A Travellerspoint blog

Melaka Encounter

sunny 34 °C

Aug 13th

(Rob)

The most amazing thing happened today. We were sitting having lunch at a food court near the colonial area of Melaka, and a woman came over, another tourist, and asked if my lunch was good and where I got it. When I replied, her friend said, "Is your name Rob?" "Yes," then, looking at her, I said, "Of my God! Jen! Jen Miyagi!" It was another Head of History from my school board! Her friends were also teachers in Markham. None of us could believe we'd run into each other in Melaka, Malaysia. We talked about our travels; Jen already knew about our RTW trip. We even got pictures together, especially for the amazement of our mutual friend Natalie.

The rest of our final full day in Melaka was very good, but again, hot and humid. A local artist said it's too hot for even them to walk, and yes, we've seen how packed the air-conditioned malls are. We get a "contact high" as we enter, a/c addicts that we are.

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A landmark in the historic area, and characteristic of the red buildings

We saw the replica ship of what the Portuguese used to sail here, and toured the naval museum, where Anica delighted in climbing all over the gunboats. Then we walked up the steps to the highest point in old Melaka, the ruins of St. John's Church. Built in 1511, the British destroyed it in 1795. It also has tombstones from the Dutch settlers, a wishing well where Anica threw coins, and a great view of the Straits of Melaka (also sp. Malacca, btw).

Another interesting site was the Sultan's Palace. The Sultanate reached its peak in the 15th century, and this palace was re-created using the same materials. It's all smoothed, dark wood, and no nails used (a motif we're finding in Asia). Inside were dioramas telling stories of the traders and heroes of that time. The gardens were lovely to stroll -- as long as we kept to the shade.

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Exterior of the Sultan's Palace

Later, we enjoyed our lovely-on-the-inside Traveller's Lodge, including a few last moments on the rooftop perch, and a few glimpses of our little gecko friends.

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Don't judge this book by its cover

Posted by jennrob 05:40 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

"What? No crunchy aloe bits?!"

-17 °C

( Jenn )

There's nothing like being sick to make you want to go home no matter how much you're on a trip you've been dreaming of for years. I could cheerfully have curled up in a little ball and gone nowhere the last few days and the thought of all the countries still to come, especially India, just made me want to cry. On the plus side, Singapore's health system was wonderful. I have never been in and out of an emergency room in under an hour in my life. Of course, the fact that we all had to put on masks and sit in the isolation / fever ward might have had something to do with it :)

Anyway, feeling a bit better each day. Still not eating much, quite weak and muscles still hurt from how bad the chills were but our lovely hostel (truly an oasis and at only $18 CDN a night a bargain to boot) and Melaka itself have improved my mental state greatly.

The night we arrived we simply went across the road to the huge mall - Mahkota Parade - we could see from our room. It's funny. People always tell you to skip the chains and eat where the locals do but curiously enough, the Pizza Hut was jam-packed - so we ate there! :) We were the only Westerners in the place. Rob and Anica enjoyed a pizza and I had some soup while glancing longingly at the spicy tuna pizza which I would have loved to have tried. We looked around the mall a bit after dinner. As luck would have it, there was a mostly English-language bookstore next door and we spent some time there and in the Guardian drugstore next door checking out what we could and could not buy in Melaka. No insect repellent. Some sunscreen but at the same price as at home. No sign of tampons since I left Canada.

By then it was getting fairly late so we went back to the hostel and got everyone settled in. Had a really good night's sleep which probably helped greatly. Got up and had breakfast at the hostel. $3 CDN for 6 slices toast with butter and jam and large fresh pineapple juices for Anica and me, coffee for Rob. Headed out from the hotel and discovered we were within easy walking distance of everything we wanted to see. Thank goodness, because the humidity leaves your clothes sopping wet and moving around too much is a real drag. Still, we managed to see the People's Museum, with its smaller contained Museum of Kites and Museum of Enduring Beauty. The latter was very interesting as they mean "enduring" in the sense of what people have endured for beauty rather than continuing. Tattoos, lip plates, scarification, corsets, anorexia, dental alterations, etc. Very gruesome but it was fascinating.

We then headed up to the Clock Tower and Christ Church in the central town square. We got to look at both and take a few pictures before the rain started. We ducked into a store and bought Anica a bamboo fan. Headed back out when things seemed clear and got caught up in looking over the bridge railing at the crabs and the lizards playing in the mud below. And that's when the skies opened up and it poured. We stood under a tree with our umbrellas and five minutes later when we realized it wasn't going to stop, and that we were already well on our way to being soaked, we took refuge in the Melaka Art Gallery where Anica showed us her karate chops while we enjoyed the air conditioning and waited out the rain.

Roughly forty-five minutes later it was clear again and we ventured back out and across the bridge where we ate at a small corner food shop. Rob had Mee Goreng (noodles) while Anica and I shared a chicken spring roll (not at all like the ones at home but so good) and a plate of white rice. I also had a 100plus which is the local version of Gatorade (an electrolyte drink). It's certainly not something I would drink by choice *makes face* but it's a good way of balancing your system. Drinks and meal came to $3.57 CDN.

Then we went to the Baba & Nyonya Museum. It was gorgeous. A private museum comprised of three houses owned by Straits-born Chinese (Chinese men came here and married Malay women) - the men called "Baba" and the women referred to as "Nyonya". The only downside of our visit is that you had to be led through by a tour guide and were not allowed to go at your own pace, or to take photos. However, the tour was decent, provided us with information we might not otherwise have had and the buildings were beautiful. In order to get around the window tax that was levied at the time, the houses were built narrow, tall, and with a lot of interior courtyards to maximize light.

After that, we went back to the area near our hostel and visited A Famosa which is one of the oldest surviving remnants of European
(Portuguese) architecture in Asia. It was once part of a mighty fortress with long ramparts and four major towers, but now this one gate (called the Porta de Santiago) is all that is left.

Finally, we went back to the mall right across from our hostel and had dinner at Nando's. Food was the same as in Canada, only cheaper. And my "sparkling apple" juice was filled with the "crunchy aloe bits" I'd been successfully avoiding when buying juice in Singapore. You have to wonder - what made that a selling point? When did anyone think that they'd really like crunchy bits of anything in their juice? Much less another plant entirely unrelated?

That's it for now. Hope to add photos to this later.

Posted by jennrob 02:50 Archived in Malaysia Comments (4)

Sick in Singapore but on we go

-17 °C

Thursday, Aug. 9 - Sat., Aug 11

(Rob)

We had planned a couple of quieter days, but I wouldn't exactly say that they turned out that way since Jenn suddenly got sick. She spiked a high fever and chills Friday just after lunch. The symptoms were bad enough and close enough to dengue that we went to the Singapore hospital. The Doctor said it's probably just a viral infection, prescribed some medications, and were were out of there in an hour, having paid just $90 (SD). Great system, very modern. Jenn's fever is gone now, as of Sunday, but she still isn't back to eating everything.

As my Dad likes to say, "other than that Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?" Well, August 9th was National Day in Singapore (celebrating their 42nd birthday) and we went to see the fireworks at night. The crowds were the biggest I'd ever been in. It was the first time they held the parade and fireworks on the waterfront, and it seemed a test of their freedom vs. rules/security balance. The fireworks were fairly good, but most spectacular were the ones launched from the top of the 72 floor bank
towers.

We had also enjoyed lunch that day in Lau Pa Sat (the "old" market). It's a hawker centre in a huge, filagree-iron, open-air building. Built in the 19th century, it's essentially the old, Victorian-England railway station style. There are probably 200 hawker stalls to choose from (in Canada, at a mall, we would say this is a "food court").

On Friday, we went up to Little India and had lunch there, and looked there and the Arab Quarter. Already Jenn wasn't feeling too well, and it was very hot, so we didn't get much out of those neighborhoods. We did like lunch at the Tekka Centre, a much wilder hawker centre with more touts and a "wet market," too. I had Roti Prata for the second day in a row, but also got Chicken Briyani at a popular stall, which was great. Anica stuck to having a cheese prata and a honey prata, but also survived a bite of
my spicier chicken.

An older woman came to our table, smiling. "Finland?" she said. "No, Canada," we replied. "Oh, my daughter, she marry a Finland." Then, a minute later, she returned, with tears in here eyes and told Anica, "you make me very, very happy coming here today. You look like my granddaughter." Jenn and I nearly cried then, too.

Jenn, despite being sick after lunch on Friday, wanted to move on to Melaka, esp. since we couldn't get our room for another night. We already had our bus ticket and hostel booked. Luckily, the bus was clean and A/C, and there were a couple of chances to get to the washroom when it stopped. When we arrived in Melaka, the taxi-drivers were asking a lot more than we expected, so we opted for the town bus. We had met two Estonian girls, also heading for "The Traveller's Lodge." After getting off at the right stop, all five of us went in every possible wrong direction together before finding the hostel. Luckily, it's a very nice place. We have a big room, good A/C and a bigger bathroom than in Singapore. The whole place is incredibly clean; it's like an oasis. One quirk: no shoes allowed inside - anywhere. The Muslim hostel managers said, "It is our culture, and the easiest way to keep clean." My mom would be horrifed, but here it seems right.

Posted by jennrob 06:10 Archived in Singapore Comments (3)

Anica's Two Favourite Days So Far

Sentosa Island and the Singapore Zoos

sunny 35 °C

(Anica)

Today we went to Sentosa Island. It was fun. First we went on the MRT [n.b.-this is Singapore's subway system], then rode cable cars and got to Sentosa. Time 10:00 AM.

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Went to Dolphin Lagoon and saw two pink dolphins. Princees. [princesses] Went to underwater world, petted baby sharks and fish, pufferfish and fed manta rays.

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Anica petting the bamboo shark and manta rays.

saw fish and jellyfish and quet [cute] seaangels, went through the underwater cave and saw sharks, fish, manta rays and sti[ng]rays, and even one mantte [dudong or manatee] nammed Gracie.

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We took this photo in the underwater tunnel. This sawtooth shark was resting on the roof.

Had lunch. Beach! I splshed mommy!!! Went to 4D cnima pirutes. Horrible. Your seat shakes, crabs and hornets nest sting you, you get punched. Went to Subway, had snack, went on luge and sky ride and had dinner. Watched songes of the sea [n.b. -this was a night-time show of lasers, fountains, fireworks and a story acted out on a beachfront theatre. We took the cable cars back and ended up sitting with two Canadian university students, one who was from Singapore. They were so friendly and came with us on the subway, too. As far as we know, nobody else we've seen is Canadian, so quite a coincidence.-Rob]

August 8th

(Anica)

Today we went to the night safieri and zoo. first we had breakfast then went on 2 MRTs, then bus. we got there. the first thing we did ws called yummy KFC lunch. then we went and saw these animals. monkys, otters, cats, snakes, fish, manatee and a baby manatee, pgmy hippos (with there baby)

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Here's our baby with their baby:)

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The proboscis monkey made quite an impression on us-Rob

We saw 3 white tigers, somthing nickenamed catbear and then went for Night Safari. GOOD NIGHT!!!

(Rob)

Yes, the Night Safari was a very good night. It's right next to the regular zoo. Both are gorgeous, lush, rainforest settings, with decor/designs like world-class theme parks. Many animals are free-ranging, so encounters are often delightfully startling. After dinner at the Night Safari enrance, we saw a rousing, cheesy, fire-eating show just as it got dark. Anica loved the antics of this Borneo troupe. Then we got on the tram. Everyone was hushed as it cruised the paved path, the animals' areas lit strategically for good views. We convinced Anica to take the optionlal walking trails at the halfway point. She was very brave, as these are often very dark. She even agreed to go into the free-range bat enclosure. I promised her I'd brag on her behalf. She stood and looked at a huge flying fox right in front of her. Later, back on the tram, a tapir stood so close I could've reached out and touched it. No photos of this night, but I doubt we'll ever forget it.

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Photo op spot at entrance

Posted by jennrob 05:44 Archived in Singapore Comments (5)

What Day Is It Now?

sunny 30 °C

(Rob)

Sat, August 4 to Mon, Aug 6 (I think)

We got to Vancouver's airport around noon Saturday and didn't get to our hostel here in Singapore until after midnight Sunday night. In between was 19 hrs. of flying and crossing the international dateline. I kept getting confused! By the time we arrived I had no idea what day or time it was back in Canada.

SIA was, however, about the greatest economy class flight we could have had. Constant food and attention, and a great (free) on-demand menu of movies, TV, music, games. We watched 2 or 3 movies each. I've always wanted a day to just do that! The real hassle was getting off the plane in Seoul for the hour stopover. Sure we wanted to stretch our legs, but who wanted to get back on? Not Anica, but she was a trooper, and also got more sleep than us (even slept through landing)!

After sleeping on the plane, it was hard (well, for me) to sleep through to the morning in Singapore. Our hostel is bare bones, but charming, and is in Chinatown. The AC needs coaxing, and the "shower" is a drain between the sink and toilet. I held the shower head this morning and called out: "I feel like I'm deliberately flooding the bathroom!"

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Bunk beds are fun!

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Here is the other end of our hostel room, including the lockers.

We enjoyed the typical Malaysian toast for breakfast: a sugary, buttery, coconut and egg spread called "kaya." This spot 2 doors down will probably do for every morning.

We had in mind an easy first day orienting ourselves (no pun intended), but that ended up still involving a lot of walking in humid heat. We did the hop on/off bus our SIA boarding passes gave us and checked out the Orchard Road shopping district. Imagine Broadway or Oxford Street but with huge, tropical trees left untouched. Lunch was surprisingly fresh and authentic at a mall's food court. We ordered a custom plate of fresh cut fruit to share for dessert.

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After lunch, Anica encounters her first squat-style toilet. In Singapore, however, there's almost always a choice of styles.

Another hop off was to see the "Merlion," the famous half fish/half lion fountain/sculpture and symbol of Singapore. Dinner was at a sit-down, Western-style restaurant back in Chinatown. The walk back was spectacular: the Chinese night market was lit up with lanterns; also a huge Hindu temple, and an enormous Chinese pagoda all looked great at night.

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Anica and Rob in front of the Merlion

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A great example of the gorgeous Pernakan architecture in our Chinatown neighbourhood

August 6th

(Jenn)

Survived 19 hour trip to Singapore. Singapore Airlines was fantastic. Anica was great. She felt sick on the plane and wanted to go home but overcame that and after a few hours sleep on the plane was feeling better. Very up and down. One minute /loves/ everything, next minute tired and cranky, etc. Real trooper though. Had to get off plane in Seoul which was weird. Lost bottles of water.

Hotel good. Very... basic. Has A/C and own bathroom but taking shower soaks whole bathroom. Felt much better about room half way through night and infinitely better by morning. Anica loves bunk beds. Taxi drive here great. Gorgeous trees and flowers even at night. Very warm. 28 when we got here. Owner met us at door. Very nice lady.

Great day. Local breakfast. Talked to couple from Bristol. Hop on, hop off SIA bus. Went to Orchard Road - Tanglin Mall shopping. Anica bought mood ring. Lunch at food court. Hot day. OMG. HOT. Sunny and hot. And humid. Not a single drop of rain. Need to lighten daypacks further. Saw Merlion. Dinner at Swensen's - spent bit more and more familiar food but hey... might as well ease in - managed local breakfast and dinner. Walked through Chinatown. Saw largest and oldest Hindu temple. Gorgeous. Will go back. Returned to hotel at 8. Had Anica take shower. Again, she was asleep moment head hit pillow. Rob and I plan to follow shortly. In our separate beds :P

Posted by jennrob 06:45 Archived in Singapore Comments (6)

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