Malaysia Round 2: Malacca Town

It seems like time is passing by extremely fast. It seems like just yesterday I was getting back from my second trip to Malaysia, when in fact that happened almost two weeks ago.

Malacca was a blast. It was a large, 100+ person trip organized through some alumni that take exchange students on trips every semester. I, and most of the people I hang out with here, don’t really like to travel with large groups of people, so we were a little worried what this trip would be like.

We hopped on a bus around 6:00pm Friday evening. The bus ride was pretty uneventful. We had to stop at both Singaporean and Malaysian immigration, just like the trip to Tioman. It was dark out for most of the trip, so there really wasn’t anything to see. Most of us slept. Tin and Judy stole my Chinese notes and used them to play hangman. So yeah, uneventful.

We arrived in Malacca around 11:30pm, about two hours after we were supposed to. Dinner was arranged for us that night, but since we arrived so late, it was cold. Nonetheless, the chicken rice balls (a signature dish of Malaysia) were actually quite good. After dinner it was a short walk to the hotel where we were staying for the weekend. The hotel was positioned on one of the main streets of Jonker Walk, the main touristy area of Malacca. Even though it was about 1:00am at this point and we needed to be awake in seven hours, we weren’t tired and decided to walk around the city.

The first thing we saw once we got off the bus. Tourist police! Yay?

Walking around streets and back alleys of a foreign city at one in the morning is an eerie thing to do. Several hours before, a large flea market had packed up shop, so there were still a lot of people out on the streets and there were several random bonfires and torches scattered about. We walked through several dark alleys, were barked at by several dogs, and saw people strewn about the streets preparing their shop merchandise for the next day. One of the more lovely sights was a food vendor sitting in the streets chopping up enormous quantities of raw chicken. For the most part, though, we saw a lot of temples, monasteries, and mosques that we made mental notes to come back and see during the daytime.

One observation of note is that most people here seem to sleep in their shops. I don’t know if it’s because the shops are the only property that most people own or what, but the majority of the shops we passed had people sleeping inside on cots or sometimes just folding chairs. Seeing stuff like that makes me very curious as to what the daily lives of these people are like.

We finally went to sleep at I-don’t-know-what-time.

Our cozy little hotel room.

We woke up the next morning around eight to eat breakfast and meet up with the other exchange students to have a museum tour. The museum was actually very, very cool. Malacca has a lot of history that I really had no idea about. Back around the year 1400 or so, Admiral Cheng Ho from the Ming Dynasty went on several voyages around East, Southeast, South, and Central Asia. He even made it as far as Africa. I’ve heard the tales of Cheng Ho before in school, but what I didn’t know is that he made Malacca, Malaysia one of his major bases of operations. Entire city blocks in Malacca are dedicated to him and his travels.

Sitting at the captain's desk

I also got to participate in a Chinese tea ceremony. It was alright. It was very touristy and didn’t feel very authentic. After the tea, we decided to go back to those temples and monasteries that we had seen the night before. They were only a short walk away and were well worth it, as some of them were absolutely jaw-dropping gorgeous. The effort that had to have gone in to constructing the building and shrines is incredible. It was also cool to just be in an unfamiliar religion’s place of worship. It’s one of those things that is hard for me to explain, but the fact that we were being warmly welcomed into a place so sacred to the locals was very cool.

We wandered around quite a bit more, exploring Malacca. The town is split into two sections, “Old Town” and “New Town”. I bet you can guess what the difference between the two is. Old Town is where the temples we were at are. We hung around old town a little bit longer to see if we could stumble across any more cool sights. We came across some really cool shops, and I bought a few random pieces of artwork. I haggled with the guy and talked him down a whole $1 USD! I’m so awesome.

A street in Malacca
Another street

We headed over to the newer part of town to check out the sights there. We didn’t have much time, though, so all we were really able to do was stumble across a huge shopping mall where I bought a pretty nice watch for about $4 USD. It’ll probably break within a couple of weeks, but whatever.

Dinner was good. We had a huge, 8-course meal that was mostly Malay food. Lots of spicy stuff, lots of seafood. After dinner we went on a river boat tour before heading to a club in the newer part of the city. The club was typical, although the music was notably better than anything usually played in Singapore.

The next day was filled with a lot more exploring. The first place we went were the ruins of Fort A Famosa and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Between the 1500s and the 1800s, the Dutch and the Portuguese took turns controlling Malacca and left behind lots of evidence of it. The ruins were awesome. Like the rest of Malacca, there was a lot of history behind these particular structures, and learning the history behind them made the ruins much more fascinating.

A gravestone of sorts at St Paul's Cathedral
The ruins
The ruins as seen from the bottom of the hill

After the ruins we explored a reconstruction of the Sultanate of Malacca’s palace. Again, more history, more artifacts, more stuff to learn about and be fascinated at. After the palace we grabbed some lunch and our group split up. The girls wanted to go shopping in the mall while the guys, well, didn’t.

The istana, or palace of the Sultanate of Malacca
Inside the palace museum

Somehow we ended up in the mall anyway. We stumbled across a random stall that had a tiny archery range set up. After a bit of debate, we decided it looked cool and we wanted to give it a try. Despite being really simple and really easy (the bows and arrows were set up so that all you had to do was pull the string back and let go), it was a lot of fun and well worth the 7 ringgits (Malaysian currency) we spent.

We’re so awesome.

Pretty soon it was time to catch our bus back home. We said our goodbyes to Malacca and climbed back on the bus for another sleepy ride back to Singapore. I think everyone really enjoyed Malacca. I know I did, anyway. It was a nice break from the party-on-the-beach trips that we’ve mostly been on so far, and I got to focus more on learning about local culture and history. We were all exhausted and more than ready to head back to Singapore, though.

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