The bus took two hours to travel the 148 kilometres south-east to reach its terminus in the Malacca bus station an enormous, busy place, some distance from the town centre. Bus was evidently the way to travel here there were great numbers of them, well organised into local, intercity and international areas. There were also many shops and stalls as well as a money changer.
I had bloged a room in Malacca at the Best Western Riverside Hotel. It was well positioned close to the centre and my room looked into the Malacca River as promised. I repaired the toilet system in my capacity of Travelling Plumber, then took a taxi to the centre of the tourist drag, the Stadthuys (red house), a large red building that is a relic of Malacca’s days as a Dutch trading port.
Originally a fishing village and later a Malay sultanate, as well as the domain of sea people who specialised in piracy, Malacca sits at a strategic position on the narrowest part of the Strait that forms a passage from China to India. For aeons it had been a stopping place for ships, including the fleet of Zheng Ho, the famous Ming dynasty admiral of the 13th century. Taken over by the Portuguese in 1511, the port was wrested from them by the Dutch in 1641 who in turn ceded it to Britain in 1826. The British left in 1946 and eventually Malacca became part of Malaysia.
Burma Map Distances Photo Gallery
In the square surrounding the Stadthuys I got on what I thought was another hop on, hop off bus. This was a fair assumption, as I had been standing under a sign for it. However, this was not the Ho Ho. This bus travelled a long, long route, and finally expelled me back again in the already familiar central bus station that I had left not two hours before.
The bus had been very crowded and I’d had to stand all the way packed closely in a bunch of eight delightful young Italians from Naples. In the hour we spent together we became friends and when we got off the girls all kissed me and promised to email. A long wait later another bus took me back from whence I came. I asked the driver to let me off at the street I thought led to my hotel on the river and, amazingly, it did.
Next day I bought a ticket for a jaunt on the river. The riverboat stopped at a landing right outside the hotel to collect me. Many tourist boats cruise up and down the Malacca River, which flows through the town and is its main feature. The riverside is wonderful. The heart of the old city, it is intersected by curved bridges and lined with tiny, brightly painted, two-storey 300-year-old houses standing shoulder to shoulder.