Finally, we arrive in a smaller city (935,000 folks instead of millions). Melaka was once an important trading port for Malaysia but fell out of favor when Singapore took the limelight. It was not until 2008 when UNESCO declared the old Chinatown a world heritage site that tourism started bringing this city back to life.
From the bus depot, we easily walk to our $27Cdn room we booked online at “The T Hotel”. We can’t wait to see our room with its as-advertised combined toilet, sink and shower room (we also end up adding laundry room to that list. Think about that one… sh*t, shower, shave and do laundry all in the same room, the benefits are huge! And with a mirror in the shower, the inspiration to begin Ab crunches is enormous!). As we enter the room, a row of tiny ants is working diligently where a bed is pushed up against the wall. These little critters are efficient and they simply walk across the sheets to continue on their journey towards the ceiling. Knowingly, I turn to Christine and say “I guess I’ll take that bed?”. I pull the bed away from the wall and the ants quickly figure out their new route and all is good. Home Sweet Home.
Melaka is our kind of place. Its history includes Dutch and Portuguese influences from the 1500’s. There are some cobble stone roads, red stone buildings, pleasant walking corridors and it is home to the oldest Chinese temple (1600’s) in Malaysia. Now that is cool! We planned our trip to be here for the weekend to take part in what locals call the “Jonker Street Walk”. Imagine your favourite Chinese movie with a street lined in old decrepit buildings, red lanterns, wood carvings, trishaws, awful and yummy smells, old men sitting on wood stools, trinket shops selling everything you do not need and food stands selling everything from a weird jelly candy to dried chicken legs. Our ears were ringing from the sounds of competing music blaring from the stands and from the girls on a make shift stage who thought they could sing. We walk one street over and you can hear a pin drop. I get goose bumps. It reminds me a bit of old Quebec City … it is seriously that awesome.
The trishaws here are the coolest, or tackiest things, you have ever seen. The bicycles themselves must be 50+ years old. The owners tack on a 2-seater bench to the side, dress it up with LED lighting, a crazy sound system and any theme you can think of (Frozen, Minions, Princess, Spiderman). They merrily ride you around the old town in 35C heat wearing their jeans, runners and long sleeve tops all while head bopping to the sounds of J-Lo, Michael Jackson, Pit Bull and even Abba! Their teeth are bright white and they are smiling like kids who just walked into a candy store.
Our favourite activity? A lengthy walk along the Melaka river that feeds into the strait of Melaka. Along this walkway, we walk behind colourful, painted buildings that are hundreds of years old. The city has done a beautiful job of lining the walkway with flowering trees and Bonsai looking trees.
We come across a section of the walkway where the boardwalk leaves the side of the river bank to oddly go around a section of housing that looks like it is straight out of the slums. A ram shackling of wood, corrugated steel and old clothes make the outer walls of this home. A tall skyscraper towering next door and new Honda vehicles parked out front provide a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. As we walk by one day, there is a sudden rush of water and a horrible stench fills the air. I turn to Christine, OMG, we are standing there watching poop plop into the river from the home built over the water! The next day when we walk by, a man is throwing his fishing net just six feet down from where someone pooped. My stomach knots and I am reminded of how incredible our life is in Canada. Several feet later, we see a long monitor lizard floating in the poopy water and I re-think my desire to jump in the ocean.
Melaka is a walking town. My FitBit records over 20,000 steps a day and in 35C heat (with a feels like 41C) we easily justify our ice cold “bubble tea” (a local favourite and becoming one of ours too). Finding places like this is what traveling is all about. On our last day, we met an older couple. She was originally from Melaka, but moved to the UK 40 years ago and got married. She returns to visit Melaka often with her husband. When they learned we were from Canada, they invited us over to their hotel the next day to enjoy the pool, and buy us dinner to continue our conversation. Sadly, we had a bus booked and had to regretfully turn their offer down. But that just seems to be the Malaysian way… smile, greet strangers with open arms and show them beautiful Malaysia.
With backpacks on… we can’t wait to get to our next location…
Mark and Christine
Sampling of costs in Melaka:
1 Canadian dollar gets you approximately 3 Malaysian Ringitt (RM)
$85 CDN or 254 RM for 3 nights including all taxes (in Melaka).
Larger budget, private hotel room with private bath (new bathroom and super clean), located a 10-minute walk from the heritage center of town. Includes air conditioning, ceiling fan, the requisite wee tropical ants, and filtered drinking water.
$46 CDN for both of us
Budget bus from Singapore to Melaka, Malaysia …includes nothing! No toilet on bus, no bathroom rest stop and most importantly a driver who did not do the speed limit, and passed everyone at will… But we got here in one piece and in good time. 4-hour trip. 707 bus line. Booked through http://www.easybook.com
- $4.80 (14.30RM) Grande (16oz) Green tea latte at Starbucks
- $1 (3RM) for 4 small sushi rolls that were quite good
- $0.33 (3RM) for McDonalds ice cream cone
- $2.33 (7RM) for a large and delicious Bubble Tea
- $0.33 (1RM) for amazingly delicious Roti Canai at street vendor
- $4.33 (13RM) for a rather large Tuna salad at Subway
- $0.50 (1.33RM) for two bananas
- $13.40 (40RM) for North Indian dinner at an air conditioned restaurant
- $10 (30RM) for 1.5 GB data for daytime and 1.5 GB between midnight and 7:00am, for 1 month’s use
- $3.30 (10RM) for reduced texting and local calls
- $3.30 (10RM) for the SIM card