Melaka: Plum Juice, Baskets, and the Muscle Man

Melaka is a tourist city on the sea where hordes of Malaysians, their ranks swollen by bucks loads of incoming Chinese tourists for the new year holiday, party with their huge families. Short, serious looking Chinese tour guides carrying tall blue flags over their heads lead files of straggling adults and children through the congested streets.

Vendors sell stuffed animals, junk jewelry, watches, sun glasses, quail eggs on skewers, red dyed octopus ( I tried one, it was too sweet and too cold). Others, selling plum juice that tasted like frozen prunes over ice, called to us for the sidewalk. Cars are pushed slowly through the crowds. As we walked through this cacophony, an old Malaysian man stopped Tom to talk about California.

Then we found the antique shops. They were filled with enormous lacquered baskets, given as wedding presents to brides years ago, that contained whole sets of china, like ornate picnic baskets, the size of laundry bins. There were doughnut shaped boxes for necklaces, chess sets, go sets, framed jade snuff bottles.

We were searching for Tom’s coins but they were still overpriced at $.75 a piece. In Hing Kong they wanted $5. We will keep looking, it gives our meandering a purpose.

After the antique shops, we lost our way and kept coming back to a god awful statute of the local famous citizen—a grotesque muscle man called Mr. Southeast Asia. His muscle-bound image was even on flower pots. We should have gotten a photo as we passed, we circled it three times before we found our way home (loosely speaking).

Our guest house was minimal: a double bed with one sheet, slightly soiled, a clean blanket, no window, and a blasting air conditioner which forced me to wear everything I owned all night. The bathrooms, which were very clean, were down the hall—it was hot and there was only cold water. No mind, we only spent $21.75, but that was high season rates.

For Penang we have booked a real hotel.


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