I woke up early for a change in my Singapore hostel on the edge of China town, so had a few hours to spare before my coach was due to leave for Melasia. I decided to head for another of the insular areas of foreign persuasion – Little India. This was mainly because I love to be educated in the cultures and idiosyncrasies of other cultures, and not because it was very close to the coach station.
The biggest attraction in Little India is the gold and white Sultan Mosque, an incredibly beautiful building that it looks like it should have come out of an illustration in Arabian Nights. It was prayer time when I arrived, so I didn’t get a chance to explore inside, but I imagine it to be as spectacular inside as its external shell.
I got so caught up in the atmosphere of the place that I very nearly missed my coach, getting on board with minutes to spare.The journey to Melaka, on the south western coast of Melasia, took over four hours of my day, but felt much less. The scenery passing by my window was hypnotic. After escaping the somewhat claustrophobic and sterile atmosphere of Singapore’s skyscrapers, the landscape morphed through suburban sprawl and village life to full on tropical rainforest. As far as my eyes could see, waves of green palm trees washed over the scenery. It was sad to think that six lanes of motorway had to bisect this land in order for me to see such fecund forestry, so I did feel a little guilty as I traveled the 150 miles to Melaka.
Anyway, I arrived in Melaka very calm, thanks to the air conditioning and the pleasant sights of the coach. What awaited me in Melaka central was a world away. Confusion, chaos and congestion were all congregating around me. Trying to get a bus to my hostel 10 minutes away was a nightmare. Noone seemed to know where my bus stop actually was. I was passed from bus to bus, each telling me to go somewhere else to reach my destination. Finally, one sweaty, obviously-stressed, bus conductor realised where I needed to go. Instead of telling me that he understood, he decided to yell and scream and tell me to sit down. I, in confusion and panic automatically just did as I was told. It was only after he almost-literally chucked me off the bus, did I realise he did actually know what I was talking about.
I arrived at my hostel just as the sun was setting. Located in a small side-street in the historical center of Melaka, my assumption of my place to stay that it would be as ramshackle and dilapidated inside as the rest of the street. But, I was pleasantly corrected as I walked in to a cool, clean, white tiled room, run by a French expatriate and his family.
There is only one place to be as the sun sets in Melaka, and that is the night market on Jonker Street. Clearly marketed for tourists, the narrow street is lined for endless miles with stall after stall of vendors selling everything from kitch collectibles to antique cameras. Above the infinite crowds of people marching up and down, hundreds of Chinese lanterns, lighting the street in a flattering orange glow. Past the stalls on either sides, shops were still open for business. Dozens of art galleries and antique shops catered for the cultural appetites of the visitors, while even more karaoke bars dealt with their masochistic side.
That was the end of my first evening in Melaka. More Melaka misadventures to come tomorrow.