Melaka is a town known for a few things: Chinatown, the Jonker weekend market, and the Nyonya food. There are a few museums, some Portuguese ruins and a Dutch area, but these are not so special. It is a fairly traditional town, with its heritage in the Baba-Nyonya people, (Baba the term for men, and Nyonya the term for women.) They are Chinese immigrants, who settled in Melaka, and because of this, making a fusion of food from all over Asia. As i go on, please forgive me if i speak mostly about food.
The first meal we got there was the Chicken Rice balls, famous in the region, and was recommended by our very helpful homestay owner. These are balls of sticky rice that have been cooked in Chicken stock and served with Chicken and cabbage; very tasty and very cheap. (This will be another recurring theme.) When your time is not spent eating, you seem to spend the rest of the time waiting for meals. Hannah moved onto her seventh or eighth book of the trip, whilst I'm making my way slowly, but enjoyably, through my third.
At around seven we made our way onto the Jonker night market; this is only open at the weekend, so we had two days of enjoying this. On here they sell everything. Hannah got rather excited by some incense, and decided to by a lovely incense holder and 6 packets of incense, so expect the Fishwick household to smell quite interesting over the next few months. I here discovered my love for Dim Sum, despite biting into one and realising that it was just a ball of pork fat. The others were incredible however. Further down the market there is a stage, with an open Karaoke. This involved fairly old Chinese women, singing tradition Chinese songs (I think), at very high pitches, whilst their husbands dance very slowly in front of the stage. The other food we tried on this street was Laksa; a tradition Nyonya dish that is very hot, and full of noodles, been sprouts and seafood.
The next day we went to a restaurant whose name has left me, but it has traditional Nyonya food, in which I ordered Buah Keluak. This is a dish that has a Nut that if eaten straight from the tree, can kill you as it contains cyanide. However they treat it using a variety of methods, and it turns out to have exactly the same taste and consistency of tapenade.
Aside from the food, Hannah and I went to the Portuguese ruins, in which it became obvious why they were conquered as if you weren't aware of it, you could have walked right past it without if a second glance. We also had a tour around the small house in which the Nyonya royalty lived, and were taken round by a local guide, who memorized all her speech from writing, couldn't speak any other English, and didn't quite have a grasp of verbal punctuation: When explaining were some vase came from, instead of saying Johnson Brothers, England, she would say Johnson, brothers England. In some cases it would change the meaning of the sentence, until you deciphered what she actually meant.
After four nights in Melaka, we made the very swift and easy journey back to Kuala Lumpur, where Katie will be joining us, to stay with Hannahs Godfather Tony Harvey, his wife Susie, and their three daughters: Mia, Isabelle and Francesca. We were picked up by Tony's driver, (yes, i said driver), and were tacken to their lovely, modern, open plan home in Seputeh, Kuala Lumpur. Greeted by their mad dog Poppy, we dumped our bags in our rooms, (air con and en suit bathroom), we sat down on the inviting couches, and enjoyed a beer and gin and tonic. After a cosy nights sleep, Susie and the girl took us into town, to the Mid Vally Megamall; a huge mall, with four or five floors, and a whole floor it seems dedicated to eating. Susie treated us to some Malaysian fast food. This was tasty, healthy, inexpensive and quick! What could be better! Anyway after this Hannah and I had to meet Katie at BTS bus station, the main station in KL. (It's amazing! Runs like an airport, but without the waiting!) Katie however was nowhere to be seen, and after a couple of discussions we worked out that we weren't at the same bus station; she was at Puduraya, another major bus station in KL. Anyway after a taxi journey we were reunited with Katie, and her 24kg backpack (Mine and Hannah's is 15kg). The rest of the day was spent the same way as the day before: sofas, beers and gin and tonics.
On the Wednesday we went and saw the Petronas towers, however because you have to pay 10 pounds to go to the observation deck, which isn't even that high, we decided against it and walked around the parks and shopping malls. (The park there has a running lane, which is much softer under foot than tarmac). Thursday we ventured a bit further out to the Batu Caves. These are huge caves in a random outcrop of rock, which has been used as Hindu temples and places of worship. To get up to the Batu Caves you have to climb 272 steep steps with many macaques surrounding them, looking menacing and hungry. Once at the top you open out into a huge cave, that is very humid, and full of incense and music, and in one corner the main Hindu shrine. We were lucky enough to be in the cave at a time of worship, and witnessed about one hundred people worshipping, whilst drums and what sounded like an oboe, reverberated round the cave. That night the Harveys treated us to lovely meal and a classy restaurant/bar, where we met three businessmen who gave me many tips about Thai ladyboys, (which is very useful), and telling us about the ping pong shows in Bangkok. This was a very enjoyable evening, however Hannah, Katie and I realized that we shouldn't get used to it.
The Friday was our busiest day of our stay in KL. We went to the top of Minara KL, and communications tower that gave us a far better view of the city, and had an audio guide as well, (did you know Kuala Lumpur means Muddy River, I think). Then we moved across to the butterfly park in the central lake gardens of KL, home to 8000 butterflies, and the smallest tortoises you'll ever see. That night we decided to go out in KL, and turned up to this club called Rootz, recommended by Francesca, and handed in our ID's to the bouncers, who looked strangely at us and said, "you are 19, you have to be 21…" Ah, bit of a problem, but apparently in KL, anything can be solved with 50 ringgit (10 pounds), including speeding tickets, drink driving, you name it. "You will have to leave, unless we sought something out here", he carried on. So we handed over the 50 ringgit, and we were in… sorted.
Feeling a bit worse for wear the next day, we had a lie in, and then ventured out to Mid Valley megamall to buy a thank you present for the Harvey's. As it was Tony's birthday on the Friday, they had a barbeque Saturday night, in which we met many more expats, drank lots and ate lots. We had an overnight train booked from KL to Hat Yai on the Saturday night. (Hat Yai is a town in south Thailand that has connections to the rest of the country.) We enjoyed a lovely good bye Chinese meal, said our thank yous (which were plentiful as you can understand), then boarded our 13 hours night train to Thailand.
Now in Bangkok, but we are just about to catch the night train up to Loas. The next blog will be in I don't know when. If they do read this I would just like to thank the Harvey's again for their amazing hospitality and generosity. It was far greater than Hannah, Katy and I could have ever thought possible, and I hope they appreciate how grateful we are for it.