Pimp My Trishaw
Trip Start Jun 10, 2010
19Trip End Jul 31, 2010
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I made it back to Jerantut and immediately got on a bus to KL. Another 3 hours. At the KL bust station, I immediately found a bus to Melaka. 3 more hours. I must say, the Malaysian Peninsula bus system is ridiculously impressive. I spent essentially the whole day on various buses and everything ran like clockwork. These 3 hour bus rides were never more than 30 ringgit ($10) and they were (except for the local bus from the park) clean, quiet, comfortable, punctual, and prolific. Buses going everywhere seemed to be leaving all the time, and with 5 or 10 different bus companies
But once I arrived in Melaka, I had had enough buses for one day. I grabbed a taxi to a nice little hotel where I'm pretty sure all of the girls at the desk used to be, or still technically were, guys. None of the conversions were very convincing. The hotel was very nice and quite cheap, but this was definitely my first warning that I had entered the twilight zone.
Despite being exhausted (and still a bit sick) I schlepped back out to find the night market the cabbie had told me about. The market itself was rather ordinary; lots of food stalls and tourist junk. But the road was fascinating. The buildings were all small colonial Dutch houses, all the way down the road. Except they were all filled with Chinese people, Chinese signage, and Chinese decoration. The Chinese population was noticeably increasing as I got closer to Singapore. Melaka seemed almost totally Chinese. Further down the road, there was a bridge over a canal. With the distinctive railings, buildings, and huge colonial Dutch town center on the other side of the river, it was like I was teleported right into Amsterdam. Except the Chinese had taken over. So bizarre.
I discovered this to an even greater extent the next morning
As a side-note, that first night I did have one really horrible experience in Melaka. As I was walking down the street, I came upon a public square with a huge stage. Hundreds of people were gathering for some sort of performance as I sat down to eat dinner. As the show began, the stage seemed somehow too empty. And the first singer was pretty bad. Then it hit me: this was not a show, it was karaoke! In a public square with a really loud sound system! Oh, the humanity! The singers got progressively worse and I had to sit there and wait for the dinner I had already ordered! Obviously terrible singers singing Chinese music I didn't know and had no discernible melody. The tourists passed by agape and laughing, but all the Chinese were enthralled. They're obsessed with Karaoke here. Shame on you, Asia. Shame.
Needless to say, Melaka was originally a Dutch trading colony. At different points, it also belonged to the Portuguese, English, and Japanese. As such, it might be the kitschiest city on earth. This is surely one of the reasons the city itself as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history is palpable and evident in everything you see. I visited a few museums chronicling the history of both Melaka and Malaysia, in particular its road to independence
I learned a bit of history from the museums, but overall they were pretty bland. I visited a few more sites in the city, but by 2pm that day, I was completely convinced that I had seen everything worth seeing in Melaka, however rich and unique. I visited a local mall and decided to eat my first real "western" meal of the trip. Since I couldn't really find any Malaysian or otherwise Asian food in this mall, I broke down a little. Since I have a longstanding personal embargo on eating McDonald's or Burger King in other countries (because of the disappointment) I found a burger joint in the mall that seemed like a fast food chain, but I had never heard of it. This way, I can't be betrayed by something I love (lame, I know).
There's a reason I'd never heard of it. The burger was stringy. I didn't even think this was possible. Burgers are made with ground beef. This is a supposed to be a universal law of burger-making and exactly why I am justified in not trusting the rest of the world with my burger. World: stay away from anything beef-related!! Leave it to the Americans. In the food department, it's pretty much all we've got other than apple pie and Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks.
After my woefully substandard burger, I realized that I might as well continue on to Singapore rather than spend another night in Melaka. Though the city was really quite charming, it was both small and eerie as well. I got a bus in the late afternoon and sped towards the pearl of Southeast Asia.