Melaka with Mr Tea

With KL sufficiently done & dusted we left on the relatively short bus journey south to Melaka. A mere two hours on the bus & we had arrived in Melaka with another 10 minute bus ride to the centre where we were supposed to meet our new Couchsurfing host Mr Tea… please note Mr TEA, not Mr T. Small Chinese Malaysian man, not 300 pound brick shit house with a darker complexion than an eclipse!   

Dutch influence

 

Melaka is a cultural hotspot in Malaysia mainly because of its rich history.  The city was originally a simple fishing village home to local Malay people, but due to its prime location in the middle of the Malacca Straits it has been conquered by the Siamese, the Portuguese, the Dutch & the British, until it was finally returned to the Malay people under the formation of Malaysia. 

Old Portuguese church

Quite a history aye!! Anywho, we went to meet Mr Tea but by the time we got there he was unavailable so we wondered the streets with our burdensome bags once more until we were stopped by some locals outside a bar. They seemed to be having a good time & asked us to join them. After another 20 minute walk with my 30 kg backpack I was ready for a cheeky beer, & it would have been rude not to! So we sat down & had a good natter with these 5 locals explaining that we were looking for our couchsurfing host. miraculously they all knew Mr Tea!!! He’s that much of a legend in Melaka. We had heard stories about his legendary tea shop next to the town’s focal point, the clock tower. It appeared they were all true! One of the locals called & Mr Tea came to meet us another beer or so later. We went for a few more rounds with Mr Tea before being shown our new digs for the next few days. A little out-of-town in Mr Tea’s old family home. He & his wife had moved out & lived above the tea shop now, just for sake of ease & its excellent location. His children were all living else where having left home a few years back but he hadn’t sold the house yet & was keeping it for couchsurfers like Nicky & I, & his tenant… Frank the crazy Dutchman. 

Town square

 Melaka is a small town, easily covered in a day. The clock tower is the focal point with a church on the hill above, a reconstructed Portugeuse ship, the ‘Frol de la mar’, maritime museum a brisk 2 minute stroll down the road, & chinatown just the other side of the canal. Opposite the clock tower was the windmill, an obvious Dutch influence, which completed the picturesque square at the centre of Melaka. We wandered around most of the day, looking at the magnificent architecture and ambling into the odd boutique here & there. The charm of Melaka’s ornate architechtural structures & colourful history was complimented by the boutiques that lined the streets of chinatown. This artsy feel just enhanced all the other feelings you could have about Melaka, & it certainly won over Nicky who has now dubbed it ‘Her Favourite Place!’… other than home obviously!! I’m not quite bold enough to go that far but it certainly sticks in my memory. We stopped off in Mr Tea’s tea shop for a spot of chinese brew before heading out for a few beverages in the evening to soak up more of that magical Melaka atmosphere. The following day was the day of the Chinese market that flooded the streets of chinatown with cultural junk… which Nicky & I both LOVE!! We spent the whole day sifting through tat,… you know, those little ‘souvenir’ products that clearly aren’t good quality for the most part but you still yearn to purchase all the same?!… Yeh, quite a lot was that stuff! But I shouldn’t do it to much injustice because a lot of the jewellery & pottery was well crafted & the shops were incredible!  

INSIDE a cutesy cafe

 For the most part it was the Portuguese houses that remained in the ineptly dubbed chinatown, all of which have the same crazy design. The house is focused on a central area, usually a garden, with no roof above it. This is in the MIDDLE of the house. Not out the back, or in the front where you would normally associate the word ‘garden’ with, but smack bang in the middle! It was a captivating design that had clearly led to some stunning interior designs influenced by this unique structural focus. 

We finished off Melaka with a night out on the town with Mr Tea. First we went to the CRAZIEST karaoke you have ever witnessed. We’re not talking about a little bar in a back alley here, or your living room with ‘singstar’… this was the mother of all karaoke, in the middle of the main street in Chinatown, the ‘Jongor Walk’ as its known, with a MASSIVE stage & around 3-400 spectators. Needless to say neither of us had the guts to sing, which is definaitely a good thing because it’s a real pain to get blood stains out of collars after a good ear bleeding!!! We watched a few acts then ventured to the two most popular bars in town. They were right opposite each other & would take it in turns to play a live song! Awesome!! One bar had a great singer with an acoustic guitar, the other was a lively mexican looking fellow who riled up the crowd with his boisterous tunes. Quite a contrast, but it worked out well. Frank the crazy Dutchman joined us, as did Mrs Tea & after a few beers we all ventured down to the square where the tourist police were blaring songs out of their PA system into the streets, playing ‘The Twist’ on repeat. This invoked some scenes I had never envisaged that could have easily been mistaken for a riot, but at a second glance would be recognised as a shindig involving locals, tourists, & the police officers!! All the while red & blue lights flashing!! Very random.

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We left Melaka the following afternoon on a bus bound for Singapore, hoping to reach the border by about 8 or 9 in the evening. We said our goodbyes to Mr Tea & his wife & hopped on the local bus for the short journey out of town to the bus terminal. We were on the next bus to the bright lights of Singapore, a far cry from the historical heritage of Melaka. Something different again. No 2 days are the same when you’re travelling. One thing I especially love about the backpacking experience.

  ~ Rhys ~ 

  

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