We were soon to leave the island state of Singapore to return to Malaysia, but first we enjoyed a last breakfast on the terrace outside The Line. There was no more rain. Isn’t that typical? It had rained off and on the whole time we’d been in Singapore but on our day of departure the sun decided to shine.
As Monsieur buried his nose deep in a newspaper, keen for an update on world events, I dashed around with my camera, snapping the lush surrounds without raindrops distorting the view of the lens. The three-hole putting green amused me; too small to be of any real use, and vaguely decorative, I suppose… As I pondered the wannabe pro golfers who might find it a beneficial amenity, the mysterious mist rising from a valley in the gardens lured me away. Following the quiet path, I found at its end a gazebo overflowing with orchids and tropical flowering plants. It was a florist’s own Shangri La. I managed to snap a few pics of the stunning flowers, colours clashing happily in the shade and a testament to a loving gardener. Then I heard Monsieur calling. It was time to go.
We checked out and walked straight into a cab that was waiting for us, bags already loaded in the boot. Now, that’s what I call efficient. As we drove through Singapore to the Lavender Road bus station, it felt a bit sad to be leaving with so much still to see, but we didn’t have time for regrets. It was now Melaka’s turn to enthrall us.
The bus was full this time. Italian girls chattered away on the back seat as Chinese families unwrapped home-made snacks, bringing forth aromas of chilli, soy, noodles and a sniff of something fishy. Once more we cleared customs twice before zooming along the Malaysian jungle highways. There wasn’t a lot to see. Just trees, a straight road and clear blue sky. We made one rest stop at a small clutch of uninspiring roadside buildings. This time, I did not visit the ladies’ room. I didn’t need to, and didn’t think I could stomach it alongside the pervasive cooking smell from an adjacent noodle bar. Instead, Monsieur and I basked in the warm day, stretching our legs in anticipation of the last stretch of journey.
As we neared Melaka, we drove past a large man-made waterfall gushing water over perfect rock formations. Then I heard ‘Hey Mambo’ playing. At first it sounded like a ringtone and I silently cursed the owner of the offending mobile. The music got louder. It wasn’t a phone, after all; it was the bus’s sound system.
‘Hey, mambo! Mambo italiano
Go, go, go you mixed up siciliano
All you calabraise-a do the mambo like a crazy with a…’
and, joy of joys, for all the Rosemary Clooney fans out there, it continued on a loop:
‘Hey mambo, don’t wanna tarantella
Hey mambo, no more a mozzarella
Hey mambo! Mambo italiano!’ and on…and on…and on it went. We were stuck in a traffic jam for ages, but that’s okay. We could mambo our way into Melaka!
By the time we reached the Sentral bus station, we were just a little bit mamboed out. The station itself was a modern hub of shops, stalls and ticket counters. There were racks of colourful headscarves next to bright plastic toys and snack stands. Locals and travellers milled around waiting for buses to somewhere else. Monsieur and I dragged our bags to a cab. Boy, did we ever have a friendly driver. He wasted no time finding out what we were about.
“You on honeymoon?” Not exactly. “No, we’re just on holiday.” we replied. Driver beamed a smile as warm as the sun outside. “You like Malaysia?” he asked. “Yes, we love it. It’s a fascinating country.” I enthused. If possible, Driver’s smile widened. He was obviously proud of his homeland. A brief but searching Malaysian Inquisition commenced, covering our itinerary, where we’d been so far and where we were headed next.
“You return to Malaysia one day? Maybe on honeymoon?” Ah, how to answer this one without Monsieur running off for the Cameron Highlands. “Yes, definitely, we’d love to come back.” That satisfied Driver for the moment. Now it was my turn to interrogate. “What’s your favourite food?” I asked. A menu of dishes tripped off Driver’s tongue. “I like pineapple fried rice, sweet and sour chicken with pineapple, seafood with pineapple, Singapore noodles with pineapple, and fresh pineapple.” Wow. My mother likes a good Hawaiian pizza from time to time, but this was pineapple overdrive. The man was in the wrong business. He should be working for Dole in Hawaii.
“Ah, see that place there?” Driver asked, pointing at a humble-looking tented hawker stall with a dozen white plastic table sets surrounding it, “you eat golf balls there. Best golf balls, haha.” He laughed at his own joke, creasing his happy eyes almost closed in mirth. “Hainanese chicken rice balls. I call them golf balls because they look like golf balls.” he chortled. Driver’s humour was infectious. I giggled along with him.
Soon we reached the hotel and removed our bags from the boot. The driver shook our hands warmly. “You each gain six kilo before you leave Malaysia,” he instructed, “or we not welcome you back, haha!”
Even if we did not know it at the time, our gaining weight was not to be a problem.
To read the previous instalment, click here.
To read the next instalment, click here.