Barefooting in the Melaka Palace

Melaka, Malaysia — November 7, 2011

I nearly let loose my inner Angry American. The challenge to sleep in the oppressive heat was one thing. But then two knuckleheads started an uproar in the room next to us. Incessant high pitched cackling and giggling. Can’t the locals handle their liquor or what? Needless to say, I am groggy and not too cheerfully disposed when the sun comes up.

Mods Café - Melaka - Malaysia
Abert preparing coffee from the back of a van at Mods Café. Photo by Brett Fisher.

Coffee Please

Yesterday, some friends told us about a great coffee shop in Chinatown. We start our day as usual with a walk across Melaka looking for coffee. We find Madame Goh’s Nyonya Pineapple Tarts instead. We order some. They are too hot to eat just yet and we are asked to come back later to get them.

We find a café serving breakfast. Natalie orders toast with half boiled eggs. Guess she wasn’t paying attention when I was stirring mine yesterday. I order Malaysian nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk served with slices of cucumber, sliced hard boiled egg, peanuts, dried anchovies, and hot chili paste on the side). Lori tries the “Western breakfast” which the menu says comes with eggs and sausage. But what is served looks like mini hot dogs not sausage.

We continue our search for coffee and collect the pineapple tarts on the way. Here is where the map says the coffee shop should be but there are no signs and no windows and no indication that we’re at the right place. As I contemplate a coffee less morning, a fellow motors up on a Vespa. He opens the roll-up door. Inside looks like a coffee shop. “Are you open today?” “We are now.”

Trishaw - Melaka - Malaysia
Dark humor or a dark message on a trishaw festooned with a scorpion, Barbie dolls, and flowers in Melaka, Malaysia. Photo by Brett Fisher.

We have found Mods Café. Inside is a Volkswagen van festooned with flower decals. Abert, the proprietor and barista, tells me the ’78 campervan runs. He and his wife Jing-Jing own and operate the café. Everything is decorated in Mods. Yeah, what’s that? Mods is a London subculture from the late 50s to early 60s. I never heard of it. Maybe it’s the British version of the American beatniks. Abert opens up the back of the van and makes us coffee. This is good coffee. Very good coffee, especially with the pineapple tarts.

We walk back towards Dutch Square. After the previous nights thunderstorm and downpour, there are men out on the Melaka River cleaning up the trash the storm had floated in. I feel a connection. I’ve worked as a river ranger and pulled my share of debris out of rivers.

On the way, we are regularly asked if we want a ride on a trishaw. These are Melakan tourist attraction and tourist transportation all in one. The operators will pedal you about for 40 ringgit an hour (about $13). Transportation to the site of your choice with gaudy decorations and loud boombox music thrown in. We prefer to walk.

Watercolor Paintings - Melaka - Malaysia
Ben, the artist, and his watercolor paintings in Melaka, Malaysia. Photo by Brett Fisher
Sultanate Palace - Melaka - Malaysia
The Palace of the Sultans in Melaka, Malaysia.

Melaka Sultanate Palace

We walk back up and over Bukit St. Paul to the Melaka Sultanate Palace. Maybe going around would have been a better idea. But the exercise is good, right? On the way, we look over some watercolor and ink paintings depicting Malaysian village life and buy some from the artist, Ben.

The Melaka Sultanate Palace is another attraction that forbids shoes. The coolness of the polished wood floor soothes my bare feet. So much walking. Such hot feet. Such smooth wood.

The Palace is a replica and built from information in the 15th century chronicle, Malay Annals. The original palace is believed to have been located somewhere in the vicinity of the replica. The Palace is a remarkable wooden structure. No nails just wooden dowels and pegs. Intricate, ornamental carvings. Construction techniques and materials true to the original time period. And such smooth floors. If I had socks on, I’d probably be sliding from one exhibit to the next. Probably a good thing I’m barefoot.

The museum side of the Palace depicts the customs, clothing, and traditions of the royal households of the time. There is also an extensive display recording the legendary battle between two famed warriors, Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat.

After the Palace, we put our shoes back on and head home. Taxi, bus, commuter train, light rail, taxi again, get the dog at the kennel, and walk to the house.

Brett in formal wear in Lombok!

Thanks for reading. Have you been to Melaka? What did you do and what did you like about your visit there? Let us know about this or any other thoughts on this post in the comments section below.

Happy wanderings!

2 Comments on "Barefooting in the Melaka Palace"

  • Greetings … been to Melaka a few times, first in 1989. What a hot place! What I was interested in was Ben the painter. I bought three water colors from him then. I have been googling him from quite a while but this looks like him. Will be KL again soon (from Adelaide Australia) so will go to Melaka and look for him and his paintings. The three water colors from 1989 are framed and on my wall. I think the three cost me 18 ringgit them … unbelievable now.

    • Good luck finding the artist Ben. It’s been eight years since I was in Melaka, and six since leaving Kuala Lumpur.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *