The ferry crossing to Melaka was pretty easy. I was warned to arrive in plenty of time, so at 8.30am, was the very first person at the departure gate. Told to wheel my bike through, and come and relax near the immigration. A couple of officials and one of the Immigration guys were very chatty, so I smiled and played the game. In Indonesia, that is the secret, the smile.
Come time to pass through the gates to the boat, the power goes out, and the computers all go down. No problem. My Immigration friend sends me through. I was also warned that I might have to barter to get my bike on the boat....... Turns out one of my chatty friends is a baggage loader....He He He. No charge, no hassles, no problems....the smile works.
The ferry is not dissimilar to an airliner. We all have allotted seat numbers, the leg room is minimal, there's a movie, and the windows are small. Guys have come off the wharf into the cabin trying to sell food, fruit, water and exchange money. Families come on board just to ensure their relies have a good seat. Its chaotic, but works. People are confused about seat numbers, because the seat number you see at eye height when you sit, is actually the number for the seat in front of you. Then the sellers are all thrown off, having made a killing, and the crew circulate and dish out free meals and water......but it's chillied noodles, so I'm glad I've got my Ems Power Cookie Bar.
The crossing takes just over two hours. It's smooth and quiet, and I read, snooze, and watch a very bloody, violent, Chinese movie. I'm woken by people getting out of their seats and sorting baggage. We're entering Melaka Port. Providing Fiona has survived the crossing, we've just got Customs and Immigration to pass through. Immigration couldn't be easier. 90 day visa. No cost. No hassle. Panniers through X ray, and I'm in Malaysia, and being met by my Warmshows host Tam.
Oh my goodness. Malaysia is sooooo different. Clean, quiet, orderly, almost no scooters, no tooting, and, and, and.....Tam took me to a bakery for lunch.......Food that's not fried rice, not cooked in oil, and not smothered in Chilli. How can this be, when these countries are so very close? I had savouries, that weren't sweet, and a blackberry pie, and a real hot chocolate, and I had tears in my eyes.
Tam has promised to take his son, Ken, 15, Mtbiking this afternoon. Do I want to come? This place is getting better by the second. We zip home to pick up Ken, load up some bikes, and zoom across town to meet Lincoln, and cycle some great single tracks and roads through the Palm Olive plantations. I'm in heaven. The bike is sooo light and responsive. I get to jump ruts, dodge puddles, and race up and downhill, unencumbered by 35kg of luggage. Sorry Fiona, I love you, but this is fun, fun, fun. After a couple of hours, the sun sinking below the hills we finish with a drink at Lincoln's hohouse
Lincoln is a barrister, with a passion for saving Arowana, a very rare, expensive and endangered fish. Have a look at his website..... He and his lovely wife visited NZ last year and loved it. He is also very keen to compete in the Kona Ironman. I hope all his dreams are achieved. I also got to meet his son and daughter, both very busy studying for final exams.....it's that time of the year.
We were off again. We were meeting the rest of the family at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. An outdoor eating area, with big tables, just right for Tam, his wonderfully understanding wife May, and his three sons Ken, Jun, and Ben. (Daughter is in Yogakarta studying medicine). We drink traditional Chinese tea and then food starts appearing. Loads of it. But then there are three teenage boys, and Tam and I have just Mt biked for two hours. And it is all delicious. I am once again almost in tears. I have been dropped into a wonderful family atmosphere, supplied with wonderful, edible food, all with no hassle, and no Chabe (chilli). It's the first time in over 80 days. It's a very very special moment. New country. New food. New friends. Clean. Dust free. Quiet surroundings. It's a little surreal, and being as tired as I am, very emotional.
I'm in a house, all alone. Across the street is the family home. I'm in luxury. Lights. Clean bathrooms. AC. Comfortable beds. Showers. Even a sit down toilet. It seems so unreal.
Sunday morning, and I'm awake, waiting for the Call to Prayer. It's out there, but can hardly be heard. Being awake, I get up and put a wash through a washing machine...... Tam is awake as well, and we eat breakfast....savoury rolls, and milo? Then we go and do a quick walk through some of Melaka's tourist spots. It's still coolish, and we are well early for regular tourists. Then we slip into an Indian Restaurant for Second Breakfast. Dahl and Indian bread. Oh so delicious. I wonder if you can work out what I've been missing lately?
Once again, I'm being spoilt. Wonderful food, wonderful hosts, and another amazing new country to explore. I am so privileged to have this opportunity.