We have arrived in Melaka! We bought our bus tickets from Puduraya bus station in Kuala Lumpur. Buses were regular and are offered by a bunch of different companies. While the tickets are sold at Puduraya the buses to Melaka don't actually leave from there. One company, named “Nice” leaves from KL Sentral. The rest leave from somewhere else. KL Sentral was easier for us so we opted for the Nice bus company.
Melaka is a lovely town. The center of town is scattered with old buildings, remnants of the various people who have made Melaka their home over the centuries. At various points this town has been run by a sultan, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and even the Japanese. Incidentally, I'm told that the reason there is no rail line to Melaka is because the Japanese tore it up to gather supplies for the construction of the Burma railway during world war two. There is discussion about rebuilding it but, so far, it hasn't happened.
One of the first things you'll notice in Melaka is the trishaws. Kind of like a rickshaw but decorated with flowers and lights and often playing extremely loud music.
At the center of the town is the dutch square. Most of the old buildings are concentrated around it.
Over the river is china town which provides the chance to try a Melaka specialty, chicken and rice balls. I'm not really sure why this is so notable but it was nice enough.
Jonkers street is the center of china town and the site of weekly street markets. The weekend we arrived was some sort of holiday so a few hours later this street was shoulder to shoulder with tourists as far as you could see.
Another, much nicer, specialty is cendol (pronounced chendol). Cendol is shaved ice covered in a very sweet topping, usually condensed milk and fruit syrup. It's pretty common in south east Asia but the local variant uses palm sugar instead of condensed milk. It gives it a very distinct taste thats a little less sickly after you've eaten more of it than you probably should. It's awesome after you've been walking around in the heat for a few hours.
There are a handful of sections remaining of the fortifications that the various occupiers have built. Sadly there's very little left and its in pretty bad shape. The Portuguese built the first fortress here after capturing Melaka from the sultan. The dutch destroyed much of it in the course of capturing it by force from the Portuguese. The Dutch handed over Melaka to the British as part of the resolution of the Napoleonic wars in Europe (I believe). However, by this time the port had silted up so large ships couldn't use it, the port of Melaka was losing money and the British already had the ports of Penang to the north and Singapore to the south. They didn't really need another port in the area and under the terms of their deal with the Dutch they would eventually have to give Melaka back anyway. Rather than spending time and money maintaining a money losing borrowed fortress that could one day be used against them they decided to destroy most of the fortifications and resettle much of the population to Penang. Take that Holland! While some elements were preserved this process left very little for us to see today.
All in all Melaka is a lovely place to spend some time. We've met some people who have been here for months or even years and I can see why. It's easy to walk around, relatively cheap, the food is good and the range of nationalities that call this place home keep it interesting.
Despite the great beauty of this place we did encounter something deeply disturbing.