Friday, 8 August 2014

Twelve Days in Malacca

Leaving Penang behind us, Angela and I headed south to Kuala Lumpur with a lot of time to kill. We'd booked our flight to Indonesia for the 6th of August so we could avoid the busy travel rush of the Muslim fast-breaking festival, Eid al Fitr, or Hariraya as it known in this part of the world. But this meant we still had around two weeks left in Malaysia. We decided to use this time doing some volunteering at a hostel just on the outskirts of the capital, since it would give us something to do without spending a whole lot of money.

Alas, it turned out that this particular project didn't really work out for us in the end. I won't go into too many details, but suffice to say that while the hostel staff were super-friendly and welcoming, there was a significant problem with the hostel itself: it lacked hot water. This wouldn't normally be a huge deal, since cold showers can actually be quite refreshing in this sort of climate, but Angela unfortunately has a skin condition that results in severe, maddening itching when she washes with cold water. So despite the friendly staff, and the adorable dogs that lived in the hostel, we decided to politely decline volunteering there.

In the end, we headed south to the small city of Malacca. Like Georgetown in Penang, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site with both Chinese and Colonial-European influences, and seemed a suitably quiet place to live out our remaining days in Malaysia, hopefully without spending too money.

Our bus route south from Penang to Malacca, with a stop at Kuala Lumpur on the way.
Passing through a rainstorm halfway down the length of the country.
We arrived at Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon, and had to say goodbye to our Canadian friends, Matt and Kimmi, who we'd spent some time with in Penang.
While Matt and Kimmi were to spend some time in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Angela and I headed for the suburbs, where we planned to do some volunteering at a hostel. As stated above, it didn't work out, despite the adorable dogs, so the next day we headed for Malacca instead.
There are these cool cylindrical greenhouses within Malacca bus station.
Our hostel was located close to Menari Taming Sari, a gyro-tower with rotating 360-degree views over the city. It was one of the first attractions we visited.

There are certainly more breathtaking views to be found, but it was a nice enough way to see the different architectural styles across the city.
This is the block of buildings that became our local area for 12 days.

St. Paul's Hill.

Back down at ground level, we passed a replica of the Flor de la Mar, an old Portuguese ship used during various conquests in the Indian Ocean.
The Red Square, dominated by the Stadthuys and clocktower, stands in the heart of Malacca's historic quarter, and betrays the old colonial - Dutch especially - influence in the city.

The Malacca River is surrounded on both sides by clusters of historic buildings, craft-shops, warehouses and churches. You can take a cruise along it, though we never bothered.

Another ship replica can be found at one end of Jonker Street.

We went to the night-market on several occasions, and it must have been one of the busiest, most bustling night-markets we've seen on our trip, though that may have been because of the high tourist population during Hariraya and the Festival of the Hungry Ghost.

A popular way to get around Malacca is via these neon-lit rickshaws that blare dance music at 200 decibels as they roll around the various streets and alleys of the city.

One day, while going to the cinema to see The Guardians of the Galaxy (which was, by the way, one of the most enjoyable sci-fi flicks I've seen in recent years), we stopped at a pet store and played with these adorable puppies.
On another day, we explored more of Malacca's historic streets.
A sculpture of Datuk Wire Dr. Gan Boon Leong, a Malaysian bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe.
Here we are on Jonker Street during the early evening, just as the night-market was opening its stalls.

We tried some pan-fried ice cream, which isn't actually fried but instead frozen on a flat freezer before being scraped into these small rolls.

As well as the ice cream, we sampled a bunch of different street food at the night-market, including these twirly potato sticks (which they have in Korea but which we never tried before)...
...Portuguese lemon tarts...
...Nyonya rice dumplings...

...quail egg skewers...
...and salty slices of meat.
Besides the street food, the night-market also offers lots of gimmicky Eastern medicines and inventions like these ear candles.
On one of our last nights in Malacca, we decided to head for the Malacca River to enjoy a meal by the sparkling water.

Angela enjoys some satay sticks.

In the end, despite the many touristy things we did, most of our 12 days were spent relaxing in our hostel, watching movies, reading books, or doing some colouring together. I also started properly writing my novel after months of planning and idea-generating, which felt great as it was the first time in over two years that I wrote anything substantial.

This would be our last stop in Malaysia. After around 7 weeks, it felt like we'd been in this country forever, so we were actually pretty relieved to be moving on. Having said that, there's so much that we'll miss: the friendly, smiling locals, the delicious food, the comfort, safety and excellent infrastructure, and best of all, the diversity of different cultures that seem to come together so harmoniously. It's an amazing country, and maybe one day we'll come back and explore it some more, particularly the Bornean portion of the country, which we didn't get to this time round.

From Malacca, we went to Kuala Lumpur for a third time and took a plane to Indonesia, country number eight of our trip. Expect a post on that shortly!

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