Romance. That’s what I’d hoped for from Melaka, and under different circumstances, it may well have delivered.
South of Kuala Lumpur and sat on the coast, Melaka was once a prosperous trading town with a long history of colonial influence. Now, it’s a quaint little place that’s clearly pushing its tourism potential, with tonnes of museums, tours and guesthouses springing up. You can ascertain the sentiment of the place by its garish tuk-tuks.
It’s a pretty town, with a river that winds through the centre, lit at night on both sides, sprinkling the water with colourful reflections.
The houses on one side are covered in excellent murals, though at one point they face a ramshackle area of dilapidated wooden shacks on the opposite, reed-covered bank. An old man approaches the water from his house – Swarana says “What’s that old man doing?”, as he promptly pulls out his little shrivelled willy and urinates into the water. “Nooooooooo!” she concludes. This is life.
Melaka has a lot of colonial character, much like Georgetown, but a little sleepier and more relaxing. The little bars by the riverfront are gorgeous for a quick beer in the shade as you watch the predominantly Asian tourists chug by on packed, Mister Potato-sponsored tour barges.
The museums are ok; the maritime museum, inside a model of a 16th century Portuguese trading vessel, looks great but is disappointing inside, with too much chat about tax and trade disputes and not enough actual historical artefacts. And you have to sidestep Malaysian tourists taking pictures of themselves in front of every exhibition cabinet or diorama. I don’t blame them – it’s not terribly engaging.
There’s also a marine life museum, which apparently was curated by the set designer from the original Star Trek series. It is otherwise underwhelming.
Our first night was in the Melaka Raya district, down by the pier, where I mistakenly imagined all the action might be. On the contrary, the area is dead, and the coastline is drab to say the least. It’s also a long drive on the highway to the centre, so we moved to a lovely hotel on the river, the Wana Riverside. We’d already seen its colourful musical fountain the previous evening, like a funky rainbow version of the one at Petronas. We looked sitting pretty to enjoy Valentine’s Day and my birthday the day after.
Ah, to be in Melaka and in love.
But alas, sickness struck. My innards revolted and Swarana developed a furious fever, leaving us, respectively, with a maximum radius from the loo or bed ridden on both of our celebratory days.
I don’t know what caused my botty to explode, but it might have been the Ninja Burger we had. Peculiarly in this Muslim country, Ninja Burger only serves pork patties – even the vegetarian burger is made of pork – and the meat is a bit too pale, soft and squishy to call appealing.
However, on the afternoons we did manage to get out of the hotel room, we loved strolling through street markets, and down by the river. We spotted a metre-long lizard swimming through the water at one point, which was exciting. If you’re lucky, you might also spot otters pottering about. Later, we shared a nice bottle of cold red wine – complete with ice bucket.
All in all, I’d recommend a visit – it really was a lovely place – but don’t stay in Melaka Raya, and don’t turn your bum into a poo fountain.
Our next stop was Singapore, where we could recuperate from illness in the home of more of Swarana’s conveniently located friends. So I guzzled the last of the Imodium, Swarana necked the Paracetamol, and we boarded the bus for our third country of the trip.
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