Day 10

Monday

29 April 2002

From Singapore to Malacca

 

Note: Photos do not have individual links to save server space. The full size photo links are at the bottom of the page. The diaries are provided for context and perspective – but you can go straight to the photos if you wish.

 

Up reasonably early and at 7.45, made a booking for the 11 am departure. Breakfast was good and quick, and we were able to pack and checkout with a minimum of fuss. Caught a cab to the Lavender Street bus depot. The word depot is rather loosely used. It is in fact, a paddock with some temporary rented offices and shipping containers used for the same purpose. The buses however looked quite good and modern. We were there just in time for the 10 am departure – so we changed across to that.

 

The tickets were only $13 each – tremendous value for the 4 hour journey. The price compared very favourably to the quote of $360 for a pre-arranged transfer. Our bus was very modern and comfortable and we were soon on our way to Tuah – the new bridge crossing to mainland Malaysia in the far west of the island. We were able to pass through immigration and customs very quickly – particularly so since it is a two-step process – once leaving Singapore and another entering Malaysia.

 

One disturbing aspect of the bus was that it was speed limited to 80 km/h and once that speed was achieved, the bus let out a loud whistle. Since the limit was often exceeded, it was initially very annoying. Once we hit the freeway system in Malaysia however, he sat on 100+ km/h and the engine noise soon drowned out the whistle.

 

The driver was fine on freeways – but really came into his own once we departed the freeways (toll ways) and moved onto the local road / highway system. He became just as feral as every other local driver, throwing common sense and manners out the door. Overtaking over double lines, around bends and on the crest of hills was his speciality.  I could see the headlines now ‘tourist brush kills 15 including 2 Australians’. The horn was the most used accessory on the bus.

 

One such diversion was to Ayer Hitam (literally ‘half way’). We had a 20+ minute stopover in a fairly grubby roadside café where everyone got to buy food but the drivers (all the busses stopped here!) had their own section to eat – and were provided with generous spreads for which no money seemed to change hands. It even cost 20c to go into a very grubby toilet. The saving grace was a pottery / nick-knack store across the road. Not being hungry, Chris and I wandered across and filled in the time there.

 

 

 

 

We were soon on our way again – making a stop in the busy town of Muar before reaching Malacca at around 3 pm. That was around 30 minutes late – and largely affected by traffic hold-ups because of extensive road works just outside Malacca.

 

The national bus terminal was more formal here than in Singapore, and was a hive of activity as this now seems to be a hub for national bus lines. While we could easily see our hotel from the terminal, we needed to get a cab, as it was across the river and difficult to reach on foot. The cab fare – like all others around Malacca we were assured, was RM10 ($5). Seemed worth it, but since Malacca is now a sea of one way streets, we had to go a heck of a long way to get to an otherwise very close destination.

 

My first impression of Malacca was that it hadn’t changed that much – other than traffic was now more of a nightmare than I remember.

 

We were staying at the Renaissance Hotel. Late of the Ramada chain, it was now attached to Marriott. While it is a genuine 5 star hotel (and the best in Malacca), it is starting to show its age. It is well located northeast of Newcomb Road near Bukit China. Most of the recent development has been at the waterfront, where massive reclamation program has provided plenty of land – and facilitated a bypass freeway right on the beach. Land use is questionable and development largely ad-hoc. They have however, put substantial tourism effort into developing the A Formosa historical area – including setting up a land locked Portuguese ship and maritime museum, and further developing / refurbishing the Dutch fort into a museum.

 

The waterfront is also the location of a large resort and an adjacent Mahkota shopping centre, however both of these were disappointing and although relatively new, had already fallen into disrepair.

 

We decided to head back to the hotel, and although hot and tired, decided to walk. We went round in circles and got lost – notwithstanding that we could see our hotel. We made our way back to the Fort and caught a trishaw back to the hotel.

 

 

 

The RM 10 ride was worth it for the experience alone. While he seemed to know what he was doing, going the wrong way up the narrow one-way streets was not a problem for the driver – as long he could ring his bell. We got him to drop us off where we could get some Tiger for the night, and got back to the hotel at night fall.

 

Had dinner at the local ‘Formosa Chicken’ franchise. Had chicken and rice and satay that you cooked yourself at the table. Very nice.

 

Back to the room and a nip or two of Irish Mist before retiring. Another hot and exhausting (although interesting) day.

 

    

 

 

 

Day 11

Tuesday

30 April 2002

Malacca

 

Got up late (we seemed to have slept in late a lot on this holiday). Breakfast in the restaurant was excellent – although you have to put up with no bacon in Muslim Malaysia.

 

Went for a walk North to the bus terminal area and looked over the local food market. As in Singapore (only worse), this was not a good idea. Filthy! We also wandered around the adjacent multi storey shopping centre (Plaza Hung Tuah), and although the shops were relatively modern, they too were filthy and run-down. The thought that kept cropping up was why development in Malacca was out of step with development in all other parts of Malaysia that we have visited over the past 10 years. It must have something to do with the local government …..

 

Although it was hot, we walked down to Chinatown (how that gets designated is not obvious to the uninitiated) – including Jonkers Street (Jalan Hang Jebat).

 

 

While tourism brochures are big on this street, we must be a bit fussy because it failed to impress. There were a couple of fine temples there, and the coffin manufacturing shop was interesting…..

 

We wandered off to look at the Maritime Museum – but it was shut on Tuesdays. Just our luck. We went across to the Dutch Stadthuys museum which depicted the period when the city was under Dutch control, and that was quite interesting – and worth the minimal entry fee.

 

 

We made our way back to the hotel and had a rest and a cup of tea and some pastries that we had bought locally. Chris wanted a swim and a read, and I wanted to wander. I found a place for dinner (the City Bayview hotel) and took some local photos.

 

Got back to the hotel and had a quick swim then back to the room for a rest. I teed up with a Captain Shatif that we could go look at Terendak tomorrow at 11 am. That was only after considerable persuasive argument – since he wanted me to write to obtain permission. Note for next time – write from home before you leave. In the event, he was quite helpful and set everything up for me. He stressed though, that one of the guard would need to accompany us over the camp – and that under no circumstances could we take any photos. I was looking forward to it.

We had a nap for an hour or so. We went down for another swim and a read. The pool was fantastic – although they were replacing all the trees that surround it and as a result, it didn’t present as well as it would normally.

 

Went back and showered and had a beer and some nuts before dinner.

 

Dinner was fantastic.

 

For RM 20 each, we had;

*  Green beans and mince meat soup

*  Fillet steak in black bean

*  Sweet and sour prawns

*  Roast chicken and Rice

*  Honeydew melon and sago – with ice cream

*  Chinese tea.

How can they do that?

 

For drinks they had a wine promotion. Wine which is normally prohibitive was only $24 for a bottle of French wine (Chardonnay style). We partook and it finished the meal beautifully.

 

Back to the room after a short walk to move the dinner down.

 

Retired relatively early after another fabulous day.    

 

Day 12

Wednesday

1 May 2002

Malacca

 

Slept in again as it had rained heavily all night – plenty of thunder and lightning through the night. Great breakfast again – but a bit later today at 9.15. Still ample time for our 11am visit.

 

It was a public holiday in Malaysia so it was quieter outside. After breakfast, the weather again set in. The river – down to a stream for the past 2 days, had now overflowed. The rain did not let up – and from our 14th floor room, you could see no end.

 

At 10.45 I rang to defer our 11 am meeting at Terendak. Curiously, the guard house knew nothing about it in any event, and I had to go through the whole process again – setting a time for 1 pm. Fingers crossed.

 

By 12.30, the deluge had stopped to a drizzle. We jumped downstairs and grabbed a cab. On advice from the Hotel concierge, we negotiated RM 50 for 2 hours with the cabbie. He was OK but he didn’t have much English. Cab was a beat up Nissan.

 

Some observations from the drive out to the camp;

*   The road is widened, straightened and much improved.

*   The town has developed to the extent that it has spread all the way out to Terendak

*   More of the coast is visible on the trip – because development has replaced the natural vegetation (unless my memory is playing tricks – and that shouldn’t be entirely discounted – it was after all 35 years ago!)

*   There are some very large condo developments on the road – maybe 35 storeys. Many others have been started but not completed – a result I guess of the Asian financial crisis of 2-3 years ago.

*   There are some large resort developments at Tanjon Kling.

*   There is a large Petronas oil refinery 2/3 of the way out – right on the beach.

*   There is an army camp at Sungei Udang – on the beach 3 kms from Terendak. That may have been there previously, but I can’t remember it.

*   The entrance to ‘Kem Terendak’ is largely unchanged – although the ‘Strip’ out the front is a lot larger, has spread to the other side of the road, and is generally in a state of disrepair. Some of the old signs are still there – including the ‘Evergreen Tailor’

 

 We made our way into the camp. The driveway is very familiar to the first hill. Once over the hill, the first big change hits you. Opposite the garrison guardhouse, there is an enormous mosque – modern and magnificent. This spells out loudly that this is now a Malay camp. The guardhouse is in the same location – but has been remodelled – with more parking for visitors.

 

We picked up our escort – a Corporal from the Malay regiment. We can go wherever we liked – but NO PICTURES!

 

We went first to the 8RAR Lines.

 

It took us about 5 minutes to get through there but we were eventually allowed to proceed. There had been a minor upgrade to the guardhouse, and the main sports grounds contained admin buildings of some sort and an enlarged transport section.

 

The insignia on the Parade Ground had been changed to Malay, and the only other perceivable change was the presence of cars and bikes around the quarters. The place looked pretty untidy – and being a public holiday, there were some guys around the place in civvies. We drove the length of the quarters and down to the mess – but didn’t get out of the car.

 

The whole area needs a spruce up – and a bit of ‘area beautification’. They mustn’t have as much time on their hands as we used to have. Chris was fascinated because she didn’t realise how big the place was – despite me having talked about it over the years.

 

We headed off to the community centre – which is still there and largely unchanged. Only the Cinema remains in good condition. The square in the centre is completely overgrown with weeds. The chapels seemed to be being used for storage of some sorts – and these too, had fallen into disrepair. The Bank building is being used as a library.

 

We headed off to the hospital, and that looked both in good condition and unchanged. Opposite the entrance to the hospital is a new recruit training centre.

 

We headed off to the beach club – and they took us firstly to the officers’ beach club by mistake. It was in good condition, but I’d not seen it before so can’t compare.

 

We trundled around to the OR’s Beach Club. It was in top-notch condition but without tables and chairs – or anything else for that matter. Our escort advised that they just don’t use it any more. Didn’t know why not….. The pool was there and still being used. It too was a little run down but still serviceable. The whole area was protected from the beach by a cyclone wire fence. I don’t recall that being there previously – and it certainly detracted from the appearance of the area. The squash courts were still there – but completely dilapidated and overgrown. I’d say they haven’t been used in years.

 

Did the familiar drive back to the guardhouse through the once ‘married quarters’. These are now largely units for civilians that now work on the base (in this era of privatisation). These were in very bad repair, filthy and disappointing. As with any (poor) Asian community, washing was strewn from balconies and on poles out of windows etc, and the stucco was in great need of repaint and repair.

 

We dropped off our escort and thanked all present for their assistance, since it had been a really worthwhile experience. Stopped and took some pics on the way out of the camp and at the ‘strip’.

 

 

Back in town, we paid our cabbie RM 53 (we took longer than 2 hours) and he dropped us at the Maritime museum. For the RM2 entry fee, you got to look over the Portuguese Sailing ship,

 

 

 

 

the attached Naval history museum, and the WW11 Naval museum on the other side of the road. Such is the extent of reclamation here, I am sure this would have been on the beach when we were there – and it is now 500-600 meters inland. 

 

We went for another stroll around the town – and taking in the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river is a lot cleaner than it was – and certainly not as smelly. It does however suffer from being a river that floods regularly, and inevitably that means that rubbish washes down with the rainwater.

 

We went back to the hotel and had a swim and a freshen up. We then went for a walk and picked up the tickets for the return trip to Singapore the following day at 10 am. Interestingly, although the cost was $13 each on the way up, it was only $8.75 each on the way back. There must be some subtlety in pricing that I don’t understand.

 

Back to the hotel for a drink and a nap followed by another swim and some reading.

 

Being our last full night, we decided to lash out – and had the Malacca seafood buffet at the Renaissance. At RM 42 each it was tremendous value. Plenty of oysters, mussels and prawns as well as baked whole fish and any number of other seafood dishes. Breads and deserts were also magnificent, and we finished off with tea and coffee.

 

Walk after dinner – trying to get hold of some night shots – but there wasn’t much in the offing. Pleasant enough walk though – before heading back to the room to pack for the return journey that started the following morning.

 

*           See the Malacca today photos Here

*       See the Malacca History photos Here

*       See More General photos Here

 

     


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