Jumping for joy after we got here, after Visithra's morning ordeal of being forgotten and left by the side of the Seremban Highway finally faded.
It was truly the most anticipated trip for quite some time. When Kazzie pitched the idea to head down to Melaka for April's meetup it must have stirred a lot of interests since its the group's first outstation meetup and overnight stay as well, not to mention that a bunch of the Singapore Flickr Meetup group were coming down to join us as well. Those who expressed interests took some time to sign on but the number multiplied exponentially just a few days before we actually left. Kenmin was tentative for quite a while, visithra said she had a prior appointment, Syiqin and Nagem was a last minute sign on but all made it in the end.
Visithra posing by the window at Baba House
As with any Flicker meetup tradition, strange and funny incidents will always crop up and this time it proves to be true as well. We were supposed to gather early by 8 at the Sg Besi toll Plaza which was our first meetup spot since we had about 5 cars. I awaited Kazzie near Astro which was near my place but the weather this morning didn't look too promising, it had rained all night and even when I left the house near 7 the sky was still grey and threatened to rain down. Kaz was promptly there for my lift and both of us made our arrival at the first pit stop and no one was there. Yeah as usual most were running late. The first to arrive was Gabra and his wife, both were great people and it was nice to meet them. We made several calls to the others but it seems all were nowhere to be found. Syiqin and co (her car housed Kenmin, Nagem and Shafina) were stuck in a jam (at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning no less) and somehow got lost as later they recounted they were circling Cheras and Desa Petaling at least three times before finally managing to exit to the Seremban highway. Joshua who Kaz asked to join in missed the turnoff and went through the Kajang highway and Eka and his sis took a different route.
Posing with the room key, Baba House room 120 which I shared with Kenmin, guess who's finger that is?
On our way Kaz and I were driving leisurely along the Seremban highway passing near UPM when suddenly Kaz exclaimed that she thought she saw someone familiar sitting by the road side which she thought was Visithra. It was a bit puzzling at first as we didn't really think that was possible as Syiqin and co were suppose to pick her up on their way and when contacted they mentioned they were near the Nilai memorial (which we found out later was the Nirvana HQ near Kuchai Lama) and should've passed her way already. A swift call and a stunt reversal by Kaz along the Seremban Highway (never never try this ever) and it was confirmed to be who we figured. visithra in her trademark blue and purple clothes was indeed sitting indignantly by the highway shoulder with all her bags looking indignant. She later recounted on how she was alarmed when she saw this red car speeding backwards towards her, must be quite a shock. so we had another passenger added on and was laughing all the way when we thought the other party had forgotten about her and left her waiting there. It wasn't so bad, later after a retelling of the incident seems the lot haven't passed her position yet though we thought they had already reached the Seremban border.
Paranakan fare at the Peranakan house for lunch; menu includes; ayam ponteh, asam prawns, fried eggs, taugeh with salted fish, asam pedas fish, mixed vegetables etc.
The travel time was quite fast, after chatting and talking for nearly an hour plus we passed the Ayer Keroh Rest Stop but decided to keep going thinking we were running late and went to meet the others at the Ayer Keroh toll. A call later and it seems that most of the lot had decided to stop at the rest stop including Gabra and wife as well as Eka and sis. In the end we were the first to arrive at our second pit stop. Soon the others arrived as well and lastly was Syiqin's car which was actually behind us and not ahead like we initially thought. After an exchange of pleasentries and introduction, with a lot of odd stares by passing cars we decided to head to the hotel where the Singaporeans were already since they arrived earlier. So with a five car convoy we headed into Melaka. Our accomodation was the Baba House which Kaz recommended since she often stays there during her sojourns to Melaka and thanks a lot for Gabra for booking the rooms for all our company. Finding the place was relatively easy and when we set our eyes on it we all fell in love with it instantly.
Visithra posing at the Baba House's window for a cute kampung girl innocent shot
As Kaz was dealing with the front desk the rest of us couldn't contain ourselves and started shooting the reception hall with its Baba Nyonya style decor. The place was fabulous, te old world ambiance was everywhere from the wooden desks, the large mirrors, carved screens, wood carving decor, stained windows and antiques placed throughout. Not to mention that the price was affordable, RM 95 for a deluxe twin bed room with air cond and clean bathroom, of which Kenmin and I shared. Visithra was literally jumping for joy (see top pic) and soon began posing for everyone to photograph. Checking in to Room 120, I had the chance to freshen up before leaving off for lunch with the group. Kaz says she knows of a great place for food, the Peranakan Restaurant which was just within walking distance from the hotel. My fear earlier of a rainy trip was unfounded as the sun came out and instead pounded us with enough UV rays to fry an egg on the pavement.
Kaz posing with the ever so cute iguana at Red Square, Melaka
It was a bit of a laugh as we enter the Peranakan House and found that a few of the people we saw earlier at the Baba House was part of the Singaporean Flickers who had arrived earlier and we didn't recognised them. When we were just begining to have lunch they had already finished theirs so they decided to bid farewell and head off ahead of us. Our group occupied two tables and we ordered some of the best Baba Nyonya food there was to be had in Melaka. There were such delicacies such as asam pedas fish, ayam ponteh (a kind of brown stew with mushrooms and chicken), fried taugeh with salted fish, curried asam prawns, fried eggs and assorted mixed veges. Before the food came, of course we were starving and not many would go shooting before filling up on fuel, some of us went exploring the interior of the Peranakan Restaurant. Like the Baba House, it was a two storey pre war shop house. The floors were tiled, inside the rooms were partitioned by wooden screens with intricate wood carvings, the interior was airy and divided into several portions of which the middle had direct sunlight beaming down to provide illumination to the front and back portions. The best feature must surely be the windy staircase leading to the second floor of which Visithra and I had fun photographing.
Kaz giving the ever so cute iguana some loving affection
After a hearty lunch everyone's trigger happy finger finally came alive. The interior offered some great photographing shots and thus many were shooting away. The meal was great by the way, beyond even our expectation and at RM14 per person was worth the deal. Out next itinery was to head down to Jonker Street and then to the historic center of Melaka where such attractions as the Red Square, St Paul Hill and A Famosa was. By now the sun was shining with a vengence and most of us were sweating profusely. The first interesting stop was the gallery which was a branch of Charles Cham's who originally had his gallery at the Orangutan House. They had great T-shirts with spiffy artwork and slogan for sale. Opposite on the whitewash wall of a shophouse was a street mural with some zany artwork, truly it adds a lively feel to the historic district of Melaka, the modern artwork and the old style architecture creates a rich blend.
Give me a kiss luv
Moving on we landed at Jonker Street and even this late in the afternoon was choked packed with activity. People were moving all over, the antique shops were openly displaying their wares, even this early patrons were already seated on the bar stools at the various pubs such as the Geographer and traffic was chocking the small lane of the street. Walking by one can't help but drool at all the famous local foods available such as the mouth tingling cendol (shaved ice), chicken rice balls and much more. At this point everyone was shooting at their own pace and the large group slowly became smaller and smaller units. Everyone was a bit pooped due to the heat and even went into the bank to get some air conditioning while waiting for stranglers. Our first stop was the Red Square, the administrative heart of the Dutch Empire when they ruled over Malacca.
Kazzie with the ever so cute iguana posing ever so naturally
I don't know how it happened but we soon found Kaz posing with the iguana whose owner charged to have a pose with. So like any good Flickers we all rushed for the photography opportunity. Kaz must have been swamped by eager photographers as they tried to cover every single angle there was. But she and the iguana were photogenic enough and the cute reptile can't keep his claws off her as he scuttled all over Kaz. He must have been doing it for a long time as he somehow knows the best poses to get his picture taken. We all had a ball to see Kaz in action with this lounge lizard. A few others tried their hand with the iguana as well including Nagen. The shoot took some time as everyone went about photographing the square. It was a bit hard as the blazing sun made it hard to avoid overexposure if the sky as I was without a polarizer.
Nagen posing with iguana
At this point a few of the late comers finally started arriving. Brenda from Singapore came late due to the fact that her bus was extremely slow and thus missed half the morning. Kaz went back to the hotel to get her settled in before joining us. At this point I found myself with Gabra and wife, Eka and sis and Joshua and so we slowly went about shooting as we progressed through the Stadhuys and onwards to St Paul Hill. Kenmin was nowhere to be found and I was told that he went to scope cute girls and take their pics (hehe). The Singapore group was already amassing at St Paul when we reached there. The best feature here was the fact that within the church ruins there were two musicians, Dino and Max strumming away at their guitar and the falsetto voices rang through the hills, singing songs of English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay. Their voices were good and I'm sure the tourists there enjoyed their serenading as well from the donations they got. Needless to say they became objects of facination as human interest shootout. At this point Joshua and I were fantasizing about a cool cendol to kill the heat but alas none were to be found here. The others slowly came about and we had our first group photo at the St Paul ruins minus a few that were not present.
Eka's sis at the Stadhuys
Walking on we went down the hill to A Famosa. For such a famous symbols of Melaka it sure wasn't really impressive. It's been years since I was here and quite a few changes had taken place. The wide expanse of the Padang Merdeka is now the home to a large mall as well as part of the bastion and most of the Portugese fortification which had been unearthed. Even as the stone edifice did not invoke much interest in us, we manage to acouster a couple of mounted police which were in fact tourist police on horseback. Needless to say they became targets of our group as well. Walking along the street of museums (I swear that Melaka has the highest concentration of musuems anywhere in Malaysia; stamp museum, beauty musem, islamic civilization museum, UMNO museum, etc), we saw a huge parade of coppers who incidentatly were celebrating their 200 years of service of the Malaysian Police force and were holding a parade today.
More posing shot of Eka's sis
Still they were not much of interest to us so we headed on. At this point I was with the Singaporean group and with Joshua decided we were heading back to Jonker Street. I decided on Number 88 Jonker Street to finally have our just desserts. I was expecting this so much that I had to have 2 bowls of the icy heaven in one go so I ordered the Eight Precious Treasure (EPT) cendol and the Mango ABC. Brenda and the others decided to have some food as well and from the looks of their asam laksa they truly enjoyed the fare. The interior of Jonker 88 was also typical Nyonya built and the tables were taken up by eager patrons till full. All around antiques and maritine hauls were seen decorating every inch of space inside. In the front Nyonya fare were being sold, pineapple tarts, nyonya kuih and more. Satisfied we soon decided to call it a day for now and head back to the hotel to freshen up and rest before dinner.
Melaka famous cendol and ABC, wiped out both bowls myself, the gula Melaka was thick and ever so gooooddddd.... forgive me if I finally say Kuantan's cendol has met its match and gives Penang Road cendol a run for their money.
It was a good call to get the extra battery for this journey since it was an entire day of shooting. The cold shower was a welcome respite after the hot day out. Walking out later I met up again with Kenmin, Syiqin, Shafina and Visithra along the street. Seems they took their time and were at the Red Square for quite some time. Well they seem like they had fun and judging from the pics they took, they went quite some places as well. So thats it for Day 1, at least until night time that is but that will be in another post all together. Wait for it.
Best of buds?