After a long and eventful journey involving overnight buses and international ferries, we needed a rest! So where better than the touristy, colonial town of Malaka. First ruled by the Portuguese, then Dutch, then British and with dolops of Chinese, Malay and Indian thrown in for good measure, its a melting pot of cultures to say the least. We found a quiet guest house called Jalang Jalang in picturesque Chinatown with a comfortable bed, wifi and most importantly western style toilets to spend a few nights and recharge the batteries.
Coming from Indonesia to Malaysia, or at least to Melaka, was almost a reverse culture shock. Walking down the street seeing dozens of western faces and english signs almost made us suspicious of how easy it was to do everything. You can even book buses online and choose your seat in advance (this is now a big thing for us – in Indonesia you where lucky if the bus turned up, or if you could still call it a “bus” or it was technically a metal object with wheels)! Due to Melaka’s colourful ethnic background it is well known for having some terrific food, so we set about sampling some classics. It was odd to walk down a street and find delicious indian tandoori shops right next to incredible chinese style noodle stands – but it all seems to work nicely. One of our new favourites was Cendol – a chipped ice dessert containing grass jelly cubes, fruit (indistinguishable), sauce, some kind of weird green noodles… and we kid you not sweetcorn and kidney beans! As disgusting as it sounds, it is surprisingly good and was great for a refreshing break in the intense humidity
Malaka also seems to be the town of museums, as well as colonial architecture….in fact they have an architecture museum! There where museums to cater to all tastes including maritime museums, comet museums, islamic museums, baba-nonya museums and even the malaysian depart of museums… we where also tempted by the stamp museum but we thought the excitement would be a bit too much. We did however visit a museum on Malakas royal history where we learnt Malaysians love manikins and Ella does not!
Next on the itinery was Palau Tioman, where the classic musical South Pacific was filmed in 1958. As I didnt have any men to wash out of my hair (song quote for anyone confused) we set off for our stereotypical tropical island. After an extremely comfortable 5 hour bus journey (we are really excited about malaysian busses) and a short boat ride we arrived to stunning jungle covered mountains, turquoise sea and golden beaches….man lifes tough! We decided to make camp at a small village called Air Bitang which was filled with reasonably priced accommodation, a chilled out vibe and lots of burger joints – oddly enough. People come to the Tioman for whats in the water as its a top drive and snorkel spot. Great coral snorkelling spots where found right off the beach and the water was so clear that you almost didn’t even need a mask to see them. Wanting to see some of the more out of the way spots on the island we decided to hire a (small) boat for the afternoon. Along with schools of fish so thick you could hardly swim we also saw reef sharks, sting rays and we even found nemo hiding in the coral – cheeky little bugger! Most of the afternoons where spent enjoying the tax free privileges of Tioman by enjoying cold cheap beers from beachside bars, while watching the sen going down… not bad at all.
As we hadn’t managed to see any turtles in the water (this is still a work in progress) we trekked the 7km path through the jungle to the quieter village of Juara to visit the turtle sanctuary. As an added bonus it also had a ridiculously beautiful, deserted beach…which we promptly made our very own private swimming pool for the afternoon. So decidedly rested and a little more tanned (white to off-white) we said goodbye to Tioman and left for the big city, Kuala Lumpur…but thats another post.