Though, in my last post, I detailed observations and conversations regarding the history of colonisation in Malacca, I failed to address any of my personal encounters during those three days in the city.
Upon walking about 5km with a heavy backpack and a lighter rucksack on my chest, I arrived at Ringo’s Foyer on Jalan Portugis off Chinatown. There, I was greeted by a very outgoing, outspoken, talkative ‘Howard’, the owner/manager of the hostel.
Admittedly, I experienced a temporary culture-shock when seeing both the exterior and the interior of the hostel. In Bali, I had decided to seek value for money regarding accommodation, as my purpose there was to study and successfully complete the Cert TESOL course. In effect, I paid more for certain ‘comforts’ (i.e. my own bathroom, air-conditioning, a double bed, etc) rather than opting for the cheapest option.
In Singapore, even the cheapest prices are relatively high in comparison to the rest of Asia. Quality is also generally high, so staying in a dorm bed at Mitraa Inn was also quite comfortable (despite sharing with 5 others).
Malacca, on the other hand, though I had a private room, I experienced my first ‘budget’ accomodation. ‘Ringo’s foyer’. A concrete, multi-storey, grey building. It looks worn-down. Dirty. Grey. Unwelcoming. The interior is modestly better. However, it was far from newly renovated…and significantly lower quality than my previous accommodation.
Nonetheless, it was clean and I had my so-called ‘privacy’.
Within 5 minutes of putting my bags down in my room, after a 5 hour bus journey from Singapore, I hear a knock on my door. Upon opening it, I see a smiley, talkative face… it’s Howard…the owner/manager of Ringo’s Foyer. Next to him is a German boy, Christian… Howard says to me, something along the lines of: ‘Hi. This is Christian; Christian, this is Lina. You guys should go for dinner’.
Seconds later, I see a long, long beard… rasta… and a long Argentian poncho hanging over what I thought were shoulders… admittedly, I jumped when he appeared…as he looked like he’d just walked out of a cave… Jesus? (I don’t mean this offensively to Christians…) A gorilla? (I don’t mean this offensively, either)….
‘So – this is Frank. Frank: this is Lina… Frank: this is Christian. Christian: this is Frank. You guys should go for dinner’. Howard has a cheeky smile on his face. We – complete strangers – stuck in a split second of awkwardness…look at each other… look at Howard… and then – almost simultaneously – shrug our shoulders and say: ‘okay’.
Moments later, the three of us found ourselves in a cheap Indian restaurant, eating Tosai cheese and Roti John’s. Christian’s first question to the obviously Muslim waiter was: ‘do you have beer?’. He shook his head ‘no’, answering almost as if to say: ‘what kind of a question is that?!’ After 2 hours of conversation, Lina’s – my own – weariness came over me… and I needed to go home and sleep. You guys wouldn’t believe it… but – it was only 10:30. I must be getting old.
So. Let’s get to the point. (I’m clearly not good at this. Particularly now that I’m drinking Chang beer whilst writing in my blog… in the darkness of my hostel… whilst listening to the chatter of Christian and Julian who are waiting for me to open my next can of beer [I drink slowly]).
Frank: Jesus. Gorilla. Beard. Poncho. Really friendly. He’s actually from Argentina. 29 years old. A cyclist (though he wouldn’t choose to refer to himself as a cyclist). He’s cycling around the world. From Argentina. To Argentina. As you may imagine, this isn’t a quick-fix travel….6 months off to go travelling? This suddenly equates to an average man’s weekend to Brighton… or Loutraki… or Fountain-blanc. He’s been cycling around the world for 3 1 /2 years. Through Pakistan… through India… through Asia… he’s no where near home… he still has 7 years to go.
More than 10 years of travelling seems impossible to fathom. His lifestyle is incomprehensible. For the first time, I didn’t listen to his stories with envy… thinking: ‘oh, I wish I could do that’ (which is usually my reaction to things… as I’m, unfortunately, forever curious).
Instead… I listened in awe, respect and admiration… but, with certainty, I can say… I have no intention of not working (at least in the conventional sense)… I have no intention of happily perching a tent – day upon day – anywhere on the side of the road… on a beach… in the jungle… on the fringes of a border… I have no intention of making bracelets and going on the roads to sell them… (as much as I am amazed, intrigued and interested to learn more…).. I have no intention of learning how to play the drums or the didgeredoo to go busqueing for money… and, I am certain, I have no intention of spending 10 years of my life without any real attachment to anyone… any thing… in complete trust and reliance on the kindness and generosity and help of strangers.
He will be cycling to Langkawi… to Ko Lipe… to Ko Phi Phi… eventually reaching the ‘climbing havens’ of the world that Nico and I intend to visit. We are likely to meet again… and I intend to introduce him to Nico… and I intend for us all to climb together… he’s lovely… and I look forward to this.
Christian: German. 21. Male. Youthful in energy… somewhat pure… and certainly – on certain subjects – has the maturity of someone a little bit older. Christian loves beer… and talking about beer. He loves travelling and sharing stories about his travelling. Christian loves people and meeting people. But more importantly… Christian loves people most when he shares their company with a can of beer.
(Maybe this is because he’s German…. or, maybe it’s because he’s 21. Or, maybe it’s because he spent a lot of time with Irish men who also loved to drink beer in Southeast Asia. Or… quite simply… maybe it’s simple because he drank far too much beer whilst travelling around Asia. I don’t know, you know. ;0)
Despite his many efforts to convert my desires in favour of beer, I may have conceded about… only 7 times? Often only under the condition that we shared (as I prefer small quantities if I am to drink beer)… and often with much resistance… and many expressions in favour of my preference of white wine.
One of the things we did have in common was our interest in food. On day 2 of Malacca, we set an objective to taste 8 types of food – whether appetizers, snacks or full meals – with a view to trying something different. Though I didn’t remember to take photos for each meal, I remembered a few times.
Nonetheless, Christian… after dinner… and before I said farewell prior to sleep… asked whether I’d like to go sightseeing around Malacca with him the following day. ‘9am,’ he says. ‘No 8am,’ I reply. ‘Fine. 8:30’. 8:30 – a pleasant middle-ground, it was.
The rest of my time in Malacca was spent with Christian… whereby we were due to say our farewells again… before going our separate ways… him to Kuala Lumpur to then make his return flight to Frankfurt… and me to the wonderful jungles of the Cameron Highlands.
Fortunately… or unfortunately… he got jealous. After knowing one another for a mere 3 days…he cancelled his bed in Kuala Lumpur, and off – together – we went to the Cameron Highlands… where neither he or I were ‘travelling solo’ any longer.