This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Malacca Old and New

On Thursday, Sep 9th, we leave Kuala Lumpur for Malacca hoping our luck will change. It is a very busy time in the Malaysia. The Hari Raya holiday signifies the end of Ramadan and the new year. It is a four day weekend. We do not have a hotel and get a bad tip from an Italian guy about a good hotel which took us out of the town center. We check several places, but they are expensive or full or both. Prices are more than doubled because of the holiday weekend. We split up. By chance Mika runs into a Swiss couple we met a few weeks ago on the opposite end of Malaysia. They tell Mika about a cheap guesthouse by the river where we get a room for four nights.

It is customary at the end of Ramadan to have an open house and offer food to strangers. Around midnight of our first night our hotel owner's family came with some traditional food for the guests.  
Malacca has a very long, rich history. It was founded in the late 14th century by a wayward Sumatran prince. It flourished as a trading center attracting Chinese merchants. Then came the Europeans. First the Portuguese in 1511, then the Dutch in 1641 and finally ceded to the British - each leaving their own imprint on the town before Malaysian independence. Two years ago it was named a UNESCO world heritage site.
Malaysia's fourth oldest mosque. Notice the Chinese pagoda influence of the minaret.
Malaysia's oldest Chinese temple in continual use.
 Apart from the old mosques and temples the history of the old buildings is pretty much... "The Portuguese or Dutch built      . It was then used by the Dutch or British as      . Now Malacca uses it for     .

Last remaining piece of a Portuguese fort almost completely dismantled by the British.

Church built by Portuguese, then a tomb with very large headstones for fancy Dutch people. Now a tourist attraction. So much for R.I.P.
Dutch Square
In case a visitor to Malacca feels that the buffet of historical buildings is not enough, the city has provided a dessert tray of reconstructions:

A reconstruction of a Portuguese ship

A reconstructed palace

with a replica princess' tomb

A replica 16th Century waterwheel

Here I am desecrating a reconstructed cart pulled by replica buffaloes
Jonker Walk
With so much history and it's proximity to the capital, Malacca is a big tourist destination. There are many attractions, museums, riverboat rides, markets and restaurants all geared towards visitors. Jonker Walk is a weekend market pedestrian street. On Friday night it is teeming with people browsing nick knacks and what nots. On one end of the street is a massive BYO CD karaoke stage. At the other end of Jonker Walk for one performance a night is Master Ho, a 55 year old Kung-fu expert and The Guinness Book world record holder for piercing four coconuts in just over 30 seconds with only his index finger. For this show he will break three coconuts with his finger. Master Ho is also a medicine salesman which I assume is why he does this performance. Most of the sales pitch is in Chinese (Malaysian?), but we learn his product is a remedy for arthritis, aches and index fingers that are jabbed through coconuts. We arrive right before the show begins and have a front seat on the curb. I am selected as his first assistant where he has me choose three paper playing cards and then makes jokes -mostly not in English- about threatening to throw one at me like a ninja star and dislodge my left eyeball. In the end with my eyes still intact he tosses the playing cards four stories in the air.  

Me and Master Ho
He then gives his spiel and actually sells a lot of bottles of his elixir. Master Ho then prepares for his signature coconut trick. One of three coconuts which he will break through tonight. With much concentration and focused force he breaks through the coconut as he has probably done hundreds of times, but it really looks like he hurt his finger. It is completely swollen. He is furiously rubbing his snake oil on it. Master Ho does one more round of successful selling and jokes, breaks a second coconut with his elbow (not finger) and then calls it quits without touching the third coconut. I think that he really is in pain and quit the show early. Mika thinks that he made a good haul selling and does not want to waste a perfectly good coconut.

My video below of Master Ho in action:

An obnoxiously large outdoor karaoke stage
To add to the atmosphere and the traffic are the colorful trishaw riders. They will give tourists rides around town for 40 RM ( US $13.33) an hour or you can use them as taxis. Many trishaws are decorated with colorful plastic flowers and lights. Some also are playing music which I am not sure adds or detracts from a ride around town. The music selection ranges from Malay rock songs and Indian pop to Euro Techno and American Hip Hop. Come to think of it, Ludacris probably does not add anything to the atmosphere.

Trishaw by day
and by night
Hundreds of years ago Chinese merchants in Malacca married local Malay women. The blend created a unique Baba Nyonya community. Malacca of today has many restaurants selling Nyonya food, but it is very hard for us to pin down which is good and which are standard tourist fare. The food is spiceyand uses a lot of coconut milk.

Nyonya Laksa

For some unexplicable reason tourists wait in line all weekend to eat rice balls with chicken


  1. Some nuts might have replace the young coconuts with the old ripe coconut. Poor Master Ho.

  2. I am not sure what happened, but it looked very painful. Though his medicine did help bring the swelling down. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

  3. Jeez! Do they think coconuts grow on trees or something?

    Y'all ever headed stateside?

  4. We will be in the US for about two weeks in mid-Nov. Hopefully will get our fill of coconuts before then.