My first foray into Malaysia

Trip Start May 08, 2006
Trip End May 06, 2007

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Malaysia is lovely. The people are lovely, the places are lovely, the food is lovely, the scenery is lovely. Ok so I've only been to Melaka and a little food stop on the way but first impressions are definately good. All of us ignorant westerners will notice that Melaka is actually a complete dive when you compare it to places on our side of the globe. It's dirty, noisy, polluted, and the houses are falling apart. But if you look at it this way then you are completely missing the point because it's also charming, full of all different kinds of interesting people, much less impersonal than Singapore, and most importantly - Malaysian to the bone. That is what I have come to see. If I wanted 5 star restaurants, sun-kissed beaches and regimented harmony then I may as well go to a resort in Spain. Here, the weather is perpetually hot, everything is stupidly cheap, and somehow the people seem to get by - selling a couple of loaves of bread or a wicker basket to keep afloat.

On arrival at the bus station I was expecting to be attacked by touts yelling about the various benefits of their guesthouses and hoards of taxi drivers yelling competing fares at me while I tried to put on a 20kg backpack in 32 degree heat. This is what the media and the guidebooks would have you believe. You could say the actual process is much less painful than going down your local Comet/Currys to buy a fridge. You're simply handed a flyer by a guy who speaks amazing English and told how great their hostel is and then approached by a couple of taxi drivers to see if you want one.
"No thank you"
Wow that was horrible. I had to admire the observational qualities of one hostel tout who saw the mud all over my shorts (I managed to slip in a puddle and land on my arse earlier that day) and proclaimed that they had cheap laundry. Nice angle.
Well I eventually ignored the flyers and made my way to the Sama-Sama backpackers in Chinatown - which was full. I started to make my way towards Tony's Guesthouse when a local sitting in a bar with two expats spotted me, called me over and bought me 3 beers all cos he liked to chat to travellers (and partly because he was pissed I suspect). Joe - the owner of the bar and an expat from Auckland - said that I was welcome to play a couple of songs on stage if I was able to pop round again. That was possibly the first Carlsberg I've had since leaving England and man was it good... the heat only made it better. All I needed was a packet of McCoys and I'd be in heaven.

Anyway, I found Tony's, checked into a room with a double bed for RM20 (about 3 quid), had a cold shower and went to explore the town, the results of which can be seen in the photos. I like it. It's a bit run-down but nobody cares much. It's like living in a house where the toilet gets cleaned every few weeks and there's always something to wash up in the sink. If you're a clean freak you won't like it but if you have no problems seeing past dirt and grime (i.e. most of us blokes) then you'll see that it's a nice place with good food, interesting districts and friendly people, and that's all that really matters. There's one guy staying in my guesthouse - an expat from Cambridge who reminds me of Wallace from Wallace & Gromit and says "know what I mean?" every 5 seconds. He's an absolute fruitcake but a nice guy all the same.

And so, after cruising the town and sampling the local delicacies, I find myself in an Internet cafe listening to what I presume to be the Malay equivalent of Bic Runga (whose mum incedentally, was a nightclub performer in Malaysia I just found out) and listening to little kids bash the hell out of little computer sprites. I've booked my hostel in KL for tomorrow night so for now, I'm going to find a nice little bar somewhere and wind down the evening before I get back on the coach tomorrow.
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