Alley plants

Our second day in Melaka was one of of aimless roaming around. We spent our time looking for small alleys and backstreets with interesting shops. We started out by veering off Jonker street. The street running parallel with Jonker Street was mercifully less crowded, but definitely not less interesting. The old architecture here, really shined. Some buildings were completely redone with fresh paint while others sat in a somewhat dilapidated state. Although, each building had some distinct, interesting architectural details.

WindowsMansion

Porch architecture

Cutting back across Jonker street we headed towards the area known as Harmony Street. The street gets its colloquial name from the fact that along its length it has a traditional Chinese temple, a Mosque, and a Hindu temple. We weren’t dressed properly to enter the Mosque and the Hindu Temple was closed, but the street still has lots of fascinating local shops to visit. One of my wife’s favorites was The Clay House, where they sell locally produced clay products and run classes that allow you to make your own clay products. The owner (I’m guessing) was very kind and allowed us free reign of his shop. We came away with a very nice mug for our tea and a beautifully designed candle holder.

Street artChicken rice ball

Harmony street

Also, on that same street is another shop that does wonderful calligraphy art and wood carvings. I don’t think we picked up anything here, but it was not for a lack of options. Having wandered in and out of most of the stores, we made our way to the Chinese temple that was buzzing with activity, as they usually are. The temple was in the middle of having some renovations done, so some of the paintings and doors had fresh coats of paint that really made them pop.

After our turn around the temple we walked across the street and happened upon a calm, serene oasis. The sign for the area said Kampung Ketek and it’s located almost opposite the Chinese temple. The walk takes you past some quaint, old houses and into a quiet, tree-filled courtyard, where there was not another soul. It was the perfect place to escape the heat of the day. We sat and rested while eating our putu mayam, a local dessert, that we had just bought from a hawker on his bike outside the courtyard. Feeling rejuvenated from our peaceful break, we headed back out into the heat.

Blue houseSyamsudin Mausoleum

Following our trip down Harmony Street, our wandering became even more aimless. I can’t describe where we went because we honestly just ducked into alleys that intrigued us, following them down the rabbit hole of more alleys. We finally popped out near the river, where we found a pedestrian bridge. Crossing over the river gave us a spectacular view of the murals painted on the buildings facing the river. Almost, every building was painted in a unique style giving the area an eclectic mix of art, filled with a kaleidoscope of colors.

Crossing the bridge

Collection of murals

With the sun setting the time had come to delve into the madness that is the night market on Jonker Street. You can hear the calls of the hawkers and low murmur of crowds of people talking as you approach the street. When you get a clear view of it, you witness the bright light bulbs protruding from every stall, bathing the people and buildings in a harsh light. We gave each other looks of second guessing, but we had both agreed that it was something we wanted to experience, so with a slight nod we dove in. We rode the waves of people through the market, catching glimpses of frozen, iced coconuts, iPhone cases, hand-carved trinkets, durian everything, and plenty of baked goods. We broke out of the cascade of people when something caught our eye. During our walk we sampled some of the local delicacies; popiah and pineapple tarts, both of which were delightful. At the end of the street is a large stage where people get up and sing karaoke to a crowd sitting on plastic chairs. We listened to a few tunes, not understanding a lick of it, but applauding the performers for having the courage and desire to get up and sing in front of all those people. After we’d had our fill, we exited the street, happy that we visited the night market, but with no strong desire to dive back in anytime soon.

 

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Malaysia, Travel

Roaming the backstreets of Melaka

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Christ Church

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One of the pedestrian bridges throughout Melaka

We got a much needed holiday break at the end of our second week of school (haha), for Malaysia’s Independence Day or Merdeka Day. I could get used to this type of schedule, work a week, get a long weekend. Due to a passport issue for my wife, we couldn’t take a flight anywhere, domestic or international, so we were limited to places we could visit by bus or train. However, when we tried to look for train tickets they were all sold out. So with even fewer choices, we decided to take a bus down to Melaka/Malacca for a pleasant two night holiday.

River stroll

Beautifully painted building along the riverside

With our limited prep time, we took a somewhat lackadaisical approach to planning. We flipped through the pages highlighting Melaka on the Lonely Planet guide that my colleague had so graciously lent us, but our main plan was to do what we often do these days: wander around on foot and try as much local food as possible. Our new method of traveling is such a huge departure from how we started traveling, where we, mostly me, would meticulously plan every detail of the trip. When I think back to the way we used to travel I can’t believe how much time I spent researching online and pre booking all our activities, leaving almost no room for spontaneity. I think the changes we’ve made shows our growth, not only in travel experience, but in our characters, that have been molded by our time outside of our comfort area.

Melaka architecture

Old colonial designs on the buildings

As our bus wove through the city streets, we could see that Melaka was a popular place to spend the holiday. The streets were bustling with throngs of people, not to the level of China during a national holiday, but certainly more than we have encountered during our other trips in Malaysia. We hastily tossed our bags down in our room at the ND Hotel, which would belong in the dictionary under the word adequate, and headed out to explore.

Melaka Streets

Architecture in Melaka

Our first stop was at the remnants of the St. Paul Church, located on top of St. Paul’s Hill, which gives a nice aerial view of the city leading out to the Melaka Strait. The church itself was one of the oldest churches built in Malaysia, but fell into disuse after the Dutch conquered the area and built a church in the main town square. From the top of the hill you can visit a few small museums, including the former governor’s mansion, but we bypassed them as we meandered down the hill into the heart of the old town.

St Paul's Church

St Paul’s Church

Headstones

Memorials inside the church

Melaka Strait

View to the Melaka Strait

The town square is where all the hustle and bustle starts. First you hear the blaring music coming from the psychedelic, neon trishaws plying the motorways. The greatest concentration of which, can be found at the base of the bridge leading to Jonker Street. The cacophony they cause when they form a small train going down the road is definitely an experience not to miss. The buildings surrounding the square are all painted the same deep shade of red, which is pretty unique. For one, it’s unusual to see a building painted the same color from top to bottom, let alone several buildings all the same color. From the square you can visit several museums. We took a break from the pounding sunshine by taking a turn through the sparsely decorated Christ Church. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in an old church that had so little on the walls.

Leaving the church, we traveled into the madhouse that is Jonker Street, where you can find all your touristy kitsch alongside antiques, with a sprinkle of local food. Here, on this narrow street, we found ourselves amongst waves of people, all while dodging scooters and cars trying to navigate their way through. We did our tourist duty of checking out the local wares, coming away with a few wooden pieces for our new home.

Jonker St

With the sun setting we were famished so we set out in search of a nice local restaurant and settled on Manis J Nyonya restaurant. Nyonya cuisine was created by the Peranakans, which is a term used to describe the early-Chinese migrants who married with the local Malays. As you might guess, the food is a combination of Chinese and Malay flavors and the various dishes are popular in the Melaka area. We ordered three dishes, one bowl of steamed tofu, a plate of spicy, stir-fried chicken, and some fried squid. The flavors of the squid and especially the chicken were amazing, but we both found the steamed tofu a bit bland for our liking. As we were eating, we noticed that everyone around us was eating cendol, a local dessert made with ice, coconut milk, red beans, palm sugar, and green rice flour jelly. During our previous visit to Penang, we tried cendol and didn’t really enjoy it. However, we decided to give it another go since it was supposed to be a speciality of Manis J. While it did taste much better than the one from Penang, it will still take some time to get used to the flavors. Feeling satiated, we walked back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

In my next post I’ll write about some nice out of the way finds and our surviving the night market on Jonker Street. If you’re interested you can read my post about the Floating Mosque in Melaka, that’s a bit outside of the tourist area.

Malaysia, Travel

The Hustle and Bustle of Melaka

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Melaka sunset

This beautiful mosque sits on a tiny island near the city center, but its sereneness might as well be on the other side of the world from the chaos found on Jonker Street.

Masjid Selat Melaka

Entrance to Masjid Selat Melaka

The name of this modern mosque, is the Melaka (Malacca) Straits Mosque or Masjid Selat Melaka due to it basically being built on top of the Melaka Straits. To find this somewhat hidden gem you’ll need to catch a ride by taxi, Uber, or Grab to the diminutive, man-made Pulau Melaka. The journey from the heart of the city takes about 15-20 minutes depending on the traffic. If you need some peace from all the hustle and bustle of the old town or if you just want to witness a sunset at a pretty special place I highly recommend a trip out to the “Floating Mosque.”

There was a small, quiet crowd for sunset and more than a few photographers, but nothing in scale compared to Angkor Wat. We weren’t too stressed about grabbing the right shot, so we made it there about 30 minutes before sunset and still find some pretty nice angles to take pictures.

Sunset at Masjid Selat Melaka

Sunset at Masjid Selat Melaka

Mosque at darkPrayers lined up

Malaysia, Photography, Travel

The Floating Mosque of Melaka

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Mosque

Masjid India Klang

To say that Klang is off the tourist map may be an understatement as evidenced by one of the locals approaching me and asking “Why are you here?” and “Do you know where you are?” As I was able to answer his questions and assure him that we were not lost he and his friends shared some tips for the area and some different festivals we should know about for the future. We thanked them and heartily shook hands as we went our separate ways. Klang may not see many tourists, but their friendliness will certainly make them feel welcome when they do come. We received quite a few hearty “hellos” and waves as we roamed aimlessly around the city. In addition to that a man and his elderly grandmother welcomed us to Malaysia as we were shopping in the market. The people may be Klang’s best asset, but there is plenty more to experience there.

Road in front of the train station

The main thoroughfare in front of the train station

 

Towering over the city is the Indian Mosque, highlighted by its blue dome and minarets. Apparently the interior is supposed to be stunning, but as we are still getting accustomed to traveling around the area we didn’t have the proper attire to enter. We know for next time what we need to have with us to ensure we can enjoy the full experience. Continuing past the mosque is Little India, filled with intoxicating sounds and smells that flood your senses. We were starving due to our late start, so we found a busy restaurant just off the main path for lunch. It turned out to be our first banana leaf experience. The portions were tremendous and the prices low. Suria Curry is definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in the area.

 

Feeling stuffed we continued wandering around the area, dodging into back alleys, popping into various shops, trying to take it all in. We visited the Chennai Silk Palace, which is housed in an old bank building. The vast interior is filled to the brim with beautiful silk textiles in every shade imaginable. In the heart of the store is a massive loom showing the intricate way in which silk used to be woven.

 

We continued our improvised tour east along a busy road eventually turning left, back towards the train station. Here the road curves and you can see the buildings curving with it, making for some great photo opportunities. Feeling a bit hot from walking around we ducked into the Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery, which is a free museum of collections from the life of the sultan. After strolling through the galleries we continued west towards the Kota Bridge, which was Malaysia’s first double-decked bridge.

 

Kota Bridge

The lower level of the double decker Kota Bridge

Underneath the bridge an artist has painted a call the revive the area around the Klang River, showing its varied history and colorful past. We climbed up to the upper deck of the bridge where there is a pedestrian path. From the path you have a clear view of the North Klang Royal Town Mosque built right on the banks of the river. Its gold dome and unique minaret are worth the climb up to the bridge, especially if you can frame your pictures without the enormous hotel in the background.

North Klang Royal Town Mosque

North Klang Royal Town Mosque (Masjid Bandar Diraja Klang)

Walking around had drained us of our energy, so we walked back into the old town center to find some coffee. We happened upon a quaint cafe right before they closed and sat down with two iced lattes. Here again the welcoming spirit of the people in Klang shown through as the woman working came over and spoke at great length with us about where we were from and what brought us to Malaysia. She doled out some advice on local places to eat for the next time we visit. We thanked her for her advice and hospitality and promised to come by again when we were in the area. As the sun was setting and we still had an hour train ride ahead of us we headed for the train station and said goodbye to Klang, but most assuredly not for the last time.

 

Malaysia, Travel

Making Friends in the City of Klang

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Today’s the day! All our bags are packed, all of our goodbyes are said, and we’re sitting in the airport waiting for our transpacific flight. These past 8 months at home with friends and family have been wonderful. We’ve enjoyed the time we spent together. Now on to a new phase of our lives. New experiences are waiting for us and we intend to make the most of them.

I hope to get in a regular schedule of posting once we get settled in KL. Until then, here’s hoping for smooth travel and a comfortable hotel bed 25 hours in the future.

Malaysia, Travel

Moving Day

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I’ve accepted a counseling position with an international school in Kuala Lumpur. My wife and I are totally pumped for this new chapter in our lives. We spent a few days in KL during our “Funemployment” trip in November and loved the energetic vibe of the city, the mix of cultures, and the exquisite food options. Now we’ll get to explore the city and the country more in depth and share it with you, my faithful readers.

Towers

What this means in the short term is changes in my posting and frequency of posts. We leave in about three weeks and in that time we have to move all of our stuff, shop for things we need to bring with us, catch up with friends and family, and all the other things I’m forgetting. In addition to all that, we celebrate 10 YEARS(!!) of marriage next week, so that’s a few days out of the schedule.

KL

In the long term I’m looking at making some changes to the blog and this move abroad provides a nice fresh start to make changes. I’m still going through some of my options to choose what I think would fit me best moving forward, but I’ll try to keep you updated.

Architecture in KL

Anyone else out there with exciting news that they want to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments down below.

Malaysia, Travel

Exciting News: The Counselor is on the move!

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Old and newHanging onOpen air busCatching a ride

Photography, Travel, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Buses in Yangon

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