Finally catching up on a few overdue blogs! This post recounts travel from when we left Singapore and traveled to Malaysia, where we spent the next four weeks. First stop, Melaka!
July 27, 2015
I love Malaysia! Like love it, love it, want to retire there. Next week. Near the food stalls. By a roti stand. With milk tea. And kaya (coconut butter). God, I love kaya. I could grow old surrounded by roti, kaya and milk tea, and life probably wouldn’t be so bad.
Malaysia is one of those wonderful places which I found myself surprisingly taken with. Not sure why I was so surprised. Malaysia’s a fascinating country with a beautiful culture – it just never stood out for me in that “must see” kind of way before. But it’d be a mistake to skip – I know that now.
Chris and I spent a month crisscrossing through Malaysia from historical Melaka to modern Kuala Lumpur to the verdant, cool Cameron Highlands then east to the pristine beaches of the Perhentian Islands and northwest to George Town on Penang Island. We explored UNESCO World Heritage cities, scoured the Melaka River for water monitors, hitchhiked twice to avoid getting stuck in torrential downpours, fit in a few sunny days of snorkeling in the most crystal clear water I’ve ever seen, chased away rats at the worst guesthouse ever, and, of course, ate DELICIOUS food. (The last two are not related.)
I had been to Malaysia before briefly in 2012 when Court, Aaron and I visited Yee Ning in Singapore then spurred off to explore other SE Asia countries. Traveling with Yee Ning, who is Malaysia-born and Hawaii-raised, made our visit all the more educational. She introduced me to the city’s diverse culture and fascinating history. And, of course, Yee Ning being the BFF (Best Foodie Friend) that she is, filled us up with many good eats in the short time we traveled together. That trip prepared me for exploring Malaysia a second time around with more time to travel slowly, explore and, of course, EAT!
We arrived in Melaka at night after an easy aircon bus ride from Singapore. We stayed one night at a budget hotel then checked into the Casa Blanca guesthouse the next morning. The owner of the guesthouse, Vivian, a slender, smiley Chinese-Malay woman conversed using animated cartoon-like sounds, we think to make up for her limited English. She warbled her hello as she ushered us in, then chirped through the check-in process with sounds you’d expect of cute Asian characters like Ponyo or Doraemon. “Bing, bang, BOPPPP” she said, pointing to the light switches for the shared bathroom, then the red one for the water heater. “Swish swish” with the key card, then “BEEEEP. BEEEEEP!!! Door open,” as she pantomimed the entry way process. Each chat with her was sweetly amusing, our conversations filled with hand motions and beep, bang, bops and woo WOOs. Endearingly, we referred to her as R2D2.
We mainly did two things while in Melaka: Eat and look for water monitors (again, not related). With so much history of colonialism and trade, Melaka is a melting pot of culture and people. Over the centuries settlers from Europe, China, India and people from the original Malay archipelago mixed, melted and created the diverse ethnic culture which exists today, a legacy that is evident in every facet of life including Malaysia’s myriad cuisine. So of course we tried every type of food we could get our hands on! And the water monitors were simply fun to search for as we walked along the Melaka River enjoying the sights and town.
One thing I like doing in a new city is to check what the number one rated restaurant is on TripAdvisor. Just to see. Often the best rated TripAdvisor restaurant is tourist friendly, has menus in English and rave reviews which are primarily (and not surprisingly) written by tourists. From our limited experience, the best places are the restaurants off the map and off TripAdvisor…the small hole in the wall joints which require pointing to other diners’ food to order. In the case of Melaka, the number one rated restaurant on TripAdvisor is a North Indian / Pakistani place called Pak Putra. It had SO many excellent reviews, I put away my TripAdvisor skepticism and told Chris I wanted to try it. So we went one night, our second night in town, and ended up going again every single other night in Melaka until the staff recognized us enough to say to Chris, “Hello sir, nice to see you again,” as we sat in our favorite spot, a table on its own next to a truck and the dirty dishes rack right across of the tandoori oven and naan oven. The food was fantastic, better than a few of the other Indian places nearby, and I felt justified eating there four nights in a row. We tried new dishes each time! And shows me to doubt TripAdvisor!
Overall, our time in Melaka was restful and full of food. I appreciated that the town was so small, it was easy to not pressure ourselves into too much sightseeing or adventuring. We rested easy in the luxury of having a few days of simply eating, relaxing and a little bit of sightseeing. Pretty affordable accommodations and food also made our stay enjoyable.
Check out the album below!
And for Chris’ take on Melaka – including our differing spelling – read his post: Malacca – He Said