More Malacca museums and musings

Thursday 4 June 2015 – Malacca

Breakfast this morning was in a much more contemporary cafe called The Daily Fix, although it also occupies an old shophouse and plays heavily on retro charm for some faux hipster credibility. But the coffee was much better than yesterday morning’s.

I took a long walk around the side streets beneath Bukit Paul, via the Church of St Francis Xavier and some un-touristic back streets towards Jalan Parameswara to find burnt out shophouses near where I had stayed at the Hinly Hotel years ago. Another huge shopping mall has appeared at this end of town, stretching from the Equatorial Hotel about where the eastern edge of the Padang used to be, to the Portuguese Gate.

Malacca's historic padang has vanished under a shopping complex
Malacca’s historic padang has vanished under a shopping complex

Back across the river in China Town I revisited the Baba-Nonya Heritage Museum with guide Shirley. Other visitors were from France, Singapore & China. It’s another small private museum, still owned by the family that built it, in an original Peranakan shophouse, with a good collection and well interpreted. The tour was a bit perfunctory – Shirley had a schedule to keep and targets to reach as we exit via the gift shop, compared to Allan’s leisurely guiding yesterday. Still, the Peranakan museums here an in Singapore were all well worth visiting and their stories seem to tally with each other.

Footsore, I indulged myself with a reflexology massage from a very vigorous Chinese man. Ouch! But it felt great when he stopped. Then an iced coffee at IS Café, next to the bridge over the river.

The Malaysian Architecture Museum has a potentially fascinating topic at which it takes a reasonable stab at covering, from various traditional Malay and other tribal and regional forms through the Arab, European and Chinese influences. But again, the story is told in an unimaginative didactic way using mostly panels in Malay and poorly translated English. Some nice models and samples of carved timber and hand tools.

I had visited the Islamic Museum previously. It is still a very boring museum in a really lovely teak building which alone makes it worth the RM2 entry fee.

A crowd was gathering around the main bridge as I crossed back to the Chinatown side. A pair of water dragons (or maybe they are just monitor lizards) were locked in a passionate embrace as the river washed them downstream, in full view of most of the town. A sight one does not see every day!

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I found a quiet shady café and enjoyed an iced tea by the river, catching the breeze and doing sweet nothing more than writing up this diary, before heading back to the hotel for a quick change and checking forward plans before strolling along the shoreline to the mouth of the Malacca River.

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I returned to the Far East Café for dinner (red bean fried pork and – bliss – steamed broccoli with mushrooms. I was writing up more of this diary when Bill the Irishman came in and joined me for a coffee. He’s been ‘couch surfing’ with a couple of different people while in Malacca. He was surprised by me writing a travel journal, asking ‘who is ever going to read it’. I think I replied that I really didn’t care who read it, that for me keeping a travel journal had become part of my travel habit, and that it gave me something to do while sitting on my own in cafes, restaurants and bus stations. I probably also mentioned that I tend to transcribe them and eventually post them online as a blog, if for no other reason than to provide a reason and some context for all the photos I take.

On my way back to the ND Hotel I met proprietor Jason who invited me to join him for coffee at a little kopitiam across the road. We discuss tourism & development in Malaysia. He feels it’s getting over-developed, with 15 million tourists per year in Malacca, mostly domestic, as are his customers, although Airbnb brings in foreigners.

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