Coming from Thailand, Malaysia was remarkably clean. The roadsides weren’t dotted with litter. There wasn’t a trash pile in sight. And, at regular intervals, you could see trashcans! The buildings still have the mascara-streaked look of age and weather; patchwork roofs with panels in various shades of rust and rot popped by. But overall, Malaysia seemed to be a remarkably clean country.
Bahasa Malay turned out to use roman characters. After so long without seeing much even resembling English, it felt like we could read everything. However, there is no common link that makes any of it decipherable. Signs were also in Tamil and Chinese, as there are large populations of Indians and Chinese. Luckily, everyone seemed to speak English as a common language.
Having only limited time in Malaysia, we decided that our time would be best spent in the World Heritage City of Melaka. Melaka (Melacca? Melaca?) has a rich mixing of cultures, past and present. You can see the colonial remnants from the Dutch, Portuguese, and British. Like the rest of Malaysia, you have Indian, Chinese, and Muslim Malaysians, each with distinct neighborhoods and cultures. (But, unique to Melaka, you also see the intermarrying between Indian and Chinese.)
We stayed on the edge of Chinatown, listened to the Call to Prayer from the mosque across the street, and watched a Hindu parade.
Galleries and museums mingled with the guesthouses, restaurants, and trinket shops. The galleries boasted friendly owners and high price tags. The museums were full to the brim with mannequins dressed in traditional garb (and little regard to proportion or ethnicity), posed in various dioramas explaining colonial or cultural history.
Melaka was awash in rich, vibrant colors. Chinatown was draped in red lanterns. Doors and shutters were painted in yellows and blues. Maroon brick poked through crumbling white.
Trees and plants infused the homes with splashes of green in interior courtyards below skylights.
Walls, doors, and even all the chainlink and barbed wire fences were painted turquoise.
At night the city was on full display. Houses were lit in reds from every angle. Neon lights illuminated bridges and trees. Tourist boats rushed up and down the river that winds through the middle of the city, adorned and flashing.
Our four days were spent just meandering around the city, walking up and down the river, wandering through the neighborhoods, and then napping in the afternoons. Good food, friendly people. If the beer hadn’t been so expensive it might have been perfect. Hats off to the World Heritage folks, they’ve proven themselves to us once again.