Thursday, November 13, 2008

Week-end in Melaka!

You might have seen the pics on Picasa, (if not you can have a look: follow the link on the right), so I guess it's time to tell you about our week-end in Melaka.

As a back ground for our French readers, Melaka is a city about 240 Km north of Singapore. So it's in Malaysia, on the west coast.

We followed this route by bus to reach.

View Larger Map

The bus was really nice. Not one of these old kind with wooden seats you see in American movies, but the business class kind, with large seats and personal LCD screen, unfortunately nothing was shown on them... It took about 3 hours to reach.

When we arrived we were surprised to see that the city was tiny. It used to be the biggest merchant harbour of south east Asia, but that was before Singapore came out of swamps. Now it's just a little touristic town with destroyed monuments and so many food places you couldn't try them all if you stayed a year.

Our hotel was quite nice, the Equatorial it's called. Four swimming pools (I counted only one) a comfortable room with a quite nice view as you can see:

As soon as we reached we went on to discover the town.

As we walked out of the hotel we were called by the trishaw owners. These bikes with a little carriage all decorated nicely with flowers during the day, and at nights they manage to light up the whole city. Although Ting's Dad had advised we took a stroll with one of them, we never got round to it. All the tourist on them seemed to have good fun, mixed with fear as cars were whisking by at rather high speeds.

We walked up to the monument of Melaka, it's called "A famoso". It used to be a huge wall that was supposed to protect from foreign intruders... When you see what's left of it you wonder who would be kept out with that

Then up the stairs to St Paul's cathedral. It's got no roof, no doors, nothing inside. Oh yeah, the open grave of St Francis. So we went down the hill again.

At the bottom of the hill we found the Sultan's Palace.
We paid to go in, only to discover that it was a replica of the real palace that was destroyed I can't remember when. Inside was quite interesting, the birth of the city of Melaka: a guy fleeing from Indonesia, then Singapore because he had killed some other guy fell asleep under a tree (a Melaka tree) when he woke up, he saw one of his dogs get beat by a white mouse deer, and he thought "This is a sign, I'll build a city here". Melaka was born. Many ancient costumes were shown in the museum, and who were the first merchant to arrive and so on (I can't remember the exact order, Thais, Chinese, Arabs I guess they were last since they brought Islam), what I remember it that the Portuguese colonised first and built A Famoso, then the Dutch who built the church, and finally the English, they just hung around for a while.

As we left the Palace we walked towards the Dutch district which is all red, and has a wind mill. Quite a view in the middle of Asia.

Ting was insisting that we see the Peranakan Museum. Her grand mother is born in that culture which is the mix between Chinese and Malay. To reach the museum we had to walk through Jonker street,where all the shops are. We got caught in the shops like bees in a bottle full of jam and ended up buying, not one, not two, but four magnets! And we also ate the speciality of Melaka some chicken with rice balls.
It's quite good, but really tastes like chicken rice, except that the rice is in a ball shape.

After all this we finally reached the museum which had closed five minutes before. Ting was quite upset and we were both rather tired so we decided to relax in the hotel until dinner time.

As we were in an old Portuguese colony, I thought it would be nice to have Portuguese food that night. To go to the Portuguese quarter a taxi was the best way. No meters in taxis in Melaka, you have to bargain, and we managed to get our own chauffeur who waited for us until our dinner was over. Our ride wasn't a limousine, and I feared for a while that he might invite himself to our table, but all went fine.

We reached the Portuguese quarter and I had never seen a Portuguese restaurant look so much like a Chinese hawker. Little stalls, and tables outside. Plenty people watching football. I thought for a while I was back in Singapore... But no, a fat lady came up and asked if we wanted Portuguese food and as we timidly nodded she brought us over to the sea side on a nice table right next the the stereo playing some country music.

The food was delicious, really. So much that we didn't think of taking a picture before we started, that's what Ting left of the baked fish with chili (it sounds like a Chinese recipe?).

As delicious as it was, I didn't feel the Portuguese tangle in it... We still enjoyed ourselves having a romantic dinner by the sea, the waves were probably swooshing on the shore in a delicate sandy noise, but we never got the hear them as Johnny Cash was walking the line in our ears.

That day had been long enough (we woke up at 6.15 as the bus was leaving at 7.30) so we went to bed.

The next day had one objective to it: Peranakan Museum. Well Ting pulled me out of bed and dragged me there really. I wasn't disappointed. No photos could be taken, but we saw a staircase entirely built with zero nails! We walked up and it held!
I would like to say more about it, we did have a guide to explain the objects and rooms, but we also had a school visiting at the same time. No need to say that 13-15 year old kids are more interested in some foolishness than listening to a guide. But I recommend that place, even in these conditions it was nice to see.

We had little time left after this as our bus was leaving at 4.00 sharp so we hurried back to the hotel. We were late of course but the bus had waited for us.

Melaka is a nice little town. I wouldn't spend a whole week there but it has lots of character and a history to it which is very uncommon. Ting and I both keep nice memories of this week end, Malays are very welcoming and always smiling. I would recommend it to anyone who needs to spend two or three days in a quiet place very accessible from Singapore.


Tinker said...

You forgot to comment on the weather! How scorchingly wonderful it is for those who are sick of the cold weather. We both got really burnt just walking under the sun for a day. I'm not exaggerating.

micheltdt said...

Hello Ting & Julien,
I looked at your nice photos yesterday, but now I can envoy your interesting comments. Keep blogging please! (and keep travelling as well). Have a good week-end.