Malaysia and I were off to a shaky start. The amazing food everyone had told me about in KL seemed to be non-existent, and my usually strong stomach was failing me after all the shitty street food I ate. Getting sick of the city I headed North to an island called Pangkor, hoping for some chilled out beach action. Instead I found a backpacker scene consisting of only couples, painfully capricious weather, and bars that were full of trafficked prostitutes from Iran.
Just when things looked like they couldn’t get any worse, my biggest fear finally happened: I had a motorbike accident. In fairness I was fairly lucky, I managed to leap off the bike and escape with just a small scratch, but the bike fell down a hill and landed upside down with its engine ripped off. After having to shell out some cash to pay for bike repairs, I decided that I needed a change of scenery, and so on the recommendation of another traveler, I headed South to Melaka.
Melaka was a blissful change of pace. Set around a picturesque canal, it looked more like Venice or Amsterdam than somewhere in Asia. The central hub of Melaka is China Town, where a huge road full of boutique shops, trendy cafes, and antique stores all back onto the canal.
The city itself is relatively small, and you can easily get around on foot, so it was nice to take a stroll down the canal, occasionally stopping at the odd cafe for a cold drink or cup of tea. The China Town area is right next to Little India, so in just a two minute walk it almost feels as though you are in a completely different country. I was constantly amazed at the diversity of Malaysia, with its multitude of language, religion, race, and culture. In recent history, Malaysia has been a very peaceful place, with seemingly few racial tensions underlying its delicate mix of Indians, Malays, and Chinese. Perhaps the strong economy has something to do with this – in comparison to its other South East Asian neighbours, Malaysia is developing at a fast rate, and poverty did not seem to be such a problem there.
The best thing about Melaka, however, was the food. My Lonely Planet guide recommended I try two things: Cendol and Pinapple tarts. Pineapple tarts speak for themselves, but Cendol (pronounced Chendol) is a type of dessert made of shaved ice, coconut cream, coconut sugar, and some kind of green sweet. Both of these things were toothachingly delicious. On top of all the tasty snacks, the vast array of Indian curries, traditional Chinese dishes, and Malay cuisine were enough to make me want to outstay my visit.
During the evenings in Melaka there is not a whole lot to do. Alcohol in Malaysia is extremely expensive, and being a muslim country there is not a whole load of parties and clubs to go to. I found a really cool Reggae bar along the canal for a chilled out beer though. After a while I got chatting to the owners, who were very friendly and had spent some time living in England. They took me to check out Melaka’s “nightlife” which was mostly clubs with live Malaysian bands, and lots of Chinese prostitues… not exactly what I was looking for! Still, it was an interesting night, and Melaka is definitely somewhere I would like to go back to if I get the chance. For those who are leaving for Malaysia, make sure you book your flights on Expedia