Friday, June 29, 2007

KL and Singapore Flickers Do Melaka 2007 - Night and Day 2


The hot sun was pounding quite relentlessly even as evening came. The group has fragmented and going about photographing to their fancy. Several events were happening in Melaka that evening, the Padang Pahlawan was full of policemen and crowds celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Police Forces in Malaysia as well as a Police meet the People Day. The greeting crowd were already at the Padang entrance with a multiracial ensemble of Chinese, Malays and Indians accompanied by kompang teams. A large force of men in blue had already gathered next to the Beauty Museum and were chatting away as they while away their time for the VIPs to arrive. As for us, we had just left A Famosa with nothing much to shoot there except for the fortification itself and several canons. What pique our interest more were a duo of tourist policemen on horseback, as we saw them we went to photograph and chat with the friendly duo and their animals. I always liked the forces on horseback, a remnant when these beasts formed the front line of calvary charges before the iron tank took their place in the modern army combined forces.


During hot days like these there is nothing better than a cold drink or dessert. All along the way we sampled ais krim potong with bread, ice cold and refreshing young coconut juice and finally the grand daddy of them all, Melaka cendol and aid kacang with thick servings of gula Melaka. Gabra and wife stopped at a street pub but when I saw the price they were serving there something to the effect of RM8 for a fruit smoothie the place just screamed tourist trap so I decided to join the others like Joshua and the Singapore group to Jonker 88, where the crowds were thick, prices were ridiculously cheap and food smelled and looked heavenly. The place was crowded indeed and finding a place in the narrow shoplots where tables were packed into every available inch was tough. We had to settle for somewhere in the back near to the kitchen but still the ambiance was old world with artifacts lining the stairs and floor. Sitting on the wooden stools and table, we ordered. It might seem preposterous and greedy but I just had to order two ice kacang at one go so I went for the normal cendol and also the eight precious treasure ice kacang. Brenda was looking a bit incredulous when me and Joshua sat down with our orders but one sip of her own she went back for more and even went for an asam laksa to boot and she loved every bite and sip she had. Attesting to the great food available here.


The streets of Jonker were fast filling as evening neared. The street stall were being set up for the night market and tourists were all out examining the wares available for sale and also to drink at the various pubs there. I had almost maxed out my 1Gb memory card so I took leave back to download to my com as well as to get a shower before the evening activities. Upon freshening up, I found Kenmin, Syiqin, Shafina and Visithra sitting by the curbside just chatting away. I lost track of them a while back after leaving the Red Square and found out they had their own little photoshoot at the square. I imagine Kenmin was trying to get a shot of the flag next to Christchurch but the wind was not helping. To his consternation Visithra just went there and took a shot and got it in one go. Well seems they had their own little misadventures there and I missed out but they didn't get a chance for the group shot at St Paul Hill.


Evening came and the day was still young. I've heard a lot told about Jonker street and how it has turned into a commercial enterprise and lost its old world charm and uniqueness, as if its just a typical giant pasar malam. I've heard the nay sayers say a lot of similar things about places like Petaling Street and to me that is just not true. It just seems they do not really appreciate whats there nor do they keep an observant eye to the details hidden behind the typical facade. If you look hard enough there are a lot to see and you'd be surprise of what you'd miss if you keep a closed mind. I was thrilled and awed, the scale of the pasar malam along the entire street was immense, I'm sure people in Cheras will poo poo this but coming from Kuantan with its small scale pasar malam this was really something, the closest equivalent I can say will be a comparison with Gaya Street, the former a night market and the latter a farmers and day market.


As I was saying, starting from one end, everyone was in high spirit even after the punishing heat and long day. Of course everyone was hungry to the max as well. Somehow as we got near to Jonker, music and karaoke was playing from the stage at the start of the street. Sitting down was a crowd of old timers all paying rapt attention to the single female figure on stage and singing to the tune of an old Chinese sound. I found the scene greatly nostalgic and special. The girls were at the front and they began to hold hands and even danced on the street, so high spirited and in the element were they and I'm glad I got a shot of them. There was so much to see, some food items I've never encountered (Ok so I'm ulu) such as the RM 2 for four dim sum on a stick, honeyed fruits, etc. It was pleasing even with the large crowd jostling and threatening to trample over you after you trip. I guess everyone was hungry so Visithra and I decided to sample some of the street food such as dim cum and fried lobak. It was ok but I still think those found in Penang is still a touch better in taste. We had freshly pressed sugar cane water, apom, and other small tidbits to tide us out as we walked. The group once again fragmented with each taking their own pace, some hurrying through while others ambling about.


It's strange that I've used to think that Malaysia is quite a big place with so many people about. So many things has happened to changed this outlook, I've bumped into long lost friends in the oddest places, malls, parks, work, etc. that is seems that it is a small world after all. Likewise that this happened during the trip, Visithra was walking about when we were suppose to meet another Flickerer who currently resides in Melaka. Upon bumping into the said person, it was a surprise that Visithra found that it was a long lost secondary school acquaintance. So you can imagine that there were so much to catch up on and talk about and truly it was a chance meeting between them.


Walking on we passed many more sights. Kenmin was on top form as he went to chat up the people on the street. I always admired how he get people to feel at ease and then they let him snap their picture, I always found that quite hard or is it that I never bothered which is a bad thing that you don't know the depth of the subject you're photographing. Well he went about, then among giggling red crescent girls, a guy buying a bamboo back massager and even a street urchin eating leftovers and collecting recyclable scraps, he just made them feel at ease and they told him their stories. Amazing. Well like I said he bought two bamboo back massagers that looked like old chinese torture devices, which purpose I was conjecturing before he finally demonstrated their actual use. A group of fellows had already went ahead and since they were famished began giving us the buzz to quicken it up and move it, Kazzie helped in that aspect by turning into the drill sergeant and began giving marching orders in the loudest possible voice so that the whole street heard, best to get people too intent on photographing about off their butts. At the end of the street, there was the usual snake oil selling medicine man with live performance to showcase the potency of their concoction. As we walked by, he did a fire eating and spewing act, sending a stream of fire up to lighten up the night sky. Had to go as the rest was once again giving us the double time for dinner, it was quite late at this point and we obliged.


We were introduced to a nice cafe by the side of the jetty. At first glance it didn't really raise any eyebrows and looked quite plain and there weren't many patron about to attest to its great food unlike the shops lining Jonker street. But appearance can be deceptive and when we started ordering the the ala Malay and Nyonya dishes and finally tucked in to such fares as tom yam, ikan bakar, fried vegetables and ayam masak merah, it was truly delicious and even Visithra a connoisseur of all things fiery and hot gave it thumbs up for the tom yam and was wiping away bowl after bowl of it. After a fulfilling meal, we once again trudged through Jonker Street, being quite late, some of the stalls have already begun to pack up and the remaining crowds centered around the pubs and dining places left open. It was strange and when we almost reached the end of the road it suddenly began to rain, the wind picked up and rain fell in succession. We had to zig zag between the shops to seek shelter and avoid getting drenched. Moving on Kaz suggested we head somewhere to drink and have fun. She recalled that there was a Coconut cafe in front of our hotel and so it was decided to head there, of what remained of our group that is, some had already called it a night while others went elsewhere. Gabra and wife was especially gaming to have their cendol after hearing how the rest of us enjoyed it so and giving it a star review so after dinner and all they headed to the place but found it closed. I guess they were impressed as well as earlier we saw a huge queue lining up for the laksa melaka and assam laksa right up the street there.


It was a nice place and was quite empty surprisingly. The decor was most noticeably Tropical with a hint of local kampung touch. There were several coconut trees grown indoor in the middle of the store even for effect. We headed upstairs since there were only a few tables downstairs and got a whole room to ourselves. Seating on the square table with mengkuang matting as the only seating and the room was covered with bookshelves. Someone bought a set of Jenga and so wet had a game. Ordering drinks was frustrating as we scanned the menu and was rebuffed by the waiter who could have saved us the trouble and told us what was left instead of what was not. I so did wanted to try to coconut coffee but alas such exotic elixir was not to be had tonight, in the end all that was available were milkshakes. The Jenga session was fun, we all really had a blast and some tense moment especially when we know the next person is going to be the one to tip the pile. Added to this was the fact that everyone circled at the crucial moment to capture the infamous moment when a wrong move result in a stack toppling. Shafina was there but was knocked out, due to having being sick before arriving to Melaka and not helped by the strenuous day events.


A bunch of us, Brenda who was still hyped to test out her new camera, Syiqin, Kenmin and I decided to leave the rest of the pack to their game and head out for some night photography. It was 1 am now and we were walking at the almost empty streets of Jonker, the rain had stopped as suddenly as it began hours ago so the streets were quite dry. The pub, Globetrotter, had a huge patronage. Some were having a celebration there, karaokeing with their horrible voice loudly permeating in the night air while others were sitting at their tables sipping alcohol or eating. At one point some of the patrons went on the street as the song was sang and danced in pairs, it was a magical sight indeed to see. Brenda had her hunger pangs and the only stall open still was that of the fried lobak which Visithra and I sampled earlier. So she just had to have her supper and so we sat with her as she chowed down. Syiqin was sitting opposite the street trying to photograph the bar crowd and Kenmin was shooting her, indeed. After everyone had their fill we went down the road through the back alleys which was now devoid of people and felt so empty. A street was nicely lit by hanging red lanterns and it became the focus of our shoot, not to mention Kenmin was trying to get me to pose for a shot. An hour of so we all felt the tiredness and so decided to call it a night. The room was inviting, the shower was great and we slept as soon as our heads hit the pillow.


Everyone was jazzed up for the next morning. Promises were made to wake early to explore the street and Eka even was gung ho enough to want to wake to catch the sun rise. Fast forward to the next morning and no one got up early. Even better, Eka actually dreamt of himself waking up and actually going to take photos of the sunset only realising later that he was still asleep. Visithra was laughing herself silly hearing of this. Breakfast was surprisingly nice, I've been to tons of fancy hotels and all gave the same english style plus a mix of Malaysian fare but the simple toast bread, sausages and scrambled eggs served here was good, either that or we're just famished after waking up. Anyway the price was included in the room which was dirt cheap to begin with so no complains.


We began again to walk and shoot. Gabra and wife had ventured out earlier and left the morning itself. Walking down, we found the side street where all the hustle and bustle of yesterday night was now occupied by antique seller. Everything was on sale from old LP records, to personal items, a working gramophone, pillaged carved door decors etc you name it. Nagen saw some old black and white photos taken of Melaka and went ahead and bought it, for RM15. Again most of everyone just went ahead and did their own thing. Visithra, Syiqin, Nagen, Kenmin and I went ahead towards Harmony street which housed several religious houses along the same stretch. We passed as the businesses were just about to open, outside several shops had cookies and kuihs out for customers, pineapple tarts were laid out piping hot from the oven as well. Kenmin was adamant to find the famous Melaka dodol and since we didn't know where to get it, resorted to asking the shop owners. The first one we went to had a hard time, either they didn't quite understand Kenmin or were just pulling his leg but the conversation went something like both side shouting out loud 'lolol or its equivalent to his consternation. He could have saved his breath as later Adi who is kind of a local by now pointed out where to get it to him later.


The religious houses were great, the chinese temples, Indian kuil and masjids were beautiful and truly this is the heart of what Melaka should be, living history not dank dark museums. The sky was heavenly blue and the shots came out great. Nagen suddenly had the brilliant idea of taking jump shots, citing the beautiful morning sky so we went ahead and tried to find a good spot to try it. As per Kazzie's plan we made our way towards the jetty where the River Cruise was to take place. Since we were early no one else was there and so we went to sit put at the restaurant where we had the great dinner last night to wait. Nagen was all out for the jump shot and so we tried it, the first few practice jumps weren't much as we tweaked our techniques but suddenly in the last to jumps Nagen suddenly hit the ground hard and bad luck later. It seems he tore a ligamen or muscle and was in pain. Kenmin took over for the subsequent jumps. Visithra has an incredible idea, it was already near noon and the sun was blazing but the tom yam we had was so great that she wanted some in the early morning. So to corroborate she hooked me in as well and there we were two crazy people having hot and spicy tom yam in the hot day, at least it would have been better if there were cendol nearby but alas.


Slowly everyone was making their way here. The Parameswara river tour was to set off near 11 a.m. It was a bit of a letdown as the owner told us that the boat will not be heading down the Melaka river as usual due to remedial works upstream to shore up the banks and instead the tour will take us out to the Straits of Melaka along the man made island. It was nothing much to shout about as I've set out to see quite enough times to not really appreciate it. The same can't be said for the others as they all went to the prow with Kazzie and Eka going with the Titanic cliche ala Rose and Jack. The trip was over as soon as it started and I was left wondering if it was worth it, but it was nice to see the expansive sea and floating mosque. A couple of newly weds were having their photos taken for their wedding album near the banks but why anyone would want to snap shots there is anyone's guess.


Our time here was near ending fast. After going about back to the hotel to freshen up we set off for dinner. We headed to Cafe 1511 this time with the same fare as most other shops such as nasi ayam ponteh, asam laksa etc. It had some nice decor with antiques lining the entire area. The last few things left to do was sending Nagem to get his ticket to Johor but turned out a waste as the leg injury finally got to him and instead he had to abandon the notion to see a doctor and finally had to follow Syiqin back to KL instead. Had a chance to get some biscuits and confectioneries before we had to leave and one last bowl of mouth watering cendol with Kong. We split after that, Kazzie stayed back for another few days so Visithra and I had to tumpang with Eka and his sis. From what I hear, the other group with Kenmin, Shafina, Nagen and Syiqin was lost most of the way, stopping along the various beaches, going through the myriad small towns and hamlet before finally getting back late at 10 pm plus. All and all its had been a great trip, the organisers did well with the planning though most of it was made up as we went, the Singapore Flickers were great, Melaka was entrancing and the company fabulous as ever. Hopefully there will be more in future soon enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hehehe nice post - felt like was walking through melaka again ;)