We moved on to Melaka in the state of Malacca. The spelling varies, we’ve even seen Melaqa. Liesel started chanting Melaka-laka boom-boom but the nurse came by with her meds.
We paid one final visit to The Mossy Forest for breakfast: no freebies this time, and it was a fond farewell. We walked the rest of the way to the bus terminal, one of the local stray dogs showing us the way. I’m sure all the passers-by thought he was with us. There was a second dog, also wearing a collar, but he disappeared, perhaps to guide another group of visitors.
The rest of the day was spent sitting on a bus. Two buses, in fact, as we had to change back at Amanjaya Bus Terminal. Yes, it might be an ‘ekspres’ service but we had to travel twice the distance.
The second bus ride was nearly seven hours long. Seven hours! It was mainly a straight road though, so I was able to read and nod off and read and nod off. I was sitting by myself, Liesel and Jyoti having been allocated seats much nearer the front.
Motorcycles are very popular here, seemingly all over Malaysia. When the bus driver stopped for a quick break, I leapt off for biological reasons and bought some snacks. What I thought was mango slices turned out to be unidentifiable, almost tasteless slices of orange, sticky wood.
Our new residence was a 20 minute ride in a Grab cab from the bus station. A 44-storey monstrosity right on the waterfront. We’re on the 16th floor.
A quick meal and after such an exhausting day, we went to bed. The Chinese restaurant only had menus in Chinese so we had to rely on the pictures and trust that they understood the concept of “no meat”. Outside, a fire was burning in an open bin. The smoke came in, I closed the sliding door, sometimes sliding it too far, so the other end became exposed to the
fresh outside air.
The next day was sad. Jyoti returned to Singapore to see some friends for a couple of days, before her 40-hour return to Alaska. That makes seven hours on a bus seem like heaven. So now, it’s just Liesel and me again. And what a busy day this was. Well, no, not really.
Melaka provides bananas in individual plastic bags. If only bananas grew with their own built-in protective layer. But at least, there’s a handy eating guide.
We went out for a short meander. The footpaths are hard to negotiate, steps, big cracks, broken tiles, steep kerbs, cut down trees, uncovered drainage ditches, water pipes, parked motorcycles and the odd restaurant making use of the pavement for their tables.
But every now and then, we come across a small shrine.
Some have incense burning which adds to the general smell of bonfires.
This is our current pad. Oh for the days of a cabin in the woods! Our apartment is on the other side, overlooking the sea. Sometimes, you can even make out the horizon, but there are so many bonfires and there is a lot of haze here.
Below us is a new shopping mall with a few shops, but most are empty lots and one floor hasn’t even been finished yet.
It’ll be great when it’s finished, I’m sure, but we were perplexed by the proximity of this shiny new place to the old town, where many of the shops are run down, empty, up for sale or rent.
On the 13th floor of our tower is a swimming pool which sounds very appealing in the heat. There’s also an area of astroturf which needs to be finished. And over in the residential part of town, at least one fire is going.
We’ve seen a few small fishing boats in the sea, too, plus a couple of faster vessels.
We visited two museums and an art gallery all in one day. First though, after a really long lie-in, during which I was accused of snoring, we went to the local Hard Rock Café for a late breakfast slash early lunch. Ceasar (sic) salad and chili fries for me. Cauliflower burger for Liesel.
And while we were in here admiring Tom Petty’s old jacket and Kiss’s old guitar and listening to Taylor Swift and Bob Marley, it rained. It was a torrential downpour and the purpose of the high kerbs became clear.
We ate slowly so as not to have to go back out into the rain, but we’ve never felt rushed anywhere in Malaysia or Singapore.
Sometimes here, it’s been like being in a self-help book. There are cute little slogans on many walls.
This is Hard Rock’s offering. Did you eat all the biscuits? No, I only ate one. Well, where are the rest? Meanwhile, in our own apartment, we have…
The wall in our place in Ipoh was full of these things: I wish I’d taken pictures, now. The best one, though, said “Do not conform”, and it was hung at a jaunty angle!
The Baba and Nyonya Museum, round the corner from Hard Rock, told the story of an immigrant Chinese family, the Chans. It’s a house, restored to how it would have looked about 100 years ago. No photos from inside, but what a fascinating insight to a totally alien culture which still managed to borrow from the west. There was a Victorian influenced teak wood sideboard. One of the ancestors was a real anglophile, playing the violin, setting up “gentlemen’s clubs” and playing lawn bowls and tennis.
Seven generations of Straits-born Chinese can be traced, much better documented than many western families.
It was hard to judge whether this was a typical family or a relatively wealthy one in the area.
The artwork was very well presented. The paintings tended to be narrow and tall, rather then the golden ratio portrait and landscape formats we’re more used to. I still find it interesting that, however different other cultures are, however separated from us by distance and by time, they very often produce arts and artifacts that are aesthetically pleasing to our western-oriented sensibilities.
There was a display of old banknotes here too: the original Malay dollar, the Japanese dollar known as “banana notes” because of the bananas on the $10 bill. The Malaysian ringgit has only been used since 1969.
Some of the costumes were stunningly gorgeous, a lot of work goes into these items.
Along the road, we found more pretty tiles to walk on.
One local hero was depicted in the street. I had to keep moving so that other passers-by wouldn’t mistake me for him.
Walking along, you’re usually looking down but when you do pause to look up, some of the old buildings are very attractive. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live here, but these are much easier on the eye than too much modern glass and steel.
We have no idea what a 5D Museum is. But if they’re messing with the spacetime continuum, I want nothing to do with it.
Next coffee stop and we came across more homespun philosophy.
These are all nice, positive, kind sentiments of course, but a bit twee when you see them all together and all over the place. Give me the old Wear Sunscreen song any day.
We met a celebrity: Simon the Traveler. Simon is a plush penguin from Ukraine travelling around the world with his friends. Today he was with Igor.
We had a quick chat with Igor since Simon wasn’t really talking. Unfortunately, while we were drinking our coffee over the road, Simon and Igor were removed from the doorway they’d been sitting in.
Other than a durian flavoured ice lolly the other day, I’ve not tried a durian. They are a bit stinky, you can always sniff out the stall where they’re being sold. But staying away from them might be the best course of action.
We were invited several times to take a ride on a trishaw. Like a rickshaw, only it’s a bicycle with a sort of sidecar. Highly decorated in a kawaii stylee, Hello Kitty for example, and playing very loud music in most cases. We declined all the offers.
Totally out of place in old Melaka is this Dutch style windmill.
It’s opposite a big so-called “Red House” which was also built by the Dutch.
The Maritime Archeology Museum was a little disappointing, to be honest. Very small and the best single exhibit was a couple of meteorites, and they were outside anyway.
The big pile of old Chinese pottery was quite funny, though, not much time spent arranging this in an orderly fashion.
The small Folks Art Gallery (Seni Rakyat) was very quiet, as they often are. Just one man at the desk, a few CCTV cameras, us and a couple of other viewers.
Sungai Melaka (the river). I’d like to credit the artist but it turns out Cat Minyak just means oil painting. We liked a lot of the pictures here but couldn’t really see any of them in our own home.
We had a giggle at the combined optician and ice cream shop, not a common pairing.
Back at our place, I felt the need for more exercise, so I went for a walk. Very disappointed to find I couldn’t get anywhere near the waterfront, so I headed into town. Where I had a massage. RM40 for an hour. That’s about £8. Wow. And the masseues was nearly twice Dawn’s age, so I make that about 10 times the value! (Only kidding, Dawn!) She was powerful though, she got the kink out of my back that had been there since ducking under a tree in the jungle a few days ago. And she found the usual knots in my shoulders. You can also ride a trishaw for an hour for RM40. Hmmm, I think I got the better deal.
When I got back, with some shopping, I went down for a quick swim in the pool. It was very pleasant, with just a few other people.
There was a full Moon and it’s the equinox. We’re just 2° north of the equator, so does that make it a Spring equinox for us here at Silverscape Tower B?
Silverscape Management: Hello, is that the Letter Company.
Letter Company: Yes it is. How can we help?
SM: We ordered a B from you but it’s too big.
LC: What do you mean, it’s too big?
SM: Well, it doesn’t fit on our pillar.
LC: Hmm. What size is it?
SM: We ordered an XXXXL size B but it looks more like an XXXXXL.
LC: I see. You know we don’t take returns: it’s in the Ts and Cs.
SM: But what can we do? We can’t just have a big B sitting in the lobby.
LC: It’s quite soft plastic. Have you tried bending it around the pillar?
SM: No. It’s not a round pillar, it’s a square one.
LC: In that case, it should stick on with no problem.
SM: But then some of the B will be poking out, blocking the path.
LC: Hmm. That’s tricky then. Let me think…
SM: Hello, are you still there?
LC: Yes, I’ve been speaking to my colleagues.
LC: And they’ve come up with the perfect solution.
SM: Which is?
LC: Stick the B on one face of your square pillar. Then saw off the overhanging part of the letter and stick that onto the neighbouring face, nicely lined up.
SM: That’s brilliant! Thank you very much.
LC: You’re welcome.
On our final full day in Melaka, we did some laundry then went for a walk to visit an old Sultanate Palace.
This bloke had a small bonfire going in his bin. He wasn’t the only one.
This bloke must have thought he was in Manchester, parking on the pavement like that.
This bird, which someone named a magpie crow, wasn’t going to budge from his perch for anybody.
This frog was huge, it made us jump, just sitting there trying to cross the road like the old ’80s video game.
This is a rare example of a pedestrian crossing, with a green man who gives you enough time to cross the road.
This is a rare example of catering for disabled people in wheelchairs and for buggies. How you’d get here in the first place along those horrendous footpaths and crossing the scary roads, well, that’s a different issue.
The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum itself was very interesting. The history of the Sultanate of Melaka only goes back to about 1400. We saw costumes, weapons, ceramics but unfortunately, the captions were hard to read: print too small and it was quite dark inside.
We’ll be decorating the walls in our Manchester apartment like this.
A small section of the incredibly wide Palace, a wooden structure, all built with no nails.
Another bit of a walk to find some lunch, during which meal, it rained again. Not just rain, it was a thunderstorm. Outside I was using Grab to book a cab, when lightning struck the along the road, a few feet away. We got wet just climbing into the cab: the driver had forgotten to unlock the back doors. I missed the opportunity of taking a picture of the storm, and we spent the rest of the afternoon inside!
One advantage of the rain was it cleared the air. Moving around outside through the bonfire smoke and the incense and then the smell of cleaning chemicals and perfume counters in the shopping malls, all that wasn’t doing Liesel’s lungs any favours. I suggested buying a surgical mask, but then it rained anyway.
At least, we found out how Melaka came to be so named.
At lunchtime, Liesel had had a smoothie. The flavour reminded her of something from her youth: Orange Julius. I’d never heard of this before but I was delighted to discover that the company was founded by one of my long lost relations in America.