Good-bye Kuala Lumpur, Hello Melaka

Sleeping in until 9:00 am was a real treat. I never seem to be able to sleep that late in Budapest. After going for coffee, we repacked and readied to leave the hotel by noon, but the laundry was not going to be ready until 1:00. The hotel, a real winner will be added to Our Picks page on our web site. They were exceptionally kind. We found out at the last that there was WiFi right in the lobby, but alas they don’t serve coffee. A taxi ride to the bus station on a Sunday, one would think it was would be a no brainer task, however, even on a Sunday, the traffic was nose to tail. Once at the bus station we had to fight the crowds to find out where to buy our tickets to Melaka. It was more crowded than any U.S. airport the day before Thanksgiving. Trying to get through with luggage was like trying to fit whale in a sardine can. Our tickets for one way were only 9.50 Ringgets, but with a two hour bus ride ahead of us, we had to use the bathroom first. Of course, the men’s rooms are on the 2nd floor. Finally making it to the bus, there were only two seats left and miraculously, they were together. Fully wide reclining seats made the two hour ride a joy. There was a little boy across the aisle from me. At one point, my seat went flying back, surprising the hell out of me as I am sure it did the man behind me. The little monster across from me had pulled the lever while I was reading. He must have been about nine years old, but he never stopped moving. Hoping for lush scenes of countryside as we traveled out of the city, we were disappointed with views of high rises that were dilapidated, run down businesses, and with the usual detracting signs on buildings, it could have been boring highway riding anywhere, any country. When we pulled into the final stop, it was a little nerve rattling from the build up we had heard about this city. It looked like a beautiful woman that is more than plain before the make-up artist transforms her. Melaka like all of Malaysia has bowed to many rulers from the Hindus to the Europeans. The Portuguese ‘conquered’ Melaka in 1511 by Alfonso d’Albuquerque and kept it under Portuguese control for 130 years. In 1641, the torch was passed to the Dutch who maintained power for 154 years. Then the British had their turn from 1824 until the country gained independence 50 years ago. Actually, this is their 50th anniversary of independence and a free nation, August 31, 1957. Indeed smaller than KL, the traffic here is no less threatening than it larger counterpart. We made our way to the Hotel Aldy Chinatown, a second hotel for the Hotel Aldy (www.aldyhotel.com.my). This newest property just opened a week ago and they are having a few growing pains; however, it is modern and lovely. Not finding any towels in the bathroom and the nozzle broken on the toilet spray hose, we reported it and within 2 minutes, there were two people here to fix the problem. Walking the city in the neighborhood was not all that impressive, but there is an absence of sidewalks. Either you walk in the street or you walk through the stores’ entry ways where there are a number of large rectangular holes in the cement, which I am guessing is for drainage. We walked down to the city center where the Dutch influence is still evident. A whole block of buildings were painted salmon red including Christ Church and the Dutch governors’ official residence. The stores close much earlier than in KL, thus the number of people out and about are far less, but the traffic is still rush out like at 8:00 pm on a Sunday night. Across from our hotel is an ‘Italian bakery’ like a non sequitur in this culture, but lighting a familiar flame in my ancestral longing. When we went in, there was nothing that could be identified as Italian baked goods, but they were featuring Portuguese egg custard cups that they just started serving. Three for 3.30 was a bargain, so we indulged in six. We took them to our hotels restaurant for a coffee, but their espresso machine is not working yet and the best they could offer was Nescafe. We went back to the bakery for an espresso and ate our cakes. They truly were as exceptional as those we used to buy during our weeks in Lisbon.