Saturday 22 June 2013

Malaysia: Malacca

Mrs M’s programme called for an early start to get the bus to Malacca. The Golden Mile Plaza bus terminal was crammed with locals and tourists wearing face masks to block the choking fog. We hoped the haze would not be as bad in Malacca.  

Just over four hours later, we arrived at the Malacca central bus station and took taxis to the Hareem@Courtyard hotel. We dumped our bags and headed for lunch at Nancy’s Kitchen on Jalan Hang Lekir for the Other M’s first proper Malaysian meal. Although they might have struggled a bit with the spiciness, and the sour plum drink tasted of seawater, they enjoyed their first Nyonya experience. Malaysian prices added to their delight. 

After a short rest, we took a riverboat cruise. Considering the capital town has World Heritage status, they seem to be doing their best to fill the place with large ugly buildings. There is an enormous hotel under construction in the area where monitor lizards used to snooze on branches along the riverbank. The cheesy commentary was amusing, as was the gentleman in Sunday-best clothing and sunglasses that posed for a few too many photos in front of what I assume were work colleagues (they were wearing ties) on an outing.

In the late afternoon, we strolled to Jalan Hang Jabat (Jonker Street) for drinks as stallholders set out their wares for the night market. A Singaporean lady buying durian for her family insisted we tried the local variety which was picked that very morning. With much trepidation, Jamie gingerly (family joke) tried the soft yellow flesh announcing it to be sweet with a hint of spring onion and old sock. The rest of his family followed. They had conquered the ‘King of Fruits’.  

As darkness fell, we wandered along Jonker Street which was crammed with locals and tourists. The food stalls were particularly popular. Ladies clanged metal ladles against steel woks over ferocious fires; wizened old gentlemen peddled unrecognisable animal parts; young men fanned rows of glistening satay sticks over narrow charcoal grills; children sold flavoured ice and lollies and young ladies offered higher quality sweet and savoury pastries. It was very atmospheric; something that is missing from Singapore. The lack of smog made the evening all the more pleasurable.

Mrs M’s programme had indicated that we should dine in the Geographér Café on the corner of Jalan Hang Lekir. We tried to eat there on a previous visit because it seemed appropriate for a couple of cartographers, however it was closed. After seeing the wonderful street food outside, the menu was a tad disappointing but cocktails, cold beer and smog-free air-conditioning were a higher priority.

With full bellies, we waddled back to the hotel through the crowds until the end of the street where garishly decorated trishaws with neon lights, spinning accessories and loud music cruised to attract customers. A lovely evening.

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