Old Melaka has a vast and rich history dating back to the 15th century. Best to google it if you're really interested, but to summarize; Melaka was a thriving port long before Singapore even had a paved road. Battles aplenty took place with cannons and gunships and rotating occupations. The Chinese seized it from the Malays, the Portuguese from the Chinese, then there were the Dutch and also the English. I lose track. Rich trade of lucious sounding things like incense, coffee, spices, silk, porcelain, gold, sandalwood were in great demand. Too much to really grasp in two days, especially when trying to read a plaque in the midday sun.
Like KL, the cheaper backpacker accommodation is found in Chinatown, which is where we stayed. However, Melaka's Chinatown has a very different feel than that of KL. KL's Chinatown is all industry - busy dirty streets backed by heavy looming skyscrapers. Melaka's Chinatown is more fluid, with quiet curving rows of lowlying whitewashed buildings and chains of red lanterns. Here the chinese temples and muslim mosques are accompanied by restored Christian churches and much visited historic ruins. Within our two days, we spent much time poking around the various funky shops and cafes in and around Jonker street. We wandered along the canal, walked up the hill to the ruins of St. Paul's church, and ducked into a buddhist temple. We explored a pirate ship, browsed through house museums showing the lives of rich and poor at the turn of the century, and took a boat cruise down the canal. We discovered that the city transforms on the weekends to accommodate the holidaying local tourists. Jonker street comes alive with a night market and everyone and their brother takes a "trishaw" ride (like a rickshaw but the bicycle is on the side and the carriage is heavily decorated with fake flowers). We thought Abbey would enjoy this, especially with the excessively twinkling fairy lights that come on at night. Of course, we didn't bank on getting a 70 yr old as our cyclist. If you can get past the cheesiness of it all, it could be considered a relaxing roll through the streets. This being said, we couldn't help but feel guilty for our comparative youth and heaviness, as we watched pedestrians pass us on the sidewalk...and especially when he asked us to disembark so he could get up a small hill! But somehow we felt a little better when he told us he'd been doing this for thirty years. It's his job. And by this point, it's probably his choice to continue.
Overall the heat was pretty oppressive and so frequent cafe stops were not only welcome but necessary. One place even had misting fans. Mmm - we liked that place. They also had deep fried lychee stuffed with shrimp! Fantastic. In general, though, we haven't had nearly as much luck with meals as we did in Bali. Despite the variety and Malaysia's reputation for excellent food, it seems it comes down to the luck of the pick.
Our journey to and from Melaka had us passing miles and miles of palm tree plantations, which we later learned are grown for palm oil, which Malaysia exports in great quantities.
After Melaka, we spent one short night back in KL before getting up early and catching a bus to the Cameron Highlands, which is where we are now.
More soon :)