Malacca

Malacca
12/26/2017

I wasn’t going to mention how I got lost again on this trip while wandering about without a destination but strictly speaking I didn’t get lost. How could I be lost without a reference to an intended place? Like I’ve always said, I do not get lost, rather I have an adventure, so this one goes like this.

I have an image of Malacca in my mind based on its pre-colonial history of Sultans and traders and pirates, so where is the sea? I have visited the UNESCO heritage city center, the Portuguese enclave all festooned with holiday lights and plastic fir swags with illuminated plastic Santas driving reindeers on the low rooftops of bungalows, and a not yet fully installed not as big replica image of Rio’s Cristo Redentor with its outstretched arms filling the square still littered with the remains of yesterday’s Christmas festivities. I have admired the restored Malacca Square encased by its Big Ben replica, Queen Victoria’s fountain, the Christ Church, and the Love sculpture where there was a long line for picture-taking, where nearby I strolled to the river bank and watched boats cruise by carrying tourists shooting with phone cameras at us bystanders. I walked the crowded shopping streets of Jonkers and Harmony Street where a Buddhist Monastery, a Hindu Shrine and a Mosque stand side by side and whose devotees could worship freely. I admired colorful saris displayed in Little India and browsed trinkets and amulets in Chinatown. I slowly drifted from the city center and stumbled on the Dutch Graveyard and by this time I have lost my bearings but carried on exploring anyway. I found St Francis Statue and the church and the Sacred Heart Canossian Convent and its school. It was midday and hot and the heat was beginning to get to me. I wanted to return to the meeting point with my driver at Malacca Square, but after three the-helpful locals gave me directions but did not get me to where I wanted, I found myself at the remains of the old fort, A Famosa where The Portuguese immediately built a fortress to secure their victory at Malacca after defeating the Sultan. The English destroyed the fort when they took over after the Dutch who threw out the Portuguese, because the fort was so formidable that if it fell to another power it would be difficult for the English to retake it. The only part that survived is the gate, porta do Santiago. There are so many interesting things to see and learn around this including going up the hill where more historical markers are noted but I decided to forego the climb as it was hot and I was much too late for my rendezvous with my driver and our meeting place was some distance from where I was. I didn’t feel like walking anymore and I could hire one of those colorful pedal pushers but I didn’t have any money on me, I only have my phone for the camera in it. I hired the kid anyway hoping that my driver would be at the meeting point waiting still after several hours past our agreed time. Of course he wasn’t there. thankfully I was able to reach him and my pedal taxi got paid and happy with a tip.
But where is the sea?
I was looking for a waterfront with restaurants and shops and ships docked at port. So showered and rested I ventured out again with plans to watch the Sunset and have dinner by the water. First I had idea that the multicolored row houses I glimpsed briefly while driving back to the hotel was in this direction. Twenty minutes later when I estimated I should be coming up to it, it did not appear, but I saw a sign to Harbor City, so I abandoned following the crayola houses and headed for the harbor. The way was very new and the bridge spanning a body of water was operational but not completed yet. There were few cars and occasional pedestrians along the way. It was dark by this time and so I missed my sunset cocktail already, but there’s dinner to look forward to. Over the roof of high rises and behind them I glimpsed lighted cranes that looked like those in ports that load container ships so I followed that direction. I still am looking for the harbor and the sea, but what I arrived at was construction area with deafening machine noise of the building cranes on high rise construction above and nobody was around. I was curious so I explored anyway and saw a lighted storefront at the end of one street with some people milling about. I approached planning to call for a taxi and to ask how and to know where I was. After approaching a couple of the men one finally was brave enough to try to speak English, who told me that no taxis come there. I decided to call my driver, who fortunately was staying overnight to take me very early to the airport the next day. I let him talk to the guy and he came to get me. So forget my dinner by the water, but where is the harbor? He drove me to a tiny dark dock where the traditional boat ferries take passengers to the islands. Malacca’s glory is past, it’s port had been exchanged for Penang and Klang and Singapore is inching to dominate. So the huge development I stumbled upon will take on upstart Singapore and will be huge and cost billions with China partnership and controversial. The Melaka Gateway will be built on three artificial islands and on one natural Island, Pulau and will have a deep sea port, cruise ship terminal, a shopping complex with aquarium walkways, entertainment, restaurants, hotels, residences, theme park, iconic architecture, boardwalk, bridges, the works, the project will take years to complete with first phase to open in 2019. Coordinating projects will be high speed rail to Singapore, and airport improvements, etc. The doubters believe China has military designs in deepening the ports and in the transportation linkages. So I was exhilarated by uncovering this information by my misadventure. Me, got lost? Nah!

We ate at one of the restaurants near the hotel and we had crab in black pepper sauce, pandan chicken and kangkong in garlic and shrimp paste.

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