One final trip before home!
04.02.2014 - 06.02.2014 40 °C
Tuesday 4th February
We had both been dreading the four hour bus journey from Singapore to Melaka, hoping that the bus would be Singaporean rather than Malaysian as the one and only bus journey we had taken from Georgetown to Ipoh had taken several hours rather than three. And of course there were the Kuala Lumpur airport buses with the driver sniffing goodness knows what while maintaining an average speed of 80mph. We were pleased that we were potentially in with a chance of a reasonable journey as we booked with a Singaporean bus company; however this is Asia, so we were far from surprised when we were shown to a Malaysian bus from a completely different company. We were obviously lucky though as this bus did set off only 10 minutes late, had no unscheduled stops and arrived as timetabled four hours later.
We arrived at 11pm and so did not see any of Melaka until the morning.
Wednesday 5th February
Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage town, due to its Dutch style shop houses, as opposed to the more recent British influenced shop houses found in Georgetown. The shop houses here still have the five foot walkway; however most are separated by a wall to create a veranda for each property. Unfortunately this means there is no pavement for pedestrians to walk along, which makes visiting this town a less pleasant experience. Pavements you can walk along are something of a luxury in Asia, but I would say Melaka is one of the worst places we have visited. Here you have to slalom in and out of parked vehicles, minding out for great holes in the drain network, while watching for moving cars and mopeds who will not allow you any room to move.
Once you have successfully navigated the side streets to the centre, you will find a beautiful church which has been rendered a deep red to match the various buildings around it. In front of the church is a fountain in memory of Queen Victoria and surrounding that are some colourful and well maintained flower beds. Parked up right in front of the church is a line of traditional trishaws, which have been decorated to within an inch of their lives, most with Hello Kitty in order to appeal to the majority of tourists who visit Melaka, the Japanese.
Around and behind the church runs a heritage trail which takes you up and over the hill. On the top of the hill is a dilapidated church with no roof, with a large clock tower to the front. If you carry on down the back of the hill, you are taken to another run down church, although this one is less of a ruin and considerably smaller.
On one of the streets just off from the centre, there is a former shop house, which is considered the most authentic in Melaka. This shop house has had very few alterations since it was first built in the 1800s. The original shop at the front had been converted into a museum, which explains what makes a shop house original and different to buildings constructed today, showing examples of which materials were used and where. As part of the UNESC status, this house has been restored, while staying true to the original. The walls have been stripped back to the original limestone used and the floor is back to the original terracotta tiles in places. The man who works there gives you a little tour and description of the house and clearly very passionate about ensuring the history of these shop houses in Melaka continues to be preserved and shared.
We walked along the river, which has various properties backing on to it, some of which have opened cafés off the back to face on to the river. Along the river are various water villages, although these seem to be reached more easily by land, rather than linked with jetties. It looks as though it is only the backs of the properties which are in the shallow waters.
Thursday 6th February
On the Thursday, we had hoped to catch the bus back to Singapore at 8am; however this one was booked up and so we could not get a bus until 2pm. With hindsight this was actually better as we had not relaxed or taken it slowly for a good few weeks and were still exhausted from our incredibly long day travelling back from Australia. This meant a lie in (until 8.30am) and a chance to visit a former Chinese mansion house before coffee and a cake in time for the bus.
This Chinese mansion house was three terraced houses, each approximately 200ft long and linked together to created an impressive maze of rooms. During the Dutch rule, houses were taxed according to their width, and so properties tended to be long and narrow. To allow light into the middle of the houses, double height open roof lights, let the light to flood in to the courtyard and rooms below. These are also perfect for Feng Shui, as they stop negative energies from being trapped in your house. As they are open air, the rain will come in too, which is apparently also lucky.
Our tour guide was quite entertaining, partly from her accent and the way she told some of her anecdotes and stories. She liked to link marital life from the 1800s with similarities in today's marriages and the importance of the woman really being in charge of all good marriages. The house itself was magnificent and contained the original ornately carved furniture as well as about five different sets of china, used depending on the importance of your guest.
In one of the bedrooms, there were the hundred year old wedding robes and in another room there was a red outfit and cloth worn and used to celebrate birthdays. On the opposite wall was a navy blue cloth, which would be hung up to show the family was in mourning, with a matching blue outfit. Below that sat a cloth used to cover the family coffins. There was some implication that it had not been used for a long time, but the two brothers were now in their 80s so it might get an outing soon.
Her favourite joke was to remind us to smile for her retired boss who had noticing better to do than watch us on CCTV all day before removing a 10cm square section of floor board, which opened up over the front veranda allowing for 19th century CCTV.
After our delicious cupcakes at Heerem guesthouse café we commenced our final bus journey of the trip back to Singapore. It feels strange that the idea of doing a 4-5 hour bus journey really is no big deal now. Prior to our trip, any journey over two and a half hours had to be for a good reason or a significant amount of time at the other end, rather than just over 24 hours. I am sure after a couple of Great British traffic jams my mind will have changed again. Here is to our last stop, Singapore!