. I found one pretty easily and was shown around. It had and industrial sized (14 bed) dorm but I was drawn in by the nice lounge, big TV with channels and an extensive movie collection and the free pool table. The place had a nice vibe to it as well. A bed in the dorm cost just 15 Rm (about 3.50), the cheapest night’s sleep I have had yet. I went for a wander around Chinatown for a few hours and found that there was yet another New Year celebration. It was the last day of the festival and people were taking to the streets yet again. There was a parade with lots of different dragons and tigers and a great atmosphere. There was also some kind of Kung Fu demonstration afterwards but I missed that. After the festivities I went for dinner… all on my own. It was strange to be eating alone again and I think it was the first time since Varanasi, almost 3 months ago. I went back to the hostel and found a group that all seemed well bonded, even had a family vibe there. It was nice but I definitely felt outside the loop, it’s always a bit like that the first night you spend in a hostel.
The following day there was a little bit of cloud cover so I had to take advantage of the sweet relief from the heat and humidity and walk around the town a bit. I headed for the tourist office which I found closed with a sign saying ‘lunch hour 12-3’, hilarious I thought
. I just strolled around for a bit until I found a large replica Portuguese galley which housed a museum. I usually don’t care for museums but I was hot a sweaty and it had AC inside so I was enticed. At just 3 Rm (like 70c) I got entry to the galley, the marine museum and the naval museum. There is something about being on a ship that captivities me and the exhibits gave me the whole history of the city. I think I read every word in there actually. It was basically the capital of trade in SE Asia and an essential stopover for China-India-West trade too. The Portuguese conquered in the early 1500s and they were over thrown by the Dutch about 150 years later. Not long after that along came the Brits who ruled until independence in 1957. Through all the occupations the cities significance was destroyed by exploiting huge taxes and deterring traders. I took in the marine museum next which was also pretty cool. After a nice local lunch in a nearby food court I went for the naval museum. This was the coolest of all. They had a helicopter and lots of dismounted ship guns in the building and outside had a full vessel which you could board. The really put it all out there giving the specs of all their fleet, weapons specs and even went so far as to name the current top dogs in the navy. Really they must not worry much about terrorism here. Afterwards I went back to the town square to sit and people watch for a while. The square has a lovely Dutch small town feeling to it which isn’t even ruined by the stroves of buses full of Chinese tourists whom stop there for an hour or so
. It was a nice place to sit and soak it all up. There were two trees beside me and just as the sun set birds started gathering in them, before long there must have been 2 or 3 thousand birds there. Their song resonated throughout the square and added all the more to the atmosphere.
In the evening there was the birthday of Peter, a Belgium guy from the hostel. I was invited along for dinner and drinks and so was adopted into the family of Voyage Guesthouse. A gang of about 10 of us went for dinner in a local dinghy looking joint, the kind you wouldn’t go anywhere near without local knowledge. It was delicious. We went back to the hostel and rolled about 5 more people into the fold while having a few cheap beers. The place to be in Melaka is Pure Bar so we headed there for about 11. The bar was buzzing with locals and it looked like our gang was the only foreigners in there, I liked that. We started fairly tame… but as the band were banging out the tunes and the beer buckets were going down we loosened up and were jumping around the place in no time. Pure closed at about 2.30 and as I thought we were on our way home the group was steered into another club, Ahha. We got turfed out of there about 4:30 and with a stop in McD’s for food (where they would only give us breakfast) along the way it was 5:30 by the time we got home. Needless to say the following day was a total write off, spent lounging in the café and lying on the couch
. We did have a group dinner and I was almost dragged out to Pure Bar again but managed to resist the temptation and had an early night instead.
With a renewed energy I headed out for another bit of sightseeing. After once again wander the old town square for an hour I headed to the hilltop where the Church of St Peter stood. It’s about 500 years old, and now stands a ruin after being ravaged by the Dutch and Brits. At the foot of the hill was Alfonso’s gate; the only piece of the original Portuguese fort which still stands. I checked out a few antique planes, trains and automobiles in the area before heading for a look at the replicated Sultanate’s Palace. IT was cool, and had nice botanical gardens. I was wishing I brought my sketchpad as the façade was well worth a sketch. I had a quick browse of the Independence Museum before stepping into modern day Melaka in the largest shopping mall in the town. The real highlight of the day came later when Ronan and a few of the guys took me along for my first ever Hash Run. I thought it sounded like drug smuggling too but it’s nothing like that. A hash run is like a mixture between cross country running and orienteering. You run and follow a paper trail until it stops, when that happens everyone spreads out to find the next paper on the trail. When they find it they yell ‘On On’ and everyone else can follow them on the trail
. I came third in the race, not a bad result for a first timer, although most of the opposition were middle aged men. At the end of the run you are handed a bottle of water and a beer…. That’s the second part of hash running…. The drinking. They got a bit metal box and filled it with ice. Some people had to sit in the ice while they went through various rituals. Finally they had to down a jug of beer before being released. As the tradition goes and newcomer is focused on here. I went through this ritual where I had to introduce myself and then shake the hand of every other hasher before downing the beer…. My bum was stinging by the end. I even had to do it a second time where they christened me with my hash name ‘flower horn’ since my face turned so red after running so fast in the heat. There was a special celebration for Chinese New Year (I swear it just never stops) so we were invited to join them for an all you can eat/drink party. There was Karaoke before even the first course was served but we held back until a few beers went down before joining in. I must have sung 3 or 4 songs, with help from the guys of course. OF course we were once again called up on stage and made to down a glass of beer, and again a second time to down two consecutive glasses of beer. Needless to say we were fairly tipsy by the end of the night. It was hilarious to see all these middle aged Malay guys playing these juvenile drinking games, a lot of fun partying with the locals
The following two days I remained in Melaka. Of course Monday was spent vegetating on the hostel couch watching TV and recovering from the night before. In the evening we headed out for some local 'babla loyna' cuisine and that was about the most energetic thing I did. We had a bit of a movie night where we all watched Machete (awesome, highly recommended). Tuesday I did a bit more of the touristy stuff. I wandered the back streets of Chinatown, had a look at the oldest active temple in Malaysia, took a troll along the river bank and finally sat in the town square for an hour to bath in the chilled atmosphere. Tuesday evening was official movie night where they turned out the lights in the café and used a projector on a white wall. We watched Chocolat which was a bit gay of a big gang of lads but enjoyable nonetheless.
One thing that I hate most about flying is that you have to travel first to the airport, then catch your flight and again travel from the airport to the city where you're headed. For some bizarre reason there is a similar situation here with the bus stations. KL station is about 10km outside the city so it was a huge pain to have to drag my backpack on a crowded public bus there. When I stepped off the bus at KL station there was a barrage of tout girls shouting 'where you go, where you go’. Apparently all the intercity busses are private companies and competition is fierce between them. I hate touts so I breezed past them into the booking hall and went to the first stand that did not try and force me to buy my ticket from them. I arrived in Melaka Sentral two hours later and thought great… ‘Sentral’, I must be in the center. Not to be… it was another 5km on a packed city bus to the town square. I jumped off in the town square and headed to Chinatown where I knew there were a cluster of guesthouses