As if by instinct, we all just moved towards the end of the bus one row for each pair. I look at the dark blue seats that looked more comfortable than a giant marshmallow in my dreams. Perfect, I thought. I could sleep a good sleep and wake up back in time – a place that promised old-style shop lots, koptiams, sidewalks that were covered in beautiful fading mosaic tiles.
Malacca has always been famous for its food, of rice balls and cendol, of a distinct cuisine I only found out later on was called Nyonya cuisine. I’ve looked forward to having a good hearty meal with this particular group of brilliant and confused twenty-somethings since I got to Malaysia. It had been almost five months since the group has gathered in the latest resto on the block, sharing entrees that were gloriously praised by food bloggers, talking about the latest hopes and struggles that we were sure we all were going through until it is time for the second seating and splitting the bill.
Yet there we were in an unassuming kopitiam by the lazy, romantic river eating fried rice that we swore tasted like dishwashing liquid after walking past a number of hipster cafes and ice cream bars, looking for the perfect first Nyonya restaurant experience after we finally gave in to our growling stomachs complaining of missing breakfast. And in that probably unreviewed, Tripadvisor sticker-less restaurant, the regular life update meetings of the Tonkatsu friends was in session.
The bright, vivid colors of Malacca – seen from the uneasy red walls of a whole block, the tastefully colored mosaic tiles, and the quirkiest pedicabs on the face of the Earth – made it embarrassing for any of its visitors to even be the slightest bit melancholic. The colors, the taste and the smells of the place did not allow for half-heartedness. Either you loved those Hello Kitty themed pedicabs or you hate them.
Jonker Street was as interesting as everyone said it would be. Buildings that varied in style – some looked Chinese, some Malay, some Dutch, and some a combination – played its part at showcasing its rich colonial past while the random and interesting items they sold inside the stores seemed to try and convince you otherwise. The lively street evolved into a place that looks like a carnival town, and you can’t help but laugh in delight and play along.
Finding myself in this bustling, historical playground in the presence of people I share the best times with whether it’s in a paper chemicals factory or on top of Taipei 101 or in a hole-in-a-wall resto on a trip they specifically booked to come make sure I was still me – was a good reminder that growing up doesn’t have to be so bad.