Sparky Travels

November 29, 2009

Flight to Australia

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:13 am

I forgot to say that I’ve booked my flight to Australia. I fly out on the 10th of December from Shanghai to Sydney via Guangzhou arriving in Sydney at 9am on Friday 11th. This was by far the cheapest way (£280) and although it means I’ll miss out on Hong Kong (my preferred departure point) the price difference made it too expensive. I’m sure I’ll make it to Hong Kong in the future anyway and this gives me time to try and get to Hangzhou which I’ve heard good things about.
So any Australian residents should begin applying for time in my busy schedule. :-)

November 28, 2009

Pingyao

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 4:35 am

My train to Pingyao was scheduled to leave at 11:30am on the 25th of November but it was delayed by an hour and a half during which I was standing in a queue which was like a can of sardines, if the sardines were alive and jostling for position with bags, sacks and rucksacks. The journey was uneventful with the usual attempts at communication with my bunk-mates which usually end with lots of pointing and nodding. Two of the people in my cabin were also getting off at Pingyao so I managed to alight at the correct station. I’d asked for a pickup from my hostel but had received no reply and this time there was no-one waiting. The hostel was only a couple of kilometres away from the station so I trooped off to find it.

Once I entered the old city walls I was sure I’d find my way easily but given the lack of light, signs and multitude of confusing lanes and alleyways I took a slightly circuitous route. Not ideal in -10C with icy roads. I found the hostel and checked in to my dorm (actually a twin room all to myself) and grabbed some local Pingyao beef & rice at the restaurant.

City gate

City gate

The next day I got up with plans to look round the city. Over breakfast another guest (Ukrainian-Swiss) asked if I wanted to join him on a tour of the city with the owner of the hostel (Mr Deng). Mr Deng’s tours are mentioned in Lonely Planet and after talking to him the previous evening I gathered he was a good guide so I agreed. We split the cost 50/50 so it was 75RM each. It took about 4.5 hours and turned out to be well worth it. Unlike most Chinese guides Mr Deng was more interested in telling us cultural, social and religious history of the sights rather than just reeling off dates and dimensions.

So, why am in Ping-whateveritis you may ask? Well, I’d been recommended it by a couple I met in Chengdu. They seemed like like-minded people so I added to a list of possibilities. Its also halfway-ish between Xi’an and Beijing and forms a nice quiet interlude between those big tourist cities. Like Xi’an, Pingyao is surrounded by an impressive city wall and although Pingyao’s 6km long wall is smaller it is still original and well preserved, or as original as a city wall can get in China. The smaller size also makes the old city a much more pleasant size and it has been none of the modern buildings that spoil Xi’an’s ambience somewhat. It reminds me a bit of Hoi An in Vietnam with its lanterned old streets, UNESCO status and clever system of 1 ticket to view all the sights.


The main sights we saw were:

Rishengchang Exchange House - The first bank in China, started as a pigment shop before an enterprising manager realised that saving people the risk of transporting their silver through bandit lands could make them money.

Temple of the City God - Its recreation of Hell, with people being cut in two, boiled and all manner of other punishments is a vivid deterrent. Pingyao is set up in traditional ways with its Eastern side representing the sky and the West representing the ground. The Temple of the City God is thus situated in the East of the city. There are also temples for the Gods Of Wealth (important given Pingyao’s banking history) and the Kitchen God!

County Government Office - In the same position in the West of the city is the County Government Office which represents justice from the people rather than from the Gods. Some of the torture instruments on show here were pretty barbaric and it was interesting to find out that the lowest banking staff could easily make double of the magistrates wage. Bribery abounded here apparently.

City Walls - We walked round the City Walls which gave a unique view into the courtyards of the city and were a respite from the busy streets below.

After the tour and some green tea to warm up I headed to the train station to buy my onward ticket to Beijing. Unfortunately my departure day being a Friday there were no sleeper tickets left or seats so I had to make do with a standing ticket in the hope that I could find a spare seat or upgrade on the train.

My Ukrainian-Swiss tour-partner had the same plan as me for the 27th so we were able to split the cost of this as well. This was a trip to the Wang (snigger) Family Courtyard and Zhangbi Underground Castle. Neither of these are accessible by public transport so we had to hire a car and driver and a guide for the underground castle. Mr Deng arranged it all and roped some ‘friends’ in to reduce the price.

Wang Family Courtyard is more like a castle or fortified village than a family home. It has apparently got 123 courtyards and it certainly felt like we’d seen around that number. The place has a weird ghostly feeling and is like a rabbit warren at times. I’m sure its been used as a set on many films and it certainly felt like it was waiting for a use.

Zhangbi underground castle is an underground complex in the hills near Pingyao. It only recently opened to tourists. It is believed to be 1400 years old and little else is known about its history. It was believed to have been built as an underground frotress to defend against an invasion that never took place The currently excavated complex is 1.5km is size over three levels but the whole thing is thought to be over 4 times that size. It was quite an interesting walk but it already has a lot of ‘restoration’ work going on and theres not that much to see. The entrance was below a temple and the whole complex is built underneath a village, Zhangbi Cun. The village is laid out like the yingyang symbol of Taoism and it was intriguing to be shown about by the guide who was brought up there. We saw the usual collection of temples and got to see rural village people going about their day to day lives.

After a day of sights we headed back to Pingyao and went for a massage before heading out for dinner in a local restaurant. The Ukrainian-Swiss guy paid for dinner which was very kind of him since I benefitted from his fluent Chinese more than he did from my wise cracks and dumb questions as we touristed.

While I waited for train o’clock I sat with the hostel staff and watched Chinese tv while eating some potato dumpling stodge that they were having for dinner. Though the shower at the hostel was a trickle and my room was a bit cold, the staff made the stay one of the best I’ve had in China. The manageress even wrote a request for an upgrade in Chinese that I could show to the conductor to ease my journey.

I boarded the train at 9:50pm and my carriage was absolutely rammed. I found the conductor who passed me off to a girl who spoke english. She took me down the train to a carriage that was less full and found me a seat that was free. My upgrade cost me nothing. Even so, it was a long 12 hours with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to keep me company. I managed to doze for at most an hour but felt surprisingly fresh, if a little stiff when we arrived at 10:30am on the 28th at Beijing West Train Station. I could have done with a massage now.

November 24, 2009

Xi’an

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 4:49 pm

So, I’m standing outside the station in Xi’an at 11:30am on the 21st of November trying to work out whether to get a bus to my chosen hostel or just hail a taxi. A woman asks me if I want to stay at her hostel and when I say no, I’m booked up at Shu Yuan Hostel ( a lie) she directs me to a girl over by the exit. She is from Shu Yuan hostel and is waiting for another passenger to arrive. Thus I get a free taxi to the hostel which was much appreciated given my lack of sleep and general grimy-feeling. Unfortunately the hot water at the hostel had packed in so a shower would have to wait but breakfast was my first action followed by a recovery nap . I went out to explore Chengdu and arrived in the Muslim quarter via the old Bell Tower and Drum Tower (two useful landmarks for navigation). I tried a bit of street food and generally strolled about before ending up in the hostel cafe for a quick nightcap.

After an early night I was up bright and early-ish on the 22nd for the main attraction in Xi’an: The Terracotta warriors. I was offered a chance to go on the hostel organised tour but as a general sceptic of tours I headed off on my own. I could have taken a bus to the departure point for the 1 hour coach journey to the Terracotta Warriors museum but - in an effort to see some of the city - I walked the 5 km to beside the train station. When I got there I saw bus 603 and throwing my 7Y at the driver I boarded and sat down. 5 minutes later I realised my mistake. Bus 603 is the bus between my hostel at the South gate of the city walls and the train station at the North gate. I’d boarded a bus taking me right back where I’d started. I jumped off and walked 2km back to the station and boarded the 306. Oops.

The Terracotta Warriors exhibition was slightly underwhelming, possibly due to it being built up so much in my mind. It was still a mighty impressive sight/site and a magnificent achievement though and I’m glad I got to see it. They do seem to be making slow work of excavating the remaining statues and you can’t get very close to them.

warriors, assemble

warriors, assemble

warriors, disassemble

warriors, disassemble

After some tasty dumplings and the obligatory purchase of a replica statue I got the 306 back to Xi’an. I spent a while at the train station trying to convey to the staff my desire to buy a hard sleeper train ticket to Pingyao for the 25th and then correctly took the 603 back to the hostel. After an hour or so of Skyping Mum and Bun I got chatting to South African and Canadian. My french room-mates (who I’d met breifly earlier in the day) joined us along with a liverpudlian. We headed down to the bar situated underneath the hostel to take advantage of the free beer - a bonus about Shu Yuan hostel is that you get a free beer token for the lively bar that is connected to the hostel, every night! While I was there I saw a face I’d already seen that day. While strolling through pit 1 of the Terracotta Warriors I saw a guy who I vaguely recognized. All I could recollect was that he was Scottish so I assumed he was a vague acquaintance from back home. It was only on the bus home that I’d realised that he was the fellow Jambo I’d met in the Irish bar in Chengdu. Given a second chance I joined him and his friend (both ex-Gillespies pupils, she had studied fashion in Galashiels and now lived in Shanghai) once my drinking buddies had headed to bed. Thus I got to bed at 3am, slightly sozzled.

You can guess what happens next…

Bang! I woke up on the 23rd with a stinking hangover caused by 8 hours of local beer. The day was effectively a write-off though I felt much better by the evening even managing to collect and enjoy my free beer over a few games of pool with two english guys a German and one Chinaman.

Today was another attempt to squeeze some culture into my stay. This time with a trip to Little Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an Museum and Big Wild Goose Pagoda. After a bus journey and an hour of heading towards the wrong point on my map I found the site of the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and adjoining Xi’an Museum. It was a relatively steep 50Y (£5) entrance fee and a steep climb to the top of the pagoda (built 709AD).

Pagoda from pagoda gardens

Pagoda from pagoda gardens

Pagoda gardens from pagoda

Pagoda gardens from pagoda

The surrounding sculpted gardens were beautiful in the hazy sunshine and the museum turned out to be pretty good. Its a new building containing a history of Xi’an. Xi’an has existed in one state or another for 6000 years and often has the capital city so it had plenty to show off. There were bite-sized exhibitions on seals (wax not blubber), caligraphy, jade artifacts, ornaments and painting. Its impressive to see how advanced the culture was at times when people in Scotland were still grunting and throwing sticks at the sun.

I headed to the Big Wild Goose pagoda next. Its the symbol of Xi’an but I was in no rush to climb another pagoda so I strolled round outside and then headed back to the hostel via KFC. Note:  KFC in China is better than back home and ten times better than Malaysia. The rest of the night was filled with emailing and typing this blog.

November 21, 2009

Chengdu to Xi’An

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 3:02 pm

On the 19th of November I booked my train ticket to Xi’An for the next day and spent my day hanging about with some Englishmen who’d just arrived, a guy from Chicago and Jacob (guy from Quebec).

On the 20th Jacob and I went out for lunch and then to Wenshu Temple in an attempt to crowbar some more sightseeing into my drinking adventure in Chengdu. Its a typical Chinese Buddhist temple dating back to the Tang Dynasty (10th Century). My temple fatigue has slightly abated so it was enjoyable to walk around it, especially the well maintained gardens. Its situated in a mock old town tourist area that must be at least 10 years old which gives it a relaxed feel compared to the relentless building and modernisation of the rest of the city.

Temple lion statue

Temple lion statue

I hopped onto the bus to the station and after going through security and handing my ticket to about 10 different inspectors (either it keeps unemployment down or the Chinese are particularly wily fare-dodgers) I boarded the train. I’d ill-advisedly chosen the bottom bunk on the hard sleeper so I expected my bed to be used as a seat by my bunk-mates until I kicked them off but this turned out not to be the case. Our 6 bed ‘cabin’ was populated only by me and a monk. We managed to communicate a bit using pidgin-english and pidgin-chinese and he gave me tips on places to visit and things to see as well as sharing his apples with me. My sleep was pretty crap for no reason at all and the train arrived late but overall it was a hassle-free 18 hour trip to Xi’an.

November 19, 2009

Jiuzhaigou

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:59 am

At 7:00am on the 16th of November I left Sim’s Cosy Guesthouse and hailed a taxi to the bus station. I had a good supply of food for the 11 hour journey and I managed to read the whole of Enigma by Robert Harris in between eating and sleeping. The journey was fine except for a one hour delay on a mountain road due to a trailer that was on fire. Parts of the road were a bit hairy due to the rock falls in the area. There was lots of evidence of this piled up on the road but I’ve certainly been on less safe roads in the last few months so no worries there.
The bus dropped us of in some random wasteground in Jiuzhaigou and the temperature was below freezing so I was grateful when a chinese guy I’d been chatting to on the bus offered to share his taxi. He directed the driver to my hostel first and refused to take any money for my part of the fare. Nice guy.
I checked into the hostel (apparently I was the first person to book through hostelbookers.co.uk. I failed to persuade them that this deserved a discount), dumped my bag and attempted to warm up. It was late so dinner was some god-awful spaghetti bolognese at the hostel, containing what I hope was tuna. Then it was off to bed in preparation for a busy day of national-parking tomorrow.

Map of Jiuzhaigou

I woke at 7am and headed to the entrance to Jiuzhaigou Park to buy my tickets. I got a pleasant surprise because the ticket prices had been reduced to offseason rates (80 yuan rather than 200 yuan) a day earlier. I then made my way to the random-wasteground-bus-station to buy a ticket back to Chengdu. I’d originally planned to head in the direction of Xi’An to save returning to Chengdu but transport links that way are really poor if you don’t want to fly and Chengdu is not a bad place to wait if tickets are sold out.
I returned to the Park entrance and joined the amassing tour groups for the bus ride up to the sights. There are regular hopon-hopoff buses so its easy to get around the place as you want.

I took the bus up most of the way up the eastern route and then walked back down. This took me from Arrow Bamboo Lake (used in the movie Hero, apparently) to Mirror Lake along the well maintained and signposted walkways on the opposite side from the road. It was below freezing but I was just about warm enough with my new hat and fleece on.  Along the way there were a number of pretty multilevel waterfalls and I managed to find myself alone for decent periods of time. At the attractions and viewpoints there were always a good number of Asian tourists doing their round-robin photo routines but it was quieter than I expected given the 1.5 million visitors the place receives every year. The lakes are mostly variations on a theme - shallow, extremely clear, multiple shades of blue - but all are stunningly beautiful.

Once I reached the tourist centre I grabbed a huge pot noodle for lunch and then got a bus up the western route to Long Lake which is reminiscent of Loch Ness and then made my way to the self explanatory Five-Colour Pond.

The last leg was back down towards the entrance past the 320m wide Nuorilang Waterfall and the shimmering Rhinoceros and Tiger lakes.

Bonsai Lake aka PottedLandscape Lake was dotted with a variety of small trees jutting out of the water. Though not as desolate as Rannoch Moor, it has a similar otherworldly vibe.

Near the bottom I stopped off at the colourful Heyezai village to see a bit of Tibetan life. It was a typical tourist attraction village that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Epcot Centre. As I reached the Exit/Entrance to the park my camera battery died. I took this as a sign to go back to the hostel and have a shower to warm up.

As I sat in the hostel I got chatting to a Malaysian guy who invited me out with his friends for dinner. They were from Hong Kong, Singapore and China and soon there were 20 of us sitting round a couple of tables in a traditional restaurant. Everyone was really friendly and the food was hearty fare.  Once they found out I was from the home of whisky I was challenged to drink some of the local brew, a 58% spirit (in the form of double and triple shots)  and a corn-based ‘cider’. It helped to get rid of my near constant shivers but my new friends still insisted on haggling a local price for a new fleece for me at a shop next door. After dinner we tottered to the hotel that some of the group were staying at and then back to our hostel where we drank beer till 1am.

I woke up at 6am the next day with a kick-me-in-the-face hangover and boarded my bus to Chengdu. Despite feeling rough I managed to read a whole book on this journey aswell. This time it was Dead Famous by Ben Elton. Arriving back at Sim’s Cosy Guesthouse at 7:30pm I planned to have dinner, a shower and an early night. When I got to the bar a French-Canadian who I’d chatted to a few times was sitting on his own so we proceeded to drink beer till midnight.

November 15, 2009

Chengdu

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 5:00 pm

Chengdu
Although the hostel hadn’t confirmed it, I had requested a pickup from Chengdu airport to save riding a number of buses to get to the hostel. As soon as I stepped out of arrivals there was a guy with a sign for Sim’s Cosy Garden Hostel. Within the hour I was dumping my bag in my dorm and heading down to the bar. Beer in China is 7 times cheaper than in Malaysia so I got stuck right in. The hostel is centred around an oriental garden and is both large and well equipped. The bar/restaurant is always busy and there is a snooker table, table tennis, darts, dvd-room, roof terrace and various other facilities. Most of the night was spent drinking and chatting to the various nationalities hanging around the bar. Chengdu is the gateway to Tibet and also a stopping point for those coming from Mongolia and Nepal into China. I was able to pick up lots of tips and recommendations while sitting with my new friends including a Pole and a hyper guy from Quebec. A number of people in the hostel are working in China or planning to work there and it also seems to attract people with no plans who are in no hurry to move on. I played cards late into the night on the balcony with a multinational cast of Italian-Germans, English and Scots before finally heading to bed.

I woke up on the morning of the 11th with a weird feeling that I seem to remember being called a hangover. I headed out into the cold with two tops on, jeans and my flipflops along with a couple I had met the night before. We grabbed lunch in a local restaurant where after much pointing we managed to get some typically spicy beef & noodles. Then we had a stroll through the city past the large Mao statue in the main square.

Chengdu with Mao

Chengdu with Mao

We headed into a bar to escape the cold and then headed by bus back to the hostel.
An early start was in order today (12th) as I went on a trip to see the famous Panda centre just outside Chengdu. The hostel have a cheap deal to go and see them so there were about 20 of us all waiting for our minibuses at 7:45am. I had flipflops on again since I’d decided against my trainers due to the mould they had managed to grow in the months since I’d last worn them, but I soon regretted this decision. The Panda centre is pretty much a zoo with only one species and there are various enclosures for the different sizes of panda: adult, sub-adult, juvenile etc. It wasn’t too busy and we got to see feeding time for most of the pandas. We also got to see newborns in the incubators and very young bears being bottle fed but no pictures were allowed of these. You could get your picture taken holding a baby panda but at £100 it was out of my price range. I could have done with having a zoom on my camera here but no such luck so my pics don’t really do them justice.

We were back at the hostel for midday and after a nap I went out to explore the city on my own. The traffic in China appears to be a return to the South East Asian traffic madness where stop lights are suggestions and pedestrians are targets. I’d given up on the flipflops and started wearing my slightly cleaned but still mouldy shoes.
The next few days have taken on a similar theme of waking up late, going in to the city on errands (mainly buying warmer clothes) and drinking in the evening. The night of the 13th was filled with drinking games and the night of the 14th was a trip to an Irish bar to watch sports (England v Argentina at rugby, Russia v Slovenia at football) where I encountered more irish and scots including a fellow Hearts fan hiding out in China to escape our dismal season so far.
I’d managed to book a bus to Jiuzhaigou national park in between drinking so thats the destination tomorrow. Its an 11hour bus ride from Chengdu so that’ll be all I do that day, then a day of walking round the national park and a day of travelling after that. Hopefully I can find a way to Xi’An from there that doesn’t involve going back to Chengdu.

November 10, 2009

chINa

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:10 am

Nǐ hǎo. Just a wee note to say that I’m in China. Sitting at the hostel bar having a local beer.
I had to get a taxi to KL Sentral at 4:30am for my bus to the airport. The journey was routine and I was picked up from Chengdu airport by the hostel. I did manage to stand on a bird while waiting at departures in KL LCCT airport. I was walking around when I felt something spongy and heard a squeak under my flip flop. I lifted my foot and a little bird flew away chirping in alarm. weird.

November 9, 2009

Kuala Lumpur mkII

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 1:52 pm

The trip from Melaka to KL was comfy and unremarkable. Within 3 hours I was dropped off at the bus station just round the corner from Chinatown. I went back to the Backpacker’s Traveller’s Inn from my last visit. They didn’t have any dorms so I plumped for their cheapest single room. It was 28RM but the dozy receptionist gave me 28RM change from my 50RM. Bonus.

I left immediately to get to the Chinese embassy before closing time and zipped up there on the tube. Unfortunately my research had failed slightly because the embassy is only open for visa applications between 9am and 11:30am. I picked up an application form anyway and then strolled back past the Petronas Twin Towers. Dinner was a return to the Chinese foodcourt round the corner and then I headed upstairs to the backpackers bar above our hostel. As always there were some friendly fellow travellers to chat to, most of who were also in-transit and awaiting visa’s like me.

I’d really been looking for a hostel dorm rather than a lonely single room (albeit with a bunk bed) so I moved to the Monkee Inn the next day. It was slightly more expensive but has free internet and a really homely lounge.

I got up early on Thursday and Friday to apply for and then collect my visa from the Chinese Embassy. It was a pain free process and at 230RM (£40) total for the express visa it wasn’t too expensive.

I’ve based myself here for the last few days generally doing very little. I’ve watched Rescue Dawn, The Bucket List, Terminator Salvation, Wolverine and Knowing among other films and messed about on the internet. Evenings have been spent at the Backpacker’s bar chatting to the various other pub-goers and the owner. I managed to watch what may be my first Hearts game of the season on Saturday via a streaming site on my laptop. The Edinburgh derby was a rather drab 0-0 draw but it was nice to see a game I  actually care about.

Last night (8th) I ended up drinking with a Canadian, a couple of Celtic fans and a deaf East Stirling fan who’d been travelling the world for 9 years. He was a decent guy and gave me ample opportunity to practice my charades skills. Other good people I met include a gang of four from Staines and a guy from Southampton who’s teaching in Thailand.

I head off to China tomorrow but I should be able to update the blog and check emails from there. Facebook and Skype may be a different proposition.

November 5, 2009

Showing Engrish to your face

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 12:57 pm

One of my favourite aspects of Asia is the bad use of engrish on signs and information. There is a bewildering amount of this but here are my favourites so far:

Hanoi toilet
Simple and to the point. Actually, this is just good advice to anyone who’s attempting a good, clean wipe. Found in the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen. It was literally a converted broom cupboard.

Thai King Shooting the Rapids
On a promotional brochure for Thailand. A badly set out contents page or further proof of the 80-something year old’s majesty.

Ho Chi Minh Museum
Extoling the vietnamese justice system by describing the ‘re-education’ of gamblers, prostitutes and buglers. Anyone who has heard a 8 minute bugle solo would agree with this.

Doctor Fish sign
Absolute gold-dust for the sheer amount of murder of the english language. Found in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The fish massage was almost as much fun.

Wood Carving
The photo for this is too blurry so I wont add it. I found this one in the Kelantan State Museum’s display on the local traditions and crafts…“During their spare time, the Kelantanese spends time producing household objects like ladies, Quaran rest, coconut graters and the like and eventually interest grew to decorate these objects were simple carvings”

Chicken Arse
As the title says. Nobody could bring themselves to ask for it so it may well have actually been chicken arse on the menu in a restaurant in Vang Vieng.
No photo though.

November 3, 2009

Melaka

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 6:04 pm

After the rare event of me being awake in time for the free breakfast provided at the hostel I made my way out of Singapore. I took the local bus to Johor Bahru and then a coach from there to Melaka. Another bus from the out-of-town bus station to the centre and a 10 minute mapless stroll using hastily jotted down directions saw me reach my accomodation for the next two nights: Ringo’s Foyer GH. It has a reputation for having a friendly owner and he didn’t disappoint. After 20 mins I had advice for Melaka & China and then he gave me a lift in the rain to a local restaurant for dinner. It was a good thing too since the hostel was pretty empty (1 old guy, 2 Singaporeans) and I didn’t fancy eating alone.

Today (4th Nov) I got up and headed out to explore Melaka. I strolled around town to get my bearings and look at the various sights: Portuguese fort, chinatown, St Paul’s Church etc. Then I went in to a few of the dozens of museums in this Unesco World Heritage City. Unfortunately I chose the most boring ones. The Governer’s Museum was ten rooms about how great some middle ranking official was and what stuff he owned. It wasn’t worth taking my shoes off for. I thought the Literature Museum might be better but it was dedicated to the giants of Malaysian writing,including some schoolteachers and poets. There were english translations of the information but no translations of their works so I don’t know if they were any good. I skipped the Museum of Governance for obvious reasons and gave museum-ing one last shot. The Maritime Museum is situated inside a replica 16th century Portuguese Man-Of-War and describes the rise and fall of Melaka as a trading port. It was an interesting place with many maps, models and paintings and it made up for the disappointment of the previous two museums.

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

After a drink I went on the Melaka River Cruise which sails - unsurprisingly - along the Melaka River. These events were bookended by some tasty ‘chicken with rice balls’ (a common affliction I’ve been told) at local restaurants. Later, the guesthouse owner took two other guests and me out to a foodcourt for dinner and helpfully explained some of the dishes available.

Melaka reminds me a lot of an English seaside town which has received tourism development money. Lots of museums about narrow subjects of interest, uneven redevelopment and a lot of harking back to the ‘good old days’. It could probably fill another day’s touristing but I need to get to KL tomorrow to get my Chinese visa. On the subject of which, I also booked my flight to Chengdu today. It was only £80 but it had risen £15 in the last 24 hours so I thought I better get in quick. The flight is for the morning of the Tuesday the 10th of November so time is running out to get my visa.

St Pauls Church

St Paul's Church

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