You can be the judge, but looking at the photos, we believe that seeing Melaka at night is the only way to go! Also known as Malacca (you may have heard of the Strait of Malacca), the government standardized its spelling to the original Malay as Melaka. It lies off the southwest coast of Malaysia, roughly midway between Singapore and the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and across the strait from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical importance as a major trade route stop between China and India. Like so many places in this part of the world, the country was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Japanese (during WW II) before gaining its independence in 1963. After only a week in Malaysia, we have become very fond of the Malay people. They are gentle, soft-spoken, sweet natured, and smiling, smiling, smiling…all the time. It is very pleasant and calm here. As one of our drivers told us….Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian: we all get along and live in harmony. It feels very safe here, and of course, the prices continue to be exceedingly low for everything. We can get a lunch of chicken and rice with salad for 5 ringgits ($1.25 US). We saw the new movie Pet Sematary on opening day for 8 ringgits ($2 US). Soda AND popcorn cost a total of 10 ringgits ($2.50 US).
So, the photos. They are pretty much divided into two halves, with the first images from Jonker Walk, a night market in Chinatown that is the heart of the city in the evening. It takes between one and two hours to stroll along, try some street food, have coffee, and luxuriate in the sights, smells, chatter, and busyness. We had coffee and a fantastic sugar-free smoothie, along with Portuguese Pastel de Nata, a fabulous egg custard tart that we first tasted in Kauai and also enjoyed in Portugal. Served still warm, here it cost 60 cents US. The most unusual food we encountered was fried squid, but nothing like the squirming scorpions on sticks we saw in Beijing, waiting to be thrust into hot oil for feasting! It was sort of amazing to us that we never saw any pizza, burgers, fries, or soda for sale; at a US fair, there will be American dishes, but also Chinese, Thai, sushi, Indian, and many other foreign cuisines. Yes, we know we are in Asia, but food dishes that were offered many, many times over were fish and meats on sticks, all things durian (ice cream, shakes, fruit slices), smoothies, rice dishes, sausages, pastries made of yams, and various shellfish delicacies still in the shell. And as you can see, there were dried flowers and fruit for sale (used in soup and salad), charcoal ice cream and milk tea (apparently a trend, but it doesn’t bring much in terms of nutrition), squid on a stick (calamari, anyone?), dirty puffs (?? – we don’t know and did not try), and a fun refund/re-do policy for smoothies: feel not tasty, please ask for re-do or fully refund; feel unworthy, please ask for re-do or fully refund. Also at night: here come the trishaws! Unusual during the day, the bicycle rickshaws are decorated with Miss Kitty and Pokémon characters. But it all comes alive at night, with flashing lights and bouncing music from Bollywood and Chinese folk music. They reminded us of Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade. We will try one tomorrow night, when we return to this fun area of town. A 30-minute trishaw ride costs $6 US.
The second half of the photos are from the Night River Cruise, which is the only time to do it. The river route is lit up like Christmas for people to enjoy the serpentine river through the heart of the city. We boarded and eagerly headed to the front so that we could take photos for this blog entry. We were very smugly happy with our seats….UNTIL, as you can see in the second of the cruise photos, the water started splashing into the boat and soaking everyone in the front, just like a log flume ride. It creeped us out a little, as it was getting in our eyes and mouth, and signs along the river requested, “help keep our river clean!” We are still feeling okay, though, so maybe we were worrying needlessly as we – and everyone else – scooted back as far as we all could from the front and the splashing! As you look at the night cruise photos, though, do take a minute to look at the water itself and how the lights shimmer doubly in its reflection. It was so beautiful…45 minutes of many oohs and aahs from the passengers…that is, except for the shrieks when getting hit by splashing water! The last photo is of St. Francis Xavier Church, which kind of rises eerily behind one of the many bridges as you come around a river bend. It was built in 1849 on the site of an old Portuguese church and is based on a cathedral in Southern France.