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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Malaysia - 15-16 March, 2003:

A Weekend in Malacca

 

Weather: Mostly clear, sunny and very hot.

 

 

While we had Paolo visiting us, we decided to take him down to Malacca for a weekend.  Szue Fei and Shen Wei were also planning on being there for the weekend, so we could also meet up with them.

 

15 March, 2003

We are getting good at these slow starts to the day, and today is no exception.  We have not even packed our bags yet, so we rush around and do that.  We leave at 11 AM, but only make it a few blocks when we decide to stop for a quick brunch.  We pull over at the local hawker stall where we are able to get roti chennai.  And the hawker actually does quite a good job of cooking it - and we are able to get it freshly made.

 

After that nourishment, we are on our way.  The drive down to Malacca is not too far.  We head south on the North-South Highway and pass the new airport on the way (in fact, the new airport seems closer to Malacca than Kuala Lumpur.  The drive takes us about two hours and the traffic once we get off the highway is not too bad.  The toughest part is finding our way through the complicated and confusing road system leading from the highway into the city.  Then once in the city, we have to make our way through the maze of one way streets to our hotel.  But we had good directions form Szue Fei, so we made it without too many wrong turns.

 

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We are staying the night at The Baba House.  It is a basic hotel situated in one of the old, restored shop houses in the old part of the city.  It is great that they are able to keep and restore some of these buildings.  Too many have bee destroyed or ruined in the name of progress and development.  The hotel is right next to the famous Junker Street (now called Jalan Hang Jebat - not sure why the Malaysian have to change all the old historical street names, bit of a shame to lose some more of the heritage).  We check into our simple, but comfortable rooms and wait to meet up with Szue Gei and Shen Wei.

 

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Once we are all together, what is the first item on the agenda - lunch, of course.  We decide to go and try the famous chicken rice balls, which is unique to Malacca.  We, of course, go to the most famous shop and try out their selection.  It is so popular we are only able to get a table in the annex building, but no problem.  The food is the same.  Well, the food is good, but we must admit that the Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore is better.

 

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We spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the old part of town taking in the sights.  The good news is that the old part of the city is very compact, so we are able to take in all the main sites at once.  The first stop after crossing the bridge over the Malacca River is the Red Church.  Since the last time we have been here, they have done a good job of sprucing up the square (except we could not quite figure out why put in a miniature windmill).

 

From there we wandered through the Stadthuys up the slope to the top of St. Paul's Hill with St. Paul's Church (or what is left of it).  Not too many trees left around here, so it is very hot in the sun.  A few persistent vendors trying to sell cheap trinkets and paintings.  The church's nooks and crannies are filled with local couples trying to get a quiet moment away from nosey eyes.  Then down the other side of the hill to what little remains of the Portuguese fortress of A Famosa - their mightiest stronghold in the Orient.  It stood for 150 years, until it was breached by the Dutch in 1641 after an eight month siege.  While the Dutch rebuilt the fort, the British blew in the beginning of the 19th century to prevent the Dutch from reclaiming it.  All that is left is one gate - the Porto de Santiago.

 

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Our next stop is at the former Malacca Club House, now a museum of Malaysia's campaign for independence - a great place to get some cool air conditioning.   We then carried on down the street to take a look at Shen Wei's old convent school.  It has been around for quite some time and we check out the courtyard and old chapel.  Then it is back to the hotel for a short nap and wash before dinner.

 

That evening we start off with a simple dinner and then go and check out the night market on Junker Street.  It is a lively place, but not much of interest for sale.  We decide to sit down at one of the many bars that line the street.  We pull up some stools at the outdoor tables and watch the action.  Of particular interest is an elderly gentleman who is making sketches of people that in the area.  We will run into him again tomorrow.  Szue Fei and Shen Wei join us and we hang out there for a while before we decide to head out for supper.

 

Another local specialty is a form of satay where you cook the food the food yourself in a pot of boiling peanut sauce.  It sounds great, so we decide to check it out.  The place is tucked into some back streets and it is a good thing we have Shen Wei with us to take us there - otherwise we would never have found it.  Well, it is not bad, but not as good as hoped for and expected.  What we do is go and pick out our own selection of food, all skewered on satay sticks and place it in the bowling peanut sauce.  Just like fondue.  The only problem is that we cannot get enough if the peanut sauce on the satay when we are about to eat it.  It loses that one bit of flavor.  Well, we decide that is it for the day and head back to the hotel.

 

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15 March, 2003

We have a late breakfast in the hotel at 11 AM and then head out for a last look around this part of the old city.  We check out some of the many antique stores that are prolific in this area.  The only problem is that they have become outrageously expensive.  Back in the early 1990's when Lars first came here, they were reasonable (no bargain), but now they are just crazy prices.  We also stroll into an artist's studio and gallery.  It turns out to be the same guy we had seen last night.  Some of his work is very good and he has been to many places around the world to work and display his work.  In fact, he had spent a few years in Cuzco in the Andes - we recognised the people and surroundings in some of his pictures.  We have lunch in one of the small restaurants near the hotel, but it turns out to be a very poor choice.

 

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It is now time to check out of the hotel, so we decide to be on our way back home.  But on our way out of the city, we decide to stop at Bukit Cina - China Hill, where a huge Chinese cemetery with over 12,000 graves is located.  Some of the tombs date back to the Ming Dynasty.  It is quite an impressive place and the Chinese certainly know how to enter into the hereafter.  The plots are huge and the more impressive the better it shows off your wealth and power.

 

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We found some graves with replicas of houses and boats.  Some had stone guards fending off the evil spirits.  Some have fences, even barb wire (a bit extreme, but ...).  Many trees are still on the hill, so there are many graves that rest in the cool shade of the leaves and branches.  We wander up and around the slopes of the hill, eventually reaching the very top where some very special graves are located.

 

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After about 40 minutes of exploring, we decide to continue on our way.  We have a straight forward 2 hour drive back home to Kuala Lumpur.

 

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