Outside the White Building, in Phnom Penh.
What would Melaka be without Jonker Street? The historical outdoor romp is riddled with countless street vendors, food carts, and the occasional open storefront. Somewhere in the middle of all the madness, we managed to find a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, too, which was a bit strange.
After our stop at the bake shop, we continued strolling through the historic parts of town. First we stopped in an old-school print shop, which was unfortunately only being used to make wedding invitations:
For my recent birthday, I visited Melaka, Malaysia. Formerly controlled by the Dutch (and before that Portugese and Indian), this UNESCO Heritage Site is small but inviting and filled with a great merge of cultures. I met up with my two dear friends from Singapore, Daphne and Hweesh, for a short but fun-filled weekend. First of all, the plane ride was fantastic.
1) I forgot about the endless rows of palm trees.
2) Within the first 2 hours of being there my bus broke down.
3) Melaka (or Malacca) is the perfect weekend destination.
4) I still think Malay noodle dishes are some of my favorite noodle dishes.
5) It’s still super fun and super intellectual to hangout with Singaporeans.
6) I rediscovered the joy of the mall (I know, I know, but it’s true).
7) The diversity of Muslim tourists coming together into single spaces is wonderful to see and think about.
8) I now will be rocking a bracelet.
9) Durian Puffs, fried Carrot cake, and a whole lot of Chinese-Malay dishes I can’t spell for the life of me that will forever be better than what I can cook on my own.
10) Rain. A heavy downpour I didn’t think I’d see again, at least in Cambodia.
11) Macy Gray is still played in Melaka.
12) So is R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly.
13) Dunkin Donuts are actually places you want to check out in Malaysia, because they’re cool and not trashy and their donuts are actually interesting (for example, the peanut butter and jelly donut, which I devoured).
14) Malaysia Airlines, despite the recent missing plane debacle, is a fantastic company with fantastic service and comfortable seating and they still serve free in-flight meals on-board, even if the flight’s only an hour long.
15) Sometimes being in a culture without constant access to alcohol is a good thing.
16) Sometimes being in a culture (World Heritage Site) where smoking is banned is a good thing.
17) Malaysians are still some of the nicest people I’ve met and communicated with, and I will acknowledge my being a white tourist and how that’s probably a factor, but even chatting with non-hospitality folks seems to always be rewarding in Malaysia.
18) I couldn’t find a place to get a haircut, but some of the best style I’ve seen in Asia was during this trip.
19) My favorite sociological side of this story is seeing how much of American culture emerges through Malaysian youth fashion. But the clothes and brands and designs being sported are derived from American culture, not directly copied. And so you have really absurd tshirts, for example, that pull from ideas you recognize, but wouldn’t possibly be sold in America, a kind of roots marketing for the Internet generations in Asia. More importantly for me, the clothes I’m talking about are clothes I love and would love to own and wear, but the American market is not the target market, so you have to go to Asia to even know they exist. Uni-qlo, for example, sells completely different (and much more fun) fashion items out here than it does in, say, New York.
20) St. Patrick’s Day in Malaysia was pretty lame (a side street of Jonkers, featuring a hip hop artist “covering” pop songs from the 90s on a stage, clowns on stilts blowing balloons, and sexy Chinese-Malay promo girls giving out huge leprechaun hats), as you would expect, but they had Guinness on tap at the local Geographer Cafe, and that was good enough for me.