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Melaka Malacca – A tale of two cities

16 Jul

A few weeks ago Mister Noodle and I thought we would venture out of the Little Red Dot and so joined a group of friends on a road trip to Melaka, Malaysia.

There are various coach options for making the journey from Singapore to Melaka, all of which are relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately trying to coordinate our party of six to find a suitable time to travel after work on a Friday night was not so easy so we opted for hiring a car. I shall use the term ‘we’ fairly loosely when referring to all automobile matters on this trip. I don’t drive, I hate driving, I know little about cars (Father-in-law please forgive me!) so all these arrangements were left in the very capable hands of our friends. A good tip when embarking on road trips: take some teachers with you. Mister Noodle’s colleagues could be relied upon to bring copious snacks for the journeys and numerous pens to enable us to all fill in our immigration forms.

Eschewing all matters car-related, the Noodles were in charge of accommodation. Top of our wish list was rooms at The Majestic – a very beautiful, colonial era hotel where we could imagine ourselves sipping cocktails in the library bar and taking the hotel up on all the offers of walking tours of the town provided free each day. Unfortunately, the hotel was packed to its beautiful, colonial rafters that weekend (as were most of the hotels in Melaka). Just as we feared we would be camping out in our SUV, Mister Noodle happened across a house rental on TripAdvisor. In fact, it was the only Melaka house rental on TripAdvisor. And boy, what a house. When we arrived the very accommodating owners gave us a tour of the vast residence including how to disable the panic alarms in all bedrooms which also set off a dividing barrier that separated the stairs. Don’t get the impression the area we were staying in was very dangerous – I think they had just gone to town on mod cons.

So what to do in Melaka?  The town has a very rich cultural past with a history that meshes together many different cultures and influences, including Peranakan, Dutch, Portuguese and British. We felt the best way to explore all these aspects of Melaka would be through eating, people watching and shopping  (not much different to anywhere else Mister Noodle and I go).

 Our top tips

Hereen House – we had a lovely lunch at this boutique hotel/restaurant although we did leave feeling a bit guilty. Not only had the owners kindly served us lunch beyond their usual afternoon closing time (to which we had been oblivious), the lady owner also made valiant attempts to engage us in conversation that largely went ignored.  We were all so busy woolfing down her delectable food that we probably weren’t the most worthy of conversational companions. According to one guidebook the owners are very willing to show you round the hotel and point out the various colonial/historical influences on the architecture. Maybe do this when you are not starving hungry.

Jonker Street – First stop on our tour of the Jonker Street night market was to witness a man famed for being able to break a coconut shell with his finger. All I can say is, “When in Melaka….”. However, what we did not realise as we avidly watched digital coconut destruction was that whilst the stalls on Jonker Street would be open at night, the many interesting junk/antique shops lining the road and surrounding area would not. This meant we had to make a hurried recce before leaving on the Sunday morning which did not afford us the time we would have liked. Also, as an auctioneer’s daughter, I have to say I approached many of the ‘antique’ shops with a little trepidation. I always feel as if I have a certain Yorkshireman sitting on my shoulder whenever I look at anything purporting to be antique (thank goodness he is not that heavy) and worry that I will buy a dud. However, I think the best attitude to take in such situations is to think that if you love something then buy it, but don’t assume you are getting an incredible bargain that you will be able to proudly present on the Antiques Roadshow in years to come. Oh, and visit during the daytime, obviously.

Trishaws a go-go

I envy Mister Noodle getting this snap. I love it.

Melaka is famed for the vibrant trishaw taxis plying their trade in the town centre and, whilst we did not have time to get a ride on one, taking in the sights and sounds (many have their own inbuilt light and sound show) was fascinating. I was particularly drawn to the one below that inexplicably featured a massive papier-mache scorpion on its roof with two Barbie dolls held in its pincers. I like to think of it as the Lady Gaga of trishaws.

Trishaw driver's contribution to the feminist discourse?

Little Momma

On Saturday night we ventured along to the riverside to enjoy some drinks and a bit of food. Thanks to more teacher-based forward thinking and a downloaded list of restaurants we headed towards Little Momma. A small, family run restaurant, the warmth, welcome and good food made for a very enjoyable evening. I was also taken by the family’s very ancient dog that wandered about with no teeth and a wonky hip. But that’s just me and probably goes some way to explaining why I don’t write reviews on TripAdvisor – noone wants to know about the wonky hipped dog (more’s the pity).

The Geographer Cafe

We enjoyed a lazy Sunday brunch at the Cafe on the corner of Jonker Street, listening to some of the Rat Pack’s finest and taking in our surroundings. Appropriately enough, given the area it is in, the Cafe has the feeling of being an old, established part of Melaka but in fact is only just ten years old. It is the sort of place I could imagine myself in the 1940s, sipping on a cocktail with the perfectly manicured red nails that all women of that era seemed to have. Instead it was nasi lemak and a fresh pineapple juice – not quite so glamorous but very welcome. The Cafe features live jazz on weekend evenings and is a place we would definitely return to.

Not on our list…

So, why a tale of two cities? Well, I have just gone through all the things that we were hoping to find in Melaka, that you will read about in various other travelogues, and for which we were not disappointed. What follows probably won’t make it into the Luxe guide to Melaka but is the true representation of about 30% of our weekend, and is best summed up with these photos:

Nothing says intrepid travel adventures like KFC

Friday night became a calamity of driving round Melaka’s suburbs trying to find somewhere to eat, stopping in a Tesco and finding a two-headed pineapple and a range of Shandy called ‘Anglia’ and ending up at KFC. Saturday morning was spent again driving around the very same suburbs looking for a garage to repair the flat tyre that had mysteriously appeared over night.

Unlikely to feature in Tripadvisor's top 10 things to experience in Melaka

One final thing that is also unlikely to make it into the guidebooks: judging by half of Mister Noodle’s photos Melaka is also a good place for observing middle-aged men going about their business. We have pictures of men on bikes, pictures of men who look suspiciously like Malaysian versions of Johnny Hallyday, pictures of men smoking and playing board games,  and finally pictures of men talking to cockatoos:

Somehow I don’t think I have married Suffolk’s answer to The Sartorialist. However, as I am responsible for taking a photo of a KFC sign reflected in a car window and previously snapping trolleys in Ikea we are probably well suited. Who knows, maybe one day National Geographic will bid for our combined photo library…

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Poodle Noodle reacts to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud

24 May

Ever one to keep abreast of international developments, Poodle Noodle is taking preventative measures of his own against the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

"I want to be alone"

If I didn’t know him better I would be flattered to think it was a reaction to my departure from Suffolk last Friday. Given he takes no notice of me whatsoever on Skype, I doubt this to be the case.

The picture is also a good representation of how I feel about blogging at the moment. Not because I don’t have anything to write about, to the contrary – the last month has been so packed full of visits from family, new adventures and trips away that I don’t know where to start. Maybe just a couple more days with my head under the blanket…

Poodle Noodle on a mission

12 Apr

Whilst I was enjoying travels in Malaysia at the weekend, it appears that Poodle Noodle fancied a bit of a change of scene too. Saturday afternoon seems to have been spent soaking up the Suffolk sunshine whilst trying to dig his way to Singapore.

Having prepared the ground start digging

Although he ran out of energy before he had successfully tunneled his way here I have been reliably informed that the hole he did manage to dig is big enough for someone to fall in. Ah, the ever-helpful westie! I shall be seeing him in a month’s time (not because he will have successfully completed his great escape tunnel, but because I am UK-bound for a week) and may have to have a few words about how to constructively use his time. Blogging, maybe?

Sharing the (Poodle Noodle) love

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

An early morning Valentine’s greeting winged its way across the ether from a certain Poodle Noodle today. Never one to shy away from the limelight he felt the most fitting thing he could send was a picture of himself. Just how he managed to set the self timer whilst in this pose I shall never know! I expect he feels a need to take a break before the doormat is deluged with all those cards from lovelorn Suffolk lady westies.

There has been lots I have been loving about this week in Singapore too.

Rediscovering yoga classes after a six month break has been particularly good. I have spent the last few months looking for a class to join but have been put off by the exorbitant fees charged at a lot of the gyms/yoga centres in town. Whilst working in London I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lunchtime class at work that cost not much more than $15 a class. Here it seems the going rate, unless you want to commit to a year’s worth, is about double that and I fear that my wallet isn’t as flexible as my limbs (will hopefully be).

However, at the end of last week I made the most wonderful discovery: Singapore Community Centres. Run by the People’s Association, the centres offer a range of courses, activities and facilities for the local community. My local centre offers courses ranging from ‘the art of sushi and Japanese cuisine’ to line dancing. I have opted for the elementary Hatha yoga course and at $60 for 10 weeks I am not complaining (although I am a little bit in pain after my first class yesterday). Through Mister Noodle’s work and various other  sources, we had several induction/introductions to living in Singapore yet nobody mentioned the community centres. It is such a shame as if I had only discovered them six months ago I would be tying myself in unimaginable acrobatic knots by now!

Getting crafty

 

The "before I cast my magical sewing spell" shot...

 

Having discovered the fantastic design*sponge and spool blogs over this weekend I have embarked on a little crafty project. More to follow on this one later as the results are likely to turn into gifts. Suffice to say I am very pleased with my first efforts and it has also given me an excuse to spend a good hour and a half wandering the fabric and button aisles at Spotlight.

Backing a winner

Friday night took us to the Turf Club, the home of horseracing in Singapore. I won’t pretend my weekends in England used to be filled with horseracing and gambling. The odd trip to Newmarket for birthdays/stag dos was about as far as it went for Mister Noodle and me. However, when in Singapore and it is pelting with rain what else do you do but go and watch horses run about on grass? Luckily the weather cleared up in time for the racing and we made our way up to Kranji. The course is only 11 years old and much larger than I had imagined. In another case of managing your expectations I hadn’t really been expecting too much from it but was very pleasantly surprised. We opted to pay $20 to go to @hibiscus which is a lounge with bar, restaurant and your own screens for watching the race. Mainly filled with other expats it was a good introduction to the racing but our party of six agreed that next time we would pay a bit less and go closer to the action in the grandstand.

"Look. This is called a horse. You bet on it"

Mister Noodle had more success in the gambling stakes than I did and won enough to make the night out free. Maybe I need to change my tactic of choosing:  given the amount of information they give you in the brochure on weight, form, trainer etc. maybe choosing by horse name and jersey pattern isn’t the most informed way to go! I think we will definitely be back and I am particularly keen to go for the Singapore Airlines International Cup with its $3,000,000 prize fund. I am hoping this will be the one for the best Ascot-style people spotting. In which case, the next  craft project will have to be something like this:

Yes, a rather tenuous link, but I couldn’t end a Valentine’s Day post with a picture of a horse’s behind could I? X

Looking back and saying thank you

30 Dec

What a difference five months makes! Almost five months ago to the day, my parents’ sleepy Suffolk garden was hosting what I am guessing has been the biggest party of its 150 year history…mine and Mister Noodle’s wedding reception. With a marquee covering every square inch of grass in the orchard and all our nearest and dearest getting ready to eat, drink, dance and laugh the night away, the scene looked something like this…

A Suffolk Summer wedding...in the back garden

Since arriving in Singapore the constant equatorial weather means we have been permanently suspended in mid-August. Not so Suffolk! This is the snowy Suffolk scene that greeted us when we eventually returned home for our first family Christmas as a married couple.

Our journey back proved suitably epic for Christmas and involved an unexpected mini-break at the Frankfurt Christmas markets, courtesy of London Heathrow and our airline. Finally, 72 hours later and little bit more full of gluhwein than we had anticipated we made it home to Suffolk and Poodle Noodle could end his window-side vigil…

"Where are they? I've made Christmas pudding and everything!"

Our July wedding was a perfect way to celebrate with family and friends before embarking on our new life in Singapore and five months on there is no other way I would have wanted to mark Christmas than back in Suffolk. I have been able to curl up with Poodle Noodle in front of the log fire, eat my own weight in mince pies and cover up the evidence under layers of jumpers and scarves. The television has been almost permanently set to quality British costume drama – Poirot, Miss Marple and Upstairs, Downstairs and Mister Noodle has rediscovered the joy of buying pints of ale and getting change from a £10 note. Most importantly we have enjoyed time with family and friends and laughed and laughed and laughed.

With one more week before we return to the sunnier climes of Singapore there is still loads to fit in…London shopping trips, lunches and dinners and catching ups, new year’s eve with my BFFs, trips to the seaside and more nodding off in front of the fire. The last twelve months have been sometimes frantic but always fun and it seems apt that we will be finishing the year on the same note.

In thinking back over the incredible experiences, challenges and adventures of 2010 there is one person above all that I have to thank for making them possible. Mister Noodle, this post is for you and comes with a very big thank you. You have managed to get the girl who would never spend the night away from home to move half way across the world and have looked after her every step of the way. The first five months of being Mrs Noodle have been wonderful and I can’t wait for what 2011 will bring.

On that note, Happy New Year everyone and see you again in Singapore!

Credit where credit is most definitely due – Our beautiful wedding images were captured by the wonderful Sara Thomas of Sara Thomas Photography 

Poodle Noodle makes his debut…

28 Nov
Poodle Noodle makes a wish

Every so often Mister Noodle has to make way for the ‘other’ man in my life – Poodle Noodle*, my beloved but rather wayward west highland terrier.

Being of hearty Scottish highland stock Poodle Noodle wasn’t really designed for tropical climes so he lives the life of Riley with my mum and dad back in Suffolk. Since I have moved out to Singapore PN has become rather internet savvy and has set up his own Facebook page and is quite adept at sending me email updates about what is going on back home. I was just settling into bed when his latest missive came winging its way across the information superhighway. It would appear that in my absence PN has taken it upon himself to assist my mum with one of our family’s pre-Christmas traditions – the making of the Christmas Pudding.

This usually takes place in late November and is a two-day affair. Day one is spent preparing the pudding mix, as per photo above. Before being packed into pudding bowls the mix is stirred by each member of the family and wishes have to be made. I don’t know what PN has wished for as it is between him, the wooden spoon and the mixing bowl, but I would imagine it involves either a year’s supply of tummy rubbing or being given one day’s free run at the postman. Day two of the pudding making is given over to steaming  – this takes most of the day and steams up the kitchen like a turkish bath. In actual fact it’s quite similar to the atmosphere in Singapore just after a heavy thunderstorm. After this the pudding is packed away in swathes of tin foil and brown paper until Christmas Day. Judging by the photograph below, PN is ready to be packed away until Christmas Day as well!

Phew - that's that for another year

And what have I been up to whilst PN has worked his paws to the bone in my absence? Discovering the Real Food cafe at Central, the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, and a  shared taste for arts, crafts and ginger beer with fellow blogger Notabilia; watching a school production that was so good I forgot it was a school production; discovering the delights of sipping lychee martinis at altitude at the New Asia Bar on the 71st floor of the Swissotel; and finding  an open air bar that will be screening Planes, Trains and Automobiles next Tuesday night – perfect for Mister Noodle and I to begin our three-week countdown to Christmas holidays. Just as long as our journey back to the UK doesn’t end up being as epic as it is in the film…

For a great Christmas Pudding –  Delia Smith’s Christmas

For a great pre-Christmas film – Movie Nights Screenings at Picotin

*In the interest of protecting his social standing in Suffolk, Poodle Noodle is, of course, an alias.