Monday, March 30, 2009

Selamat from Melaka, Malaysia

Selamat is how we say "hello" in Malaysia. Malaysia is located between Thailand and Singapore. We took a bus from Singapore to Melaka, a port city in Malaysia. On the four-hour bus trip they showed a movie. We were surprised because it was an American movie in English. Melaka is a pretty city on the Straits of Melaka (also spelled Malacca). Because of its unique culture, UNESCO, which is a part of the United Nations, has declared it a place of special historical importance. The Portuguese, Dutch, British, Japanese, Indian, Arabs and Chinese traders have left their imprint on its culture.

In the center of the historic part of the city there are several brick-red buildings built by the Dutch settlers in the 1700s, including a beautiful church. A fun way to tour the city is in a brightly decorated trishaw. A trishaw is a bicycle with a sidecar where one or two people can sit. Another way to see the city is by taking a boat tour on the Melaka River. On the boat we made friends with Maddie. Just like Maddie, we liked it on the river because we saw many interesting sites and it was cooler. It is very hot and humid in Melaka.

There are many museums in Melaka including one about a Portuguese treasure ship that sank offshore and one dealing with kites but the most interesting one was The Museum of Enduring Beauty. What we saw was amazing. There were pictures of the ways people in other countries have decorated or changed their bodies to look beautiful. We saw pictures of people who had pierced their lips then inserted big objects in the hole so it looked like they had a plate on their bottom lip. Others had done the same thing with their ears. We decided it was like having pierced ears only more extreme. Others were images of people with a lot of tattoos but it didn’t seem so different because today many people have tattoos. It was very interesting even though some of the beauty treatments are no longer in practice. The objective of the museum is to help people realize that different cultures do things differently. People in different countries have different ideas of what is beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When we went on a tour in a trishaw we stopped at several houses of worship and also at Mr. Sam’s Shoe Shop. His family has been making shoes for many generations. He showed us very tiny shoes, some only 4-inches long, made by his grandfather. Many years ago the Chinese thought that women with the smallest feet were the most beautiful so females would bind their feet to keep them small. It was painful and some ladies had feet so small they couldn’t walk. We remembered what we saw in The Museum of Enduring Beauty, and even though we are glad women don’t bind their feet any more, we understand that everyone wants to look beautiful.

When we finished sightseeing we went to the mall, which is just like the ones in America. We bought ice cream at Baskin Robbins and enjoyed watching the people. Most of the young people had on blue jeans and t-shirts but there were many different styles of dress including Indian saris, teenagers in short shorts, and others completely covered in a strict Moslem manner. People from many countries settled in Melaka and many have stayed true to their culture. We decided there are many ways to look attractive. That’s what makes the world so interesting.