16 October 2013 – When we got off the boat in Mersing from Tioman we were probably a bit glum. Partly as a 6am start is a little hard to comprehend nowadays but also because we were enjoying the beach life once again and it felt a bit premature to be leaving. I was pretty happy however to escape the sandflies, the little shits got me 26 times in less than 2 minutes on one leg. It’s a fact that sandfly bites are more itchy than mosquito bites.
Battery hooked up again and partly loaded we were ready to head back to the Bluewater Hotel where we’d left the panniers. But for the first time on the whole trip to date, the bike didn’t start first time. However, it only took a little coaxing and a wiggle to move the petrol around it roared into action again. Relief. Some Malay man was flapping as we pulled out of the port area as we didn’t have our helmets with us, so we weren’t wearing them. It was an observation I hadn’t really made before but helmets must be mandatory here, unlike Thailand were their ‘100% helmet’ poster campaigns are ignored, even by the police. We were only going 2 seconds down the road so just ignored him and hoped the police didn’t pass us. They didn’t.
Reunited with our luggage, we began changing into our gear. A little awkward in a glass front hotel lobby especially in a predominantly conservative Muslim country. Although having said that it is a fairly tolerant country and never once have I felt uncomfortable baring my arms in public.
Anyway, a cooling ice blended drink from the shop we conveniently parked up in front of went down a treat when temperatures had already reached 35 degrees by 10am. A hot start for the journey to Melaka. There’s really not all that much to write about the driving it’s fairly easy as it’s mainly highway. The heat combined with the rain can make it a bit steamy though. The drivers are sometimes a little lax with their concentration especially apparent when they drift into your lane, it’s usually the little old ladies who can barely see over the steering wheel. The kids never seem to wear seatbelts either which can’t help the concentration when the little blighters are bouncing around all over the place. Even so, the driving in general is pretty good.
Service stations line all the major highways making it easy to stop when needed. They’re not quite up to the same spec as the Thai ones but not much in Malaysia is to the same standard as Thailand, with the exception of the roads.
The journey from Mersing to Melaka was 230 km and took us around 4 hours after a few stops. Before arriving in Melaka we’d only planned to stay one night as a stopping point on-route to Kuala Lumpur. But the outskirts of town started to indicate that it maybe a little more than we were expecting from a city that’s not Kuala Lumpur.
The approach to the city is not like any other we’d seen in Malaysia so far. A wide tree-lined boulevard esq road with modern buildings leads the way. The usual buildings lining the roads tend to be square, crumbling and adorned with ugly shop signs. There are a few traffic lights on the approach which are a bit annoying but it gives you chance to take in the mass media boards featuring a happy looking Wayne Rooney with a pack of Mister Potato chips in his hand.
Just a little out of the centre of town we spotted a suitably looking cheap hotel with potential parking in the form of Ming’s. Run by two enthusiastic chaps who took concern in leaving the bike infront of the hotel and would have preferred we parked in the Ramada car park opposite. We left it where it was and sweetly one of the chaps said he’d take good care of it.
Heading into the centre was a really nice surprise. We’d not been expecting anything at all, hence the plan to move on quickly, but it seems having little expectation makes everything seem better. The sun was out as we first passed ‘Little India’ with every shop competing to be the loudest Bhangra player, then we crossed over into the predominately Dutch influenced area with quaint pretty colonial buildings near the river and the partially regenerated quayside boasting a huge tall ship. Then finally into Chinatown and the famous ‘Jonker Street’ which sells all sorts of kitsch stuff some crap, some really nice things and endless eateries. It seemed everyone was really happy here, the little lady passing on the street said hello [she wasn’t selling anything], school girls on the river boats positively screamed hello and were frantically waving at us, two little kids dangling out of a car window, old men chilling out at the riverside…the list goes on. I think the main thing is, even though it is a tourist town, it has a nice feeling to it.
The rains started to come down heavy so we retreated to the room until they passed. The pavements make this a slightly nerve racking experience as you attentively attempt not falling flat on your arse as the pavements are ingeniously tilled not a good scenario when wearing flip-flops. Odd choice of surface in a monsoon ridden country.
I have become a bit of a lover of trip advisor. I’d never really bothered too much with it before this trip as I do think alot of people like to moan and I do still think that, but you can kind of wage out those people, but on more than one occasion it’s helped make some really good decisions. And that was why we went and ate at ‘Pak Putra’. It’s down the end of back road, next to a carpark and is hard to find, but the food is amazing. The Pakistani/north Indian restaurant is basic and looks like a dodgy kebab house you’d only maybe go into after a night out but the service is quick and the prices are low for the best Indian food I’ve ever had. I won’t go on, but if you ever go to Melaka make sure you make the effort to find this place. It is packed out with other trip advisor geeks. We quickly decided to stay another day, partly as we arrived on a Thursday and the night market was only in action on fri/sat/sun.
During one of our dashes for cover from the rain we joined a old man next to a girl doing some moves that looked like thai chi. Turns out they were there to spread the word about the Falun Gong people of china [a group of people following beliefs that became so popular the CCP felt threatened their power and therefore forbid the people of China to follow the practice]. It’s reported the Falun Gong are currently being persecuted by the communist party for fighting against suppression. The Falun Gong people are taken from their homes for false crimes, abused, forced to work and tortured in concentration camp style prisons. The worst thing about it all was the fact these people are basically there as living ‘on-demand’ organ donators, otherwise known as organ harvesting. The CCP has dismissed this as ‘false allegations and rumours.’ The investigator who reported heavily in the Rwanda genocide is a believer that China are undoubtedly committing crimes against their people and need to be brought to justice.
The Chinese people do not believe in organ donation in death and there is no national organ donation programme therefore there should be a shortage of organs. Yet there have been undercover reports of doctors enquiring at Chinese hospitals for organs and being told they could have the organs the next day for a certain price, which raises alarm bells, as even in the UK which has an established donation programme, there is usually a long waiting list of months to find a matched donor. The top dogs of the CCP are also usually investors in the hospitals so the return on organs is more money for them.
It was hard to fully understand the young girl as her English was very broken but I’m pretty sure she said something about ‘I was lucky, I’m ok now’ insinuating she at one point was forcibly taken. She brought me to tears twice with her plight so if you read this maybe you could read more and make your own decisions. They have a register which asks the UN to take action that they are asking people to sign up to here.
I think we liked this little city for a few reasons, it’s got a little bit of quirk to it. A cafe we spotted basically looked like a shabby little lock-up actually housed a VW camper van which the owners made the coffee in, a little restaurant that had a mini jungle in the courtyard and endless other cool places like that.
The tourist targeted mode of transport here were tricycle rikshaws, elaborately decked out with Hello Kitty and Pink Panther designs that blast out bad 80’s pop music. The same rickshaws pull out all the stops in the evening and become moving epileptic inducers with flashing strip lights attached to every bar of the bike.
The market swings into action promptly at around 18.00, when hawker trolleys are wheeled into any available space selling all sorts of crap with the odd gem. Paul was in his element, he has a penchant for tack and wouldn’t pass any stall without gleaming over it first.
There was endless food stall all selling similar sorts of stuff – all mainly fried. I have decided I’m not really a fan of Malaysian food, I’ve given it a go but I find it too bland or too fried for my liking. I’ve been warned a few times ‘it’s very spicy’ then when it’s turned up its bland or contains meat. Noodles are a safe bet, but I’m not a huge fan of fried foods.