Friday, January 13, 2012

Off to Explore Malacca, Malaysia

01/11 Wednesday
Today's destination is Malacca, Malaysia, about 4 hours north of Singapore via bus. It is exactly 2°12′N 102°15′E according to Wikipedia, whereas Singapore is 01 22' N, 103 48' E. It is the capital of the state of the same name, population of around 800,000.

We're passing along a 4-lane highway surrounded by hills and plains of green tropical trees and foliage. It's an overcast day, a bit less humid than in Singapore. We saw parts of Malaysia on Saturday when hiking in the wetlands and actually heard the chanting of prayers. Malacca has been made an historical site and we have looked up several " must see" places. We need to get some Malaysian Ringgit currency!

Our hotel is on Jonker St (in Dutch, meaning "second class gentleman's" street) in the historic district. Malacca has been part of Portugal, the Netherlands, and The United Kingdom over the past 600 years. Malaysia has been an independent nation since 1957. It's location on the coast is at the narrowest point of the Malacca Strait making it a good shipping port. Singapore, of course, has usurped Malacca's former #1 port in Asia.

Our room has big windows overlooking the busy street and an outdoor stage. All kinds of decorations are going up for the Chinese New Year, which is the year of the dragon. Our room is decorated quite dramatically and comfortable.

After a quick lunch right next to our hotel we start walking the famous street. We tour the oldest temple, Chengdu Hoon Teng, in Malaysia. Then it is on to a mausoleum and a mosque before reaching the river. We see a great collection of past governors uniforms, metals etc, learn about Malaysia independence in 1956 and even a well restored 1956 white Chevy at the Governor's museum.

Then it is up a big hill to the ruins of St. Paul, a great view of Malacca and the Malaysia straits and most important enjoy a cool breeze. One would think I'd be dropping /sweating off a few pounds, but it isn't happening. St. Francis Xavier preached here in this church for many years in the 1500's. Three European powers, the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupied Malacca until 1957 and this church was used by all of them.

Stopped for a drink before heading back to our hotel for a rest. Kind of funny since I had a Singapore Sling and haven't had one in Singapore yet. It was way too sweet.

After putting our feet up and the AC on for awhile we walk down to the river and take a 45 minute cruise at 8 pm. It is a delightful evening with a nice breeze. The boat goes by old shop houses, churches,a Malay village and under several unique bridges.Lots of lights and activity. We see several cafes from the boat and walk back to one for dinner. The locals call their food Pernanakan and it is a blend of Malay and Chinese. They use lots of herbs,spices, coconut milk and lime. It is very unique, spicy and flavorful. We tried several dishes and a local dessert and all were good. The cost was about $15.

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