Day 91 – It’s not the destination…

Melaka, Malaysia

…. it’s the journey.  Or so the saying goes…

No, this isn’t some profound entry about how the trip blah blah blah…

It’s about today.

And how I spent 8 hours in transit to visit a town for an hour and a half.

Yes, I got to know the Malaysian transport system pretty intimately today…

The plan for today was to do a day trip to Melaka, a city about 130km south of Kuala Lumpur.

I had asked the girl at the front desk last night about what to do today and she suggested this.  I went online after talking to her and it was one of the places recommended to go to for a day trip.

So, I was going.

She let me know it took about 2 hours on the bus to get there.  The plan was to take two hours to get there, spend 2 or 3 hours roaming around town, and then take another 2 hours to get back.

I got a late start today as I really didn’t want to get out of bed.  I think the last few days of moving around and exerting myself (walking 6 hours in the zoo) finally caught up to me.

When I finally did get up just before noon I did give consideration to just scrapping the plan to go.  I decided to just go anyway cause even if I left at 1pm, I’d still be back by 7 or 8.

Plus I go to Japan in 2 days and that leg of my trip is going to be like the wind down buffer between travelling and getting back to real life.  Because I’ll be visiting my brother it won’t be the same as what I’m doing now with all the hostels and being on my own.  Not that that’s a bad thing because I’m actually really looking forward to it.

So, for all intents and purposes, today and tomorrow are my last days of travel and I didn’t want to waste either of them.

I headed out at 1pm but didn’t actually arrive at Melaka city center til 4pm.

Yes, while it’s true the bus to Melaka take 2 hours, it also takes a half hour to get to the bus depot from my hostel and another half hour to get from the Melaka Central bus terminal to their city center.

So it actually took 3 hours to get there.  Of course that’s nothing compared to the 5 hours it took me to get back home but I’ll get to that part a little later…

When I arrived at the bus depot here in Kuala Lumpur I found several bus companies offering trips to Melaka and there were a few buses leaving every 15 minutes.

The bus ride itself was pretty comfortable.  Big seats, lots of leg room and a nice paved highway to travel down.  After those multi hour bus rides on rocky, pot hole filled dirt roads in the other countries it was a nice change.

On the ride over it started to pour rain but thankfully we passed right on through it and I didn’t see any more rain the rest of the day.  Maybe the late start actually was a good thing!

The bus ride cost only 10 ringgit ($3) and when I arrived I went to the information desk to find out how to get to the city center.

I had two choices:  a 20 minute taxi ride for 20 ringgit ($6) or 45 minutes on a public bus for only 2 ringgit (60 cents).

I actually chose the taxi even though it was double the price of the 2 hour bus ride I just took.  I just didn’t want to take a public bus into an unknown area not knowing when and where to get off.  Plus it was almost 4pm already and time was a wastin’.

So, at a little after 4:00 I arrived in the city center.  It reminded me of a couple of day trips I had done while I was in Spain last year.

An old town completely run and supported by tourism.

My first stop was the tourist information office in the main square.  I got a map and some further information about the local bus option.

Since I knew where I was going when I was returning and I wouldn’t be in a rush to get there, the bus option seemed more viable for the return trip.

When I asked her what the schedule was, she pointed at a little sign that said it ran every 30-45 minutes.  So, basically it just got there when it got there.

There were different museums to see but I had no interest in that.  I just wanted to walk around and see the architecture, take some photos and have some lunch.

I started by having lunch.

I went to a little restaurant along the waterfront and ordered Mee Hailam.  It was a dish of noodles with fish cake, prawns, bean curd and vegetables all done in a Hainanese style gravy (5 ringgit, $1.50).  Basically it was a seafood stirfry.

At the end of the meal I asked for a napkin as with most of these restaurants they neglect to give you any at the table.  This one though didn’t have any – at all.

Really?  You run a restaurant and you don’t have any napkins?  For shame!

For the next hour and a half I waked around the town taking in the sites.  In actuality, the tourist attraction here was the tourists.  Seriously, they were everywhere!  There was a group of Asian men all decked out in white Nike ball caps and another group with pink hats.

Best part for me though were all the rickshaw style bicycles for driving tourists around.  They were all decorated in flowers and teddy bears with them overwhelmingly being of the Hello Kitty variety.

By 5:30 I had had enough.  It was hot and the town was just another tourist trap.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised but, whatever, it was better than just vegging at the hostel, right?

I went to the clock tower in the main square to wait for the bus.  Amazingly the bus pulled up almost right away and I didn’t have to wait at all.

The bus trip was much longer than the taxi ride as it swung all through the city on its’ way to the bus depot.

When I finally did arrive at the central station it was just before 6:30pm.

I went over to where all the bus company booths were set up and went to the first one displaying a Kuala Lumpur 6:30pm sign.

Sold out.

Okay…

I went to the next one…

Sold out.

And the next…

Sold out.

Sold out.

Sold out.

Only tomorrow, take a taxi.

Sold out.

I went to every single booth and there were more than 20 of them and no one had any tickets for any bus ride tonight.

What the hell?

I never in my wildest dreams thought about buying a return ticket in advance as there were so many bus companies offering so many trips.  I later found out that it was busier than normal because this was the end of the Easter holiday for the locals.

Crap!

I was starting to think I was going to have to hire a taxi to take me on a 2 hour ride back and trying to imagine how much that would cost.

In the end though, I didn’t have to.

I found another way at a ticket booth.  He was selling tickets on his 7pm bus to Seremban which is about halfway between Melaka and Kuala Lumpur.

From there I could take a commuter train to get into Kuala Lumpur.

I gladly took the ticket and knew that, eventually, I’d make it home tonight.

On the bus I met a few other people who had gone through the same ordeal as me and we were all kind of relieved to have found this work around solution.

So, after wasting more than half an hour at the terminal looking for a way out, we were finally on our way back at 7pm – a full hour and a half after I had left the town square.

It would be another three and a half hours til I walked into the doors of the hostel at 10:30pm.

So, all in all, I spent 8 hours in transit to a place I would spend only an hour and a half at.

For a recap:  metro, bus, taxi, bus, bus, train, metro.

Oh well, at least I can laugh about it.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the trials and tribulations of getting out there and back I would have nothing to write about in this blog…

Asia Trip 2014, Trip Journal

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