg, onions, cabbage and some other kind of protein in there.

For 2.50 MYR I tried Poh Piah. I think there’s egg, onions, cabbage and some other kind of protein in there.

I also tried quail egg on a stick. They add a slice of sausage, some mayo and chili sauce to up the taste.

The very busy night market. At times the crowd moved at a snail's pace.

The very busy night market. At times the crowd moved at a snail’s pace.

At the very end of the market I watched a singing competition where pre-adolescent girls duked it out to win what I likened to Malaysia Idol. One of the girls was such a powerful singer I had to record some of it. I’m sorry the video cuts off – I’m sure, like me, you wanted to hear more. I wish I knew what she was singing about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-O_zciYIkc

On the edge of Chinatown, before Little India, are the remnants of the fort – partially excavated. Further up on the top of a hill are the remnants of a church and graveyard dating back to the 1600s. Numerous museums are dispersed between these landmarks, along with markets, the Taming Sari (like a carnival ride – it goes up to 100m or so) and the canal/river.

This dude was just hanging out.

This dude was just hanging out.

Remnants of the old Church.

Remnants of the old Church.

There is another market across form the Taming Sari on the weekends, but it’s more like a rummage sale – with new things – for crazy high prices. You can buy pipes and socks. Computer cables and Converse. Get a massage or get a pet squirrel, scorpion or snake.

These guys wait around for passengers. Most of them have huge sound systems attached to them.

These guys wait around for passengers. Most of them have huge sound systems attached to them.

One of the most beautiful aspects of Melaka is the river. While the water is absolutely foul, broad boardwalks with lush plants and brilliantly coloured buildings line the banks. I couldn’t help but wonder who thought it up. Who decided to spend the money on these collages? And in Melaka? It did the job. I was impressed. Apparently when you go at nighttime they light the buildings up. And if you’re really lucky on the boat ride you’ll see a monitor lizard going for a swim. I saw four. And then went looking for them. They were hiding. Sigh.

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Speaking of lights, this was another weird thing in Melaka. When the sun goes down, most of the buildings in Chinatown are covered in red lights. I know what red lights mean. You know what red lights mean. But I don’t think Chinatown knows what it means. Or do they?

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I did have a massage one day for about $10. The man asked if I would be OK with a guy massaging me, or if I wanted to wait for a female. Actually, he had a customer translate. I told him that since I’m from the Americas, I don’t have a problem with a male masseuse. The customer told me she wouldn’t be OK with that, but then I think she kind of wondered if I was weird, or she was. But the massage was great, and I think I made this young man’s day. I don’t think many Malaysian women let them selves get rubbed down by a boy barely out of puberty.

I saw these old men working on a stoop in Chinatown. One was working with tin - with hot (as in the fire) rods to bond the metal. The other was punching out patterns.

I saw these old men working on a stoop in Chinatown. One was working with tin – with hot (as in the fire) rods to bond the metal. The other was punching out patterns.

As beautiful as Melaka is, there’s not really that much to do in the city, if you’re not getting massages. Sure there’s some over-priced Western bars (Hard Rock Cafe) with what some refer to as gourmet food, but I also saw three McDonalds and two Starbucks within a five-minute walk. They were packed. And while it’s a port town, there’s no real waterfront – which kind of sucks. How the heck did all this historic culture get to Melaka? Do up your waterfront.

From the church to the water. That thing on the pole is the Taming Sari.

From the church to the water. That thing on the pole is the Taming Sari.

After I saw the church, rode the riverboat and caught the night market, I was kind of bored. So after three days – with one day spent inside catching up on blogs, banking, e-mails and further travel research, I decided to venture. Don’t worry Melaka, you weren’t a malaka.

My next stop is Singapore – a far more pricier destination on the southern tip of the peninsula, but I know I will regret it if I don’t experience it. Plus, my flight to Bali leaves from there.

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to Melaka (not malaka)

  1. Thanks for sharing, Sheri! I enjoy reading your posts. Wonder how I missed this one about Melaka (short “e”) 🙂
    You put it on my “to do” list… Thanks!

    I wish you happy travels!

    Dragana May 9, 2013 at 3:51 am Reply

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