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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Melaka & Koala Jumper

MALAYSIA | Friday, 13 February 2009 | Views [2820] | Comments [2]

Melaka has been occupied by many countries over its time, the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch in the 17th century and the British from the 18th century, with Melaka and Malaysia only gaining Independence in 1957, so the architecture of the town has many European influences. The town hall and clock tower are some of the oldest Dutch buildings in the East and part of the old Portuguese fort and ruin chapel still rests on the bukit (hill) looking over the Straits of Melaka.


However, there is only really one way to describe Melaka and that is as a city of M’s. M can stand for many things here, but the three main ones are museums, meals and malls.

Anyone interested in Museums just has to visit Melaka. There seem to be about 100 museums here, although that might be a slight exaggeration, I will name a few of them for you so you get my point. We have the Melaka Stamp Museum, Kite Museum, Education Museum, Malaysian Youth Museum, Independence Museum, Islamic Museum, Peoples Museum, History Museum, Literature Museum, Maritime Museum, Cultural Museum, Government & Democracy Museum, Architecture Museum, Spinning Top Museum and the Enduring Beauty Museum. We impressively managed to visit 7 in the 3 days we were there and then we were museumed out.

M stands for meals because of the variety of food on offer here, including Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and also Portuguese, Dutch and Nonya (a mix between Chinese and Malaysian). One night we went out with Stephen, the guy who runs the hostel we were staying in, plus some of the other guests, to a South Indian restaurant and had a banana leaf banquet, which tasted very good indeed!

Another night we visited the restaurant Capitol Satay, where the stainless steel tables have vats of bubbling satay sauce in the centre, then you purchase skewers of uncooked food, like chicken, sausage, liver, fish, tofu, vegetables and many which I didn't have a clue what they were, and then cooked them yourself in the vat. Such a good idea and lipsmackingly delicious!

The other M stands for Malls. There are just loads of them towering around the centre of town, creating an underground maze of shops and stalls, with the most impressive being the ‘Mega Mall of Melaka’. It’s easy to get lost in them, although this isn’t a chore as the air con helps cool off from the heat and I have never been one to complain about window shopping, although I managed not to spend any money this time. Well, we spent a few ringetts on some cheap dvds (read as $1 pirate copies) as there was a dvd player in the hostel we could use, so took the opportunity to catch up on a few cinema releases we have missed. After 3 days it was time to move on to KL, where I had been informed the largest mall in Malaysia lives!

Kuala Lumpur

or Koala Jumper as I have affectionately renamed it, is a 2 hour bus ride from Melaka. The transport system so far in Malaysia has been wonderful, with full air con buses with reclining seats, leg and foot rests and motorways where drivers stick to the lanes provided and don't try to make 4 lanes out of 2 and no pot holes either, bliss!

When we arrived in KL or KJ we set about looking for a hostel recommended to us, and eventually found it 2 hours later via walking about 3km, catching the train and the monorail too. Then we realised if we had walked 600m in the other direction from where we started we would have found it a lot quicker, but at least we already had a mini tour of the city. The room we got at the hostel was about the size of a shoe box with no window, and a shared air con unit that sat resting in a hole in the wall between the two rooms, so you had to hope the neighbours liked the same temperature as you, but it was cheap so we were happy. When we checked in the guy on the desk warned us that as it was a Friday night there would be noise from the bar downstairs, but we said no problem we could use ear plugs if it got too noisy. Blimey, waving a piece of cotton wool in front of a sub woofer speaker would have been as effective as using ear plugs, the music just got louder and louder until 3am with the beds and walls shaking from the bass...we checked out the next day. We could have joined them, but we were wearing our cardigans that night.

Someone had told us we must visit the Batu Caves just north of the city, a set of caves containing Hindu shrines and the worlds highest Murga statue.

It turned out we would be there for the Hindu Thaipusam festival, where pilgrims march every year carrying 'Kavadi' on their heads and shoulders, performed as acts of penance and to repent sins. The Kavadi range from small milk pots to large brightly decorated ornate frames that are very heavy. So we went on the Sunday, the last and most important day of the festival. The only word that can describe this experience is CRAZY!!!!!!!!!! There were over 1.2 million people there that day. The men carrying the heavy 'Kavadi' attach the frames to their body using the mortification of flesh method of attaching hooks to the skin, so when the frame moved it would pull the skin and create pain, to remind them why they are on the pilgrimage. Some also put spears through their mouths and cheeks so they can't talk and have to endure the pain in silence.

Each Kavadi carrier needs a team of about six helpers to make sure they don't fall and someone carrys a seat behind so they can rest when needed. This is such a test of endurance for them.

One guy turned himself into a living Kavadi by hanging from hooks through his arms, back and legs. It was fascinating but gruesome at the same time.

We headed over to climb the 272 steps up to the caves, thinking it would be much easier for us to do than for the guys carrying the frames. We got around 50m from the entrance then we had to move slowly along with the building crowd. This was at midday and the heat had risen to about 33 degrees. It took us an hour to move about 20m and the crowd was getting frustrated and people where pushing in from all directions, it was crazy, hot, and like nothing we had experienced before. We couldn't move in any direction and everyone was getting crushed. It got too much for us and we fought our way out to the space at the back and never made it up the stairs, we certainly didn't have the endurance for it. It turned out that none of the travelers we met on the bus back had made it either, you really had to be dedicated to make it up there!

We spent our time in KL wandering around Chinatown, the Merdeka (Independence) Square, and the parks and gardens. A few times just wandering we came across impromptu Chinese Dragon street performances. The performers drive around in a pick-up truck and block a street off and start performing. One performance had a two man dragon climing up posts with small foot plates on top and jumping from one to another, great acrobatics and cool to watch.

We saved the biggest KL attraction to last visiting the Petronas Towers on our last morning. Tickets are on a first come first served basis, so we got up early to join the queue for a visit to the skybridge. We did this on a Monday. The Petronas Towers are closed on a Monday. Aaarrrggghhh! Oh well, we were suitably impressed by the view from the ground, they are an awesome structure and beat any skyscraper I have ever seen.

We went back at night, sat out a two hour thunderstorm (in the pub) to see the towers all lit up, and they certainly have the wow factor.

We are now in the Cameron Highlands, 4 hours north of KL, planning on doing some jungle trekking and tea tasting, the tea plantations on the way up looked beautiful, but we'll save that for next time...

Jo & Ryan

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157613742320550/

P.S. Happy Birthday to Jo's Dad on the 14th and Ryan's Mum on the 16th!

Tags: batu caves, kuala lumpur, melaka, petronas towers, thaipusam

 

Comments

1

Awesome photos of your adventures. Thanks for sharing!

  David Kaspar Feb 14, 2009 1:11 AM

2

Fantastic photos guys! Very jealous

  Ursula Feb 14, 2009 1:19 AM

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