Dr. Ho Eng Hui is something of legend in Melaka. A 57-year-old Kung Fu master, he holds the world record for a task which, though not particularly useful, has earned him fame (and fortune?) throughout the world: the ability to pummel his index finger directly into a coconut.
Dr Hui eats fire and throws knives, he chops objects with the crack of a whip, and he pridefully shows off his iron forearms (so tense that you literally can’t even pinch the skin no matter how hard you try). But his real talent will always be the coconut. I think Lonely Planet put it best:
If you’re not familiar with the strength of a coconut’s husk, think back to Tom Hanks in the film Castaway. Remember how he spends hours hurling a coconut on the rocks trying to break the damn thing open? Now a soft little human finger just shouldn’t be able to pierce through a coconut’s husk, let alone the interior nut – but this guy really does it and has been entertaining folks by doing so for more than 35 years.”
I myself have tried to open a coconut in Costa Rica, and can vouch for how ludicrously tough they are. Just imagine trying to penetrate a solid piece of rock and you wouldn’t be far off. I had trouble doing it with a machete. He does it with his finger.
Dr. Hui’s unusual performance is one of the things I most wanted to see before leaving Melaka – but sadly, despite heading down to Jonker each and every weekend, he never seemed to show up. Not until my last Friday in the city.
Finally, as I passed by on my way to a quick bowl of Cendol, I saw the sign I’d been eagerly awaiting: “Malaysia Boleh!” – his slogan, meaning “Malaysia Can Do.” I happened to arrive just 15 minutes before the performance so I took a seat on the curb right up front. I guess he noticed, because as soon as the performance started he beckoned me over to serve as his faithful assistant for the day.
So how was it? Well, while the actual “coconut penetration” was without a doubt remarkable, I have to say that I found the overall show to be pretty annoying. He basically stalled for a full hour, selling his “miracle tonic” and bragging about how much he gets paid to do 1-minute shows all around the world. While some level of self-promotion is to be expected, the ratio here was unlike anything I’d ever seen – it just seemed to go on and on. And because I was the assistant there was little I could do; he kept me standing in the ring with him just waiting, often in the “ready position” for stunts he never actually did. For example, at one point he had me come up and prepare to toss him a coconut for an upcoming mystery trick. I proceeded to stand there for nearly 20 minutes before he finally gave the countdown. Then when I tossed him the coconut…he just caught it. That was it. It was all a joke. Then he smashed it open with his elbow and continued selling his tonic.
Oh well, at least I got to see it before leaving Melaka 😛
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Friday, February 11th.