Thursday, 10 October 2013

Cameron Highlands to Melaka via Kuala Lumpur

Walking off towards the native village

We had a really nice final day with Krish in the Cameron Highlands, he took just the two of us to a ‘Native Village’, which is situated well away from the towns, in the hilly jungle about 45km away. It’s a small clan of native Malays that have been ‘forgotten’ and have very few rights. They live a simple life of subsistence farming in simple wooden huts built on stilts. He knows them from his childhood, when he used to camp and walk nearby and has tried to help them and teach them English and he was well known to everyone there.

Over some 'interesting' bridges
It was a very informative day, not only visiting the village, but also to chat to Krish, who is of Indian origin, born in the Cameron Highlands and is a Hindu. We found out a lot about Hinduism from him which was really interesting, including his full name, Krishna, after the eighth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu (if we remember correctly, the reincarnations are: 1. Fish, 2. Tortoise, 3. Wild Boar, 4. Half man half lion, 5. A small man – dwarf, 6. A big man – Parashurama, Rama with an axe, 7. Rama, 8. Krishna, 9. Buddha (the same Buddha in Buddhism, but Buddhists apparently do not believe he is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) and 10. Kalki).

The village
The village was 600 or 700m lower down the mountains so was a bit warmer, I would say warm to a bit hot, but very nice. It meant that the way back was uphill and Krish’s car was not really up to it since he has had it ‘repaired’, so every 10 minutes or so we had to stop to let it cool down, Krish insisting on pouring cold water on the engine and releasing the pressure cap to put more water in. We were both trying to tell him cold water on a hot engine is unwise as it could lead to something cracking or distorting and we were in no hurry, we could wait for it to cool, but we were going into drainage ditches trying to fill up water bottles to refill the radiator on a number of occasions.

Jackie, an old woman of about 80 who lives here and krish
Not sure about this wiring! No meter and small wires from a light taped to the main inlet!

The lads of the village. All got biscuits from Krish and all said 'thank you'
Subsistence farming on the hillside
We got back safely, after stopping at what he described as a really good cafĂ© at the top of the hill for lunch (lunch? It was 5:00pm by then!). Interesting place! The food was good, but we both did wonder whether we would get a bug as it didn’t seem the cleanest place! I wanted to wash my hands, but on looking in the toilets round the back I just used a tap to swill my hands and hoped for the best. Everything just looked grubby, but Krish was happy eating with his hands (as they all seem to do) and watching a TV Indian comedy programme that made him laugh and then telling us what was going on.

It was a good day and we both came away with the impression of Krish being a good man that puts his family first and helps people – anyone. He really wants his business to be the best and will do everything he can to make it so, so we were feeling a bit guilty of what we had written about De Native the previous day. We told him a few plumbing things that need sorting and hope he takes note, we also hope he makes a success of it, his heart certainly is in the right place.

Our amazing dessert in Melaka (see below)
The next day we caught the coach back to Kuala Lumpur and booked into the Orange Peko Hotel that we were in before, as we couldn’t get directly to Melaka, which is where we are now. As we got off the bus the heat and humidity hit us and it was a rush round as it took longer on the bus than we thought owing to a fire in a building in KL that caused traffic chaos and diversions so, on getting off the bus we had no time to go to our hotel first so had to carry our heavy rucksacks around while we caught the metro trains to the Melaka bus station to buy our tickets for the next day and then more metro trains and walking to the train station to get our sleeper train tickets for Kota Bharu (which is right up in the far NE of Malaysia) for after our visit to Melaka. 
The remains of the Portugese and Dutch fort, destroyed by the British
We wanted to travel on 13th, but all trains were full, the first available on 16th Oct so, with little choice we bought those. More metro trains still with heavy rucksacks and rush hour crowds, we got off the train just as the heaven’s opened so had to wait in the station for it to ease, finally got to the hotel tired and irritable, but were greeted like long lost friends! Even at the restaurant we were remembered, the waiter remembering what we had had last time (which was more than I could!). Jackie saw her kittens again, which were noticeably larger than before, but still wanted strokes. Then the waiter from one of the other restaurants rushed out as we walked past to say hello and have a chat. We felt like celebrities!

Trishaws taking tourists around
The next morning, yesterday (what day is that? Wednesday I think), we got the coach to Melaka and arrived at a very nice hotel with very friendly people. It’s nice here, so we’ve decided to stay 7 nights here. We originally planned only 4, but as we couldn’t get the sleeper train when we wanted, we’re going to stay here for the extra days. It seems a great city from what we’ve seen so far and very historic. Once a strategic port in the Melaka Strait for all shipping between East and West, it was taken by the Portugese in 1511, then the Dutch and finally the British, so the architecture and history is fascinating. 

More remains of the fort destroyed by the British
The food is also very good, yesterday lunchtime we went to a Haianese chicken rice restaurant the hotel recommended, where we had to queue outside (not had to do that before). Inside it was a bit basic, but very clean and efficient and run by several generations of the same Chinese family. He recommended a drink of iced lime to us and, wondering if there was a menu, we were presented with a plate of chicken and two bowls of rice balls with chop sticks (oh, that’s why it’s called chicken rice, there is nothing else!). It was good and turns out to be quite a famous place locally.

Apparently this scene of the river in Melaka was used in the Catherine Zeta Jones film Entrapment
A blacksmiths shop in Chinatown
In the evening we went to another recommendation and another place we had to queue for. It was Capitol Satay and run by more Chinese, who spoke almost no English. We understood before we went that the tables have a cauldron of fluid that was mainly peanuts in oil, but lots of other spices and stuff that looked like soil that she loaded in. It was all heated by a gas burner underneath and, we realised after sitting there for a bit that you helped yourself to the skewers of raw ‘stuff’ in a cabinet and they charged you RM0.9 per skewer by counting the empty wooden skewers when you’d had enough. We selected a few, some of which we recognised (prawn and chicken one’s) and others we didn’t (we declined the one’s that looked suspiciously like tongue of some animal on a skewer!). It was all very interesting shall we say, a bit out of our comfort zone, but very nice.

These people are making hand beaded slippers
It takes him three weeks to make this
We left through the queues of people waiting to come in and came across a dessert restaurant – how fantastic! They do a huge array of amazing desserts of fruit, ice cream, ice and snow ice (flavoured ice apparently), no custard desserts, but it is a bit hot for that. I wanted one each, but Jackie said we should share one, which was just as well as the RM6.5 (£1.30) one we picked was huge! We are definitely going back there again!

The slippers sell for RM860 (£172) per pair
We went on a free heritage tour of the old city this morning which was fascinating and needs much more investigating, but it was hot and sunny and after the three hour walk round with our guide we just needed to get somewhere cool. We were both dripping with sweat, I developed a headache, Jackie had pulled a muscle in her back lugging round the rucksack yesterday and was suffering, so we’ve headed back to the sanctuary of our air conditioned room. What would we do without the life support air conditioning!

View down the river. The white building is the old Dutch warehouse

The old governors residence on top of the hill

1 comment:

  1. Hi J&B glad to not hear you go down with a bug. Your pictures of the native village look almost identical to the one we visited on the edge of the rainforest, closest to Brazil. Was I ill from being foolish enough to touch and eat! When I look back I knew it wasn't clean and I knew I might react to it! As you know .... I did. But you two have probably built up quite a good bacteria culture in your tums now and be quite well protected from anything (fingers crossed!). Actually - if you finished that ice cream pictured - you almost deserve a tummy ache!! crumbs! xx