It is but fitting that my introduction to Malaysia was throug Melakka. Melakka. Together with Georgetown in Penang, Melakka was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008, a fact that is trumpeted around the small city n posters and streamers.
The 2-hour trip onboard a Transnasional bus gave me some shut-eye having just arrived at KL a little past 1 in the morning. I was planning on visiting Melakka the next day; but since I had to buy a ticket to Cameron Highlands in advance, I thought I may as well go to Melakka to save on another trip to the Puduray bus station. Convenienty located to the Plaza Rakyat station, Puduraya was just as I had imagined it to be, chaotic with bus touts calling your attention and people waiting at the various platforms. The services are massive with just about every destination you can think of.
Melakka sentral. Arriving at the bus terminus, the first thing you notice is how inconveniently located it is. You have to catch bus n0. 17 to actually get to the city. Fortunately, there was a nice red bus that what heading to Times Square as bus no.17 didn’t look to promising on comfort. I was so hungry when I arrived at sentral that I opted to have a quick lunch at one of the canteens at the station. What I thought was a buffet turned out to be a self-service eatery where you scoop y0ur choice of viand from any of the numerous food trays on display. Since the only thing I knew about Malay food was curry, I really wasn’t sure what to get. The food was kinda cold coz the trays weren’t heated and it kinda tasted strange. I got what looked like a thin omellette swimming in a red sweet-chili sauce, a piece of chicken coated with thick black gravy, and a scoop of brown slimy noodles. The whole thing, with a serving of rice, cost RM6.70.
Lonely Planet Walk
For this trip, I was bent on using the Lonely Planet walking tour. The first time I tried it, I was at Bangkok with J0ey and Arthur and we never even reached the first stop, the Golden Palace, as we fell prey to the gem scan— “wat is closed for lunch, why don’t you go to the Marbe Temple then to a gem store with a fantastic discount. And by the way, here’s a ready tuk-tuk waiting to whisk you away.” Alone this time, I was determined to succeed this time.
Alighting from the bus, I got off at Times Square, first stop of the walking tour. There were so many people that it was quite difficult to relish the quaintness of the place. I skipped the museum at the Stadthuys and just took pictures at Christ Church and the fountain with the bas relief of Queen Victoria. A family of sari-clad Indians were washing their hands on the fountain. Nearby, for RM5 you can have your picture taken and instantly printed while you held either a black or yellow python. Colorfully decorated trishaws hang hang around near the Stadthuys. Decked with garlands and all kinds of decorations (one even had a couple of barbie dolls) and sound systems, it was a popular way of getting around.
Shophouses and Temples
Crossing the bridge, I mistakenly entered Jonker Street which was crammed with sidewalk stalls and tourists. It was pure sensory overload with Perenakan sweets, fried treats, and all sorts of souvenirs crying for attention. I should have tried the iced cendol already coz coming back later, there was no electricity so they couldn’t shave the ice. Backtracking, I went to Jl Tun Tan Cheng Lock, formerly called Hereen Street. That it was the address of choice of the Baba-Nonya centuries ago was no surprise as the street still showed vestiges of beautiful architecture and colorful shophouses.
I skipped the guided tour at the Baba Nonya Museum and opted to tour myself. Similarly preserved and presented as Jim Thompson’s house in Bangkok, this antique mansion of a wealthy Straits-born Chinese family was simply wonderful. What I liked about this house more than Jim Thomspon’s is it has less of a museum feel and more of a house tour. I really liked the big kitchen with all the cooking implements and the colorful metal lunch kits. Upstairs was a beautiful four-poster bed which kinda looked small. I guess, being Chinese, they were a family of shorties. The house also had framed pictures of the family through generations with the most recent dated 1999.
Thankfully, the clouds provided much cover from the sweltering heat. Of all the temples, the one that I liked best was the Kampung Kling Mosque with its multi-tiered roof and a Moorish watch tower. Nearby was a Hindi temple and a Chinese shrine. In a single street, three of the great religions were alive and kicking calling-in worshippers of both their gods and their architecture.
St. Paul and the Sultan
Steep steps from the Stadthuys led to the ruins of St. Paul Church which stood high on a hill overlooking the Sultanate Palace. We were told enough about the martyrdom of St. Francis Xavier way back in high-school at the Ateneo to be fans with so it was with a smile that I read the historical marker saying that he was a frequent visitor at the church. Really large tombstones of buried Dutch people were pulled from the church floor and displayed upright against the church walls. The relief had faded somewhat so it was quite diffult to make out what was written.
Bonkers at Jonkers
Back at this touristy strip, lines and lines of hungry people were waiting for tables at the numerous restos. I would have wanted to try some of the famed cuisine but the lines were really long so I contented myself with pineapple tarts and some gula melaka.
Something old and something new