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Sunday, November 16, 2014


April 1511 eighteen Portuguese ships sailed from Goa on west coast of India where they had already established their colony ,
Alfonse de Albuquerque headed the mission and reached the straits of Malacca slowly they inched their foot in and shortly drove away the Sultan of Malacca taking over the sultanate and ruling it till 1641 when the Dutch would take it from them, they would then rule till 1798 and then the British would till 1946 and then it would become part of Malaysia
The Portuguese would go on to china to take over Macau and Timor in Indonesia as their colonies from Malacca
.Having born to a family from Calicut with links to the zamorins who fought the Portuguese bitterly and later having lived for a better part of life in Cochin frequenting Fort cochin and its historical atmosphere and several visits to Goa I was eager to visit Malacca specially after I went to Macau recently
It was almost like chasing the Portuguese!
History is infused in our souls we just need to reflect back to understand the present,
History has made us what we are today and one needs to savour its fine blending to the living of the present
Places like Malacca are visible signs of such history where the sites, the people, the architecture ,the cuisine have all been churned through the mills of time  ,
Travelling to such places become full only when we digest this perspective,
our imagination should be allowed to float back in a time machine when the very streets would have thundered with the clopping sounds of horseback Portuguese and their war cries or their elegant courts and buildings and the fine food that was served or the nimble feet which danced in those courts
So this month when I was in Kuala Lumpur I made it a point to make a quick trip to Malacca
148 km from Kl there were express luxury buses which sped one in two hours, I had to reach Tasik Bandar Selatan bus station of KL in its outskirts, I took a taxi
Cab drivers have always been an excellent conversation material for me, some could be a bit boring too but this one proved exemplary, this young man was into philosophy of life which he explained in his clear English,I was spellbound by his convictions ,I thought maybe he will not even ask for his fare !but he was sensible enough to do that
Philosophy can’t look after his family after all
TBS stand was really awesome and constructed like an airport ,one had to look for ones bus in the huge monitor go the counter get a ticket go the gate and wait and board when the time came ,the bus was spacious roomy and comfortable ,as we sped away rain slithered on the window glasses ,a pleasant two hours later when I was lost to my music we reached Malacca central bus station a smaller affair
 I hopped into another cab this time of Hassan who promised to take me to the historical tourist centre, Hassan filled me up with useful tips and left me in a square dripping with history
There were buildings , churches , flowing river ,cemeteries ,museums ,and busy traffic all around and thronging with tourists with cameras gleeful children romantic newlyweds and colourful rickshaws waiting for custom ,
the buildings were mostly Dutch in origin some were Portuguese specially the St Pauls Church in Bukit st Paul ,I made the climb to the small hill and it offered a magnificent view of the port city its ships and its small town ,
the breeze was soothing as I explored the red sandstone buildings standing with dignity the church of st Paul with a part of it in wreck a
I ventured into a contemptory museum of artefacts belonging to the Governors of Malacca
The real Portuguese settlement was some distance away I heard
On descending the hill I saw the epitaphs and memorial stones of the Dutch cemetery
I was reminded of a similar one in Cochin in Kerala
If one has time one could read the stones in detail and paint a picture of the life lying below in death but I just had none
I came down to enter the famous legendary Jonker walk
This was a road lined with shops ,Chinese temples restaurants mosques and churches .it was crowded and busy and by evening it would be a restricted area for vehicles turning into a hawkers paradise and a walkers delight
I walked the whole length my senses filled with colour sounds and delighted with the cacophony
There is always so much life in such market places where one could observe people in their myriad body languages and things strewn in such array that the market is a microcosm of the macro world,
I love to sit in a sideway café in such places and I did there too  as I sipped my cafe latte and bit into a cookie while I watched the world go by my cocoon undisturbed by any .I was just part of the furniture with my camera recording for posterity and my mind being imprinted by millions of sensory pings
I prefer to to travel to places of special interest like Malacca alone as any company would break the spell
By the time I retraced my steps from the far end dusk was slowly descending down and lights were twinkling the street quickened its activity and came into more of its life as it became a pedestrian paradise ,hawkers expertly unfolded their temporary awnings and the roads narrowed while new shops became open it was like the metamorphosis of a butterfly from a larva as Malacca unfolded its beauty to the beholder
Hunger pangs were hitting me in full force as I had skipped my lunch so far for a scrawny cookie and coffee and I looked around for a Portuguese speciality restaurant,the place was full of Chinese ,Malay ,nyonya but the Portuguese had clearly stayed away I even entered an upmarket quiet place attracted by its ambience but made a quick diplomatic exit when I saw a menu which would never satiate a glutton like me as it was for nibblers and for a price that would empty half my wallet too
Finally I did land by providence in a side street which I had wearily turned to because I was tired of the crowds and by Jove there was the Portuguese restaurant appearing by magic to me
After a satisfied tucking in of fiery chicken vindaloo and rice which any self-respecting Goan cook would not feel ashamed of, and  washing it down with an ice cold sprite to cool my burnt insides 
I let out a belch to pollute the Malacca air and quickened my pace to a cab which took me back to the bus station and uneventful trip back to KL


Sunday, October 05, 2014


I climbed the steps of the passenger ferry to its wet deck and was almost blown out by the ferocity of the wind and drizzle ,managing to  reach the railings gingerly I faced the fury of the splashing surf which hit my face .
It was exhilarating though dangerous .
I was in the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau and my daughter like the rest of the passengers was dozing off in the comfortable seats below while I lumbered up to get a taste of the sea ,after a few minutes of the Titanic experience I soberly came down to sit in the many empty seats .
It was late afternoon .
we had stayed in Hong Kong for three days touching the most important places including its famed Disneyland and the Buddha at Nong ping village though the fog hid the Buddha amongst its white folds and now we were off to Macao . read
Macau got its name obviously from the Portugese who till 15 years back ruled it and according to their treaty with China gave it back in 1999 ,
Macau is famous for its casinos and is as capitalistic as China is communistic !
of course we all know how China turned chameleon and got the best of both these days but they kept Hong kong and Macao as specially administered regions with only defence and its major policies under them while local government managed the  currency laws and taxes ! !

The temple is one dedicated to Matzu or Godess of the sea ( Amma in tamil is name given to Durga goddess and Matsya in Sanskrit is fish )
one needs to dip into history  to realise that the whole world was a village always !,
This temple was facing the sea and had guided the ships in the ocean by its lights from its lamps and fire  ,
when the Portugese sailor Alvarado and his fleet came here in his fleet in the 1530 probably from Goa and kerala in India they asked the locals the name of the place and got the  answer as Ma ge and they probably indicated the temple but the Portuges thought it was the name of the place and Ma Ge became  Macau in their language    .
Like any smart colonist the Portugese put their foot in  as merchants initially slowly taking over the place .
For years they ruled the place in a pattern of continuous journey of conquests from Goa to Malacca in Malaysia ,Timor and finally to Macau and along with them they brought their language culture religion architecture cuisine and also sowed their descendants on these countries !

We alighted in the huge Macau port and went through immigration quickly
 it was visa on arrival ,most countries that depended on tourism had least restrictions for entry into them
we came out to a bus stand where buses belonging to several luxury hotels were waiting for their customers ,
Our West End hotel did not have one
 I just managed to call them with my Hong Kong sim and was told to get into a bus of a particular hotel as they had an arrangement with them and we did that .
We got into Hotel Sintras bus !

Macau was a busy city with huge casinos, it was  a mini Los angeles where all major casinos like MGM had their presence
 it was raining when we got down in hotel Sintra

The spacious lobby was gaily lit and to our surprise ladies in full regal attire danced with lamps in their hands to welcome the guests !
we shied away as we were not from the said hotel !
we realised we had to walk a long way to reach our west end hotel  which was not very pleasant task as we had to drag our heavy suitcases through busy roads ,finally we reached our hotel and complained to the receptionist on their misinformation they just stared at us in response and gave us our keys !

After quickly freshening ourselves we were off to the Historical Senado square laid with geometrical patterns on its floor ,this patterned floors in major squares was a Portuguese style and was also said to be there  in Lisbon and some south American countries
There were lot of shops as it was a touristy area and  a coloured fountain and as it was raining we returned quickly with just having a quick fried rice as dinner .
Back in the hotel we had a restful slumber as the rain lullabied us to sleep .
The next morning I could see the wharf from my window and the distant seas with boats and ships bobbing up and down it was through these waters that the Portuguese would have sailed into the country slowly taking it up to make it theirs .

We walked to the famous A-ma temple through a city waking up to another day ,
old men and women crawled along painstakingly slowly
 small food places were already open serving hot chow mein to their hungry customers
 suited and booted executives and smart well dressed women were seen scurrying to their jobs in Casinos or in nearby Hong Kong
children waked with their bags in a world of homework's and imaginations
workers jaunted around purposefully with their tools hanging on them
the pavement shops were opening up as their owners arranged the wares .
We reached the temple after a walk of more than three kilometres
 it was a nice alcove of trees a square with lots of shops small statutes and a big crowd for that time of the day
incense smoked from everywhere and the main temple was on a small hillock
the steps ahead had several landings with smaller idols all revered with incense and candles
many prayed in these places while others gazed from the balconies at the horizon and the city that lay before them .

Getting down from the crowd we walked back to the square which was the historical part of Macau the Senado Square .
Largo do Senado is a public square in the centre of Macau
The square was said to have been there even  during the Ming dynasty and the Portugese had their parades here ,a statue for a Portugese soldier called Mesquita had been removed by the Chinese as he was responsible for many Chinese soldiers to die during their hostilities and instead there is now a colourful fountain and the place is called the Fountain
The Portugese have paved the floors of the square with designer stones into a distinct pattern and the square has an array of heritage buildings around it like the St Domingos church ,the Cathedral,the ruins of St Pauls cathedral the museum etc and hundreds of designer shops Chinese food restaurants snack bars and it was full of bustle and activity .
The steps to the ruins of st Pauls cathedral led to its magnificent façade which is the only thing left after its three major fires and the museum nearby treasured many valuable artifacts it also gave alofty perch to view the city nearby was the Grand lisboa one of the many casinos dotting the city
we went into the St Domingos church which is a heritage site and awed at its cavernous hall and ornamental altar

we restricted our trip with this small bit of history not venturing to the rich luxurious happening world of the casinos and their ambiences as we had to take a cab after a quick lunch back to the port and check in for our flight to Malaysia from Hong Kong
the flight was direct from Macau port
one got into  the ferry after emigration and transported by ferry ( almost an hour and more )to Hong kong airport port !
This  took us straight into the gate in  Hong kong airport and to our flight to Kuala Lumpur and back to Brunei !!!!

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