During my time at University, as well as my extensive reading, I have encountered Malacca more times than not, yet while the place would sit in my mind, it seemed to be one of the mysterious places which didn’t have a definite location. This is a little odd since for quite a while it was a major trading hub in the region back in the days when the Portuguese and the Dutch ruled the waves. In fact Malacca (or Melaka as it is now known) is a Portuguese and Dutch port that has existed since the 13th Century in one form or another, though I’m still not entirely sure why they didn’t pick Singapore like the British did, but that may have had something to do with there being a better harbour here than there was at Singapore.
Anyway, since I was heading to Malaysia, I decided that I would go and visit this mysterious jewel of the orient through which the Portuguese, and later the Dutch, would grow incredibly wealthy from the importation of spices. In a way it was similar to Macau, which was another city that I had heard of, but until recently had no idea that it sat on the opposite shore of the Pearl River from Hong Kong. Then again, it wasn’t until Google Maps that I even realised that Hong Kong was positioned at the mouth of a river – up until that time the only thing I really knew about Hong Kong was that they made some pretty cool movies.
Bus Ride from KL
While I was sitting in my hotel in Kuala Lumpur (or should I say guest house, because that is probably a much better description) I was trying to work out the best way to get to Melaka, and how long it would take. Well, the general consensus was not to take a day trip, namely because a day isn’t near enough time to see all of Melaka. I’m going to suggest otherwise namely because it really isn’t all that large. However, to put things into perspective, it does take about two hours to get there by bus, and depending on where you go, you might find yourself a little stuck. Further, by the time the Jonker Street night market sets up you will probably be on the bus heading back to KL. So, while you can do it in a day, spending at least a night there might give you some more opportunities to explore.
Getting there is relatively easy namely because there are regular buses heading from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and there is an expressway heading straight to the city. We caught the bus from KL, and the bus station will dump buses directly onto the expressway, which means that it is a pretty quick ride for most of the way there, and it is only the last few kilometers where you find yourself stuck in traffic. There are also buses leaving on a pretty regular basis, and the fare it pretty cheap as well, especially considering that the buses are really nice (though the air-conditioning is set to arctic, which is really, really annoying considering that you will find yourself freezing for those two hours).
Once there, the bus dumps you at Melaka Sentral, a bus station on the outskirts of the city, and you then need to make your own way from there, which isn’t too much of a problem considering that there are plenty of taxis available. Actually, I should point out that they do have a taxi stand there, and the reason I mention that is because the deeper you head into South East Asia the more you get hassled for taxis. Basically, you will step off the bus and before you know it somebody will be in front of you asking you if you would like a taxi. As such I would probably suggest walking through the bus station to where the actually taxi stand is located.
Yes, that is another thing about the bus station, and that is that as soon as you walk inside from where the bus dumps you, you will suddenly find all these people trying to sell you a return ticket. Anybody would think that they are trying to get rid of you. Well, not really because what you have are all these bus companies who are falling over themselves trying to sell you a ticket out of there. The other thing about the bus station is that there is a market inside, but once again this is South East Asia and the one thing that is a given in South East Asia is that where there are tourists, there are people trying to sell rubbish to tourists.
The Wrong Way
As is typical of me, I ended up the wrong part of the town. I guess that is one of the flaws with Google Maps in that I will see something that it interesting, go out of my way to look at it, and suddenly discover that I am miles from anywhere and have no way to get back. This happened to me here – I saw a place called the Portuguese Fort and decided to go and check it out. The cab driver took me there, and after getting payed, promptly vanished. We wandered up the hill and past another tourist who pointed out that the water tank was much more interesting than the fort. Well, I’d disagree, but the fort wasn’t really all that large, and the only other person there was some guy trying to sell me a coconut.
As for the cab driver, he’d gone, and there were no cabs for miles around, nor where their any footpaths, so we found ourselves stumbling through the scrub at the side of an insanely busy road, and this wasn’t one of those roads that you can simply walk across – these cars pretty much didn’t care. However, we finally managed to get out of that predicament and made our way to the Portuguese Quarter – which was closed. Well, there was a school there, and a mini statue of Jesus, much like the one in Rio, however the shops and the restaurants were deserted – in fact I swore I saw spinifex tumbling across the carpark.
And sure enough there were no buses, no cabs, and the only way to get to where we wanted to go was to walk, so I turned around and did just that. We did see what looked like a modern hotel rising above the area, and made our way there, only to discover that it hadn’t opened yet, and they were still putting the finishing touches on it. As for the cabs, well, a couple went past (I think), but they were all occupied, and thus the time til the bus left was slowing ticking down. In fact I believe I wasted an hour and a half wandering around this area before we finally found our way to the old city, and the actually touristy fort.
The Dutch Quarter
So after making our way through a so called mega-mall (which really wasn’t all that mega in my opinion, at least compared to the ones in Singapore and Kuala Lumpar, and Johor Bahru for that matter) we came to the Independence Memorial. Not really all that much there, with the exception of a couple of military vehicles on display, and some plaques talking about independence. However, across from that was an old gate which happened to be the rear entrance to the fort, and this is where the really interesting part of the city began because this was the old Dutch Town (well, it could have been Portuguese as well because I believe the Portuguese were here before the Dutch, it is just that the Dutch took the city off of them).
Sure enough, as is prone to happen in Malaysia at, well, anytime during the year, it started pelting down with rain. Actually, that happened to me a few times on my trek into South East Asia, and it would usually happen when I forgot my umbrella. Normally forgetting my umbrella in Melbourne isn’t all that bad because the rain is the sort that is annoying, but it doesn’t drench you. Not so here – when it rains, it really rains, and you definitely know about it. In fact it rained so much that I felt like playing this song every time the crack of thunder ripped over head.
And no, I didn’t burst out into song.
Well, the rain eventually cleared up, and we found ourselves wandering up a hill side that was covered in graves. Not surprisingly since there was an old ruined church at the top that happened to be full of people trying to sell any old rubbish. As I said, where there are tourists, there are markets, and that was the case in the old church. I shouldn’t complain though because there was one stall that was selling something other than t-shirts, bags, and useless rubbish – a guy selling coins and stamps. Of course I bought some stamps for my neighbour (and am kicking myself for not buying any Imperial Japanese Banknotes).
Well, there wasn’t much to look at around the ruins because, well, they were ruins, except for the old Dutch plaques around the walls, so we made our way down to the old town. There were quite a few museums there, but due to insistence on heading in the wrong direction, we didn’t have enough time to look inside, so instead we wandered about, made note of the Hello Kitty tuk tuks, and crossed the river to Jonker Street.
Okay, it was during the day, so Jonker Street was, well, like any other street, but apparently come evening, it turns into a night market. Well, I can’t say too much about night markets because once again they tend to contain the same old stalls that you find in pretty much every other market – printed t-shirts, fake jeans and shoes, hand bags, and other rubbish that is probably not meant to be used. Well, you could use the ashtray, but I feel that it would be a bit of a waste of an ashtray – they seem to be more for decoration, and to tell all your visitors that you have been to Malaysia (and since I don’t have visitors, my T-shirts tend to make that statement).
Well, we spent the last hour or so wandering around the old town, though the other side of the river didn’t have the same colonial feel as the area around the fort did. Still, that was probably because that part of the town was actually where the Chinese lived, which is why there is a much stronger Chinese influence around Jonker Street. In fact you will also find a couple of Buddhist temples. There is also a river that meanders through the town, and like a lot of places that happen to have a river, you will see the odd river cruise head up and back. We found ourselves a nice cafe next to the riverbank where we had some lunch, and then made our way back along the river. Fortunately I even managed to find an old English pub.
As for the taxis, fortunately I managed to find some. Much like the markets, if you are looking for a taxi you can be assured that they will be where the tourists happen to be, and as soon as they lay eyes on you they will suddenly take a step towards you saying ‘taxi?’. Mind you, it annoyed me somewhat because, like buses, I spent over an hour looking for a taxi without success, and as soon as I don’t need one, they are everywhere. We did eventually make our way back to the bus station, and then found ourselves on a bus with an airconditioner that was set to arctic blasting us (and I suspect that I may have even caught a could from that experience – fortunately the tropical climate dealt with that inconvenience pretty quickly).
Around the World
Find out the most important thing Brenda looks for in a hotel.
Discover the beauty of Stockholm.
Lyn travels a short distance to Coffs Harbour (a place I would like to head to shortly as well).
Explore New York City by subway (is there any other way to do it?).
And finally, take a trek up to the foothills of the Himalayas