Melaka, Malaysia

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In Melaka I got off the bus at Dutch Square and was immediately accosted by multiple rickshaws decked out in Hello Kitty and Frozen decor with LED lights and loud sound systems playing dance music. Apparently these are the method of transportation for tourists both daytime and nighttime. They’re character themed to appeal to children and women because they have the power to spend dads money. And yes, Asian women are just as obsessed with Hello Kitty as the children are.

In Melaka I stayed in Chinatown at Julan-Julan Guesthouse 2. The hostels are practically next door to each other and have the same reception. The original has been around for over eighty years and has a great reputation for being friendly. Lee, a British guy who works there, is a real treat. He’s incredibly outgoing and takes people out for dinner and activities regularly.

Upon arriving I was greeted by Lee and immediately invited to a local restaurant for dinner. I dropped my bag in my room and right away I had a new group of friends. We all ordered the stingray on recommendation by Lee. It was served in a spicy tomato broth with a side of white rice, sautéed cabbage and half a salted egg. I also had a carrot juice which was the first real juice I’ve received in a long time (aka not watered down.)

After dinner we went to Uncle Lee’s, a “bar” on the same street as the hostel. It was more like uncle Lee’s living room. Uncle Lee is in his late 80s and sits in his living room in his underwear with huge bifocals watching tv. His living room/bar is on the street and therefor everyone can see him. His commode is also sitting there for everyone to see. We grabbed beers from his fridge and made ourselves at home.

After Uncle Lee’s we walked a little further down the road to Shantaram bar, owned by Sood. This small “bar” has a couch, a bunch of plastic chairs and a fridge. The walls are covered in magazine photos with all the heads replaced by cat heads; Soon loves his cats, or rather cats control his life.

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The next day I woke up to go with Lee to a local Gurdwala Seek for lunch. We made a 2rm donation and were served a vegetarian Indian meal. After lunch we cleaned the dishes for the whole place then biked back through the old wooden houses that still remain in the city. We also stopped at the riverside which was my first time seeing it (Chinatown is surrounded by a river,) and at an abandoned historic building that’s filled with street art.

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At 5pm that night a group of us all grabbed bikes and Lee brought us to Dorris’s on Jalan Jawa, a Chinese medicine bar. The Japanese used to drink here during the war. The shop has a small wooden bar and the shelves are lined with all different types of Chinese liquors and medicines, many with neon pink labels. First I tried the silkworm, which Lee recommended. Next I had the one with gecko (the bottle literally says gecko parts) for energy. Both liquors tasted similar to Fernet Branca. While we drank Dorris served us traditional Chinese cracker snacks, and we bought a bag of spicy potato donuts from a man on the street.

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After our drinks we biked out of Chinatown to a local market. It looked and felt like a town fair. There were tents selling food, produce and clothes. Our group probably tried everything combined, but I had grilled spicy chicken, and I tried fried oysters, some pancake taco thing, a roti, corn in a cup, and a sugarey young coconut drink.

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On the way home we stopped at the biggest Hindu temple in Melaka, Sri Subramaniar Thuropathai Amman Alaya Paripalana Sabai. I think it was my first Hindu temple ever. All the statues and architecture were colorful and emotional. There was a pig/monkey faced man statue, and I saw a baby being blessed with his family.

We drove back to the hostel and decided we wanted to buy alcohol instead of drinking beer right away. I asked a deli worker and he told me to go to the closed gate across the road and there I should find a place to buy alcohol. So I walked across the street and peered into the gate and saw an old man sleeping in his underwear inside a narrow liquor shop. Bingo. We bought some whiskey and went back to Shantaram bar for a long night out.

The next morning I woke up and went for some of the best dim sum in Chinatown right down the road from the hostel. I had two orders of crystal shrimp dumplings and a roasted pork bun which ended up having liquid inside too- a hybrid between a pork bun and a soup dumpling. After breakfast I walked to the Dutch Square right over the bridge from Chinatown, and up the fortress hill. I saw the remains of St. Paul’s church, and took a bunch of photos with locals. Then I walked down to the ruins of Porta de Satiago and listened to a local musician play.

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I stopped in a mall for some AC and sashimi. Then I went on the River Cruise which is supposed to be great for seeing the riverside street art. I ran to catch a boat that was pulling out and I ended up boarding a boat packed with older South Korean tourists. In unison they all looked at each other and moved so that the only available seat was directly in the middle. I couldn’t see much of the scenery and every single time I looked up one of them was trying to take a selfie with me in it. The first few minutes were fine but twenty minutes in I was annoyed that I had actually paid for this.

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I walked back through Chinatown along Jonker Street, which is mostly filled with tourist shops selling identical tank-tops with designs on them. I stopped at 37 restaurant (on recommendation from Lee) for some Chinese fish with ginger. Later that night we all walked out of Chinatown to a local tandoori restaurant. The tandoori was delicious but the naan tasted more like pizza bread, it wasn’t crispy at all. After dinner we went back to Shantaram bar for the third and final time.

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The next morning I got up and headed back to Sentral bus station for a four hour bus to Singapore.

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