NOTE: THIS IS A VERY LONG EMAIL, AND VERY LONG WINDED (almost 3000 words!). I WOULD RECOMMEND YOU READ IT WHILE PROCRASTINATING SOME OTHER ACTIVITY SUCH AS CLEANING THE HOUSE, OR DOING A UNI ASSIGNMENT.
Thursday was the second morning I wasn’t woken up at 6am by my ‘alarm’ – the Mosque next door. I would describe it as an extremely loud and penetrating ‘wailing yodel’, which bad enough at 1:30 in the afternoon, horrifying at 6am in the morning. I suppose it’s not as bad as Feathers and his mate had it in Indonesia, where the first call was at 4am. I’m pretty sure I would have had to move if that was the case. Also, note to self – I must remember not to make jokes in public about slipping the Iman some sleeping pills. The only other time I slept through it was after the game of badminton.
I slept late on Thursday because Wednesday night was a late one for the guesthouse, although we hadn’t intended it that way. As per usual the day was pretty lazy. We were still recovering from the shock we got when the owners of the guesthouse removed all the funky art, travellers posts and cool slogans from the walls and hung up some ghastly looking photos of the sky. If you went outside right now and took some photos of the sky, they would probably be better than these photos. Plus they hung them up with no symmetry or anything. Sorry, I’m rambling a bit, but seriously, what if you went to your favourite artsy café and they had done that to it. Ying said she wanted to cry every time she looked at it.
For lunch Venice and I grabbed some Laksa and then she had to go back to work, so I went with Ying and Lluis to the cinema, where movies are half price (6RM – $1.90) on Wednesdays, to watch Impossible, the story of a family who were holidaying on a Thai island when the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami hit. It’s a really good movie in that you get a much better idea of what actually happens during and after a tsunami. The acting was so-so, but still, grab the tissues before you go in, you’re gonna need them. Do not watch if you are thinking of taking your family to a Thai island for a holiday.
After the cinema (which is located in this massive mall that I didn’t even realise existed) we rode back, then Lluis and I grabbed some coffee at this decent café called ’13 States of Coffee’. It’s a bit of a tourist gimmick, but it offers you different styles of coffee from the 13 states of Malaysia (that’s what the info said, not sure if Malaysia has 13 states). I actually like the Melakan coffee, although it sounds kinda gross because it’s mixed with margarine?!? You drink it with a teaspoon of condensed milk. Lluis was telling me how he started an aid project in the Philippines, where he teaches organic farming to the locals and helps them to become self-sufficient by owning cattle and breeding them, and growing their own vegetables and rice. He said that when I eventually get to the Philippines I should look him up, and I intend to do so.
We chatted for so long I almost missed the afternoon bike tour which was being led by Venice – Ying had the day off. Only one other person joined us, another Malaysian girl who worked for another of the Sayang-Sayang chain hostels. This new addition to the tour introduced herself to me “Hi, my name is Sook Fun, but you can call me Fun”. What an awesome name right? It was very appropriate because as soon as she realised I wouldn’t bite, she was very happy and friendly. She asked me, with great concern, why I was travelling alone. I explained that none of my friends wanted to come with me, so she immediately offered “I will be your friend if you want”. I felt the hard shell around my heart crack a little
Venice and Fun (that what I’m naming my children by the way) introduced me to an awesome burger/sandwich type food called a ‘Roti John’, which is similar to Subway. If Subway fried their bread in 2cm of oil, used more sauce than filling and contained omelette instead of chicken (kinda feel like a chicken parmi sub now…). Venice is always watching her calories, so Fun and I got a ‘half’ (about the size of a 6-inch sub) to share for 2.3RM, or about 70c. After that we rode back to Zero Art to be picked up by Ken in his car, because we were going to a really good local place for some Satay Canai. I’m sorry, but I can’t describe it to you, not because I don’t want to, but because when we got to the place, it was closed, then we went to another place which was also closed, but which would open in an hour, so we went back to the guesthouse to wait.
When we get back to the guesthouse, Ying and Lluis are just about to have some dinner at the vegetarian place across the road, so we joined them for a few drinks (although after tasting some of Lluis’s pad thai, I’m thinking of going back there for a meal!). It was Lluis’s last few hours, as he had to get the bus back to KL and catch a plane to Perth in the morning. I was the only one drinking, although it’s only a ‘shandy in a can’ – so amazingly delicious, you wouldn’t believe it until you try. Apparently the red can is good (hear hear), but the green one isn’t. Afterwards we dropped Lluis off at the bus station and waved goodbye as the bus drove off. Ken has gone off to do something, so we decide to go back to the guesthouse to wait until he picks us up again.
As we are now 4 people, I introduce Ying, Venice and Fun to the awesomeness that is Shithead – the card game. We play for about 2 hours, and still don’t hear from Ken. Suddenly we hear someone coming in the door – it’s Lluis! Apparently he had taken the local bus to the main bus terminal and wanted to buy a ticket to KL. He got there at about 9pm, so there was the 21:30, 22:00, 22:30, 23:00, 23:30, 00:00 and 5:00am buses he could have taken, but they were ALL sold out. Not to worry, this has happened before and Ying arranges for a car to drive him to the airport in the morning (at 4:00am!) so Lluis will hopefully catch his flight.
As we still haven’t had dinner, we ride our bikes down to a nearby outdoors Islamic restaurant, where I tried Roti Canai – basically like a flaky, savoury crepe with a side of curry. You can get it (the crepe) in all sorts of flavours such as egg (me), butter (Venice) or banana (Lluis). To drink I had a lovely milk ice tea, which is basically sweet milk black tea with ice cubes. So, we ended up only getting back after 12am, which is why I slept through my ‘alarm’.
Something that will scar me for life is, on the ride there and back, a ‘butcher’ was cutting up meat, but he was just laying the meat on cardboard right on the street. As in ‘I had to avoid riding into it with my bicycle’ right on the street. A street which cars were driving on (which is, I believe, the usual definition of a street, but I just wanted to clarify). I really hope that was meant for pet food. Or maybe there’s a reason so many people here are vegetarian.
Thursday morning was a little depressing as for the first time since arriving in Melaka I was by myself. Lluis had left at 4am to go to Australia, Venice left at 9am to go back home to Ipoh, as she had finished her working holiday, Fun was at work (a sentence you’ve never heard before I’m sure) and Ying was at a meeting. Ipoh is a good place to change buses to connect to different areas in Northern Malaysia, and it also has some cave temples I’d like to check out, so I told Venice I’d visit her there.
Ying was out for most of the day, and it was stinking hot all day as it was building up to rain in the afternoon. When Ying got back she crashed for a few hours (she had been up at 4am driving Lluis to the airport), and then at about 7:30pm we went out to get dinner. Ying was feeling like a treat, so she took me to her favourite place to eat in Melaka (and that’s saying something). The reason she doesn’t eat there often if it’s much more expensive than other places (like almost 3 time the price).
We got some cheese roti naans (Naan breads), some spinach sauce, some curried vegetables and a couple of ice teas. I also got some tandoori chicken. It was absolutely AMAZING. It was so delicious that I don’t even have the words. Just imagine succulent, juicy, perfectly spiced chicken with a chargrilled exterior, accompanied by a coriander dip. Then imagine a fluffy naan with melted cheese inside it, and (granted this is a little harder) the most amazing creamy spinach sauce that you dip the naan into. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it, but at 26RM ($8.10) for two people it is a bit expensive (I’m just kidding – WHY did I only come to Malaysia now?).
We got back to Zero Art at about 9pm and spent a couple of hours showing each other photos of our families, and Ying showed me photos of when she went to the Philippines to volunteer on Lluis’s organic farm, which looks amazing. I had just had a shower and was already in my PJs, when Ying said we should go out for some tea with a friend of hers. We went to another Indian restaurant as Ying’s friend had not yet eaten. Ying ordered me an Indian dessert which is similar to the Swiss Fasnacht ‘cakes’. Basically it’s a thin pastry which is fried in oil then sprinkled with sugar (the Swiss version has less oil and uses icing sugar instead of granular sugar). So yeah, basically life in Melaka is going from meal to another, and people keep saying ‘if you like this, you’ll love Penang’. I’m not sure if I will survive Penang – I’ll probably end up in a food coma or something!*
Friday featured lots of Fun (the person). Fun is seriously as adorable as a 3 year-old. She says to me ‘Sarah, what will I do when you are gone, I will be so sad. If you go without me you will have no fun’. It’s true: No Fun=No fun J. This is on the third time we’ve met. She owns this awesome shirt that has a pair of sunnies and the phrase ‘Worst Hangover Ever’, and you just think ‘this girl does not need to drink; she’s on a natural high – 24/7’. The bike tour took us to a local joint about 10mins out of town to try some famous local blue rice, which is coloured using a blue flower while cooking the rice. The blue rice was nice (I was still in the afterglow of the tandoori chicken so probably not as impressed as I could have been BTC (Before Tandoori Chicken).
On the way back though we stopped at this little street stall that was doing a roaring trade, making these little flying-saucer shaped treats. I was a little hesitant as I’m not usually a big fan of coconut desserts, but I thought may as well. Wow, they were so good! About 1cm of the lightest, fluffiest coconut surrounding some kind of coconut and sugar paste, with a slight hint of salt. I would make some at home, but the setup looked pretty complicated (unfortunately I didn’t take a photo), and involved steaming the desserts in these little conical vessels. All I can say is thank goodness for the daily bike rides, otherwise I would probably be 300kgs by now.
Bet you thought we were done eating for the night, but you’d be wrong. When we got back I went down to the markets (remember they run Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). I didn’t buy anything (although I was tempted by some wooden shoes – they looked very comfortable), but I saw some other people from the bike tour and they gave me an egg tart to try. Not as good as the cheese tart, but still sweet and edible. I got back to Zero Art at about 9:15pm and asked Ying if she wanted to go out for coffee (I’d slept till about noon, so had loads of energy). She agreed, but said we should wait until her favourite ‘Midnight Café’ opened. A midnight café is one that opens from about 9:45pm-12am, and just serves simple meals such as noodles and toast. Most people go there because they make great coffee late at night. We each had a plate of noodles (literally just noodles – no veggies or other things to distract you from the noodly goodness) and an ice coffee (Asia style, coffee with ice cubes). It may surprise you but this place was crazy busy, and you know what – it was pretty good!
I only go to these kinds of places with Ying, because the servers don’t speak English, and everything is written in Chinese (or Malay, or Arabic), so I can’t even point to something that looks familiar. I’m kind of worried about getting an entire sheep’s head or something (half would be more than enough for me). All I can order is coffee and tea (Kopi and Te). For example on Saturday morning we went next door for breakfast to this little Chinese place and Ying orders some of the weirdest breakfast I’ve ever had. There are little squares of toast which are smeared with butter and what I first thought was honey, but is actually a mixture of coconut milk and sugar. To accompany the toast is a bowl with a very runny egg (like one that’s been boiled for 2 minutes), to which Ying added something from a shaker and a sauce bottle on the table, and the mixed it with a fork. We then dipped the bits of toast into the egg and ate. A bit different to your average toast soldiers, but still good. At the end there was still egg left in the bowl, and Ying said I should just drink the rest, but it was still a little early for that kind of thing!
The rest of Saturday was spent writing this email, playing spider solitaire (I tried Mah Jong, but I’m really bad at it), ripping Ying’s cds onto my computer, lunch at a vegetarian joint (and if I never eat tofu skin again, it won’t have come soon enough) and reading up on Chinese Love Signs (see end of email). As I mentioned previously, I stayed in Melaka for a few more days to help out with the dance troupe from Singapore. I thought they would be traditional Asian dancers, but it’s actually a ballroom dancing competition, which is going to be amazing. I’m going to a meeting tonight so that we know what we need to do the next day. I mean, yeah it will all be in Chinese, but it’s 90% body language right? Right?!
As always, congrats on getting this far!
*I actually did fall into a food coma when I was invited to Ying’s house for Chinese New Year.
PS: For Chinese New Year, Ying has invited me to celebrate with her family in their home town. I’m still not sure if I will go as there are a few major hurdles, but it would be the experience of a lifetime, so I’m pretty keen to go.
Like this email wasn’t long enough, I thought I’d leave you with some passages from a book called ‘Chinese Love Signs’. Enjoy – Let me know if this sounds like anyone you know!
It’s hard to say “no” to Dragons, and they don’t take kindly to it when you do. Dragons expect people to comply; and when challenged, they don’t hold back their opinions. Their motto is: “Let’s do it MY way – or else”. Dragons speak truthfully – usually without considering other people’s feelings. Being polite is not their forte, and Dragons don’t take criticism well. When their buttons are pushed, they vent vociferously then simmer down to a slow boil. As the emotional storm blows over, Dragons put old issues behind them and move on to the future. The past is done and let bygones be bygones. The present and future are filled with promise, and they want to take full advantage. Of course, Dragons always expect to be forgiven for their thunderous outbursts, because they consider themselves the most wonderful of all God’s creatures. They don’t see themselves as others might: irritating, loud, impulsive and boastful.
Without projects, plans or missions, Dragons become restless and depressed. When the Dragon wants to do something, like go on a trip or spend the day skydiving, they will expect you to hop to it. If you don’t want to go, the Dragon will be angry for a moment, and then they’ll find someone else to party with. The Dragon doesn’t let anyone rain on their parade. As long as the Dragon is having fun, grudges are soon forgotten.