22rd – 27th April – The Straits of Malacca (Melaka)

The penultimate stop before our return takes us to Malacca. Or Melaka, another spelling for it, as far as I know they end up sounding the same whatever way you spell it!

For most travellers, Malacca is usually the stop off point in Malaysia before or after visiting Singapore. We’re doing the former. The town/city was awarded UNESCO status back in 2008 and from what I gather the place has changed quite a bit in recent years, had a bit of a clean-up etc… There is a large ‘heritage’ area, mainly of Chinese influence, in which we booked a B&B room for six nights. The hotel was in an old heritage building and far away from the luxuries that we’ve been used to! We had a leaking toilet (it stunk), barely any light coming through the dirty window, damp on the walls, plenty of mozzies zipping around… oh, and we had to request for the room to be cleaned every day. How mad! After the fourth night enough was enough, I’d been bitten so many times and the thought of spending another two nights there was too much. We checked out of the place, with no refund unfortunately, and booked in to a decent place. Somewhere more modern, with no bugs! We started our Asian trip in a hideous Mumbai hotel, but this one I think wins the Worst Accommodation award. Ah well, lesson learnt. Heritage hotels are okay for a couple of nights I guess, but no more! And coughing up £5-7 extra a night can make a world of difference in my opinion.

Regardless of the hotel issue, I loved Malacca. I would go as far as saying that it’s been my favourite heritage area / small city that we’ve visited (and we’ve been to a lot!). The city has the usual Portuguese, Dutch and British flavours, but there’s a strong Chinese influence too. We ventured out to a cemetery which is reported to be the oldest of its kind outside of China. It was situated on the tallest and only hill (from what I could see) in the city. The graves themselves looked like little hobbit huts! (see pics).

The last Monday in April was a national holiday, with a new King of Malaysia being sworn in. Malacca was totally mobbed, I stepped out for a walk in the morning and was amazed by the number of Chinese tourists knocking about. Coach after coach dropping hundreds of passengers outside the famous Queen Victoria fountain. You don’t have to go far to get away from the crowds, however. We ended up walking up and down the Malacca river numerous times. They’ve spent a lot of money painting the sides of buildings with different murals, as well planting colourful oriental flowers alongside it. It seems no tourist walks down it either! Very peaceful, and we were lucky to spot the elusive Monitor Lizard resting underneath a tree, huge scary looking thing.

Our new hotel is just outside the heritage town, so we soon become the only Mat Salleh* about. We went to see Ghost in The Shell in the cinema, and this was the first time in Malaysia that I felt we were being stared at. We were quite the novelty here. The same can be said for the area around our second hotel. We hunted down an Irish bar one night and was quite surprised that it was a bit of a ‘locals’ bar. Dark, minimalistic, no women, and gawd awful music playing. Was a bit uncomfortable, even after months of travelling, but that’s what it’s all about really. No one cares at the end of the day, less thinking more drinking 😊

So, goodbye Malaysia. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t been. I won’t compare it to India or Sri Lanka because it’s completely different. In saying that though, if you want to see Asia and you fancy an ‘easy ride’ then this country is a good start.

Also, for a country that is 60% Muslim it’s fairly liberal, more so than India and Sri Lanka I’d say. I can only comment on the places I’ve visited of course, it’s likely to be different in the rural areas.

On to Singapore…..

* ‘What’s a Mat Salleh?’, I hear you ask! Stevie read this Malaysian slang term in a book he’s been reading called Devil’s Place, set in KL.

Locals use this to refer to white Caucasians. The word might have been derived from the expression “mad sailor”, as native’s first encounters with Westerners were typically drunk sailors. The expression however, was articulated as “Mat Salleh” instead and the term has stuck. We’ve been using it ourselves!

Food

Sid’s Pub – fantastic pub/bar, not cheap but friendly and allowed us to stay after they closed on the Sunday to watch Arsenal win!

Reggae by the River – is exactly what it says it to be! Unbelievable chilled, sitting on the river bank supping bottles of beer whilst watching the sun set with a soundtrack of Bob Marley and crew, utter bliss. A highlight for Steve.

Veggie Planet – voted 4th best place to eat in Malacca, according to Tripadvisor, and I wouldn’t argue. Ramen noodles in a hot pesto broth with spinach and pine nuts is just what the doctor ordered. Again, another vegetarian restaurant that fuses cuisines together. I liked it so much that I accidentally gave a 100% tip (the notes all look similar here!) Good karma ahead I hope.

Hard Rock Café – I know what you’re thinking! We both wanted some western grub, and I especially wanted a burger, which ended up being superb, cooked perfectly. Cocktails were to die for and the music was awesome, Dr Feelgood and Inspiral Carpets for example, just a tad bit expensive! i.e. most expensive restaurant in our entire trip! #YOLO

Mods Café – couldn’t believe on stumbling on this peach of a café, a huge Quadrophenia poster donned one of the walls and the coffee bar itself was inside a VW camper van, absolutely genius. Also, it served the best iced coffee I’ve had on the travels. Surprisingly the owner actually roasted his own coffee which made the place even more unique.  #modsrule 😊

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