Saturday, April 12, 2014

While the cat's away, a trip to Melaka

In late March Andrew did a 2 week trip back to NZ for a board meeting.  He was actually lucky to get there due to nearly missing the flight from Sydney to Wellington.  He wandered off from the lounge to get some exercise and eventually headed to the gate.  Somehow he worked out that there wasn't a Qantas flight leaving from that gate and went off to check the board.  He found out 2 things - he was at the wrong gate and that the scheduled departure time of his flight was 2 minutes away.  Now imagine him sprinting from one end of the international terminal to the other.  He got to the gate to find his bag was just about to be offloaded and that they had been calling him over the public address system.  He must have looked in pretty bad shape when he collapsed into his seat, as people kept offering him glasses of water.

Safely back in NZ apart from the board meeting he managed to do some gardening, oversee repairs at my rental property, make numerous trips to Moore Wilson and spent some quality time with his wine collection. He went out to Waikanae to see Albinia and then down to Dunedin to see Noel.  (I am also very proud his lessons on using the self-timer on his camera worked really well!)

With Andrew in NZ and me needing to do a visa run I headed off to Singapore to see Sarah.  A direct return flight from Vientiane to Singapore costs close to $1000.  A trip on Air Asia to KL is $200 return, so I obviously went with Air Asia.  From there I could have taken a 40 minute flight from KL to Singapore for under $40, but I decided to use the opportunity to visit the Malaysian city of Melaka (or Malacca, depending which dictionary you use), 150 km south of KL, 230 km north of Singapore

To get there was a “2” hour bus-ride direct from the airport south on a luxury bus.  And the bus it self was great and only 60% full.  BUT 2 hours turned into 3.5 hours. 

We left on time but it was all downhill from there.  1st we headed to KLIA airport (KL has 2 airports basically alongside each other) and picked up 3 passengers.  We then drove off but entered a petrol station.  Initially I thought the driver was heading through the McDonalds drive-thru (nothing would surprise me here in Asia) but no, we needed to fill up on LPG.  The problem was there was only 2 pumps and about 20 taxis in front of us.  30 minutes later we left the petrol station.  While waiting in the taxi line, the driver had a loud telephone conversation in Malaysian.  It’s content became clear as we drove a big loop road to go back to KLIA – he had left a passenger behind.  He yelled at her and pointed to the 3 other passengers who had got on at that stop.  But we headed off again on the loop for the 3rd time.  The airport is near the Formula 1 circuit and it was the weekend of the Malaysian Grand Prix.  As a result we got caught in end of practice day traffic jams.  Once we got past that the rest of the journey was fine till we hit Melaka and there were more traffic jams.  Eventually we got to the bus station on the outskirts of the city and everyone except me got off – I had booked to a city centre stop.  The driver said he would give me $5 to take a taxi to the city centre rather than continuing through the traffic.  Given my bus fare had only cost $8 – that was a winning solution.

Melaka is probably famous for 2 main things – it’s history and it’s food.

It has been awarded World Heritage status and has a long history related to its position on sea trading routes.  The Chinese visited regularly until 16th century when it became a Portuguese colony.  The Dutch took over in 17th century before it became part of the British colonial empire in 19th century.  It was occupied by the Japanese during WWII and only returned to Malaysia post WWII.  As a result there were plenty of architectural styles on display

Probably the most obvious Portuguese remnant is the Fort A Famosa – and here is a picture just for Andrew – he missed out on canons – he really likes canons.  And the fort is what you see in the picture – nothing more & not overly exciting.

Fort A Famosa

On the hill above is the ruins of the Portuguese church, St Paul’s.  While this too was a shell, there were enormous carved gravestones displayed, leaning against the interior walls. Many were so big they came up to my shoulders.  And while I can’t read Dutch I had a good idea what they were saying – I like the social history of gravestones telling of the hardships of colonial life – lost at sea, or born in Amsterdam but died far away in Malaysia.



There were plenty of Dutch influenced buildings, but I rather liked the plaque on a random wall on the riverside – explaining these were Dutch bricks.  Um, okay


The Chinese houses could be very ornate, but the nicest influence were the front porches with the circular viewing holes


And the city had plenty of colourful street art ranging  from the Orangutan cafe and the Minion drainpipes through to some seriously weird decoupage of cats heads on bodies outside a nightclub

There are also no shortage of bicycle taxis that have been pimped way beyond generally accepted levels of taste.  They also have car batteries on the back to provide power for the fairy lights  and loud speakers.  If you hear "Gangnam Style" booming it's way closer to you – you know a bike taxi is heading your way.


Hello Kitty, want to ride on my Mercedes bike taxi?


And food, both at the night market on Jonker Street, and in the cafes was excellent.  I had one of the best Laksas ever here


2 nights and 1 full day in Melaka was enough for a good taste of the city

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