Hitchhike to India leg 57: Singapore to Malacca…and…Malacca
Singapore was sucking me dry and it was time to get out. However that is much easier said than done as once again I negotiate the horrendous border nightmare. So confident I am in making my destination in next to no time, I nevertheless make a glaring error in starting late and not factoring in the soul-sucking monotony that is attempting to get out of the country. It takes me around three hours before I’m on the Malaysian side. It’s around 2pm.
So apparently Johor isn’t the safest place to be. I’ve been reliably informed that women get their arms cut off just to steal bracelets. I guess it’s lucky I’m not a woman and I don’t wear any. However it’s an unsettling thought as I plod in the direction of what I hope is the highway out. I find a nice shaded spot under a bridge (the heat is intense) and I stick out my thumb.
Three drivers pull in – separately of course – all of them Indian guys, all want money. My prospects aren’t looking good. This I was to find was to become a regular occurrence – and it’s unfortunate to say that’s it’s always the Indians, and never the Malaysians. It doesn’t bode well for hitchhiking in India – but I think by the time I make it there I’ll be done with it.
Just as I’m starting to get a little concerned (only because I’ve been here 5 minutes and haven’t had a ride yet…), a young woman draws in and motions I jump into the passenger seat. Speaking native English in ice-cold air-con, she tells me she’s already passed me once and drove through the one way system again to come pick me up. I’ve still got it.
She’s not even going my way – but she confirms my fears about Johor being dodgy when I tell her about my encounters with the three Indian drivers, and expresses relief that she returned to pick me up, as you should be very careful and mindful of who you trust. My knight in shining Toyota actually drives me all the way to the outskirts and drops me off at a service station at the city limits, and I lament the need to part – especially when she tells me she was due to go to Malacca today but isn’t feeling very well. Lucky wouldn’t have been the word!
I’m not worried in the slightest. So much so that I casually have lunch in the burger place by the highway, leaving my sign out incase I get noticed. Finishing up, I wander across the concourse to the slipway, and I’m barely there before a truck slows and offers me a lift to the Malacca toll both. This really is taking the piss.
I slightly regret my decision upon entering the cab, as there’s not enough room to swing a cat, my chin is on my knees, the air con doesn’t work (obviously) and my host doesn’t smell the best. Added to the fact that we’re crawling up the road at a pace a sedated tortoise would balk at, and I’m not making base anytime soon. Still I make the best of it, especially as he eventually deposits me at a short slip road within touching distance of Malacca – and my favourite hitch spot – motorway toll booths.
And as sure as god made little green apples (even though he didn’t because he doesn’t exist), I’m there barely two minutes before a couple of students pick me up. Studying law in the city, they of course speak perfect English and drop me right outside the door of my hostel. The only downside was they were Manchester United fans.
As this hitch was so easy, I’m also going to include my experience of Malacca – so I’m not bombarding you with posts in the next few days dear readers. I waste no time in getting out to see the town – and enjoy the famous night market here, which is overcrowded with people every Friday and Saturday night. I reward myself with a pitcher of beer or three, don the kilt for some shenanigans, and meet some lovely humans. Malaysians are incredibly approachable and friendly, and certainly in Malacca a very fine people indeed. The town is alive with what appears to be one big party – and school groups are wandering the narrow streets singing Christmas songs. There’s even someone dressed as a giant Pokemon – which in this heat is to be commended.
In one of these school choirs, dressed like a sexy elf/santa type, there’s a girl who looks EXACTLY like Jennifer Lawrence. Now I don’t mince my words here, I’m not talking about someone who merely bears a passing resemblance. I’m talking about Jennifer Lawrence with dark skin. THE Malaysian Jennifer Lawrence. The only problem is I can’t very well ask a 15-year-old girl for a picture from a 37-year-old man wearing a skirt. But trust me when I say – that would have gone viral.
Malacca is an old Portuguese settlement, which was then taken over by the Dutch – who apparently did a lot of nasty shit here. It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site, and wandering around its picturesque streets you can easily see why. Pictures speak a thousand words, so please enjoy a few of the snaps below that I took while I exploring. But my issues are twofold. For such a small, localised town centre, they need to be rid of the traffic. I’ve been told that Malaysians can be lazy people, so everyone drives even if it’s just a quick pop to the shops. Narrow streets are bumper to bumper with cars all day and into the night, shuffling along. Malacca town officials – if you pedestrianised you’re entire centre, you’re going to attract double the amount of tourists you do now.
Which brings me onto my second peeve. There’s too many tourists. Bus loads. Chinese. Cameras. Old people. Hand on heart I solemnly swear I will never do a blue rinse brigade bus tour as long as I live. And if I do, you have my permission to shoot me. There they go, dawdling along, taking shit photographs and not smiling in them. Photographs of utter crap. Photographs with shocking competition considering the size and amount they paid for their cameras. I’ve decided when I next visit a popular destination in these parts, I’m going to do a photo essay. “Photographs of people taking photographs”. Such is the very depth of my photography snobbery and sheer disdain for the shite people take pictures of. And don’t even get me started (again) on the fucking selfie stick. Have a word with yourselves.
I digress. Where was I? Oh yes – I’m in Malacca. And it is good. I like it. The end. Seriously though – it’s a lovely place, friendly, absorbing and lively. It just bounces at night-time, and – like most of Malaysia – the food is sensational. Although the hour draws nigh when I depart this wonderful country, I reckon I’m not done with it and will return to explore further. For now though, on the morrow the thumb is out again for my triumphant return to Kuala Lumpur. You needn’t wish me luck though – because I’m already there.