"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalks again; we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life." -
Jack Kerouac


End of Malaysia, Singapore, and The End of The Trip

We traveled from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka, Malaysia on the 9th. Melaka is a port town that was taken over by the Portuguese in the 1500's, the Dutch in the 1600's, the British in the 1800's and the Japanese during WWII. Luckily, it's been a part of Malaysia (and unoccupied) since 1948.

We walked around in the blazing heat, looking at some of the remnants of the Portuguese and Dutch occupations, like the gate of a Portuguese fort that was built from the ruins of demolished mosques and sultans' palaces. The old town center featured dark red buildings, a church and a nice fountain, all very Dutch-esque in Malaysia. There were also many cyclos (bicycle taxis), all of them covered with flowers and streamers, and most sporting stereos with speakers under the seats. They cruise around town, blaring all sorts of tunes, blending together into a sort of cyclo-racket. After a brief walk through Chinatown (brief because every shop was closed), we retired for the night.

Back to Chinatown the next day, this time by a different route. We walked by a shop that had chili pepper drying under a fan on the floor. I stopped to take a picture, and we talked a bit with the shop owner who told me to go ahead and take the picture and gave us each a handful of his peppers to smell. This gentleman is one of the many nice Malaysians we'd met, many of them saying "Welcome to Malaysia" and waving as they saw us walking. At a shop down the road a bit, we purchased a few pieces of Chinese art. The artist happened to be biking by the shop as we looked at his work, so he stopped in and introduced himself, telling us a bit about his art. He invited us to his workshop after, where we happily went and looked but didn't purchase any paintings. They were very bright and some quite nice, but we did not want to deal with shipping/carrying a framed piece of art for another week. We finished the day with a bit more shopping, trying to get gifts for some people and a couple of souvenirs for ourselves.

The next day, we took care of some internetting in the morning and then made our way to the Museum of Enduring Beauty. This museum featured exhibits on the lengths and pains (word play of "enduring") that people of different cultures go to to be "beautiful". Some examples were lip plates, brass neck rings, corsets, ear stretching-earrings, tattoos, scarification, and skeleton-shaping. It was an interesting reminder about how absurd and powerful "beauty" can be, even though it means sometimes entirely different things to different people. Dinner that evening was Baba Nyonya, from the early Chinese who inhabited the area and assimilated with the Malaysians long ago. Our chicken, mushrooms, and potatoes in a spicy brown sauce was simple and tasty. I bought what I thought was a cool dessert at the front counter, which turned out to be large chunks of compressed brown sugar. Not so tasty.

The Maritime Museum was up for the next day. Inside of a giant re-creation of a Dutch sail ship, the museums featured a lot of history about the region, the trading that occurred there, many model ships, and even exhibits on famous sailors. We shopped for some more gifts after, finding some interesting coconut cookies that tasted good but had the consistency of Tums.

Photos from Melaka

The next day we boarded a bus for Singapore. As some of you may know, Singapore is known for it's draconian laws forbidding everything from chewing gum to not flushing a public toilet. Immigration was very formal, with guys with machine guns walking around and the immigration officer being the first of our trip to ask us for proof of how and when we'd leave Singapore (our flight confirmation page was at the bottom of my backpack and took a long time to get to). We settled down in the first hotel we came to, which was very expensive and run by a fascist old lady (signs on the door saying "No showing of rooms before renting" and "We are not responsible if we lose your passport"). After dropping our bags, we scouted out 4 other hotels/hostels in hopes of finding something better, and booked a room for the next night.

We took the subway into the city center and walked into the heart of the skyscrapers in the financial district. Singapore is a very clean, very modern city. It looked as though we were downtown in any big US city, with fancy suits and Porsches passing us and we walked along in our backpacker garb. At the waterfront, we saw the Merlion statue. The Merlion was designed by the Singapore Tourism board in the 60's, and features the head of a lion and the body of a mermaid. For some reason, it is still an attraction. On our walk back towards the subway, we passed the Espalada performance center, two giant buildings that look a lot like gold balls from afar. At the Long Bar, birthplace of the Singapore Sling, we sat down amongst a bunch of other tourists. The waiter came up and asked "Two Singapore Slings?" and we said yes, a little wierded out by how touristy this place was. We drank our drinks, turned down another round, and then got the bill. $22 (US) EACH for a drink, the most I've paid in my entire life! Later that night, we walked to the bus station where we were supposed to meet a bus driver who was bringing Emily's phone with him (we'd left it in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, and the guesthouse had helped set up this delivery). After an hour of waiting, we checked around and found out the the bus wasn't coming that night, and called the guesthouse to find out that they'd meant TOMORROW evening.

We went to the Singapore Art Museum the next morning. It was a nice museum with a large exhibit by a Chinese artist Feng Zhengjie. These paintings were huge (some 10 feet tall) and kind of disconcerting with the few bright colors and diverging eyes. At lunch in some locals cafe, I tried "homemade barley drink" which turned out to be something like sweetened soy milk, not what I thought it might be. We went to the Botanic Gardens, a huge park filled with trails, lakes, tens of thousands of plants and flowers. It was a nice place to sit and relax a bit. We learned that due to a landslide, the bus with Em's phone wouldn't be coming that evening either.

To combat jet lag upon return to the states, we decided to get up one hour earlier every day for the last 6 days, ending with us up at 4am for our 7am international flight from Singapore airport. We were up at 5:45, accidentally sleeping-in past our 5am alarm for our second to last day. We went to Chinatown, which wasn't a lot of fun. We were both tired, I was starting to feel sick, and every stall featured the same junk with the same shop-owner hassling you to buy something while following you around their store as if you were going to steal all their over-priced shit. We did walk by a couple of Chinese pharmacies with 100's of glass jars behind the counter featuring everything from horns to herb to flowers. Back in Little India, we had a spicy lunch with Ethiopian-like bread at a sidewalk restaurant, and then walked around a few shops. That evening, the bus carrying Em's phone showed up 2 hours late, and we dragged our tired bodies back to the hotel.

Photos from Singapore

Up at 4am on the 17th. We flew to Tokyo at 7am, had a 3 hour layover there, and then flew to San Francisco. Our anti-jet lag idea seemed to help, as we were out cold around 8pm on the flight and got a decent night's rest. In San Fran, we cleared customs with a little hassling
(the customs officer didn't believe me that we'd been gone for 6 months and I only had $50 worth of stuff to declare) and then flew to Salt Lake City. The trip had finally come full circle, we'd made it around the world!

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