Day 218: Tales Of The Riverbank

Tue. 19th March 2013

By the river at sunsetThe river in Melaka was critical to its establishment as a trading port so it is unsurprising that it features prominently in the list of ‘must-do’ activities in the town. Yesterday, we walked for a spell along the banks of the river and liked what we saw. As with some cities in the UK (for example, the canal district in Birmingham), ‘they’ (The Powers That Be) have spotted the potential of the river as an attraction and have spent money redeveloping it. Though, as we’ll see later, this hasn’t always been well spent.

Does what it says on the tinWhilst there are (allegedly) open-top buses doing city tours, we opt for the boat trip along the river instead – especially as there is a Ho Ho (Hop On, Hop Off – not Santa Claus, that would be Ho Ho Ho) option available. We walk downstream to the starting point and find that the Malay for ‘ticket counter’ seems to be Kaunter Tiket. As an aside, we are not yet fully to grips with languages here – there is a Malay language, but it seems to be similar or the same as  Bahasa Indonesian (terima kasih, seems to go down well), but also we more than get by with English and there is some Chinese (especially written). All very confusing really and so (shamefully) we stick with English.

Boats queued up - but not ready to go yetThe boats are supposed to run every 30 minutes but in practice it seems to be whenever they feel like it. Ours didn’t leave promptly at 11 but neither did it wait until it was full (that might have been quite a long wait). Later on we see two boats in quick succession and some boats that are full. Oh well, it worked fine for us. You always get a different perspective on a town from the river – the first time we ever visited Abingdon it was from a boat on a river and for a long time (before we moved there) we thought it was a nice town.

Contrasts in the sceneryWe’re happy just to let the boat glide up the river and watch the scenery as it it slowly changes. Near the (tourist) centre of town, there are riverside cafes, albeit on a smaller scale than you’d find elsewhere. Further up, the houses that back on to the river have brightly painted walls – but strangely, no entrance onto the river path. Then there is ‘Pirate Park’ with its miniature London Eye. The zip lines here are too tame for Janet and so we stay on the boat and go past the high rise office blocks with good old PWC and KPMG (amongst) other logos. We aren’t tempted by those either. I think that if anyone produced one of those model villages of London, it would be a lot like this!

St Francis Xavier church viewed down the riverAfter about 30 minutes, the boat turns round and we ask to hop off. The Ho Ho tickets seem to be a bit of a rarity as the skipper double checks that we really want to do this. “There’s no public transport up here” (the “are you mad” piece was unsaid). We confirm that we will be able to hop on again and wave our armbands at him and everyone is happy.

Good looking monorail - shame it isn't going anywhereThe end of the boat route also corresponds with the end of the monorail route in Melaka. It looks quite swish but apparently it has only ever run twice. It stopped on the day that it opened in 2010 – apparently, it didn’t work in the rain and then again closed shortly after reopening in 2011. Imagine having weather related problems with public transport. That would never happen in the UK. Oh, wait a minute…

Entry to Kampung MortenWe then walked (slowly due to the heat) back down the path alongside the river – we do just seem to like walking! Shortly, we get to Kampung Morten (Morten Village) – named after the British officer who donated the money to buy the land. This is a reconstructed village of traditional Melaka houses built on stilts and with their distinctive double pitched roofs. One of the houses also, helpfully, answered a question about the two flags that we had seen flying on various buildings. We recognised the Malaysian flag and discovered that the other (similar) flag is that of the State of Melaka.

Traditional Melaka housesIt was a scenic walk, though the ‘Pirate Park’ is definitely and exception and there was also the occasional whiff of sewage that did rather spoil the effect. Otherwise it was very pleasant and with the bends in the river, we saw parts of the town that we hadn’t got to on foot. We also found the entrance to our hotel through a gate in the fence by the path. Bonus!

Looking back along river and monorail to townAs we got back into town, there didn’t seem to be as many (open) riverside cafes as we had thought cruising past on the boat and we’re right back in the tourist district before we find one. We are very hot, sweaty and tired by this point. It is a lovely sunny day but the temperature is around the mid-30s and it is very humid (we’re just north of the equator here – around 2o N – so, I suppose that is to be expected). Anyway, we are glad to stop for a while when we find a cafe.

Branching out - and who better to give fashion advice?So far, we haven’t done much Ho Ho-ing and we don’t feel we’ve had value from our (£6) ticket yet. However, we don’t feel we have the energy for further exploration this afternoon – and going up and down the river again wouldn’t show us anything new. We decide that Plan B is called for and that should include slobbing recuperating back at the hotel before going out again in the evening. We can then take a night time boat trip and see the river by night. This plan also lets us sort our laundry out so it works all ways round.

The river at nightLast night, we had a walk in Little India where we failed to find a restaurant. So, we hope to do better with a trip to Chinatown tonight. Jonker Walk is in the heart of Chinatown and so we stroll down it looking for somewhere to eat. We don’t want to be too touristy (gringo) but, equally, we’re not sure we are ready for the full local experience of being served from a trolley and eating at benches. Eventually, we do find a compromise – though it is probably more to the former end of the scale than the latter – anyway, the food was pretty good.

The river at nightFrom Jonker Walk, it is just a short way down the river to the starting point for the boat where we Ho(p) on and enjoy a night time trip up the river. At night, it is even more impressive. There are street lamps at regular intervals along the path and then there are additional lights in the trees/bushes and under bridges. All very picturesque. For some reason, the commentary only starts on the way back and so we missed it all in the morning. This time we listen to half of it before we have to Ho off at Pirate Park, cross the bridge and head down the shortcut to our hotel.

It has been a great day on the river and the riverbank. Nobody was Ratty and not even Mr Frog went “parp, parp”!

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