KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Turning 91 is a momentous occasion.
A week prior to me heading to Melaka (I had arrived in Malaysia four weeks before that for an internship), my own grandpa had turned 91.
I had had the bright idea of sending him a postcard from what he believes is the “other side of the world” compared to his farm in Australia.
A thoughtful birthday present, I thought.
Little did I realise how difficult sourcing post cards would be in Malaysia.
From my experience, postcards have always been one of the first things I stumble across when I am on holiday.
Markets, US$2 stores — you cannot escape them.
What I didn’t expect was to be in my fourth week in Malaysia and still not a postcard to be found.
Not even a visit to Central Market where one can get all sorts of souvenirs helped in my hunt for these these elusive cards.
Melaka, where I was heading with the rest of the Aussie interns for a day trip, seemed to be my best hope.
Being a tourist hotspot, there would be shops and markets full to the brim of every knick knack a tourist could ever desire.
I was sure I would be able to find a postcard.
So, in between visiting the tourist spots, I continued my hunt.
I looked and looked and halfway down Jonker street, I recruited four other people to help me find them.
I thought I must have been going crazy and going half blind because they were nowhere to be found.
With one every shop selling similar souvenirs, I had almost accepted that postcards just were not meant to be.
Then suddenly, I saw them on a stand at one of the shops.
You might think it is not a big deal, but for me it was a huge relief.
I ended up buying three postcards with digital designs of Melaka landmarks and Malaysian food: one for grandpa, another for my housemates in Geelong and the last one for one of my friends.
The postcards have since been sent off to them.
Postcards aside, the whirlwind tour of Melaka turned out to be a fun one as after nearly a week of rain in KL, we were treated to sunny weather.
This reminded all of us of home as the thick waves of heat seemed to appear from nowhere.
We visited Jonker Street, also known as Harmony street for its various venues of worship in one area.
One building that caught my attention was a Chinese temple where our tour guide told us that parts of a boat was used to make it.
He said that one could see traces of spoons and other knick knacks if one looked closely at the roofing.
We also hiked up to see the ancient St Paul’s church where we learnt about the arrival of the Dutch in Melaka and the siege that took place.
The Dutch tombstones rest against the walls inside the church.
I made a wish at the wishing well by dropping a coin down. It is said that because my coin did not make a sound when dropped, my wish will come true.
Fellow intern said one highlight for her was to see an exhibit of a monkey made out of tin at the museum.
“It was used in the 13th century. I also enjoyed being able to view the artworks and to learn about the history of Melaka prior to independence.”
Food wise, the one thing that stood out for me was finally being able to taste cendol.
I had heard about it and was all game to try the icy dessert.
The mix of shaved ice, coconut milk, green rice jelly, kidney beans, and brown sugar did not disappoint with its sweet and milky flavours.
Especially in the heat! Things definitely felt cooler after that dose of cendol.
Tourist spots aside, there was also a juncture that we caught sight of a huge lizard near a river.
“We later found out this was an Asian Water Monitor, but it did take our group by surprise seeing what we thought was a goanna climb out of the water and onto a bank to sun itself,” said fellow intern Katreena Albanis.
Having ticked off the historical Melaka off my list, I am lookingn forward to exploring other parts of Malaysia.
And maybe get a nyonya kebaya.
This was something else that I thought of buying but decided against it as the tour guide said the attire was the “height of sex appeal” in Malaysia.
So, who knows? The kebaya’s vibrant colours and graceful lines might just get the better of me and it might just make into my luggage.
* Claire Roberts is studying at Deakin University Australia. She is doing her internship with the Malay Mail until December 20, via the Global Student Company.