Silk Road Port
Day 185 Bus Journey
The journey to Malacca (Melaka) by bus is going to make for a long day but first we need to find the bus station. The address is Queen Street just two blocks from our hotel so we set off with our luggage in toe (luckily quite a lot lighter after yesterday’s trip to the post office!). Unfortunately, we are at the wrong end of Queen Street and find we have to walk to the other end which takes another twenty minutes in 30 degrees heat.
Eventually we find the station, collect our tickets and make our way to the bus. The bus has a lot of spare seats which seems to be due to the corona virus concerns. The seats are comfortable and very much like business class on a plane. They lay almost flat with leg rests and one could easily sleep whilst travelling. However, this is not the cleanest bus I have travelled on and I am thankful for the wet wipes in the bag.
The journey takes 4 – 5 hours so we are pleased when the bus sets off exactly on time. Just a minute, have we just driven round in a circle and arrived back where we started from? Why the driver has done this we do not know but we sit on the bus for another 10 minutes or so before setting off again. Once on the way we realise that this journey is not going to be quick. The bus is obviously old and chugs along at snail pace.
Crossing the border is a strange experience. Firstly we exit on the Singapore side and show our passports to leave and then we exit with all our luggage on the Malaysia side and pass through passport control. Our luggage is x-rayed but Mark who has already gone through says the screen is blank when the luggage travels through. This bodes well for anyone trying to smuggle things across the border – they won’t get caught.
Marcus and I both fall asleep once on the road in Malaysia. Suddenly I’m woken as the bus swerves across the road! The driver is nodding off and we are terrified of crashing. Mark goes to sit on the step at the side of the driver to chat and try keep him awake. This is a funny conversation as the driver doesn’t speak English and Mark certainly doesn’t speak Malay. Nevertheless, it does have the desired effect and the driver stays alert until he is able to pull off at a service station.
There is a 10-minute stop at the services where we are able to change our Singaporean dollars to Malaysian Ringgit and buy drinks and snacks. The services have toilets and little stalls selling everything from food, trinkets, gifts and crafts. It is also blistering hot and I’m happy remaining on the bus in the air conditioning.
The rest of the journey passes without incident. We pass mile after mile of palm trees and forested hills. The countryside is very green and lush but there is evidence of opencast mining and large estates of new housing. As we approach Malacca the roads become busier and the buildings more concentrated.
The bus station is very large and attached to an out of town shopping complex. We haven’t a clue where we are in comparison to our hotel and once off the bus decide our only option is to get a taxi. A driver approaches us and quotes a price that we are happy with so we load the luggage in the boot and he gives us a guided drive into the city. He points out the places of interest and where we can visit on the 20-minute journey. We’re glad we didn’t try to walk here dragging the luggage with us, it would have taken hours.
The hotel is simple but Ok with a proper toilet and clean beds. We are very close to the centre of the city and near to the historical sights and the river which is great as we only really have one full day here.
Malacca is a Malaysian state on the Malay Peninsula's southwest coast. We are staying in the capital Malacca City which is steeped in history and its colonial past. Once rid of our luggage we go out to explore the area, immediately realising that we will have to watch our step on the broken pavements and open drains. The drains are very deep which tells us that when it rains here it rains heavy.
The main street is partly closed as the night market has been set up and there is an abundance of wares available. Lining this street are a number of large modern shopping centres and entertainment complexes which are towered over by the 110m high Taming Sari Tower with its 360-degree panoramic view of the city.
After buying bug spray we make our way down through the historical area to the Dutch windmill in Red Square. There are highly customised, brightly lit trishaws playing laud pop music, lining the streets and plying for business, however, they only take two passengers so we give them a miss.
In front of us we find Jonker Street and its night market. Jonker walk at the centre of Chinatown has been renovated and is a real draw at night with shops, restaurants, bars and street stalls. We stop to buy skewers of street food to eat on the hoof; quails’ eggs, chicken satay and chorizo, they are delicious.
We suddenly realise how hungry we are and decide on a place to eat. We sit at a table where we are able to watch the world go by and listen to the live music, a really good singer and piano player. We realise we make the right choice when within minutes of sitting down it starts to rain, it bounces down and people come running in to take cover filling all the tables within seconds.
The rain has eased off once we have finished so we continue down the street and then turn up the next street which is lined with boutique hotels and antique shops. We manage to get lost somehow and wander down the river towards the sea hoping to find a bridge. There isn’t one and we have to turn back to make our way to the main street and onto our hotel.
Day 186 River City
Setting off early we head for the Taming Sari Tower a gyro tower with a revolving viewing platform ascending 110m up into the air. Mark thinks he might be better not going up but decides at the last minute to do so. Sitting down we are looking out through glass windows at the town. As the glass structure starts to rise it also turns around to give us a 360-degree view. Mark has his eyes closed and doesn’t really enjoy the experience but Marcus and I are amazed by the panoramic views. I am surprised by how close to the sea we are and how large the city is with a busy port.
Once back on the ground we wander past the Portuguese replica ship which is a museum and on towards the river jetty to catch a boat. The cruise lasts about 45 minutes and promises to take us along the river to see both the old and new of Malacca. We find seats at the front of the boat and wait to set off. However, here come a tour party to join the cruise. All the remaining seats are taken up by giggling, noisy women and we are therefore unable to hear any of the commentary!
The boat travels at quite a speed and because we are sat at the front we are splashed with water, but it’s very hot so this is quite welcome. It is interesting to see the city from here, as it looks quite different from on the street. The cruise travels 9km down the river away from the sea and we pass riverside restaurants and bars with colourful murals painted on walls. Inland are more modern high-rise hotels and apartments towering over old homestays and shophouses. Returning to the jetty we make a stop at Red Square to drop the tour party off and then continue the Portuguese Ship where we disembark.
We make our way to the historical area where we visit the Malacca Sultanate Palace which sits at the bottom of St. Paul’s Hill. It is a wooden replica of Sultan Mansur Shah’s 15th century palace which was constructed using the traditional techniques and materials based on 16th century accounts. The museum is three stories high and contains tableau, pictures, decorative arts, traditional costumes, metalwork and jewellery detailing the Malaccan Malay Sultanate’s history and cultural heritage. Despite all this culture Marcus particularly enjoys his 5 minutes in a massage chair!
Leaving this lovely building we continue along the road to the remains of A’Famosa. Built in 1511 by the Portuguese this fort originally sprawled across the whole hillside but now all that remains is a lone gate. This is one of the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Asia and was only saved by the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles due to his love of historical buildings.
Steps lead up the hill from the fort to the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, built by a Portuguese nobleman and originally called Nossa Senhora de Annunciada it has been in ruins for more than 150 years. There is no roof and stone is missing but we can imagine how impressive the building once was and the views of the city from up here on top of St.Paul’s Hill is stunning. Making our way down the hill by another route we come across the Dutch Cemetery which also has graves of British soldiers.
Working our way round to Church Street just off Red Square we find ourselves stood in front of Christ Church. This red brick church was built by the Dutch when they took possession of Malacca from the Portuguese. The building has a large white cross and the British added a weather vane and clock to the tower during their occupation. In front of Christ Church are the brightly coloured trishaws and a large fountain. This is a meeting place for many people during the day and in the evening.
We cross the square and make our way down to the river. We walk along the river bank following the same route as the boat did this morning. The slower pace allows us to see the buildings and murals more closely. The bridges over the river are very decorative and they seem to be every 100m or so. We cross to the other side of the river to return and walk through a small estate of homestays and shops. This area is very traditional and the homes have lovely colourful gardens.
We stop at a café on the river bank for food and drinks. The café is really quite trendy inside with an open kitchen where the cook can be watched preparing the food. Leaving after eating we continue walking on the river bank and we find a bar or rather the reggae music playing loudly finds us. Tables are set up on the bank and we make ourselves comfortable watching the boats pass and listening to the music whilst drinking. The restaurants and bars along the river bank are all lit up and the lights are reflected in the river, it is beautiful.
Making our way back to our hotel we wander down Jonker Street. We are not hungry so decide against food although Marcus does snack on fried crab shells. We have coffee in one of the coffee shops – it offers a wide variety of coffees from around the globe. Marcus buys two new shirts at one of the stores on Jonker street as he is too hot in T-shirts. They are great value and look good too.