Aug 012011

It took me about 5 minutes in Melaka to realize I’d be way happier here than in KL.

“Melaka has all the advantages of a metropolis: seemingly hundreds of cheap fantastic places to eat and stay, artistic and tolerant locals, diverse entertainment and nightlife and a colourful history that you can nearly touch. Yet it’s a small, manageable place that exudes a calm that’s only a notch more stressful than a tropical beach. Melt into the daily grind of dim sum breakfasts, the call to prayer followed by church bells down the road, laksa lunches, rides in crazy and gaudy trishaws, tandoori dinners and late-night drinks at balmy bars. It’s hard not to like this town.”

I can vouch for that: it really is hard not to like Melaka. Especially after a full week in the polluted urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur 😛

A sleepy little coastal town just 120km from the capital, I was surprised to learn that Melaka is actually the cradle of modern Malaysia – everything from the political system to international trade originated here. In fact, when Kuala Lumpur was still just a malaria-ridden swamp Melaka was already one of the most powerful trading ports in all of SouthEast Asia.

Since being founded by a Sumatran prince in the late 14th century, Melaka has changed hands between the Portuguese, Dutch, and British – all while hosting thousands of Chinese settlers and of course Malaysian natives. This long and colorful history has given rise to a dizzying array of cultural influences and historical monuments, making Melaka one of the most interesting touristic gems in the region.

(If you’re wondering how such a once-powerful city ended up so far off the radar, the answer is simple: Singapore. The most successful of Britain’s three Malacca Straits Settlements, Singapore’s rapid growth eclipsed that of Melaka, leaving it to return to the quiet backwater town it is today).

Anyway, I arrived at the central bus terminal by around 3pm, caught a local connection to Dutch Square, and set off on foot.

Even my first hour – spent, as usual, searching for a place to stay – felt like a refreshing breath of air. Dutch Square itself, my first ever exposure to the town, is a quaint little plaza filled with tulips, a small canal to one side and a bright pink cathedral to the other. Flocks of sparrows chirp overhead, tourists gather to snap photos of the brightly-colored flowers, and locals sip coffee at waterfront cafes as they wait for their $2 meals to arrive. The sky was as blue as can be and you could literally taste the cool ocean breeze blowing in from just a few blocks away.

For the past two months I’ve been constantly on the move, always pushing onward towards to some important date in some distant city. But the last such date, Thaipusam, has finally come and gone. And I seem to’ve stumbled across the perfect little haven to settle down, unpack, plug in, and start earning my salary.

Since the end of last year this “traveling programmer” has more or less been “just a traveler.” Now the time has come to earn the second part of that title. So for the next three weeks, I’ll no longer be a traveling programmer. For the next three weeks…I’m “just a programmer.” 😉

Note 1: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Thursday, January 27th.
Note 2: For those who didn’t get it, the title of this post is a ridiculously nerdy reference to a town called “Kalm” in Final Fantasy 7.

  12 Responses to “A Kalm Little Town”

  1. Isn’t Michael Phelps always going to be a swimmer, even when he is not swimming?

    Besides the bit of cultural draw, KL looked really ass, I must say. Melaka looks like a much nicer place to spend a few weeks.

  2. looks great. Good luck with all the work- it will be nice too to get to know one place well. That is actually my favorite kind of travel…just being in one place long enough to gt to know some of the nuances

  3. @Allyn: Hmm…totally didn’t get that Michael Phelps reference, haha… 😛

    @Rachel: Thanks 🙂 I agree COMPLETELY…it’s one of the main reasons I so enjoy long-term travel, because you can stop wherever you want and really get to know a place!

  4. Ah, I was just commenting on your notion of being ” just a programmer” or just a traveler. You are a traveling programmer all the time, like michael phelps is a swimmer all the time even when he is not in the pool. I can see why it didnt make sense, It was a pretty far out and completely random analogy.

  5. 3rd pic left me at awe! Beautiful! Thanks for sharing. It truly is amazing!

  6. @Allyn: Ohhh, gotcha…I got the Michael Phelps thing, didn’t catch the “just a programmer” analogy though. Perhaps I should’ve looked at the last paragraph of this post 😛

    @VV: Thanx 😀

  7. Final Fantasy 7 isn’t ridiculously nerdy! Now, if you talked about Final Fantasy 5…

  8. Looks like a nice place. Too bad the only thing we saw of it was through the bus window. Totally did not get the FF7 analogy 😛

  9. I didn’t get the FF analogy either

  10. @Nick: OK, so 7 is just “kinda nerdy” 😛

    @Peder/Andy: …Pshh, and you call yourselves nerds! 😉

  11. Why is there a Chinese dragon thingy just chilling on the street? We need to bring one of those home these days, preferably as a drunk prop.

    Something about the last paragraph made me laugh due to all the repetition of words. “I’m a traveling programmer, but I haven’t programmed recently, just traveling. Now that I’m done with traveling, it’s time to start programming, because that’s what traveling programmers do. Program. and Travel.”

    You played FF7? Totally didn’t catch that reference. I thought you were trying to say KL Town, like a smaller version of Kuala Lampur.

  12. Dragon: For Chinese New Year!

    FF7: Oh hell yeah. It’s by no small margin my favorite game of all time 🙂

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