Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PHEW! What a weekend!


So, The Travelling Teddies went on a solo roadtrip to Malacca (yes, again...)

Since receiving my full-fledge driving license, i have been driving around every weekend to some previously unexplored areas within Singapore with my beautiful black Kenari (which Meebops affectionately named, "Little Black Bird"). I suppose being one of the travelling teddy, my insatiable lust for exploring the unknown spurred me to venture further out of this tiny island. Hence, we decided on Malacca.

Now why Malacca you asked? Why not Johor Bahru (or JB they say..)? Its nearer, a lot of places we have not yet explored in JB. Makes perfect sense... but the reason is simple - we wanted to test our resilience to driving long hours, over long distances. We were thinking Kuala Lumpur, but may be stretching it a little too far. So we started small - and driving along the North-South highway for 3.5 hours (with 1 meal + toilet break) seemed more manageable for a "newbie".

We started the journey early last Saturday - we were at the Tuas checkpoint by 8.30am and on the highway by 9.15am. Everything went smoothly and the mood was light and cheerful :) Here's our ride:

The view of the massive badonkadonk.

We intent to take the first leg up to Malacca by taking turns to drive. Meebops and her "so many more years of driving experience than Cubbies" drove the first half, about 1.5 hours up to Machap rest area.

There we had breakfast and were swarmed by very very intrusive army of annoying houseflies buzzing around your undies while you're trying to get some relief from the pent-up bladder. Not a good thing and food weren't that great either (with half of the time, you're shooing flies away). NOTE: If driving from up-North from SG, give Machap a pass. Try Pagoh stop instead - heard it has been newly renovated. As long as its clean, fly-free and food is OK, then its good for a stop!

We continued our journey after about 45 minutes of refueling our tummies and this time, Cubbies drove. It was quite overwhelming at the start because we rented the Hyundai Trajet MPV - which is essentially a HUGE car. Gave us lots of problem too... but... we'll get to that later.

Here's the "cosmetic" interior.. Don't be fooled. It's about as surprising as getting an A for a paper you didn't study for.

Driving along the NSE is relatively simple because the roads are quite wide. My advice is to ALWAYS keep to the left lane, where all the good cars driving within the speed limit stick to. The speed demons drives on the right lane (which is also the "overtaking lane") and try to intimidate you if you are in their way by flashing high beams, tailgate you very very closely... so you are really better off on the left and move at a speed that you are comfortable with. Lorries will also overtake you if you are a slow coach, so do watch out for cross winds from the side, which if not careful, can steer you away off course.

We arrived in Malacca at about 12:30pm and to the city centre at about 1:30pm. This time, because the company was larger, we decided to stay at a less "glamourous" hotel as a cheaper alternative... hehehe... So, Hotel Seven became the choice hotel - which is located at Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho, opposite Bukit Cina.

Nice clean rooms, nice new beds... Cannot yet feel the "boingness"...

Clean toilets - very important for Cubbies, cos she have had enough experience and memories of dirty, grimy toilets to last her a lifetime. Travel with her, and the first thing she'll ask, "Are the toilets clean?...." Hehe..

Now, location wise, this hotel is a little inconvenient for people who don't drive (about 20 minutes walk to city centre) but what it lacks in terms of location, it makes up for the fact that it is new, and therefore SQUEEAKY clean. The rooms are no-frills, no-nonsense with basic amenities. May i remind you that it is new but i am absolutely in love with the fact that it comes with a smaller pricetag but very very clean (so, i just hope they stay that way!) because a clean room makes me a happy cubby :)

Just right next to the hotel is the famous Sop Lembu Tangkak restaurant - which pleasantly is halal-certified. So that became the outlet where we drown our joys and sorrows. Honestly, it was. It was the beefy version of Central Perks. Oh and when you're there, do get the Honey Lemon drink - its UDDERLY good and refreshing.. HA!

Anyway, after about an hour or so of resting and prayers, we set out to explore Malacca. By this time, most of us are hungry and our main aim was to look for food! It was rather disappointing really cos one of us wanted so much to try the Asam Pedas recommended by her pal - which we later found out was called Asam Pedas Selera Kampung but it only operates until noon - by the time lunch hour is over, the food would've been sold out. So we settled for some very expensive but non too tasty food at the foodcourt - which is really just a waste of calories.

Another disappointment is the constant heavy traffic in Malacca city centre and especially on Saturday evenings where peeps from KL and SG visit the city with their four-wheelers. Driving is NOT fun in Malacca city. What will normally take you 10 minutes to walk, will take you 45 minutes by car.

BEAR NOTES: If you do drive, you are better off parking your car at either the major hotels like Equitorial or at Pahlawan Mall and then walk all over the city centre - starting from Dataran Pahlawan to Melaka Raya and Mahkota, along the river and finish off at Jonker Street for a nice bowl of Chendol.

Then we were off to Jonker by the time night falls. We didn't want to go to Aunty's chendol this time round so went further and queued at this very very insanely popular cafe, called the Museum Cafe, that has endless queues for both its Laksa and Chendol. What's the hype anyway? God knows, so we tried this time round, adamant and joined the never-ending queue.

Sad to say, i think way too many people has poor taste buds that they are unable to differentiate the real goodness of Gula Melaka. GM is supposed to be sweet, very sweet, potent, aromatic and just very lightly earthy. The GM at Museum Cafe is sweet, but way too thick and has a bitter aftertaste, almost burnt! The coconut cream is less consistent and less concentrated than the ones i've tried before this. So why? Why the very very long queue? *shakes head*

The best part of the ENTIRE journey came right after this.

We were out buying supper for the rest of us, when the MPV we rented from a certain someone broke down. Mind you, it didn't just break down - it broke down in the middle of night (at 11.30pm) at some place we don't even know where!

To cut the long night short, we only got back to the hotel at 3am after we met a group of very helpful Indian guys who jump-started the car. What a nightmare! Nobody was willing to help really, even though they see distress. There was this uncle, Malay man, who put up his hand and said, "Sori puan, kita tak boleh tolong lagi... Takde apa yang kita boleh buat. Sori puan.." (Kapla hotak kau berjambul pakcik...) Anyway, we had to camp out in the car and wait for the engine to fire up before turning it off and see if it starts again. All that took our entire night. Naturally, supper was to-go, in the car.

By the time we get to bed, all was good. We managed to get some breakfast the next morning. One of us again, craved for the local Asam Pedas. So we did, drove all the way to Bandar Hilir near Mahkota Parade, where Asam Pedas Selera Kampung is.

The famous asam pedas kepala ikan. Slightly tangy, spicy... the difference is the black pepper added to the gravy.

Giant King Prawns... A whopping RM20 PER prawn. Errrgh! Expensive.

Sambal Belachan. This one is a classic malay appetiser dish. Its chilli, shallots, fried shrimp paste - mix it up, ground it down and you get a concoction that's truly, an acquired taste. Normally eaten with rice and raw vegetables.

The sambal belachan should be eaten with these raw vegetables.

Nothing much to shout about honestly. Annoyingly expensive is what it is - some prawns, veggies, asam pedas costs us a whopping RM 124 for breakfast. What the...

All the hype with Asam Pedas in Malacca can only question the true meaning of taste buds. Like hearts, whose can you trust? Yours only of course! S0 just go with your gut and try try try until you hit the purrrfect spot. Meebops and i however have developed the "similar taste bud syndrome" after being together for more than 7 years. Hee! Hee! :) Yeah it happens...

Supposed to leave for home that afternoon so all ready packed and checked out there was car trouble again... treeet treeeeeeeeeet treeeeeeeettit tit tit... That was how it sounded like when we turned on the ignition. So we had to call in certain people that the owner of this car knows and get someone to jump-start the car, then drive it to the workshop to get whatever thingy repaired.

Apparently, the battery died flat (didn't he check his stupid car before renting it out???) and the IC-Unit, some electricity-aircon-alternator thingamagic (god knows what that is...) burnt. I had to fork out RM 400 to get the battery changed but we decided to keep the IC-Alternator thing intact and by the "expert" advice of the owner, to drive the car back home anyway.

So we did... But the mechanic didn't let us leave without a warning. He said, "You are taking a very big risk. I dunno whether you'll make it back to SG safely but you can try. The least you can do right now is wind down the windows, turn off the AC and no radio or headlights should be turned on... Just drive straight back."

He is definitely crazy! By the time we left the workshop, it was already 5.30pm. Expecting us to not turn on the headlights on the highway is like asking us to cross the mountains blindfolded! But we decided to take the risk, went for the gusto and drove home. Bear in mind, the IC unit damaged/burnt and electricity cannot pass through the car properly - hence, causing further damage to the system and at the same time, do not charge the battery. But we drove... happy to be able to finally get home.

Drove drove drove.... suddenly, BOOMBAM! Just few hundred metres before we reached the start of the highway at Ayer Keroh, it felt like as though the car hit something big and hard, like a big rock or something. I was literally off my seat and chills went down my spine upon hearing the ferocity of the loud bang.

We pulled over to the nearest civilisation (which was McDonald's Ayer Keroh) to check the car. Nothing... Then we tried again. This time, no more treeet treeeeeeeeeet treeeeeeeettit tit tit... There was complete silence. God knows what went wrong. It was only later that someone told us the was a possibility of the car exploding without our knowledge because the electricity is unsecured.

And we didn't even get any insurance for the trip. I don't know why we decided to help out and send the car for repair on his behalf (stupid stupid stupid!).

BLEARGH!!! We couldn't get it fixed and we couldn't get any other form of transport home that night. So we had to fork out MORE money to stay another night in Malacca. The owner of the car wasn't even sensitive enough to refund us of the night's stay or offer comfort for causing us emotional distress. It's pathetic. I am still fuming mad that we had to fork out a lot of money for a supposedly budget vacation. It's just plain stupid.

It is only after this unfortunate incident that i realise something about myself. I always thought that the Malays are more willing and helpful, ready to give helping hand to others. I've dealt with so many Malays in Malaysia before, both personally as well as professionally. They seemed nice.

But that night also made me realise, that some of the most helpful people in Malaysia are those of the other races - the Indians, the Chinese... friendly, down to earth.

Note from the boy who camwhored himself: Nak drive gi KL????? Hehehehe!

Oh and to top off the adventure, Malacca City was flooded before we left it... Go figure. Probably crying that we're leaving.. Bah!



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