Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Get it on, bang a gong

Day 3, Equatorial Hotel, Melaka
(revised and updated with pictures)

Up with the lark again, if the lark had been out drinking until gone 1am and needed to get up to get his breakfast before they stopped serving the buffet at 10:30am. More of the same food except this time I had discovered the waffles. Fresh waffles prepared before your eyes with plenty of butter and maple syrup. Oh, yes. Food of the gods.
Today’s itinerary was to explore more of Melaka town starting with a Chinese cemetery which we managed to reach despite the horrendous traffic (where the hell was everyone going on a Saturday?). This isn't as morbid as it sounds as it is beautifully peaceful, contrasting with the aforementioned traffic, not to mention the fact that it was noteworthy for being the largest Chineses cemetery outside of the People’s Repulic. Wandering through here we came out at the Melaka River, near a preserved Malay village or Kampung called Kampung Morten. If the name doesn't sound particularly exotic, that is because the name is from the last British Governer of Melaka before Malaysia gained independence.

The main house is called Villa Sentosa which means House of Peace. Strangely enough, in Singapore, the former British naval base on an island to the south of the city, where the Brits signed the surrender to the Japanese in WWII is also called Sentosa, and is now a buzzing resort complete with casinos, so I wonder which meaning of the word "peace" this was in WWII or now. Another family arrived just as we did and we were then met by an elderly Malay man called Mr Abdul Rahim Haji Hashim who owned the house and had converted it into a living museum. He proceeded to show the six of use from room to room, each one soaked in history about Malaysia, the Kampung and his family for several generations. There were artifacts from over the last hundred years including old cameras, old versions of the Koran and many pictures of his family and ancestors. There were pictures of when the king of Malaysia had visited, as well as various other dignitaries from all over the world. We saw his guest books going back many years with entries by all sorts of people from all over, and even included an endorsement from Winston Churchill himself. The tour ended when we were invited to bang an ancient gong to bring good luck.

Tranquility in a Chinese Cemetery

Colourful mushrooms growing on a log in the cemetery.
There's more than a little "On Ilkley Moor Bah 'tat" about this
Kampung Morten, with Vila Sentosa proudly decorated in the Malaysian flag.
Merdeka is the name of their National Day
King and Queeen for a day.
Sitting on bridal thrones in Villa Sentosa, Kampung Morten
Gong with the wind.
Banged for good luck, this gong is ancient. Whether whether it works or not, it seems not to have done Mr Hashim and the other residents of Kampung Morten any harm.

After this we headed along the river via a new boardwalk, walking past mudskippers, kingfishers and monitor lizards. This wound its way back into town, apart from one place where the area was dug up forsome new road or other. We went back along the river in Chinatown and stopped at a place called Riverine for food. This was wonderful. I had a delicious spicy laksa washed down with Tiger. It was full of all sorts of stuff like prawns, boiled egg, beansprouts. It’s also very yellow so stains like hell, but the splatters you may get from loudly slurping the noodles (when in Rome..) is worth it.

A monitor lizard
Seen en route from Kampung Morten to Melaka town

Back to the hotel for a swim, a freshen up then out to paint the town merah as they say in Malaysia. We went past a kung fu expert whose party trick is jabbing his index finger into a coconut. He took ages to go about actually doing it so we couldn’t be arsed to stay and watch for another 30 minutes since it culminated in some sale spiel for some miracle oil and we were hungry. However, here is a Youtube link of him doing his stuff. We instead went inland to get something to drink, going back to the Eleven bar from the previous evening for a Tiger. This allowed me to watch some of the football, though I had a bit of an alimentary attack, but survived relatively unscathed.

Being tourists, the next thing we did was go and get a boat cruise along the river. This was fun as all the other passebgers were Malay teenagers who whooped and hollered at every other boat passing and at a lot of people we passed too. We went back along the route we had walked earlier in the day past the Malay village, then back again. The waterfront of Melaka is undergoing a lot of deveopment and it will be a popular destination when it's finished, though it might also tarnish the soul of the town in the process if it's not managed well.

Villa Sentosa at Kampung Morten as seen from river cruise at night

We headed back for more drinks, and had been thinking of grabbing some food, but I wasn't feeling that well up for it, so we just stuck to beer instead. Ahh, the curative properties of Tiger. We stopped off at a couple more places before we weent home. Being in a particularly tourist frame of mind we got a ride back on a trishaw, or cycle rickshaw to the hotel. This is a fun way to travel, even if you do feel a little guilty for the poor man having to pedal you the distance home. Still it's a living for him and keeps him fit. Not sure I'd fancy doing it during Ramadan though when you can't eat or drink during the hours of daylight, especially in this climate.

Melaka by pedal power at night
Our cyle-rickshaw driver slogging away to our hotel while we reclined and took photos. I can defintely see the appeal of being a colonial master

Our driver for the night
Note how gaudily decked out the trishaw is. This was by no means especially heavily decorated compared to others

Sad but true ,, ended the day with a McDonalds burger, because we were hungry and my stomach was still playing Twister, and this sort of near-digested pap is just the sort of thing an ailing gut can deal with. Then it was to bed.

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