Sunday, April 6, 2008

Melaka - Day 2

Monday, March 3, 2008
After getting a better night's sleep than the night before, I felt like the worst of the jet lag was behind me. Jim suggested trying the little place across from the hotel for breakfast. Sounded good to me, especially if they served coffee like I'd had the day before. The yellow chairs are where we went. The restaurant had no name that I'm aware of just good food. We each ordered Nasi Lemak, a coffee zero for Jim and a coffee with milk for me. It doesn't look like much but it was filling and very full of great flavor. Coconut rice, fried egg, peanuts and fried baby anchovies. The little red dish in the center of the table was spicy seasoning you could add to your plate as you like. It was fairly spicy and added a nice level of warmth to the dish. I was still unsure how much I would like spicy food for breakfast but I was slowly being won over by this meal.
After breakfast Jim gathered up some laundry he had (he'd been there over a week by this point) and a few things I had worn on my flight over and sought out a laundry. On his way back to the hotel he noticed this cute little guy in the back of a pick up truck.After he got back we hopped in a cab and went over to the Indian section of Melaka where we'd been told we could find some nice fabric shops. We wanted to get some batik to bring home and have made into shirts for each of us and/or possibly a skirt of dress for me. Unfortunately we came up empty handed. There were several fabric shops but none had a batik we liked so we decided to just walk around and take in some sights.

A few blocks from Little India was the Church of Saint Francis Xavier, a Catholic Church built in 1849.(Jim took this night picture the week before while he was teaching his class)
It is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit who brought Catholicism to Malacca and other parts of Southeast Asia. While there, I said a quick prayer for a family friend who had passed away the day before. It's a bright and airy church with beautiful stained glass windows. This one is over the main entrance to the church.

Moving on down the street we found a small cafe on the Melaka River and stopped for a cup of coffee. It was still early enough in the day for us which meant back home it wasn't too late in the evening for a quick call home. Here I am yacking away with either my mom or my sister. Jim bought new sim cards for our cell phones when he got to Melaka. We used the Digi network which offered a great rate for calls to the US at 5 cents/minute. It was more expensive to call each other than it was to call halfway around the world....go figure.

While we were enjoying our coffees, we saw a tour boat cruising down the river and saw it dock just up the way from the cafe. As soon as we finished the coffee, we walked over to inquire about taking a river cruise and were told it would be about an hour and a half before the next one. A couple just getting off the current cruise overheard us talking and asked if we were American. They were from New York City and had only arrived in Melaka a few days before I had. Both were retired and were on a month long trip through Malaysia, how lucky! We talked about where each of us would be going while there and exchanged some touristy advice. After about 30 minutes we parted ways.

Since we still had about an hour before the cruise we decided to look at some of the souvenir shops across the street. Most of the stuff was mass produced, overpriced trinkets and the same from shop to shop so we passed on buying anything. Wandering back across the street we saw a street vendor selling coconuts. We picked one out and watched him deftly chop off a piece from the bottom so it would sit upright then four chops to the top to form an opening. That was one scary looking cleaver too.
But once it's open all you do is insert a straw to drink up the coconut water and a spoon to scrap out the tender coconut meat and you have yourself a nice refreshing snack.After our little snack we walked back to the area where the river cruise docked and the ticket guy quickly pointed out the big monitor lizards on the other side of the river. This one was an adult that was about 5-6 feet long. And just below us on the dock area was this little guy. He was about 2 feet long and scurried away just after I got this picture.When it was finally time to get on the cruise boat, we all loaded up and met yet another American, this one from Washington, DC. Talk about a small world. He lives in Malaysia during the winter and back in DC the rest of the year.

The tour guide was very entertaining. He actually had names for all the monitor lizards we saw along the riverbank. I think the pair just under the bridge in this picture were Romeo and Juliet.

The reddish stones you see along the sides of the riverbank date back to the early Portuguese settlers. The red color comes from the iron content in the stones. Today, most of these stones are being reclaimed and used to revitalize and rebuild the river bank. A lot of restoration and new construction is going on along the river to make it a more attractive place for people to walk, dine and enjoy the views. Many of the old buildings are being restored for shops and restaurants and a boardwalk is nearly complete along one side of the river. Ahead of us was a small (very small) amusement park. It had two rides, the ferris wheel you see in the picture and a boat ride that swung back and forth like a pendulum.
On the left is Kampung Morten, the only remaining kampung (village) in Melaka with traditional Melaka-style houses. They had a steeply pitched upper roof that lead down to a slightly sloped roof.
Hanging from the bridge, as well as all over the city, were banners for their upcoming national elections. And unlike here where it seems the campaigns have dragged on for an eternity, they are only allowed to campaign during the two weeks prior to election day.
Some houses were very patriotic like this one with the Malay flag painted on the roof.

This house was known as Villa Sentosa (the Malay Living Museum). It's not officially a museum but probably one of the best sites to visit in Melaka. More on that later.

After the cruise we were getting a little hungry so we headed off in search of lunch. A few blocks from our hotel is an outdoor food court with lots of food stalls to choose from. For our trip today, we chose several tasty dishes.
This is prawn mee, a soup made with noodles, sliced fish cake, shrimp, water spinach, bean sprouts in a spicy broth.

This a water spinach soup. Very mild in flavor, it wasn't my taste but Jim enjoyed it.

And finally Char Kway Teow, a dish of soy sauce, chilli, prawns, egg, bean sprouts and chicken.

As we walked back to our hotel after lunch, I couldn't help but notice that orchids grow everywhere! Some intentially planted around trees, along the curbs, or in flower beds. Others grow wild up in the trees. Wish I'd gotten a picture of that to show you.

We noticed a massage and reflexology place just down the road from food court. Jim suggested we check it out after lunch. We did and they offered me a great deal on a 90 minute back massage and foot reflexology. While I was being massaged, Jim strolled back to the food court, got a nice cold Tiger beer and people watched. He came back to pick me up and we headed back to the hotel where we cleaned up with a nice hot shower and headed back out and into a cab to see the Portuguese area of town. Located along the bay, it's a small area with some houses and a food court that also houses a small museum, most everything was closed when we got there but it looked like it would be a hoppin' place to go on a Friday or Saturday night.

Once we were back at the hotel we had a little snack while we talked about dinner plans. I bought these miniature mandarin oranges the day before. I couldn't help it, they were so cute! They were good but were so small that there wasn't much space for a lot of juicy pulp.I also bought a can of Kickapoo Joy Juice. Yea, sounds scary, doesn't it? Know what's even scarier? It has it's own website. However, what wasn't scary was the taste. It was very close to Mello-yello or Mt. Dew. Not bad.

Jim said he was craving a steak and wanted to go to a place he tried the week before called the Bulldog Cafe which served a combination of Asian and Western style food. A quick cab ride later and we were there. It's a cute place with an indoor pond full of Koi and some frog statues. Jim got a steak with peppercorn sauce which was good enough to satisfy his craving.
And I got a dish recommended by the waitress that called Asian Beef. Now you'd think since we were in Asia that they'd nail that part of the dish but sadly it was just barely Asian-ish in that it was soy sauce in it but beyond that, eh. The sauce was thick and gloppy and looked so Americanized. I was pretty disappointed.
Needless to say we skipped dessert and chose to take a walk over to the river which was only a few blocks away. We crossed over the banner draped bridge you saw in our river cruise pictures and strolled through Kampung Morten and Villa Sentosa. We were also just a few blocks from the ferris wheel we saw earlier in the day. When we got to the park, it was all lit up with just a handful of people milling about. We decided to give the ferris wheel a try and enjoy seeing the city from high above. It was also nice to get a bit of breeze. Afterwards we decided to head back to the hotel so we began walking, and walking, and walking. Apparently we were in a section of town rarely frequented by taxi's. We finally saw a busy street and headed towards it and hopefully a ride home. After close to 10 minutes, we finally hailed a cab and found a huge fabric shop just down the street from where we'd been standing. Note to self: tomorrow we go back and look for some batik.

Once back at the hotel, I took another shower and collapsed into bed. We had a great day, saw a lot of cool stuff, ate some great (and not so great) food, met a few other Americans and a bunch of super friendly locals. Tomorrow: shop for batik, visit Villa Sentosa, eat more great food and get ready for the next leg of our trip, Singapore.


devinoni said...

This is an awesome blog! The pics are fantastic and you took such good notes during your stay. Thanks for the basset pic. :) And I love the lizards!

Barbara said...

I thought of you and B. the minute I saw that picture. Glad you liked it.

The lizards were pretty cool. Wait until I get to the pictures from Kuala Lumpur, Jim took a pic of a BIG lizard.