At 8am Sharoom, the concierge, called me. He asked how many wanted to go to Malacca. When I told him it was just me I was told that there had to be a minimum of two so that was that. So I went down and started to arrange another tour when Sharoom asked me if I would mind joining a tour to Malacca with people from another hotel. (I can only guess he had figured that since I had been with them for a whole night my loyalties would not permit me to associate with people other than those staying at Le Meridien.) I decided that I would abandon my loyalties and go with the opposition hotel tour! (Sharoom actually worked very hard to pull strings to get me on the tour that I wanted. I think I want my own concierge for home, you know, someone to get stuff from Bunnings for me and things like that. I could keep him in the shed!)
The opposition hotel people turned out to be a family of four who lived about 45 minutes from my own home in Melbourne. We were off to Malacca for an 8 hour day with our tour guide, Sam, an Indian man who was a real professional and did everything he could to make our trip as interesting as possible. He pulled over regularly explaining sights along the 2 hour drive to the south of KL. Our first stop was a short break to get something to eat and for a toilet stop.
I bought my morning tea from this woman (above). I had a bag of white guava sprinkled with â€œapricot saltâ€ for 1 RM (one Ringgit, which is about 33 cents). In the picture on the left, can you work out which toilet is for the boys and which is for the girls? Gone on, have a try! Everywhere there were people on small motor bikes. Note the footwear!
Malacca (Melaka in Malay) is a mix of the modern and the very old, the run down and the refurbished. This is part of what was the residence of he Dutch Governor built in 1641 but is now the Museum. I handed to the attendant 5RM which is what the sign said it cost an adult, but he insisted on giving me 3RM change. When I looked at my ticket is said STUDENT, and 2RM was the charge for student. Why at my age he would have thought I was a student I donâ€™t know. Was it my backpack that made him conclude that, or was it my youthful vigour? We shall never know. I shall choose to believe the latter!
So far I have seen rickshaws only in Malacca so I am unsure if they are widespread. For 25RM (about $AU8:00) one of these fellows will pedal you around in a rickshaw for an hour. It was hot, hilly, I weigh â€¦ well lets say about a half of what the drivers weighed.
This church was built in 1521 by the Portuguese, taken over by the Dutch and then by the British who turned it into a store for gunpowder. From 1545 to 1552 Spanish Jesuit Missionary â€œSaintâ€ Francis Xavier was a regular visitor to this church and when he died was interred for 9 months before being removed and reburied in India. In the picture below, the place where his remains were laid for that 9 months has been turned into a sort of shrine into which people throw coins. For what purpose or in hope of what I do not know, but the money was of great interest to the local fellows on the left who were very dexterous at winkling coins out of cracks and crevasses using thin sticks they had fashioned for the purpose. I guess they figured that they needed the money more than poor old St Francis!
This bloke had managed to rip off the â€œsaintâ€ to the tune of 3 or 4 RM in coins (about $AU1:00 or so). I doubt that many Australians would stop to pick up something worth so little, but I saw road side sellers offering generous meals for 2:50RM. So I guess it was worth the effort to him, although by the way he looked I did not think that he was likely to spend it on food! I asked our tour guide whether Malaysia had a welfare system in the case of unemployment or disability. He said that people were well cared for, but when pushed for specifics he said that care was provided by relatives. So it looked like people were on their own if they had no family to care for them. Iâ€™m not sure if that was all there was to it but that was how the conversation went. As we were leaving the old church area I met a beggar who was quite aggressive and definitely pickled. When I shook my head at him he banged his metal cup on the ground and spat. You can just see his hand and metal cup to the bottom right of the next picture.
A replica of a Spanish galleon. Below, if you wanted to have a pee you had to pay for the privilege 0.20RM (about 6 cents Australian).
This bloke was there to make sure you didnâ€™t sneak in and have a free pee but clearly he needed to take some sort of professional development on motivation as he was asleep as I approached, jumped slightly when I dropped in the box 0.50RM (I needed to have a big pee by the time we got there so I thought I would buy extra time) and he still hadnâ€™t moved as I emerged. I did pause briefly to be sure he hadnâ€™t died at his post, but his rib cage was slowly rising and falling the way that ribs like to do when we are deeply asleep so I left him in peace to continue his dreams. Check out the nifty flushing system! Just turn on the tap yourself and bingo! â€¦ weâ€™re all clean again!
We were then taken to the Peranakan Restaurant in the old part of Malacca. Our guide (I mention again that he was Indian, said the food is spicy but only â€œvery very mildâ€. In the past it has been apparent to me that â€œmildâ€ is a relative term meaning different things to different people. I suppose that someone who survived a fall from a plane after their parachute failed to open was talking to someone who have fallen off a roof that would say to the roof faller that their fall was â€œvery very mildâ€ by comparison. Well it WASNâ€™T VERY VERY MILD! The first mouthful was for a moment delicious, then a brief pause (you know, that period of time when you know something is not right but you are not sure what), and then there was a detonation of that spicy burning heat that accompanies all spicy food. I was asked if I was OK but I couldnâ€™t speak as my vocal cords had shrivelled to a third of their normal size as they desperately searched for a place to take cover. I grabbed my beer and sculled it in one go (something I never do), but the fire in my throat merely sneered at my attempt to extinguish it and continued its rampage unabated. My voice now shut down completely so I snapped my fingers at the waitresses, (all normal civility having been cast off as happens in a crisis), lifted my beer mug high in the air and pointed with all the sense of urgency that I could convey using gestures only. It worked as she rushed off and was back in less than a minute with another beer. I drank that down quickly too and it assuaged the burning a little; either that or my nerve endings were now dead and no longer relaying pain signals to my brain. I didnâ€™t really care which I just want the pain to stop. I can speak again now but for a while I felt like I was 15 again and going through a second puberty with the voice breaking thing happening. Fortunately all the other dishes were â€œvery very mildâ€ and I had stupidly picked the one that wasnâ€™t.
Entering the restaurant just before the assault on my vocal chords!
After lunch we went to Jonkers Street, Malacca, the subject of another post to follow.