Saturday, May 29, 1999

Is it Melaka or Malacca?

Woke up in my windowless room in Kuala Lumpur to the sound of my little watch alarm. Rolled out of bed at 7:15 am, and was in the bus station eating donuts by 7:50. On the way out, the hotel clerk was asleep on the floor behind the desk, so I left the key and checked out all quiet like. About two-thirds of the women are wearing those headdress things, I forgot their official name. Most of the Malaysian guys are sporting mustaches. Not to stereotype or anything. The bus was rolling out at 8:28. The music in the bus was again, quite relaxing. After what seemed like hours on back roads through amazing scenery, we entered Melaka at 11 am.

I was met at the bus station ticket booth by Mr. Ong, an old guy born in Malacca while it was under British rule. He took me on a tour of his town via trishaw (those bikes with a side car). No gear shifts, just flat out, old-school single-track bike action. My arms are as big as his legs. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? He suggested I stay at the Hotel Visma, which was good in a number of ways (more on that later). The breeze in the cart is nice. We also passed another trishaw that had an alarm.

 I saw a Hindu temple, and a Buddhist one too. Tonight is a big holiday, so the Chinese Buddhists were working on floats and stuff like that. I was taken to the Chinese Museum, a restored house in the style of the Straits-born Chinese. The next stop on my tour was the Dutch part of town.



 Harmony Street has a Hindu temple next to a Buddhist temple next to a church.


Saw the bright red Christ Church in the square and St. Paul's up on the nearby hill. A vagrant was playing "Oh Suzanna" on his harmonica. And then there was a great sign that let you know in no uncertain terms that you were not supposed to go beyond the wall.

 Mr. Ong has been doing this for 49 years. Born in 1927, he saw Melaka pass from British control to Japanese occupation to liberation and finally Malaysian independence. We pulled over and drank some soya bean drink to cool down. The gutters in this town are between 18 and 24 inches deep, about a foot wide. The tour ended just before three. I rested in my room (I had a headache from too much sun and exhaust). Went for dinner around 4:30. Stopped at a place in Dutch town I saw on the tour..."Kafe Lonely Planet". Rendang chicken and starfruit juice. A good combo. The chicken was just spicy enough, and the juice cooled it out. Dutch town is basically red buildings with sturdy windows. Not much to do but watch the endless traffic go by single file. I checked email again at a place called SerVer2-CybeRsp@t. Nothing really good. After that, I walked down to the beach, which was really little more than water hitting rocks. About a dozen fishermen were spread up and down the mouth of the river. I spied an A&W on my way back to the hotel.

I stopped to get a banana split sundae. The A&W is next to a swimming pool, so picture this: People walking around outside in Speedos, people indoors with the traditional Muslim dress and head coverings. What's the deal? I saw a 'SKA City Bus" later on my return. I walked around until I found the simplest route to the bus from my hotel for tomorrow morning. At around 7:30, while I was watching Malaysia TV, I heard some thumping noise coming from the street. It was the Wesak Day parade, and it was passing within a stone's throw of my window. Music, flags, lots of candles, and the floats I saw earlier today. Quite an enjoyable festival. I went to sleep around 11 pm, after watching more Malaysia TV.

This is the float I saw earlier
Oh, as for the proper spelling: the city of Melaka passed through Portuguese hands to the Dutch, who swapped possesion of it with the British for Sumatra, and was then occupied during WWII by the Japanese, after which it was liberated. When Malaysia became an independent country, the town took the Malay spelling of 'Malacca'.

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