Monthly Archives: October 2012

Traveling from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur by Bus

My time in Malacca passed quickly and soon Joe, Rina and I were off to Melaka Sentral bus station. The Taiwanese friends were heading south to Singapore and I was going north to Kuala Lumpur. I couldn’t wait to get there as I’d finally see my friend Voon again. She is one of the two Malaysian girls I met in Rotorua, New Zealand when we worked at Crank Backpackers. It would be a wonderful reunion, and I looked forward to catching up with her and find out what she’d been doing since we’d last seen each other.

I booked at bus to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as the locals call it) but had to wait a few hours before it departed. Joe and Rina’s bus left within the hour, and despite only meeting them a day or two ago, I was sad to see them leave. You’d think I’d get used to how ephemeral travel friendships are, but I seem to meet very nice people who make parting more and more difficult.

The bus ride from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur was long but uneventful. I was just happy it was air-conditioned the entire way and not full of passengers. I read e-books the entire time and managed to finish a couple. When I arrived at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, a gigantic transportation interchange, I was glad to get out and stretch my legs. The place was huge, but I just asked for directions to KFC, where Voon and I were to meet.

KFC was up several levels and in the food court, but I found it easily and only waited a few minutes before Voon arrived. She came straight from work dressed in business attire. I’d never seen her dressed this way because no backpacker carries around a blouse, slacks and heels so it was funny to see her dressed up. The more I looked at it, the more I dreaded returning to corporate life again. I only hoped I could prolong my travels to avoid such a fate until I could figure out what to do.

After catching up over dinner at KFC, Voon and I headed back to her place where I’d be living while in Kuala Lumpur. I really appreciated staying with her for so many reasons: 1) I’d be able to catch up with her and would have an excellent point of reference to answer any questions that I had about Malaysia; 2) I’d experience what it was like to really live in this country; 3) I’d have my own personal foodie tour guide because Voon promised to expose me to all the authentic Malaysian cuisine she could think of; and 4) I’d save on accommodation costs and avoid having to live with strangers at a hostel. It was a winning situation for me no matter how I looked at it.

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Enjoying Food with New Friends in Malacca

Today I made a few more friends and tasted a little more of Malaysia. Howard invited Lily, an experienced solo traveler from Holland, Joe and Rina, school friends from Taiwan, and I to try some food from the Malaysian street hawkers so we hopped in his car and took off to experience something new.

After a quick tour of the neighborhood, we arrived at a street with at least half a dozen hawker stalls lining the road. Howard zeroed in on one particular stall where a man was cooking things on a metal cart covered by an umbrella. We took a seat on plastic stools that surrounded a plastic and metal table and quickly ordered drinks (pineapple juice for me, mango for Lily and watermelon for Joe and Rina, if I remember correctly) to combat the Malaysian heat. Even after all the time I’ve been in southeast Asia, I still can’t get acclimated to the heat here!

Lily, Joe, Rina and I sampled a Malaysian spring roll, which contained a bunch of veggies and chicken. Howard ordered a noodle dish for himself and soup for the table to share. It contained eggs, veggies and chicken and the broth was really tasty. Of course, there was a splash of heat to it like most of the food over here, but that just added to the zing of the dish.

After dinner, Howard dropped us off and we explored Jonker Street and the surrounding lanes. On one of the streets, we visited a mosque and the girls had to don long robes and head scarves to enter. We all had to take off our shoes and leave them outside (although this wasn’t new to me since it began in Singapore).

There weren’t many people in the mosque at this hour, just a few men praying off to the side. I enjoyed the architecture and designs on the inside and outside of the building. They were intricate and very stylized. I felt a little awkward being at the mosque though so I didn’t take any photos inside. Lily said it would probably be alright if we just asked in advance, but I figured it wasn’t really worth it. I didn’t want to disturb anyone (although, if I’m quite honest, our presence was already a distraction. I’m not sure if it was because we were tourists, from other countries or that there were three women in our group.)

After leaving the mosque, we went next door and visited a Hindu temple. There was more activity here and we saw some other tourists taking photos so I felt comfortable taking a few of my own. Again, we took our shoes off at the door before we entered. The deities and altars here were plentiful and very colorful. Each one seemed to have his or her own place of worship and flowers hung everywhere. I wish I had paid more attention during my World Religions class in college so I could remember who the deities were, but it’s a little too late for that now.

As we left the Hindu temple, we saw a Chinese temple beside it. The doors were closed so we assumed they weren’t accepting visitors at this time. It’s interesting how three houses of worship can stand beside one another and coexist peacefully. You can say it’s a result of the clash of cultures that this country experienced in its formative years or due to necessity and land zoning issues, but perhaps it’s more significant than that? Maybe it’s a model of living toward which all humans should strive?

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Sightseeing in Malacca

It was another sunny day in Malacca so Wendy and I decided to take advantage of it by doing more sightseeing. We started the day off with delicious dim sum. Wendy and I shared some shumai (shrimp and pork), char siu bao and some other delicious food. I was expecting the food to be entirely different from the dim sum back home, but it was surprisingly similar. Either the Chinese immigrants to Malacca and Hawaii originated from the same area or my taste buds are shot.

With our bellies full, we continued exploring the many side streets and came across some interesting murals. My favorite one was “Give Piss a Chance,” a social commentary on former U.S. president Bush’s military strategy no doubt. I thought it was a bit out-of-place since it was down a small lane, but I guess you can’t really paint controversial stuff in the middle of a tourist area without the government intervening. Perhaps the artist just took what he could get?

Down another small street Wendy and I found an honest-to-god blacksmith shop straight out of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable days. The man was actually wielding a mallet and pounding on a burning piece of iron. The fire blazed behind him as he continued to whack the metal into shape. I couldn’t stop staring. I thought I was in twenty-first century Asia and not somewhere in Europe during the Iron Age.

In another part of town, the Maritime Museum, which is housed in a gigantic replica of a Portuguese tall ship, stood across the street from the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum, which featured some decommissioned military vehicles on the front lawn. The more sightseeing we did, the more Malacca became a paradox to me.

Our last stop for the day was A Famosa and St. Paul’s Church. A Famosa is a Portuguese fort that is one of the earliest examples of European influence in Asia. The Portuguese built the fort in about 1511 when they defeated the Malacca sultanate and took over the area. However, of all the buildings that made up the original fort, only the gate house remains in tact today.

St Paul’s Church, which overlooks A Famosa, is also in a state of ill repair. It was originally constructed in 1521 atop St. Paul’s Hill and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In its full glory, the church on a hill was a two-storey building with a belfry tower and used for church services and a school. When the Dutch took over, they deconsecrated it and used it through the mid-1700s until the construction of Christ Church. Later the British used the building to house munitions and its exterior condition continued to degrade.

All in all, I think it was a successful day of sightseeing. Who knew you could find so many unique things within a few mile radius? Malacca isn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it definitely left a lasting impression on me.

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