Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TBA Day 4: Journey to Melaka

So, Day 4 was extremely long and rather crappy at times, but with a few really bright spots and a happy ending. (Pictured below is my stuffed wombat sitting on my pack at The Hive getting ready for the next leg of the adventure…)
This day started out on a fantastic note thanks to the fact that I had been awake pretty much all night throwing up. You know, there was one bite of my breakfast laksa on the morning of Day 3 that involved a mollusk that was pretty much raw that prompted me to think “Hmmm… I wonder if I’m going to get food poisoning?” The answer, I discovered at about 10pm, was “yes.” I don’t think any graphic details are necessary for it to be clear that I wasn’t really feeling my best when I had to get down to the train station about an hour after the worst of things had passed…

I called a cab using my fabulous international cell phone (all the cabs driving by were already hired), and the driver thought I must live in Singapore, because how else would I know about calling for a cab? He thought it was pretty funny that I had just read about what number to call on the internet. I think us people who grew up in places like NE Portland where there’s not a big cab culture tend to call for cabs, anyway, rather than trying to hail them… Anyway, we got to the station and things went pretty smoothly getting on my train. I had booked the front seat in the 2nd class A/C car I was in, which meant I got a ridiculous amount of leg room (slouched in my seat with my legs stretched all the way out I still wasn’t touching the wall in front of me).

The 4-hour train ride was pretty nice, really. Everything is so lush and green. A nice Indian woman from Singapore came and sat next to me and helped me make sure I didn’t miss my stop at Tampin Station. (People speak way more English in Malaysia than in Singapore because English is apparently the second language here, but most of the signs in Singapore had English on them, whereas pretty much none of them here do…) She made sure to warn me about the gangs of ne’er-do-wells roaming the streets of Malaysian cities with knives to slash the straps of your backpack and steal all your stuff… I’d read a bit about such things, so it was interesting to hear from somebody that it’s apparently a pretty real threat. She also said, though, that I’ll be OK as long as I’m not wandering the streets at night, so I suspect I’ll be just fine…

The guidebooks and internet indicated that you could easily get a taxi from Tampin to Melaka for RM40 or just hop on a bus, but there were no taxis or buses at the station. I asked a friendly-looking local woman (about my age) and the consensus between her and the old men eavesdropping was that only a crazy person would take a taxi. She wandered over to a young man buying tickets and talked to him a bit in Malay, then came back to me and said that he would be driving to Alor Gajah and could take me to the bus depot there, where I could catch a bus to the Melaka Sentral bus depot (from which I could catch a cab to my hostel for RM15). Ummm… Sure! Why not? While I was waiting for him to finish buying tickets, a cab rolled up and said it would be RM70 to Melaka, so I decided to pass on that and go with my new friend.

We drove to Alor Gajah and had a nice chat. He was seriously one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. When we got to the but depot he said “Don’t worry. I’ll stay with you until you get on the bus.” I realized I only had large bills (RM50 notes), which would be a problem for a bus ticket (it would have been fine for a taxi, which was my original plan) and he says “Don’t worry. You can use my money.” He started chatting a bit with the young woman next to him and when the bus came he had her buy my ticket (I’m thinking to keep me from getting a special tourist price). Made it to Melaka Sentral pretty easily from there (about a 25km drive) and grabbed a taxi to Ringo’s Foyer, where I’ll be staying for the next few days.

When I finally arrived and got checked in (around 3pm) I found out that my room is up 2 flights of stairs and that the internet (for the entire city, apparently) had just gone out the night before I arrived. Exhausted and in a lot of pain from travel already, I just collapsed on my (very comfortable) bed in my (air-conditioned) room and passed out for the next 3 hours, after which I was feeling much better. I was thinking about finding a place to eat (I hadn’t eaten since the night before) when the guy who runs this place (I’m going to call him Ringo because that may be his name) came by to see if I wanted some dinner. He took me and one of the other lodgers to an Indian restaurant close by and we had some quite yummy food (and delicious pulled tea). Ringo has lived here his whole life is a great resource for places to go and things to see. He’s a huge fan of laksa (like me!) and is going to take me to try what he deems to be the best Melaka-style laksa in town.

So, I guess when I write about it this day doesn’t sound so bad. The pain management issues when I first got to Ringo’s broke my spirit a little bit (especially when combined with lack of any way to connect with the outside world), but after talking with Ringo I’m really glad to be staying here. Almost all of the buildings around here are heritage-listed, so owners aren’t allowed to renovate (like, say, adding elevators) so I don’t think the stair situation would be much better anywhere else, and I’m glad to have somebody so knowledgeable about the area helping me find my way around. And the wi-fi magically came back up while I slept, so things are definitely looking up... Oh, and apparently RM70 is only about US$20 (my brain was still in Singapore dollars when I got here and I was too tired to convert) so I’m totally just taking a cab to Tampin Station when I head out for KL on Friday… ;-)

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