Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Melaka Trip '08 – Day 02 : Eating Our Way Through Bandar Melaka

Our initial plan on the second day of our Melaka trip was to visit a nearby waterfall for a picnic lunch but after waking up much later than we originally planned, we decided to scrap that plan and walk around Bandar Melaka instead. Our first stop was at a nearby warong under the trees to begin the day with a hearty breakfast of nasi lemak, noodles, spring rolls, Nyonya pie tee (top hats) and drinks. After our leisurely breakfast, we proceeded to Bandar Melaka to work off our meal and see what the city had to offer since for several of us this trip was the first to the city. We parked our cars near the Jonker’s St parking lot where we parked the previous night and proceeded by foot to the nearby Melaka River Esplanade.

Being more acquainted with the river conditions in KL, I have to say that I was fairly impressed with the condition of Melaka River. While it was not exactly a river of pristine clear waters, it didn’t look all that shabby and more importantly it didn’t smell like a sewer dumping place that some of the rivers in KL have sadly become. The walkway that lined the riverbank was also well maintained and quite nice to have our morning walk at which we did that day. Bandar Melaka was also refreshingly quiet that Sunday morning relative to the hustle that our group was used too living in hectic KL. Our walk would soon lead us to the Dutch Square where the Stadthuys building was located. I wished that I had more time there as I would definitely would have like to explore the buildings there as well as visit the Porta de Santiago at the A'Famosa Fortress as well as other historical sites in the area. It’s quite funny that I came all the way there and didn’t come close to a historical site.

(Scenes from the Melaka River Esplanade)

Just past the Dutch Square, we walked by into a row of similarly red hued shophouses where one of them specialized in selling a variety of items made with bird’s nest. We decided to take a break from walking and enjoy the comfort of air conditioning while sipping on a selection of concoctions made with the prized ingredient. I had a drink made out of ginseng and bird’s nest which tasted quite nice and suppose to help with internal rejuvenation if the menu description was correct. It was during our break when the sky suddenly opened up with a short burst of rain that helped cooled the air down that morning. After the rains and finishing our drinks, we left the shophouses area to continue on our morning walkabout of Bandar Melaka.

(Dutch Square, Melaka)

We soon arrived at the Melaka River Esplanade opposite the Church of St Francis Xavier we found the place where we could take a cruise along the river. According to their sign, the cruise would take 40 minutes at the ticket price of RM10 per person. Unfortunately, while there was already 9 of us in the group, they could not let the cruise start unless they have 12 people on board. Not really keen to wait around for more people to show up especially when the sky was still quite overcast and heavy with rain clouds, we decided to skip the river cruise and walked the length of the walkway instead to the end of the path. Thanks to the rains before, the mid morning was fairly cool and comfortable for our walk and picture taking sessions in the area. Once we reached the end of the path at the Jambatan Pasar area, we decided to leave the Esplanade side and walk towards the Jonker St area which in the day would be less hectic without the crowds of the night markets they set up there.

All along our route, we could see examples of heritage buildings being restored as well as those that have already been beautifully restored. These were the buildings that have made this area world renowned and recently included as part of the UN World Heritage Site list. We stopped for a bit at one of the Chinese tea houses to get a breather and appreciate the intricate carvings and antique decorations that they owner had brought in from China. We also strolled down a road when a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple stood practically side by side, reflecting not only the cultural diversity of the area but also an earlier day when more of us believed that all else being equal, we are all the same regardless of which religion we subscribe to.

It was on this walkabout when I finally found the Portuguese Egg Tarts that I have been craving for in this trip. I’m somewhat of a fiend when it comes to these delicious delicacy ever since I first had them in Hong Kong. It was strange for me not being able to find anyone selling it at Jonker St the night before but the pastry shop that we stopped on that morning walk more than made up for the wait. I bought a whole box of it to bring back home as well as a few, not exactly pure egg tarts since they have other items like curried chicken added to the flaky pastry, to eat on the go. Duly satisfied that I finally would be able to stop talking about finding egg tarts, the gang proceeded down the street again towards the end of Jonker St to find a place to have lunch.

(Yummy freshly baked egg tarts)

We finally decided to have another round of chicken rice balls as our final meal in Melaka. Unlike the one that we went to the day before, they had more variety of dishes to go with the chicken rice balls. They even had roasted duck that I have not had for a while which really got my appetite going but unfortunately the variety seemed to come at the cost of the quality of the food. It was no way as tasty as the one that we had the day before which was a bit disappointing considering how popular the place that we were at was suppose to be.

Once we finished our lunch, we walked back to our car and proceeded back to the apartment as it was nearing time when we had to go our separate ways. Before we did, we made a pit stop at a nearby home factory making Nyonya style kuih and savories to get some for our trip home. The small factory churned out a variety of local sweet cakes for local distribution around town and they had a room full of kuih for us to pick from. Having had my fill of food on this trip, I could not even think of eating anything else but these kuih were hard to resist and I ended up buying a few for the road.

(Yummy Nyonya kuih from the home factory)

Once we got back, we all got ready to say goodbye to each other and leave for our respective destinations. It was quite a short trip but being able to enjoy it with a bunch of friends that you always look forward to spend time with definitely made it memorable. I’m fairly sure that this won’t be the last time would have such gathering among friends and I’m definitely sure that this won’t be the last time I’ll be visiting Melaka.

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