My plans have shifted somewhat over the past few weeks, and I now find myself in Singapore, waiting for my flight to Vietnam tomorrow. I left my place of work in Malaysia a month ahead of schedule, favouring more time to travel over extra money. Before crossing the border into Singapore to apply for my Vietnamese visa, I made a quick detour through the fabled Malacca.
Malacca is a city steeped in history. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was the centre of the Malay world, until it was seized by Portuguese traders in 1511. The city was subsequently colonized by the Dutch, the British, the Dutch again, and then the British again before Malaysia declared its independence in Malacca at last in 1957. This layered cultural history is evident in the city’s architecture and infrastructure.
I spent two nights in Malacca, and used my time walking around the beautiful streets and historical sites, exploring the famous Jonker Walk, and sampling the delights of the city’s bustling street food markets.
Malacca is a charming city, but it is filled with tourists and that always makes me feel self conscious. One morning, I awoke early and went for a stroll to see if I could find local Malacca. I walked across canal bridges and through dirty backstreets to find it, but find it I did.
Eventually it was scenes of elderly men reading newspapers and women washing clothes outside back doors that made me finally feel connected in Malacca.
I picked up a kopi to go from a little Chinese corner restaurant, and as I strode through the streets, swinging my kopi packet along with me, I felt like I had made friends with Malaysia. There’s nothing that says you’ve become acquainted with a country quite like the realization that you enjoy slurping strong coffee sweetened with condensed milk out of a plastic packet through a straw.