“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway


1 March 2015

Detour to Malacca

13th - 21st February

The Old Town

Slight change of plan, we have backtracked to Malaysia. This is the first time we have revisited a country on our travels and to be honest its lucky that we don't require a visa to revisit. Our original plan was to try and catch a ferry from Singapore to Bantam Island and then find another ferry to Jakarta. The problem with this route is that the ferry to Jakarta is incredible infrequent and as we only have a maximum of two months in Indonesia (with a 30 day extension) it just wasn't worth the risk of having to stay put for a few weeks waiting for a boat.
After a little bit of searching we found a regular ferry service exists from Malacca, Malaysia to Dumai, Sumatra. The boat would be cheaper and more punctual with daily ferries leaving Malacca at 10:00am. So it ticked all the boxes and would allow us to visit a new town.

View of Malacca from St Paul's Church

windy miller
Malacca is a popular destination amongst travelers of the Malay peninsula. Its location between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur make it a great place to break up journeys between the two capitals and also allows a little rest bite from the city hustle and bustle.
We stayed at Jalan Jalan and Layan Layan across a seven day period to allow us to enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations. As the names suggest the guesthouses are under the same ownership and are both located on the same old town street right in the heart of the historic and cultural centre. Both places are a real find with budget backpacker prices, great rooms, friendly atmosphere and helpful staff.

Gourmet Night
Like Penang in the north Malacca is a historic harbor town and trading hub which made it a target for land grabbing exploratory forces from the western colonies. As a result the town has been occupied by the Portugese, Dutch and British with each country leaving its mark. The Portuguese built a fortress, the Dutch built churches and important government administration buildings and the British did a good job at blowing up the original fortress walls.

karaoke night
Today Malacca still retains a European feel with Dutch buildings that resemble the tall, thin and long structures familiar by the canals of Amsterdam (except you don't find monitor lizards in the canals of Amsterdam) and a higher protestant population than elsewhere in the country. As a nice touch most of the sights in the old town are free including the architecture museum, museum of Islam and independence museum. The daily free walking tour from the tourist information centre is a great way to get your bearings around the maze of narrow streets.

The bargains continue when looking for a bite to eat and the guys at the hostel were always keen to meet up for an evening meal at one of the great banana leaf restaurants or somewhere a little bit different. We tried stingray for the first time in a small street side shack just outside the old town. A little chewy but not nearly as bony as you would think.

AS with most of Malaysia street art can be found on most buildings
I wonder if this is seaworthy
The local rickshaws really blend in

The best place for food in town had to be at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) and for a small donation the friendly chaps at the temple put on a full spread of great grub. We grabbed some bicycles and visited with an old Japanese guy who was staying in our room. The guy is 86 years old and still intent to continue backpacking ever year. A true role model and legend but a crazy bugger on the roads. It turns out that when your in your 80's you revert to the same mindset as an eight year old. A mantra of RIDE OR DIE!!!

Malacca is a pretty sleepy place and a few days is really enough to see all, but for us it was nice just to enjoy civilisation before venturing to the sparsely trodden tracks of Sumatra. The Chinese New Year celebrations were a little low key and although there were the usual hawker food stalls on Jonker Street the festivities were limited to a sporadic scatter of fireworks and the odd dragon dance.
fireworks in the bar
This didn't hinder our attempts to have a little fun and our regular watering hole Shantaram's certainly made it memorable. This small home run bar offers the cheapest beers in town and is therefore a popular spot for backpackers and ex-pats. Weirdly enough us travelers were more keen to celebrate than the local Chinese population and it wasn't long before two crazy Scottish regulars acquired some dodgy fireworks from a nearby back alley trader. The cramped surroundings meant that most of the home made pyrotechnics were ignited inside which would have been fine if the Scot lighting them gave clear notice beforehand. Its incredible how quickly you respond to a fire cracker being thrown at
your feet, even after a gut full of booze.
It was a nice week in Malacca but its time to say goodbye to Malaysia for good as we head to our penultimate country, Indonesia.

Useful Links

Malacca: Wikitravel
Jalan Jalan Guesthouse

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