Thursday, August 31, 2006

Seremban, KL, Malacca

Have been spending a few days in Malaysia. D and I came up on the MRT and buses last Sunday evening. Getting through Customs involved getting off the Singapore MRT bus at Singapore customs, then getting back on to drive over the Causeway, then getting back off for Malaysian Customs, then getting back on to go to Larkin Bus station in Johor Bahru, from where we caught a Malaysian bus to Seremban. We had a bit of a view until it got dark. Lots of pine oil plantations where once there was no doubt jungle. The whole place had such a rural feel after the skyscrapers of Singapore. People seemed more relaxed and less like business clones.
The nice thing about Seremban was that it was an ordinary Malaysian city, not full of tourists. D's friend J being a local, he knew all the best places to eat out. We explored the sights of Seremban by car and saw the multi-coloured lights by night. There was a glorious Sultan's palace - very rich - that of course we could not enter.
On Tuesday we went into KL where J had necessary business to perform. We waited for him at the shopping centre under the two towers. Very exclusive kinds of shops. Quite a few women all in black that J told us were probably visitors from Saudi ( who used to go to UK and USA but can't go there so easily now.) We then visited the museum which had some great lifesize displays to demonstrate aspects of life of the various diverse cultures in Malaysia. We walked from there up to the beautiful orchid and hibiscus gardens. We just missed getting caught out in the torrential rain which arrived, though D and I got somewhat drenched a bit later just getting out of the car to go to the roofed-in market area.
This morning I branched out on my own to Malacca for a few days. The drive only took just over an hour. But when I got to Malacca I was foxed by the huge size of the bus terminal and its many doors and the fact that it is several kilometres away from the historic part of town. Plus the language barrier and the fact that I had no idea where any hotels were. I had done no research! And the taxis are unmetered so I didn't fancy taking one. So I delayed and checked my e-mail for a while!
Next I actually sought some help to get the local bus. I knew the historic area was somewhere near the sea, so when a local lady cottoned onto me saying hotel and sea she thought of Ocean and helped me find the Ocean bus. Turned out Ocean was a shopping block so I still hadn't found the historic centre. I soon got tired of feeling lost in the heat so decided to venture into a flasher hotel than I was going to afford and asked directions. (I thought they might speak reasonable English in there. They gave me a map which was very helpful.) So I then spent quite some time in the historic area with shades of its Portuguese and Dutch history, and finally found a guesthouse. It has aircon but primitive plumbing. I dare say I can survive for three nights at the end of my trip! It has canal views and a vew of Francis Xavier Church from the room balcony so that is nice.
This evening I have eaten out at a food stall where I got delicious food. Now town is quite busy. It is Malaysian National Day tomorrow and I gather there will be lots of people out celebrating this evening. Fireworks will be let off that I am hoping to see from the hotel roof, though I am now confused whether that is tonight or tomorrow night! Time to go and find out.

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