Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A day and night in Malacca

We went to Malacca to celebrate the "month of Liz" (Mother's Day, anniversary, and birthday). Malacca is a relative quiet, walkable tourist town. We were surprise to be greeted by a water dragon and signs wishing a happy lunar new year on Jonker Street, the main street in Chinatown. The street is closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and it becomes a large night market. Some year we may brave the crowds, but on a Wednesday night it was quiet.
2 months after Chinese New Year and the Dragon is still greeting
visitors to Jonker Street

Behind the hotel's reception desk was the sign "Durians and pets not allowed." Durians are commonly banned; pets don't seem to be explicitly banned (but I am sure that they are unwelcome in most places)

As a world heritage city Malacca has developed enough tourist sites that we still find new things to do. This trip we visited the Malaka Maritime Museum and the Jonker Bird House.

The Maritime Museum is housed in a replica of a 16th century Portuguese trading ship. Other than showing the captain's quarters the replica does not show were the men slept, ate, and washed. The displays focused on the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial eras. The information were interesting, but because it was not organized around a time line I found it redundant. Doug pointed out that each deck focused on a single topic: governance, transportation, or trade. The information helped us fill in the blanks in our knowledge of Malaysia's history. Plus, we are interested in how events are described. For example, no mention was made of Chinese traders. Sultans were mentioned, but the exhibits did not trace their evolution into their current roles.

 I read a tourist's complaint about having to taking shoes off before entering the ship's interior. A former student from Bhutan taught me a lesson on taking shoes off. When we were entering a temple he noticed that some people kept their shoes on. He commented that they were being thoughtless and making more work for the cleaning staff.

Akbal Hanum -
Guide Extraordinaire
If you google the Jonker Bird House you will get a list of hotels each including complementary passes to the bird house. With our complimentary passes we went and found it interesting and worthwhile. The bird house is in a renovated shop house. Originally it was on the seafront, but land reclamation projects have pushed the coastline out. Too bad - it is still a pleasant but perhaps less charming than the town we remember in 1974. Our guide, Akbal Hanum, was the best part of the house. She talked to us about the house's history, the birds, and their nests. We went into the center of the house where swifts build their nests, the famed birds nest of birds nest soup, and fly in and out at great speeds. In addition to explaining the house's features, she answered questions thoroughly and we shared personal bits of information as new acquaintances often do. Who ever hired her knew what he/she was doing! At end of the tour we went to a room where young women were cleaning the nests and removing debris for them. At the end we went into room that looked very much like a gold showroom and its collection of birds nests merited the comparison.

Want to buy a bird nest? Note the scale -
they are sold by the gram

Here two wonders seen by street wanders. No, we did not stay at Backpackers Freak Guest House. When we took the picture I imagined a bug infested place with zoned out occupants. I Googled it, read the comments, and now I just feel old and cranky. The reviews were positive (probably nicer and more forgiving than folks who stay at budget hotels);  Probably not the place for retirees, but clearly pleasant for much younger backpackers.

On Jonker Walk we came upon this statue in a pocket park (also the location of public toilets).

This is Gan Boon Leong, "The Father of Body Building in Malaysia." His titles include Mr. Universe, Mr. Asia, Mr. Malaysia, and Mr. Malaka.

Curry Ramen - a huge, tasty healthy bowl
So no post would be complete without a comment about food. We had a lunch at the Geographer's Cafe - initially I had been reluctant to go there because it seem too touristy, but truly what else can you expect in Malacca? Plus, many if not most of the tourists are Malaysian (or Singaporean). I was drawn by the "no MSG" at the beginning of the menu. I order a tasty curry ramen which was tasty and also omitted coconut milk (the tasty ingredient in so many curries)

Directly across the street at Malacca Jonker Nyonya Enterprises we bought pineapple tarts for small hostess gifts. The first ingredient was "pure butter." The tarts received complements from one of Malaysian foodie friends.

Decades ago we had fish dinner in a restaurant/shop where we selected the fish (not live ones) and they cooked them. Alas, the shop is a victim of renovation. In the same location we found Eleven Bistro and had baked fish (Portuguese style), a curried chicken (special dable curry), and baked bean curd with mushrooms. All tasty. The service was good - the waiter even got out his cell phone to show us the picture of the fish. What he also told us is the fresh water fishes absorb the taste of the spices and the sea water fishes do not.

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