18 February 2016

Melaka's Chinatown

After exploring the Colonial District of Melaka we enjoyed a day pottering around Chinatown situated just across the Melaka river.

Jonker Walk Melaka
Jonker Walk has a very different feel to the colonial district just
across the river.
The Chinese and Peranakan (Chinese/Malay also called Baba Nyonya) communities established a rubber trade out of Melaka in the 19th Century, settling on the other side of the river to the Colonial centre.  Chinatown quickly grew into a maze of streets.  It makes for a fascinating place to wander round and explore.

Melaka Shophouse
Many buildings are beautifully decorated and
are worth taking time to look at.
As you cross the bridge you get to the start of the famous Jonker Walk, while the shophouses here are very similar to those found in various states of decay all over Malaysia, these have been beautifully maintained and renovated and the road is a feast for the eyes.  Most of the shops sell fairly standard tourist tat but one or two of the antique shops are worth exploring.  They are for the most part filled with rubbish and reproduction goods but there are some gems if you look carefully.  The owners are always willing to have a chat with you and advise on what to look for and what not in a piece even if you are not intending to buy that day.  One shop had some particularly stunning old ceremonial Kriss knives.  Sadly the ones worth getting are beyond our budget and something to save up for.

Antique shops about but not everything is worth buying.
A shout out for the Geographer - my favourite restaurant in Melaka
When we are just the two of us we will rarely stop but the children need to take breaks during the day, particularly in the heat so we find ourselves popping into restaurants for a sit down and bottle of water or glass of fruit juice and sometimes even a bite to eat.  We were very impressed with the Geographer Café, beautifully restored with friendly staff and a decent menu at reasonable prices this is one restaurant we would happily go back to again and again for the cosy ambience alone.  They are a live music venue so we were pleased that we were able to enjoy the restaurant on a day when there were no shows (I have problems with my ears and find live music is often very painful and too loud to enjoy).

Shops sell all sorts of tat but it is beautifully presented tat!

Kampung Kling Mosque Melaka
Kampung Kling Mosque is both unusual and beautiful
Kampung Kling Mosque
The glazed tiles are English and Portuguese and
the ablution pool, open to the sky is an unusual design.
We did not visit the Baba-Nyonya museum as I had taken the children to a similar one in Penang a few weeks beforehand.  Other interesting sites include the Kampung Kling Mosque which is beautifully designed, as an unusual, square shaped Minaret and a unique and beautiful pool for washing before prayers and the Hindu (Poyyatha Vinayagar Temple) and Chinese(Cheng Hoon Teng) temples close by. 
Melaka is a warren full of beautiful surprises
Something different around every street corner
We also particularly enjoyed drinking in the ambience at the tea house attached to the Zheng He museum (dedicated to the famous admiral of that name who was responsible for opening up trade between China and Malaysia).  We but had a very friendly chat with the Auntie and her husband who run the restaurant and a quick wander around the traditional Baba/Nyonya house it is set in.  She was a mine of information about Zheng He and also very kindly took the time to help Master and Miss EE search for Chinese characters they were familiar with on the inscriptions in the wall and showed them how to write some they had not yet learned at school.  She was also absolutely unflappably helpful when our youngest who was, unfortunately a little unwell for the duration of the trip, decided to projectile vomit, luckily all over me (and the gutter outside after we ran out) and not the restaurant floor. (I dream of looking cool and sophisticated but the reality never really quite matches.) She helped me sponge down my dress and allowed my husband to clean the baby up in her own bathroom while I ran off to find some replacement baby clothes.  I could not quite bring myself to buy the adult size tie-dye dresses or harem trousers on offer in the shops so had to resign myself to smelling rather unpleasantly of curdled milk for the rest of the day.

Zheng He Cheng Ho Museum tea house
Zheng He Museum Tea House
There are plenty of other sites to enjoy in Chinatown including a walk down the white alleys that snake along to the rear of the buildings and a search for some of the spectacular wall art that adorns the city, we could easily have spent two days pottering around.

 China Town Melaka

Melaka River At Night

We finished off our visit with an evening stroll along the river.  Melaka is a city I could come back to again and again.  

Click on the picture below for more posts on Malaysia

Ersatz Expat

4 February 2016

Nemrut Dag

My post for this month's TravelAtHome is a retrospective for me.  I have a nifty new app  that allows me to scan old photo albums with my telephone.  The quality might not be great but it has enabled me to gain easy access to a lot of old photographs showing my first expat life, my adventures in Norway, The UK, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Turkey and Venezuela when I was a child and it means that I can carry these precious memories with me wherever I go, not just enjoy them when I visit my parents' house.

Nemrut Dag Turkey
Nemrut Dag

A few weeks ago someone asked me what was the most memorable trip or weekend I was able to take as an expat and my mind took me back to a weekend in 1994 when my family and I were able to join some friends on a rare trip out of Diyarbakir.  The security situation in Eastern Turkey at that time meant that it was almost impossible for us to undertake anything but the most essential trips so the opportunities for site-seeing were limited.  It was frustrating to be in one of the most fascinating areas of the world but unable to explore it as we wanted.  I think that is why this weekend really stuck in my mind.

Ferry across the Euphrates

On the first day we drove from Diyarbakir to Nemrut Dag, crossing the Euphrates River by Ferry.  Nemrut Dag is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in a country that has more than perhaps any other.  A monument to megalomania and self importance, it is the mausoleum of Antioch I of the Commagene Kingdom, he is buried at the top of the mountain under a huge pyramid of shingle (to prevent him being dug up).  To the west and the east terraces of gigantic Greek and Iranian gods greet the rising and the setting suns.

Nemrut Dag
A toppled god
Nemrut Dag
The heads might not look large but compare them (the white stones)
to the height of the men in the middle ground

None of the gods' heads remain on their bodies, most were toppled by iconoclasts but the last remaining head fell after an earthquake in the early/mid 20th century.  The heads themselves are huge, many have been restored to an upright position and by themselves stand as high as a man.  In addition to the statues the terraces are decorated with bas relief murals telling the story of the ancestry of Antioch.

Nemrut Dag
Bas Reliefs At The Foot Of the Pyramid

While many visitors to Nemrut Dag stay to watch sunset or sleep overnight to catch the dawn we were not able to do so.  Instead we drove down the valley to Adiyaman where we stayed the night.  On the way we passed an old castle discovered by Moltke senior during his detachment to Turkish service, it had not been excavated or properly explored but a caretaker on site allowed us to look around.  We were able to explore some of the ruins and go down into the wells that allowed the castle to survive sieges.  We crossed the Euphrates for a second time but this time by bridge rather than ferry.  The bridge in question had been built by Septimus Severus and it was quite something to think that his empire covered the land from Turkey all the way to the English/Scottish border.

Jimmy, our family dog and my sister scale the heights

Jimmy takes a rest at the feet of a god

After a night in a (less than completely salubrious but rather fun) hotel in Adiyaman we drove down to the Ataturk Dam.  This dam was very controversial at the time as it impacted on the levels of water flow in the Euphrates river from Turkey into Syria and Iraq.  Controversial or not it was a fascinating project to look around.  The dam is huge (the 5th largest in the world at the time) and the scale of the generators, piping and machinery were phenomenal.  I have not yet found the photographs of this part of the visit but will add them when I have them.

Inscriptions in an old, as yet unexcavated castle

Septimus Severus Bridge Over The Euphrates
Septimus Severus' bridge across the Euphrates still in use in 1994

Near the dam we also had the opportunity to look at some rock mausoleums, an entire city of burial chambers which had yet to be explored or excavated.  As a result I am not quite sure when they dated from, there were neolithic settlements in the area so they could be very old or comparatively more recent.  If anyone else knows about them and can tell me I would love to know.  I do remember our poor dog Jimmy managed to stick his nose into some tick infested undergrowth and we spent the car journey home throwing the blasted things out of the window before they could attach to his skin or infest the car.

Exploring tombs near the Ataturk Dam

Despite this little domestic problem our excursion to Nemrut Dag gave us what was probably our best experience during our 2 1/2 years in Turkey.

Ersatz Expat

Ersatz Expat

Travel At Home 4

Welcome to Travel At Home 4.  Wherever you are in the world there are probably so many wonderful and fascinating things to see.  If you are anything like my family it becomes all too easy to ignore the sites close to home, falling prey to the belief that they will 'always be there'.  Familiarity breeds contempt and we hanker after the exotic.  But the truth is home for one person is exotic to many others.  As an expat family we get to be at home in a wide range of different places and we try to make sure that we make the most of any place we are living right now, getting out and exploring as much as possible.  

Travel at Home is the linky for people who want to write about their home (or host) location and all the places that don't make it into a guide book (but really should).  You don't have to be an expat to participate, just someone with a passion for their local area.  The link will be open for a week so there is plenty of time to add your post (or posts).  This is all very new to me at the moment so if you notice that something does not work as it should or you think I could improve something please do let me know. Last month saw stories about local travel in China, the Netherlands, Malaysia, France, Greece, South Africa, The Seychelles and Slovenia.  I think my favourite post was the one on the Triglav Lakes by Piran Cafe, probably because this area of Slovenia is one of my favourite places in the world.  

There are just a few rules:
  • Share your post - it can be a new post or an old one you want to share with a new audience.
  • You can write about anywhere you have a strong connection, home country, current host or former host.
  • Add the link up button and code to your post so that people can navigate back easily
  • Comment on some of the other posts on the link up (the more the merrier)
  • Tweet/share your link.  If you include me (@ErsatzExpat) and the hashtag #TravelAtHome in your tweet I will retweet.
  • Add your post to the Travel At Home Pinterest Board contact me via Pinterest and I will add you to the board.
  • Spread the word - the more the merrier and everyone is welcome.

Monthly link ups will go in the main feed but will then be linked here for reference.  Thank you in advance for linking up and participating in this new venture.  I look forward to enjoying some vicarious visits in the next few days.   

Ersatz Expat

2 February 2016

Visiting A Moose Garden

I was sorting through my photo collection the other day and found a record of a trip Mr EE and I took to Norway, Sweden and Finland a few years (ok 10 years) ago.  It was one of the last holidays we took on our own before our family expanded to include the children and we had a blast.  We had been meant to go diving but had been gazumped from our liveaboard so decided to drive around the north instead.

Coming into the town of Ostersund after a long drive through the northern Swedish forests we had a huge shock.  While we were waiting at a traffic lights we saw a bad collision between a car and an ambulance.  I remember calling 112 to report it but was unable to explain where the accident had taken place.  I think I thrust my mobile at a local because I do remember getting it back a little while later.  Together with another man we were first to the ambulance and were able to get the paramedics and patient out onto the road and, at their instruction, get the oxygen away from the vehicles.  By the time all the furore had died down and the police had confirmed that there were enough local witnesses that they would not need us to give statements we were a little late to book into a camp site.  Still rather shaken we gave ourselves a treat of a night in a hotel, we must have looked pretty bad because the hotelier, when we told him about the accident, mentioned he had heard it on the news and offered us a brandy on the house.

Reindeer crossing the road
The next day we wanted to take things gently, we had seen signs for a moose garden and, intrigued as to what that would be like we decided to visit.  We had seen lots of herds of reindeer during our drive but no moose.  The farm was closed when we arrived but the owner was extremely friendly and took us to meet his moose (mooses, meese??).

Moose, it turns out, cannot be domesticated but they can be tamed.  A significant number of moose are the victims of car accidents every year and some are nursing mothers.  This gentleman takes any abandoned calves in and hand rears them.  Some stay with him on the farm.  

As we went round we got to meet Helge, a huge male moose who was so tame he let us stroke his beautiful antlers.  I thought they would be bony but they are covered with a beautiful soft fur.  We were then allowed into the paddock with some baby moose who fed quite happily from our hands.  Any babies that are bred on the farm and are to be retained there have to be taken from their mothers at an early age or they will not be tame.  It was quite a wonderful experience seeing these two little babies, similar in size to a domestic calf and know that they are going to grow up into gigantic, powerful beasts. 

It was a very calming experience and we felt a lot better about our brief stay in Ostersund.  

Posted as part of the Animal Tales Linky