Last Stops in Asia
We arrived in Singapore in mid-afternoon via two buses from Melaka, with a bit of trudging around with our packs to a money-changer in the heat of the day, then to a subway we didn't take, and finally back to a hotel next to the money-changer for a taxi that dropped us here at this quaint and a bit grand B and B, L Residence, that we'd learned about from Jeanne and Ross and finally managed to book after several unsuccessful attempts.
We had enjoyed our two nights at Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur City Center, with its big-city five-star luxury at reasonable Kuala Lumpur prices. We had a view from our room of the Petronas Towers and the lovely park where we did some bird-watching. We spent our first evening people-watching in the nearby shopping mall that was decorated for Christmas, and crowded with shoppers, most of the women wearing colorful robes.
The next morning we headed to Chinatown on the subway. The stop was near the beautiful Masjid Jamek, where we were warmly greeted and required to don a robe with hood (me) and a skirt (to cover his bare knees, Kent). We had a lovely conversation about Islam with a young woman volunteer who had studied in Terre Haut, Indiana. This oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur was one of the friendliest I've ever visited, and obviously has a mission to enlighten visitors about Islam.
Chinatown was hot and chaotic with street markets. We didn't stay long, then decided to walk to the botanical gardens: a mistake! We went back through Merdaka, the central square with its engaging mix of Tudor-style timbered buildings on one side and Romanesque arcades and buildings topped by Arab domes on the other. The gardens were quite a walk up hill, and with the heat and humidity we were soon hot and sweaty. The tourist information had said there was a shuttle to take us around the gardens. But, we walked and walked, and there was no sign of a shuttle. The butterfly house, we were informed, had been replaced by a parking garage. We gave up, took a taxi back to the hotel and went to Harrod's for tea. Not a full-fledged Harrod's by any means, and the tea was nowhere near as extravagant as those at Albuquerque's St. James Tea Room, but nevertheless it was a nice break. From there we went to the Sky Bar at Traders to watch the sunset from cushioned seats next to a window.
After awhile an older Western man arrived with a beautiful young Malaysian woman in high heels who sat very close to him. He studied the menu, and then she took many pictures of him posed against the windows with the towers behind him. I didn't think she was his daughter. Before we left I asked if they'd like me to take a picture of both of them together, but they said no.
The following day, sorry to leave our posh hotel room, we nevertheless hoisted our backpacks once more, walked to the subway, and took the train to the long-distance bus terminal, which was absolutely the cleanest, most modern and sparkling bus terminal I've ever seen. We bought tickets for a bus leaving for Melaka in 15 minutes, so there wasn't much chance to explore the terminal. We had good views from our seats near the front, of miles and miles of palm plantations. The roads were modern freeways, the traffic smooth and fast. We were definitely not in Cambodia any more.
There isn't really all that much to see in Melaka (Malacca) despite its Unesco World Heritage status, but we enjoyed the city, especially the river, and the views from the top of the hill with its ruins of St. Paul's Church, a statue of St. Francis Xavier with his right hand missing (there's a story there), and the Porto de Santiago and the Straits of Malacca below. A free guided walking tour of the historic areas was very well done and a nice contrast to the more commercial elements that seem to be taking over the town. One of the oddest and most amusing sights was the crazily decorated bicycle rickshaws, many with Hello Kitty or Winnie the Pooh, or Disney themes, also wildly lighted at night. It was fun to see traditionally garbed mothers and their children enjoying these colorful rides.
Written from home
Singapore: Singapore provided a great transition from the chaos of Southeast Asia to the U.S.A., to California, and finally home to New Mexico. Staying at L Residence was like staying in a family home, and we were very comfortable there. On our first morning, Kent left yesterday's sweaty clothes lying on the floor where he'd left them the night before. When we returned after a long day of sightseeing, they had been washed and folded and left in a laundry basket outside our door. We took a boat ride on the river, ate lunch at a riverside restaurant, then walked to the legendary Raffles hotel where I had a Singapore Sling and Kent had a beer at the Long Bar where the drink was invented. We asked about the display on the history of the hotel, but we were told it had been removed. I enjoyed a few minutes in St. Andrews church, where a display of sheep, wise men and shepherds was being set up in the yard. We had a two-day transit pass, so hopped on a bus to get out of the rain, and eventually ended up we didn't know where. Back again, in search of Orchard Street, where to my delight I found another bridal wedding shoot. We decided to come back when the lights were turned on, and ended up accidentally taking the MRT the long way around to our Botanic Garden stop. When we got there, rain was pouring nonstop. So, after waiting awhile, we went back to Orchard Street where we had dinner and saw the Christmas lights, so odd to us in the rain and heat.
Upon our return, we walked through the garden in the dark, feeling a little nervous, but there were an amazing number of people walking along the paths. When we came out the other side of the park, we had to ask for directions. It turned out to be a fun stroll (something I'm not sure we'd try in an unfamiliar American city), but even in the relative cool of evening we were dripping wet when we got to our house. I took off everything -- elephant pants, t-shirt, and underwear and washed all in the sink. In the air-conditioned room everything was nicely dry by morning.
We spent our final morning exploring the entire Botanic a Garden, had lunch in a nearby deli, and headed back for final showers and changing into the traveling clothes that would take us from sweltering Singapore to 50 F San Francisco. I put on leggings and gray skirt and put socks and my merino pullover in the small under-seat pack. It turned out that I got so cold in the air conditioned Changi Airport that I put on all my layers and even got out one of the shawls I'd bought in Malaysia, before we even got on the plane.
I cried when we set down in San Francisco. We'd been gone so long, had made it through the entire trip with no major mishaps, and now it was finally almost over. We were safely back in our home country once again.
Psyche and Saad were there to meet us, and we spent the next day and a half with them before the last short flight to Albuquerque, where Mike and Susan met us and had the heat on in the house. It had snowed that morning, and has snowed again since. We've bought a Christmas tree and are trying to get ready for Christmas and the arrival of Kent's son and three teen-aged granddaughters. Ah, Lazy Beach, you are so far away!