The Straits of Malacca (Malaysia visit 2009)

During our Singapore visit, Sunil the inveterate organiser, planned a little side trip to Kuala Lumpur and Malacca for Kundan and myself and then even suggested that we take Aunty (Sandia’s Mum) along with us. This made the three day expedition great fun as well as making me feel like part of the family, being entrusted with a complicated itinerary and his mother-in-law as well. I was a little concerned that he’d overdone the amount of planned sightseeing because I feared that he might have underestimated Kundan’s asthma or the effects of the heat on our British constitutions.

In the event, the pictures show just what a fabulous time we had. Our driver was a personal friend of Sunil’s and, after the charming gesture of taking us to visit his family for breakfast, proved extremely adaptable in helping to set an appropriate pace. Nothing revives Kundan better than a little shopping expedition and by arranging these while I went off to visit the museums or by leaving the “Aunties” in a comfortable shady spot while I climbed up into the Batu Caves, we were able to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves equally.

The opportunity to visit Malacca was just heaven sent for me: a sort of South East Asia for beginners with Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences all handsomely presented in a pretty and not-too-touristy little town. The Stadthuys Museum was shut (isn’t it always the way) but at least I managed to photograph the Great Man’s statue from over the garden wall and a later visit to the excellent National Museum of Malaysia helped to fill in any gaps.

By Great Man I refer of course to the Chinese Admiral Zheng He, whose voyages of trade and exploration represented the power and wealth of the Ming Empire at its height. A flurry of controversy emerged a few years back when retired British Naval Commander Gavin Menzies published a book called “1421, the year China Discovered the World” claiming that the Admiral had taken his treasure fleet all the way to the New World, seventy years before Christopher Columbus. The theory gained a great internet following for a while but then, looking back, it wasn’t so long ago that whole bookshop shelves were given over to the “Spacemen who left evidence of their landings in Peru”. And to give Mr Menzies his due, Admiral Zheng He could have travelled that far: he just didn’t have any reason to do so and he was far to great a navigator to have got that badly lost.

Luckily none of us had a thing about heights because our itinerary included trips to the top of the Kuala Lumpar Tower, the Petronas Towers viewing gallery and the cable car (longest/biggest/highest, I forget) to Genting, City in the Clouds. Not usually my sort of thing but all great fun and suitable ammunition for countering the “destination tickers” that all inveterate travellers have to converse with in the airport lounges of the world. Greatest cache, though, is due to Putrjaya, a destination that Sunil had insisted our guide took us to on the way to the airport and a detour for which the Kuala Lumpur traffic very nearly made us miss our flight back to Singapore.

Putrajaya is a totally planned city, twenty five kilometeres outside of KL and it is intended that all government functions will be migrated there over the next few decades as the high speed rail links and necessary infrastructure are completed. By the time we made it through the traffic the light had gone and so I have borrowed a few additional pictures to try to convey its grandiose, futuristic look. I suspect that had we not been so terrified of arriving late at the airport we would have been more impressed; it certainly is unique and the opportunity to see it all the more valuable since it is unlikely to ever feature in my future travel plans. But seeing Kundan’s distress as I left her in the departure hall to race over and stop the last remaining member of staff from putting up the “closed” sign at the check-in gate made me wonder if we had done the right thing. We did make it onto the plane safely but she hasn’t let us forget it until this day.

This was a wonderful excursion but it did remind me that you simply can’t see everything and that travel is about people just as much as it is about places. Sometimes making sure that everyone else is enjoying themselves is just as important as fitting in all the sights.


1 Comment

  • Lilah says:

    I really want to ride on one of the bicycles with the colourful roofs.

    I wish I went into the high building. I wouldn’t be scared.


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