Saturday, 14 August 2010

We arrived in Melaka and were very tired, having been travelling for about 24 hours, door to door. We checked into the Hotel Equatorial which meant going up the 21st floor where the special check-in for Club Class was (sounds flash, I know, but as it happens it’s only a couple of quid more expensive than getting a regular room and paying for breakfast which isn’t included, whereas the Club Class does), We went to our room a floor below and were entered a room that is truly massive, with not one but two balconies overlooking the town. The bathroom is bigger than a few rooms we have actually stayed in. We dumped our stuff and decided to do our first proper activity in Melaka.

First thing’s first, we attended the daily reception for Club residents in the hotel which is a selection of nibbles (many of which being small local snacks), as well as drinks which, in a country with limited indigenous drinking culture and heavy taxation on liquor, is nothing to be sniffed at. This was a welcome repast since we had actually not eaten since what amounted to dawn, so we were in essence at the same level of fasting as the Malay population, but without the faith-based reason to be doing it. The food on offer certainly filled a hole. I enjoyed a couple of beers here.

We adjourned back to our room to freshen up, from the 24 hours of international filth we had accumulated, just about managing not to fall asleep, and headed out to see what Melaka had to offer of a Thursday night. We also caught a great sunset from the balcony.

Melaka sunset from the Hotel Equatorial

After a little misdirection until we got our bearings we headed off towards Chinatown to explore. This meant we walked past the old colonial quarter in the dark. The road was quiet and not terribly lit, though we never felt in the least bit unsafe. There are some interesting things along here, only jus visible in the dark. You can make out a (full-sized) train, a plane and some sort of truck as well as an ox cart, whilst on the other side of the road there are some old relics of the colonial era including administrative buildings some old Christian churches, unusual for SE Asia, and some remnants of old fortifications. We ran the gauntlet of the gaudily festooned bicycle trishaws tempting us with trips around the place, we did managed to withstand the temptation (though we will do one of these trips I think). We reached to river and went over the bridge into Chinatown. Here we were met with was an atmospheric network of traditional ethnic Chinese-style narrow streets with low-level shophouses on either side and a vibrant nightlife with dozens of bars and restaurants. The shophouses serve such purpose as things like travelers’ guesthouses, antique shops and art galleries, giving the place a real Bohemian air. We wandered further and came to a bar called the Geographer’s Café where we stopped for a drink and a snack. Actually I didn’t partake in the food, but Jane did and I nicked some of her mango chicken. Here we enjoyed our first Tiger of the holiday which definitely tastes better from the bottle when drank on the side of a Malay street. We wandered a little further and headed back on the south side of the river where we stopped for yet another drink at some cheap backpacker’s café where I might have eaten, but I refused on the grounds that one of the menu items was corned beef fried rice. I will not eat anywhere that produces such a Frankenstein’s monster of this making. Never mind food from cloned animals in the human foodchain, the person who dreamed up this aberration should be next on the list of war crimes after the one that Naomi Campbell is currently guest starring at. Still the beer was cheap at RM8 (so about £1.50, cheaper than the Geographers at RM10). Obviously this place was targeting backpackers, the cheapskates of the tourist industry, and herein lies one of the downsides of Melaka, the number of backpackers, but maybe that’s just me because I’m such a travel snob. I do have an aversion to anywhere that has a transient population of over-privileged teenagers who are hippies now but will be earning more money than me in 10 years time.

Our final beer on the first night by the Melaka River. Note the jet-lagged, glazed expression. I looked worse!

Over to Jane....
To summarise we are having a great time,its hot and humid, we've taken in all the cultural sights, strolled through Chinatown and tried the local food.
Melaka is a very different place to it was 13 years ago, there's a lovely new walkway along the river and plenty of places to enjoy a Tiger Beer (Paul you wouldn't recognise it)

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