up the west coast instead

Malaysia Travel Blog

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This was actually the entrance to a serious chinese place of worship

The roads were wide, nicely tarmaced and the traffic not to bad. However after a few days of palm plantations with hugely uncomfortable mossie-infested pee breaks for me, and a coastline consisting of unfinished empty appartment blocks and shabby beaches I realised the beauty of the Malaysia, that we were going to see, was not to be found on our rides. So for a while the destinations and not the journey, became the fun bit. 

Almost as an antidote to the countryside, the Malaysian towns and villages turned out to be lively beautifull places. Muar, approximately 50 km south of Melacca, surprised us with lines of old chinese shophouses and grand colonial buildings forming a quirky old style riverfront.

Joss stics infront of a chinese tempel
Broken balconies looked out towards the water and the hustle and bustle beneath. Further back, the kitch and tat of chinatown, it's many food stalls, it's gambling halls and decorative tell tale red garlands, and next to it, the roti restaurants and more usefull shops of litlle India stretched out, almost like roots or branches of a tree forming an integral part of the patchwork that is the malay culture.  

The population of Malaysia consists of approximately 25% chinese, 10% Indians, some europeans and other minority groups and about 60% malays of whom only a few are aboriginal malays. All have brought their own cultures, religions and traditions; The Chinese build beautiful temples for ancestors and clan houses for families and villages emigrated from China.

Mosque in harmony street
The Indians being mostly hindu, have colourful temples alive with blue Ganesh elephants and green and blue and golden statues of Shiva and Rama, almost hopping out of their crowded engraved spaces in the walls and roofs . The malays are predominantly muslim and worship in ancient mosques  and the aboriginal malays are often animist.

On 'harmony street' in Melacca all of the religions are gathered and in the morning the hindu puja bells and incense from chinese offerings mingle with the calls of prayer from the mosques as women in shari's and men in long garnments and people carrying various offerings floc to their respective places of worship. 

All of Malaysia's people are shaped by their history and with some of the chinese having arrived as early as the 14th century, none as labourers but all as free people they are well established and prominent in the buisness world.

Hindu tempel
 On the other hand many Indians were brought in by British colonists to provide labour and appart from a smaller elite they have suffered financial disatvantage. The majority population, the malays, form a political elite but cycling from village to village a pattern,  with the malays seeming to be much more visible in the countryside and the chinese more dominant in the villages appeared.

We rode through streets lined entirely with old chinese shophouses. They are 2 storey, wodden houses, forming a long line like the british terraces. Blue paint was peeling of and for a while the good roads became bumpy and buisy. Tinroof overhangs created small teracces at the front of the shops and in connection with all the other shophouses the overhangs created a protective, lightstealing walkway .

Christian graveyard
Behind this, in a coffee shop, we were allowed to leave the modern fast malaysia of unfinished highrises and fish smells behind and slip into another era of ancient malay chinese history;

The wodden walls and ceilings were darkened by many years of cigarette smoke and the furniture was old and heavy. Appart from the open front there were no windows and the air was cool and smelt old. At the far end almost in the dark, a woman speaking only chinese sat behind a big desk. Here, our malay words were useless and our trouble ordering coffee in chinese amused the other guests. A young man had to help us. Eventually we were served strong coffee in brown patterned 60s porcelain cups.  A long hallway behind the chinese gatekeeper women lead into the livingspaces and to a stairway up to the first floor.

Entrance to chinese clan temple.
There I expect little would have changed since this building was built and since the people that built it lived in it; All was radiating old wodden silent atmosphere and as we drank our coffee we were swallowed up by times long gone. As we were about to leave we knew that once outside this village the roads would be fast and wide again, english would be of use and the chinese would be a minority again, but after this glimpse of the ancient cultures of china none of us can wait till we get there.

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This was actually the entrance to …
This was actually the entrance to…
Joss stics infront of a chinese te…
Joss stics infront of a chinese t…
Mosque in harmony street
Mosque in harmony street
Hindu tempel
Hindu tempel
Christian graveyard
Christian graveyard
Entrance to chinese clan temple.
Entrance to chinese clan temple.
Decorations on the walls of clan t…
Decorations on the walls of clan …
Malaysia
photo by: travelwithsuz