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Days 327-328 Wednesday-Thursday March 12-13, 2008 – Singapore to Melaka, Malaysia
The plan for Wednesday morning was simple, but not simply carried out. In our research we read that Melaka Malaysia, our next destination, was interesting, but not worthy of more than a few hours. With this in mind, we planned to wake up early and catch the 8:30am bus to Melaka. The bus ride including border crossing time takes just short of four and a half hours, so we figured by the time we arrived in Melaka and checked into our hotel, it would be two, thus giving us five or six hours to explore before night fall. If all went according to plan then we would be on our way to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sleep as early as planned on Tuesday evening and getting to the bus station by 8:30am proved to be too hard. The next bus was leaving at 10am so we set our sights on that time. After getting ready, we headed outside where it didn’t take long to flag down a taxi. The ten minute ride to the bus station cost $7SGD and we pulled in about three minutes before the bus was set to leave. What I didn’t count on was the bus company only taking cash (and I don’t know why I didn’t think of that) and a trip to the ATM made us miss the bus. Luckily for us the next bus left at 10:30am.
The bus from Singapore to Melaka cost $16.50SGD or around $12.37USD. The drive from the bus terminal to the border took around thirty minutes. Along the way we passed endless communities of high rise buildings. These towers are clustered in massive groups and each seems to possess its own unique architecture and character. Some of the complexes are new and beautiful, while others are old and run down.
The Singapore/Malaysia border is renowned for being easy to cross and we can attest to that. Getting an exit stamp from Singapore is as simple as showing your passport and it isn’t much different to get into Malaysia. We have found that we are rarely questioned, probably because we are less suspicious given that we are traveling with a child.
From the border it was another three hours through tropical landscape to the port town of Melaka. In the past, Melaka was ruled by both the Dutch and Portuguese and at one point was the main port in Southeast Asia. These days it is turning into quite the tourist destination. A new Holiday Inn opened up a few months ago and modern high rises and malls are sprouting up down by the waterfront.
By the time we got off the bus, hired a taxi and reached our hotel it was closing in on 4pm and it was clear that our sightseeing was going to have to wait another day. Our hotel turned out to be a little disappointing, but we were given a room on the 21st floor and the view was impressive. The next morning at 10am we were up and ready to get out and see what Melaka had to offer.
Seeing that Melaka dates back four hundred years, some of the older parts of the city aren’t pedestrian friendly. In fact, several areas had open drainage ditches along the sides of the road and no sidewalks either, leaving us to dodge traffic as we walked down the street. The historical center of Melaka was a ten minute stress filled walked away from our hotel.
Once in the heart of the city, the first place we came across was the Dutch Square. This historical area features an old church and what was once the town hall. Throughout the area trishaw drivers offer rides to tourists who come in on air conditioned bus tours. We just stood up on some stairs and took in the spectacle. Inside the church, a gift shop was setup behind some benches and a rock band played in the front. This was not your typical church.
Across the way from Dutch Square, a bridge leads over the river to the Chinatown district. This area is one of the older parts of the city and is pretty typical of Chinatowns. We walked past several different eateries and clothes shops before settling on somewhere for lunch. Following our rather safe meal of Wonton Soup and Chicken with rice, we continued on our way and toured a couple of impressive Buddhist temples. Chinatown was interesting, but not big enough to contain us for more than an hour.
Before long we had crossed back over the river and made our way towards the harbor. The areas along the river are being renovated to make a promenade type atmosphere. This is great because as I mentioned before, as of now there aren’t even any sidewalks. A few minutes down the river bank from the Dutch Square a large ship peaked our interest. This ship turned out to be part of the Melaka Maritime Museum. Admission was under $1USD each, so we bought our tickets.
The ship itself houses museum exhibits in an air conditioned interior. The displays detail the history of the harbor and those who controlled it including the Dutch and Portugese rulers of Melaka. While we were there to learn as well, the main draw of this living museum was to get on the ship. We made the most of it before going over to an adjacent building that housed other maritime related exhibits. We stayed at the museum for maybe thirty minutes.
From here our pictures run out because the camera died. We continued along the water and stumbled upon two very large modern malls. We had accomplished what we wanted to for the day and decided to see what was playing in the cinema. It turned out that Horton Hears A Who was just coming out, so we bought tickets for 9RM ($2.85USD) and enjoyed the movie. It turned out to be a great family movie, which is something we haven’t come across in a while.
When our movie finished at 7pm we headed next door to a traditional Malaysian Hawker Center, which basically means a large food court. This one had around twenty different stalls, each serving a different kind of food. The majority served either Malay, Chinese or Indian Cuisine, but many combined staples from all three cuisines. We ordered some Satay (Meat on sticks with a spicy peanut sauce) and fried rice and found it to be great.
Sightseeing can be great, but spending a few hours in a mall and watching a movie with the locals also is a glimpse into the culture. Follow that up with a traditional dinner and I feel that even if we cheated a bit by spending part of the day in the mall, it was still all worthwhile. Besides, tomorrow we are heading into Kuala Lumpur, where I am sure we will see plenty of the culture. Cities have a way of throwing it in your face!
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The Coomer Family
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