Do you ever think back to a former version of yourself and have a little chuckle? Sure, my big hair and
questionable makeup choices in the late eighties are easy pickings. Plaid pants? I can’t…
But I really shake my head at my early parenting days – oh the hand wringing if there was any change in routine or a short trip to be made. A four-hour drive to Kelowna required a colossal amount of prep work and precision timing.
Now we throw a bag of peanuts, some crackers and a bottle of water into a bag and tell the kids to jump into a van for the seven hour trip from Taman Negara to Melaka. Oh and I never forget my new best friend, DEET, at questionably toxic percentages. Goodbye 7% “Family” DEET with aloe vera; hello 30% DEET, or better yet, my prized 100% stash, procured from a gentleman at an outdoors store in Vancouver. (Should I be worried that he gave me the wink, wink, nudge, nudge before furtively looking around and reaching under the counter as if he was providing me with contraband? All I can say is, thank you sir.)
Also gone are the days of asking the kids where they might like to eat. On the aforementioned drive to Melaka, we just announced we were having lunch at an Indian “restaurant.” Sure it was on the side of a small road, looked more like someone’s backyard, it was stinking hot without air con or even a fan in sight and there were flies hovering about.
But it’s Indian, people! We love Indian. And as it turns out, they did in fact LOVE this place. Cen wants to drive back. The deal was sealed the moment they realized the wet banana leaves slapped down in front of them would serve as their plates. Does it get better than having a banana leaf for a plate? I think not. But then the pappadums arrived and, yup, it gets better. The only mistake I made was not stacking up my leaf fast enough, as before I knew it, the tins of dahl and other goodies were whisked away to another table. This is true communal eating; not the “Look, we’re making you sit at a big communal table but you have no intention of eating with, or talking to, anyone other than those you came with” trend in Vancouver.
If our white skin (other than Meskie) didn’t give away our foreigner identities, the fact that we used a fork and spoon vs. our hands sure did. The girls had some chicken concoction (there was one poultry choice – home cooking, I tell you), Karl had mutton, Cen and I went veggie. We ate a ton of rice and pappadums. Drinks all around. The total bill? $8 Cdn. Fabulous.
Because I’ve eaten enough veggie fried rice to sink one of those cool wooden boats in Taman Negara (vegetarian food choices were somewhat limited on the Perhentian Islands and in the jungle), Karl was kind enough to find another Indian restaurant here in Melaka (more on this fabulous city shortly). Turns out this fine establishment (more upscale than the first – think plastic chairs and pop-up tables in the parking lot of a strip mall instead of someone’s backyard) has a top rating in the Lonely Planet guide (and an actual menu instead of a gentleman pointing to four dishes on the counter).
I kid you not when I say that this meal was one of the highlights of the trip for me so far. The food was good (though we’re spoiled in Vancouver with Indian food choices), but the warmth of the staff made it great. They were so incredibly sweet to the kids. When Meskie took an interest in the Tandoori clay oven/pot (where a very skilled cook was making naan faster than you can say chicken vindaloo), they invited the kids to come make their own. And so they did, flour and dough flying, to the delight of everyone working there. How cool is that? Incredibly cool.
For Cen, spotting a huge lizard (crocodile??) in the open sewer on the walk home made the magic of the night complete!
But now more about the wonderful city of Melaka, designated a world heritage site by UNESCO (a decree made in Quebec, Canada, July 1, 2008 according to a large sign we saw when entering the historic district).
Karl outdid himself by finding us an ultra-fab place (The Wayfarer Guesthouse) overlooking the river (think Venice). It’s located in an old rubber shop house, but has been totally modernized. Our suite was spread over two levels, with stairs to a bedroom loft, large wooden plank floorboards and a mix of old and new furnishings. Plus two M.A.J.O.R bonuses:
- a hot water tap (first place we’ve stayed with this feature; the others only had tiny hot water heaters – size of a shoebox – for showers)
- access to a laundry machine and dryer downstairs (a break from nightly underwear washing in the sink! It’s glamour 24-7 on this trip, I tell you!)
And now a quick list of activities during our whirlwind, 2-day stay in Melaka:
– walking around the historic colonial district (kids were amazed by the 500 year-old buildings — and by the amount of sweat the human body can create when climbing the many stairs to said edifices)
– night market in China Town
– visit to the fabulous maritime museum (housed in a full-size replica of a ship)
– tour of a past Sultan’s palace (also a perfect replica of the original, which was built without a single nail!)
– consumption of delicious food (oh, the eggplant chili dish next door – the best!) Karl was very pleased that the beer flows freely here, unlike other states in Malaysia
– river boat tour
– tri-shaw ride (a fan favorite)
And we survived the smoky haze blanketing the city, due to forest fires in Sumatra!
If you ever visit Malaysia, this town is a must-see!