A Funeral, an Iguana, and an Extra Blanket!

Trip Start Nov 30, 2008
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Trip End May 08, 2009


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Flag of Malaysia  , Melaka State,
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I started writing this post whilst sheltering from a torrential
rainstorm in Melaka, almost a week ago.  Since then I have traveled
several hundred kilometers north, through the towering skyscapers of
Kuala Lumpur, skirting the edges of the Cameron Highlands, and across
the causeway to Penang, to find myself here, in a small guesthouse in
Georgetown.
 




But I get ahead of myself, and must first return to Melaka to let
you know how I found my first Malaysian experience...  Rewind back one
week...

Well, I write this whilst hiding from the deafening rain
in Melaka's Chinatown.  I arrived last night and found a hostel before
heading out to explore.  Feeling lazy I remained in the new part of
town, bustling with shops, street stalls and hostels, but little
charm.  A chance encounter with a Malaysian from my bus journey earlier
that day led me the best (in his view!) of the many hawker stalls.  And
also a recommendation of what to order - chinese noodles with small
chillies.  It comes scattered with oysters - most no bigger than my
thumbnail.  And was utterly delicious!  Back to my hostel to watch a
DVD in the communal living area and a relatively early night.  I think
my body clock is catching up.




So here I am, ordering lunch despite only finishing my coffee and
doughnut breakfast an hour ago.  When the rain began to fall I was in a
nearby store - and a friendly girl from KL recommended the cafe next
door to escape the rain - but only if I like spicy food.  Do I? Oh
yes! 




Nyonya food could be one of the earliest fusion foods - born during
the Ming dynasty when Chinese settlers took Malay wives and became
known as the Peranakan.  Baba is the female form, Nyonya the male,
Nyonya frequently used to describe the collective and culture.  The
food is a mixture of Chinese and Malay, but yet different from either. 
Heavy use of pungent roots, more sour and spicier than typical Malay
food, I was in heaven!  I order the Nyonyan laksa and am not
disappointed.  And a filling bowl of soup and bottle of water comes to
about 80p - a refreshing change from the inflated prices in Singapore.



The storm abates, I finish my bowl and venture outside into the soaked streets, the air fresh from the downpour.

Along
the street I hear drums and music, and see a flower covered float
approaching.  I pulled my camera out before realising it was a funeral
procession.  But there was nothing sombre about what came next. 
Mourners in white with multi-coloured striped scarves pinned to their
shoulder; musicians; even stiltwalkers following the coffin, the music
energising - a commemoration rather than a display of grief. 



Later that night I returned to Chinatown - lit up in red, but quiet
in anticipation of the next evening's night market.  Friendly locals,
live music and no shortage of beer made it an enjoyable night -
discussing everything from racial tension to the sleeping habits of the
iguana asleep on one of the men's shoulders.  Incidentally, they seem
to make very affectionate pets (iguanas, not men) - cuddling into
bodies for warmth, and making a face not unlike Noodle or Dave when
petted under the chin.  Though I think I'll stick with the cats! 


 
Unfortunately
this was to be my best day in Melaka, as the next day saw a return of
my earlier cold, complete with shivers and aches.  I don't think anyone
had ever asked the guesthouse owner for an extra blanket before!  I
made it out to the night market, but my heart wasn't in it. 
Unfortunate, as this was like no market I'd seen before - fantastic
smelling food stalls, sandwiched between stalls selling all manner of
tourist junk.  Worst of all, my appetite had gone - all I could do was
look!


But no worries to be had on my account - a day or two later and I
was back to my normal self, and with a last bowl of noodles I jumped
back on the bus, to continue my journey to Kuala Lumpur.
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