Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
So this morning is our last in Melaka. After we got up and finished packing, we headed out to the little place across the street from the hotel for breakfast. But alas it was closed. After a moment of thought we both said screw it and went to the hotel for thier breakfast buffet. We were anxious to eat and head over to the central bus station so we could get an early bus to Singapore so the hotel breakfast was the quickest and easiest option. And it wasn't half bad. Western and Asian fare with plenty of choices to satisfy us both. It was also the first time I'd had a glass of milk in a week and it was delicious!
We made a quick trip back up to the room to get our bags and check out. We took a few pictures of the room before we left (Sorry the bed isn't made up)
The bathroom with the huge tub
Desk and balcony (I loved the sliding louver doors)
After checking out, we hopped in a cab and were off to the bus station. And we lucked out as the next bus wasn't sold out, was scheduled to leave in about 30 minutes, and was one of the nicer ones that had one seat on one side of the aisle and two seats on the other. This meant the seats were much more comfortable.
The trip to Singapore would take about 2 1/2 hours to get to the border. Then we had to deal with immigration. Our friends (Jim's co-worker and her husband) had traveled to Singapore a few days before us and said it was a major pain getting through the check points so we planned an extra hour for this part of the trip followed by the bus ride into the city to the bus station.
Once we were out of the city we noticed what looked like steps going up into the hillside along the highway. We weren't sure if they were for people to climb or if they were used to help water flow to the storm sewers during the rainy season.
Just over an hour into the trip we stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break. This was our bus. Jim took a picture of it not only for our photo album but to remember which bus was ours! There were several at the rest stop and we didn't to wind up on the wrong one to who knows where!At the rest stop we saw a prayer hut for Muslims daily prayers. It faces Mecca so those needing to use it don't have to worry about which direction they need to face.
Back on the road, we finally reached the last city on peninsular Malaysia, Johor Bahru. Here are a couple of pictures Jim managed to take from the bus window. And finally we crossing the border. We were pleased to see that there wasn't a long line of traffic like the one our friends faced a few days ago. It could have been that they traveled over the weekend while we were traveling during the week.
While we were pleased to see little to no traffic backups, what awaited us was just as much of a pain......passing through customs and immigration. Since we opted for the much cheaper form of land travel, by bus, we first had to stop at the Malaysian side of the border, get off the bus, have our passports stamped out of the country, get back on the bus , drive a few hundred yards to cross the border and get off the bus again. This time to enter Singapore and have our passports stamped. Then get back on the bus again to go to the bus/taxi station in downtown Singapore. This was our first glimpse of Singapore when we finally stepped off the bus at the station. Note the dark clouds....it would soon rain, alot. It was also when we realized that we forgot to get any Singaporean money! Aw, crap. Jim quickly got directions to the nearest bank while I waited with our luggage. About 20 minutes later he returned, money in hand and we hailed a cab to take us to our hotel.
Now while we were planning this trip, we were surprised at how expensive hotels in Singapore can be....even the so-called budget hotels. For example, at nicer hotels like Hilton, rooms start at about $300/night. And if you are totally made of money, you can stay at the famous Raffles Hotel for a mere $800/night. We, however, are not made of money so we looked for a place that was more affordable. After looking through a lot of websites and checking Trip Advisor, we settled on Hotel 1929, a small boutique hotel in the Chinatown section of Singapore. And small was right, the lobby and sitting area were cozy which is a nice way to say tiny. One cool thing about the place was the funky chairs . The owner has a thing for antique chairs which were located throughout the hotel and adjoining restaurant. There was also a cool poster in the elevator with a historical collection of chairs.
And the view the wall opposite the door
Yeah, the room was small. Jim could stretch out his arms and be within a few feet of touching opposite walls. Add in the bed, the bathroom, a tiny desk and chair, and all our luggage and the room was bursting at the seams. It was quite a compact room.
Shortly after we checked in, it started to rain....hard. When it finally slowed down enough for us to even think about going out, the hotel staff gave us umbrella's. A nice touch and probably a very common thing in a country where it rains so much but still a nice touch.
Just down the street from our hotel was this very cool Indian temple. It was very beautiful and quite the attention grabber when you walk down the street.
It was very rich and hearty. Big chunks of carrots and potatoes swam happily in the bowl with chunks of lamb. The broth had a nice balance of Asian seasonings that Jim and I tried to decipher and jot down on my notepad. The owner must have realized what we were trying to do so he offered to show me how he made it. With very broken English and hand gestures, I quickly made note of all the ingredients as he held up the bottles and jars and holding up bottle and jars. And we managed to understand each other completely. It was so much fun! I think he really enjoyed it too.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and saw this amazing temple. Its the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.Once you went past the front entrance you came into an open courtyard area. The architecture was just amazing.In the courtyard were places where one could place incense for prayers.
The hotel itself was sleek and modern and the bar was cool and funky.This is looking straight up at the ceiling in the bar. Glass or plexiglass lights hanged from the ceiling and along one wall next to the bar. The room was long and narrow with a bench along one wall with tables in front of them. And as we found with the hotels, bar prices were high. But hey, our first drink was free so that made our second drinks that much cheaper! cha-ching.
Jim ordered Kilkenny, an Irish beer that he's only had in Ireland. We can't find it here anywhere. He was a happy man. I ordered something cold, fruity and totally girly. I don't remember the name of it but it had pineapple, banana and chocolate in it and it was really good. Jim ordered another beer (Hoegaarden) and I got another fruity drink. We called it quits after that and were actually getting hungry again so we decided to head back over to the Maxwell Food Court to get some dinner. On the way we passed by the Chinese temple again and got this great picture of it lit up.
I was craving roti (again) and went to this vendor to get my fix.I watched as this guy deftly made my roti. And this was my reward.After dinner we were pretty well done for the day. Knowing we only had tomorrow and some of the next morning to see what we could of Singapore, we went back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. And little did we know just how much that sleep would be needed because the next day we were going to walk our legs off.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Another bright, sunny, hot and humid day. Much like most days here. After puttering around our hotel room a little we sought out breakfast on our way to pick up the laundry Jim dropped off the day before. We first stopped at one restaurant a few blocks away and sat down at an outdoor table but couldn’t figure out what we were being told by the server. When we asked about roti or nasi lemak, he pointed to the indoor area of the restaurant so we went inside. But were pointed outside when we asked about ordering. Confused, we walked further down the street to another place where ordering was much easier. We ordered some nasi lemak, roti with Indian curry and coffees. It was so good. I swear I was becoming addicted to this stuff.
After breakfast we headed over to the laundry and saw these orchids. There were so many varieties that we’d never seen before just growing everywhere. This one looked like a hibiscus at first until you looked at the plant itself. That’s when we realized it was an orchid.
Once we picked up the laundry, we dropped it off at the hotel and took a few minutes to walk around the pool area. The plants around the pool had beautiful flowers and brightly colored fruit which was apparently a tasty treat for the local birds.
Once we finished enjoying the pool area, we headed out to the bus stop to catch one of the local buses to the fabric shop we saw the night before.
It only took about 20 minutes to get to the fabric store. After looking at several selections of batik style material we picked out one we both liked and got 10 meters, enough for each of us to have a shirt made with plenty left over for future use. It was a great price too at roughly $20 for the entire piece.
By the time we finished looking at material we were beginning to get hungry so we walked up and down the street to look at what our options were. We stopped in front of one place that smelled wonderful. One of the restaurant staff came out and persuaded us to come in and we’re glad we did. We ordered Mee Goreng with chicken. A squeeze of lime really added to the dish.
After lunch we decided to head over to the river to see Villa Sentosa. The river and the foot bridge we needed to cross were only a few blocks away. Said to be an unofficial museum in Melaka, Villa Sentosa is a privately owned home opened to visitors by the owners whose father was an important figure in the early days of independent Malaysia. Here's some of what we saw:
The current owner proudly shows guests most of the rooms in the house as well as the great number of family heirlooms including china, clothing, furniture, and a gong. The latter item was once used as way to relay messages across the village and beyond before more modern forms of communication were available. Today, you can make a wish and bang the gong three times for it to come true. I'm still waiting.
The tour ended in the guest parlor where stack upon stack of guest books were sitting on the floor. Dating back to the 1960's these guest books have signatures from people who have visited Villa Sentosa over the years. And as you can imagine, just about every country was represented in the books. It was quite interesting to look through them then add our names to the latest book. Overall this was one of the best things we did in Melaka and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who ever visits. They do not charge admission but accept donations.
The gardens on the property had lots of interesting plants like this pitcher plant.
By now, we were tired, hot and sweaty. A shower was beckoning me back at the hotel so that’s where we headed. And seeing as it was our last night in Melaka, we wanted to have dinner again at Restaran Peranekan. It was so good and the beef rendang was the best I’ve eaten and we were looking forward to trying out some other items on the menu. We strolled along Jonker Walk which is much different during the week than it is on Friday and Saturday night when it's full of street vendors. Several of the buildings have very intricate decorations.
But alas, when we got there it was closed. Phooey. We walked further down the street and came upon two restarants. One overlooked the river and had nice white tablecloths, the other place was a small local place with plastic covering the tables. We chose the latter of the two because it looked less touristy and we were not disappointed. An advertised special was a sampler of sorts featuring a pineapple and shrimp curry, a veggie omelet, fried fish in a tomato based sauce, lamb stew and water spinach with hot peppers and onions. A bowl of chicken soup came out with it as well. It was all quite tasty especially when washed down with a couple of Tiger beers.
On the walk back to the hotel we took a slightly different route, walking by the Maritime Museum and walked through an open air mall that was mostly closed up for the night. What was open wasn’t of much interest so we continued through and out the other side. Across the street was the nice new air-conditioned mall. We walked through the nice cold mall savoring the cool air and looking at a few shops along the way. The far exit for the mall opens out to the street in front of the hotel so it was a short walk once back out in the heat before we got to the hotel.
We began to pack up our things so we could get an early start the next day as we would be traveling by bus to