Malaysia… truly Asia

Malaysia… truly Asia

Our last stop in Malaysia was the historic port of Malacca (Melaka). Just a little over two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, Melaka was once considered a prime example of all things Malaysian. It has undergone many changes since then after Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers arrived to take advantage of its strategic position on the Straits of Malacca and we were looking forward to seeing the mark that this had left on the city.

We arrived at around 4pm and headed straight back out after checking in to explore the Old Town. The streets here are lined with picturesque colonial buildings with the ‘Dutch quarter’ distinguished by bright red paint. It’s a lovely town to walk around and a nice change from big dirty cities. We walked by the river before visiting the old Dutch administration building – the Stadthuys – next to Christ Church and the clock tower.

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After that, we walked a bit further down towards the sea itself, where the ruins of the old Malacca Fort can be found. This was first built in 1511 by the Portuguse when it was known as A’Famosa and like the town itself it has also undergone a few ‘renovations’ – the Dutch almost destroyed it when they invaded but they then expanded and altered it. It was torn down once the British arrived however, so all that remains are a few walls and a bulwark.

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There used to be a light and sound show on at A’Famosa every night at 9.30pm but this has now been discontinued which is a shame! We continued our walk around the old town, passing through the famous Jonker Street where many tourists go to pick up souviners etc. Whilst we were walking the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain so we took shelter in the Geographers Café, having a drink with two of our fellow Oz-Busers who were also in their taking respite. Once the rain stopped we had lunch in a local restaurant in Jonker Street. A favourite dish in Melaka is Chicken & Rice so we opted for that, but unfortunately it wasn’t the best of experiences! The meat was stone cold and the rice was sickly so we ended up having to buy a burger afterwards to get rid of the taste!

The Old Town of Melaka stands in stark contrast to the new part of the city, around five minutes walk past ‘museum alley’. Here, glitzy shopping malls and stores line the main road and you can buy anything from designer clothes to perfumes and food. We walked past one department store that reminded us a bit of Debenhams at home. It had a big Christmas display outside with the ’12 days of Christmas’ song playing. We stood outside for a while, relishing in the first bit of Christmas spirit we had come across and thinking how strange it was to be thousands of miles away in a hot humid country, whilst everyone at home was shivering in the snow!

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By the time we had finished our walk it was dark so we headed back to the hotel and packed our stuff for the morning. It was nearly time to say goodbye to Melaka and Malaysia altogether as we were booked on the 9am ferry to Indonesia.

Our stay in Malaysia has been short but sweet. Whilst we haven’t had long to get to grips with the country we’ve certainly noticed a few things that have helped it stand out. The landscape here is absolutely beautiful. Our first two days of driving were made memorable by tropical forests, mountains and palm trees stretching as far as the eye can see. It would have been fantastic to have been able to spend a few days in the National Parks and relish in this exotic environment a bit longer.

Kuala Lumpur is a buzzing city with the Petronas Twin Towers showing off its potential to the rest of the world and we loved the fact that getting around was so easy due to the great public transport systems that Malaysia has in place. The capital city also gave us an insight into just how multi-cultural Malaysia is. The country and its cultures have been shaped over the years by traders and settlers from all over Asia, particularly India and China who established trading ports and towns in the area in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

With the British arriving in the 18th century and bringing with them workers from India and other countries to produce tin and rubber, Malaysia became infused with different cultures and religions that still exist today.

Whilst being a predominantly Muslim country, Malaysia is also home to thousands of Hindu’s, Buddhists and Christians who all live together in seeming ‘harmony’. The influence that this multi-culturalism has on Malaysia is most evident in its food. The best dishes in the country are a mixture of Indian, Chinese and traditional Malay but you can also find loads of Vietnamese, Thai and European restaurants dotted around the cities. From the outside, it looks like this all adds up to a fantastically diverse country where almost anyone is welcome, but to be honest it left us feeling a little bit confused as to what Malaysia is all about. It doesn’t appear to have a true identity of its own and we found ourselves struggling to find anything that was categorically ‘Malaysian’. The country’s tourism slogan is ‘Truly Asia’ and this really is true as you can find a piece of every country in Asia within its borders, but we were disappointed that we weren’t able to identify what it meant to be ‘Truly Malaysia’.

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