We decided that the easiest way to get to Malacca from Singapore was to take a bus – a green bilious bus. Fortunately, the highways in Malaysia are fantastic – the freeway from Johor Bahru (the Malaysian city on the outskirts of Singapore) to Malacca make the freeway between Edmonton and Calgary seem like a second world road. The highway is lined from Jahor Bahru to Malacca with palm tree plantations. Our green bus drove through a green palm forest.
Malacca, now known as Melaka, is a city with roots in a pot-puree of cultures. Founded by a Hindu prince, the port of Melaka was settled by Chinese who mixed with the native Malays to form the Peranakans (also known as Baba and Nonya) – famous for their food. Later the Portuguese took the city and brought with them Catholicism. Eventually the city passed into Dutch hands and eventually into British hands until finally Malaysia became an independent country in 1957. The architecture reflects a mingling of all these cultures. Malacca’s Chinatown was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Jonker’s Walk is a kind of hawker market street filled with street food and cheap Chinese trinkets operating on weekends. At one end of the street, in the evening, one has to walk through a semi-circle of bicycle trishaws decorated with colourful flashing LED lights, faux flowers and often pumping our rock music.
We decided we had to try some Peranakan food and went to Nancy’s Kitchen – a well known restaurant which had moved so recently that even the Tourist Agency gave us wrong directions. As we wandered along, a dignified Chinese gentleman asked if we needed directions. When we explained that we were looking for Nancy’s Kitchen, he asked us to wait a moment, then he backed out his car and explained that he would drive us to the restaurant. He explained that he was a high school teacher and had travelled quite a bit in Asia and understood how frustrating it was to be lost. We could hardly believe his generosity.