Despite Jolene’s insistence that Kuala Lumpur was a boring city, I was finding enough to keep me entertained exploring for a few more days. Unfortunately, I had a vague schedule to keep, it was time for me to move on as I packed up and headed south on a rainy morning to Melaka.
Melaka (or Malacca) is one of those cities that, as you get nearer, you hear more and more about to the point that once you get there, it will never live up to the expectations. In shorter words, it’s overhyped.
The entire town, along with George Town, Penang, is a UNESCO World Heritage site given its history of colonization to secure the Strait of Malacca. Like Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore would in a few days, the entirety of cities in the Malay Peninsula has a fantastic blending of cultures present: Indian, Malay, Chinese, and English. This makes for a fascinating blending that made Malaysia one of my favourite places I’ve visited yet.
Melaka, as a city, did not live up to its hype. It’s not the tourist mecca or overloaded with fascinating sites that hype set it out to be. What it is is a nice town. The history, the museums, the cuisine, and especially the riverwalk all add to its charm. That is to say, I was not blown away by it, as all the build-up I had heard promised. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed myself there.
I arrived from the comfortable, air-conditioned bus after rain had subsided and one thing was immediately apparent when I stepped out: Melaka was hot. A second bus took me into the city and dropped me off in the main intersection of English, Chinese, and Indian cultures. Many tourists were gathered around the Christ Church, a reddish church left over from the days of colonization.
Crossing the bridge, I was struck by two things.
- I was most certainly in Chinatown, blatantly pointed out by the 10 meter long red and gold Chinese dragon suspended over the intersection.
- Two doors down from the dragon stood a Hard Rock Café. I checked it out, only to find it completely lacked the “Café” part. Instead, it only sold rock memorabilia.
There are a good number of guest houses in the area, and many of them are along the very attractive riverwalk. After a couple tries, I found mine in the Tidur Tidur Guest House, a few rooms in the back of a store owned by a local artist, which had a back door directly out from the guest rooms to the riverwalk. For 20 ringgit (US$6) I got my own room with a bunk bed. The owner even provided me with a power adapter, convenient, since my computer had been dead since Penang.
By this time, the sun was falling and it was starting to cool off. I left my room for the riverwalk and headed upstream. A series of bridges cross to its parallel sides, which are lined with outdoor cafes, colorful murals, a good variety of architecture, and Malay tourists who were fairly insistent on getting a picture with me.
Wandering off the river brought me into a neighborhood of Little India which had several streets flooded with smoke that seemed to be coming from nowhere. Despite this, I did find one alley directly aligned with the sunset, which made for a good picture.
In the last of the light, I had the fortune of stumbling on a poor excuse for an amusement park. Still, there was a Ferris wheel that gave me a great, if slightly dirty, view in all direction of Melaka in the dusk. Unfortunately, I got way more than I paid for and was on the Ferris wheel for many more cycles than I would have cared for.
When on the way back to the guest house, I stopped at one of the river cafes for a beer. Sitting next to me were 4 people chatting away in English, but I couldn’t quite pin down what accent they were speaking with. Eventually, we all started talking and I found out they were all Malaysian and in Melaka for a friend’s wedding.
I asked them if it was common for Malaysians to speak to each other in English rather than in Malay. They told me that most who are educated or in cities will. Malay is used more in the rural areas. They also answered my curiosity on the random Arabic writing I had seen around their country, saying that it was an attempt by certain groups to reinforce their Islamic traditions, despite the fact that most Malaysians don’t read Arabic
It was an intriguing conversation to end my introduction to Melaka on.