Friday, April 18, 2014

Melaka, Part 2 - The River

18 April 2014

The Melaka River runs through the center of Melaka City, especially through the old historic area.  Makes sense, since the city grew up around the river as transportation.

The banks have been reinforced by rocks and cement - and more recently, a lovely boardwalk has been built along both sides of the river.  Signs said this boardwalk is 9 km (about 5.5 miles) from the mouth of the river (at the sea) to Spice Garden Jetty, which is where the river cruise boats turn around.  And where the old spice market used to be.

Pots of flowers line the river walk, making a gorgeous display for walkers.  Richard and I found that walking along the river was the best way to get around Melaka.  It was also a direct route from our hotel to the old town center and museum area.  It was cooler, with a breeze from the sea.  It was interesting, with all the plants and people walking.  And it was prettier, with all the various murals painted on groups of houses along the way.



I know, that's a lot of mural photos, but as my friends and family know, I love murals.  I spent a few years making murals with my students.  So I really enjoyed this area of murals along the Melaka River.

And of course there were the normal historic artifacts along the river - the fort built by the Portuguese and renovated by the Dutch and destroyed by the British; a waterwheel used for grinding wheat, or pumping water out of the river, or whatever.  Huge cranes to lift cargo off/on the ships.  And a replica of an old frigate, the kind that would ply these waters carrying spices from Melaka to Europe and other parts of Asia, and most likely bring items back for the conquerors and colonists.

We boarded the river cruise boat down near the mouth of the river, ready to explore and be very touristy.  It actually was fun, and a great way to see the buildings along the river as well as learn more about the history (through the explanatory audio tape).

It looks like we're heading right into a huge thunderstorm, doesn't it?  The skies were threatening, but the storm passed off to the east, inland.  We had just a very light sprinkle of rain on our tour.

There were several old housing projects that were built about 100 yrs ago to house the inhabitants of Melaka - and these "villages" are still standing, and are part of the UNESCO Heritage Site.  Lovely little cottages along the river, probably renovated but looking quaint and picturesque, just begging to be photographed.

And the bridges!  Each bridge was different - some lacy metalwork, some geometric.  Some mostly concrete, with different designs and colours.  And one that mimicked Il Ponte Rialto in Venice.  Except in pale tropical green.  Really!  Although the red floral bridge was exceptionally lovely and unique - have you ever seen such a pretty bridge?

Okay, this next part is not for the faint of heart.  You are warned.

There are things that live in the river.  Yes, fish.  Probably crustaceans.  And lizards.  Giant, humongous lizards.  Not alligators or crocodiles.  No, these are water monitor lizards, or river monitor lizards.  Just about the second largest lizards in the world.  Related to the komodo dragon.  Yes, these river monitor lizards are cousins to the most poisonous lizard around.

But they're fascinating!  They swim along in the river, and we saw one from our boat!  Next day, Richard and I spotted one swimming along, little front legs held back next to his body, helping to streamline his shape to better zoom through the water.  Seemed as if he was kicking with his rear legs and using his tail sort of the way an eel or water snake might, to help propel him along.

We found a little one sitting in the sun, watching the other guy swim by, and happy to be photographed.

So yes, they're a little scary and creepy.  But since we weren't swimming in the river (which doesn't look terribly clean) we didn't mind these sea monster type of creatures swimming by.  

Okay, Part 3 coming up shortly!

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