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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 23: Butt-Splitting Rides from Cameron Highlands to Malacca

I went out for breakfast at 8am. It had rained in the night and was drizzling very lightly. The air was a little chilling and the mountains were engulfed in mist. But my room had been pretty cozy since it was in the middle of the hotel.

I wanted scones. I came to Bake an Cafe, which opened at 7am and was just a few units from Highlanders Hotel. I glanced through the breakfast menu and cake shelf, no scones. But I went in anyway.

I opted for the pita bread with curry chicken from the breakfast menu and a black Americano to go along. I was worried that the curry chicken might be oily or too spicy for breakfast but it was not so. Like the gravy for roti prata / canai, the curry chicken gravy was light with nice curry flavour and suitable for the first meal of the day.

Bake an Cafe: pita bread with curry chicken

It was only 9am after the meal, I had slightly more than an hour to waste. I left the cafe and tried to take a short stroll in Tanah Rata town in the slight drizzle. My worn-out sandals were taking in water so I gave up.

9:30am, I gave myself one last chance to look for scones, did a search on Google Maps and came to Hidden Lab, The Slow Bar — should I call it a bar or cafe? I walked in and asked the staff. No scones for the day. Was scones mainly for afternoon tea? Anyway, I gave up and had a cappuccino with a carrot walnut cake — this was a sweet version in contrast to the savoury carrot cake I had at Marketplace Cafe in Ipoh.

The Hidden Lab: Carrot walnut cake with cappuccino

I had decided to go directly to Malacca right after reaching Kuala Lumpur. Coming to the end of the trip, I would want to lay back, laze in cafes, and buy some local products to bring home more than exploring another new place.

While eating the cake and sipping coffee, I booked a bus from KL TBS to Malacca via the Easybook app — I had learnt that last minute booking might result in the unreliable “fully booked” symptom, so I booked earlier this time. The bus from Cameron Highlands would reach KL TBS around 3pm. There were buses to Malacca at 3:30pm, 3:50pm (44-seater), 4pm (30-seater), etc. Taking into account the notorious traffic conditions in KL, the probable long queues in TBS and any unforeseen circumstances, I picked the 4pm, more-comfortable Mayang Sari bus and made sure I selected the option for direct Boarding QR. That gave me a buffer time of 1 hour. No rush, no screw-ups, I just needed to be in Malacca by end of the day.

I also booked a hotel in Malacca Old Town via the Agoda app. That secured all reservations for my last stop on this trip and halted further draining of my brain juice.

I hate to rush when having coffee at a cafe but I knew it would happen since I had a bus to catch. I finished the coffee and cake, went back to the hotel, got my backpack, checked-out and off to Terminal Freesia for the 11am bus to Kuala Lumpur. It was a 7-minute walk but I needed to be there at least 10-minutes earlier.

The CS Travel Liner bus departed at 11am and started the meandering descends — sometime ascending again — right outside Tanah Rata town. It passed by Cameron Valley and Sky Farm Agro Highlands, which was barely 100 metres from CV Tea House 1. I had been too caught up in working my way to Tea House 2 in Cameron Valley the day before and had totally forgotten about the farm. But, it was mainly to buy some fresh strawberries, not so much into touring the farm.

The bus ended navigating the narrow meandering roads and came to the North-South Expressway at around 12:30pm. 10 minutes later, we had a short 10-minute toilet break.

Years of travelling on long distance buses had taught me that “toilet breaks” were not just for going to the washrooms, it was also an opportunity to get up and walk to keep the blood circulating. Moreover, the buses usually had designated rest-stops, they would not stop whenever some passengers felt urgent nor could they stop when the buses were on the highway. So, making good use of toilet breaks was important.

2:35pm, the bus made a short stop at KL Sentral. Some westerners alighted and hauled their large backpacks from the storage compartments, and I really wondered, what exactly did they pack inside their backpacks? I was 23 days into the journey and my backpack was about half their size and 30% of it was coffee products. Furthermore, I had packed 4 extra t-shirts, due to the hot weather, on top of the 5 sets of clothings that I usually travelled with.

3:05pm, the bus arrived at TBS. The queues at the ticket counters were shorter as compared to the weekend and festive period that I was last at the terminal. There was sufficient time for lunch but I was not very hungry, so I had sandwich and bread from King’s Bakery again — seemed like replaying a certain scene from few days back.

I had no issue this time using the Boarding QR on Easybook app to go through the departure gate and boarding gate. The Mayang Sari bus departed for Melaka Sentral at 4:05pm and reached at 6:10pm.

7 long and boring hours from Cameron Highlands to Malacca. And my butt had been aching since 2pm. A few cooler days in Taiping and Cameron Highlands had made me forgotten how hot and stuffy Malacca was.

I Grabbed directly to the hotel since the hotel was located at the other end of Jonker Walk, the furthest spot from Dutch Square. I usually took public buses to the Dutch Square and this was the first time I used a Grab car from Melaka Sentral. It used a different route and passed by the defunct Tun Ali Monorail Station on its way to Jonker Walk. The rusty monorail car was still sitting on the elevated track. The funny thing was that the monorail had never been operational whenever I came to Malacca and was terminated in 2021. I wondered how long it would be sitting there.

Defunct monorail station of Malacca

At 6:45pm, I checked in to A.I Smart Hotel. “A.I Smart” was just a name of the hotel, there was no smart robot or anything that was technologically more advance than other hotels. Ironicallly, the electronic key card would unlock the door only — it did nothing to the lights and air-conditioner.

For a last-minute discounted booking, I got a standard room with a king-size bed at the furthest end of the hotel. A small high window faced a big open-space carpark but it was largely emptied of vehicles on a weekday. The hotel looked small from its shop front but was ultra deep within. I liked it so long as the room was far from any noisy road traffic.

A.I Smart Hotel standard king-size bedroom

I could eat a sheep after the long journey. And I decided on Andalus Kitchen at one end of Lorong Jambatan. Since the Hari Raya holidays were over, all the cafes and bars in the alley were fully opened.

What had changed? Andalus Kitchen added another unit opposite the kitchen for its customers to dine in an air-conditioned environment. It was so warm outside and I quickly stepped into the air-conditioned shop, browsed the menu and ordered a Mandi lamb but no drinks — there were only alcoholic drinks from the bars and coffee from the cafes. No toddy — too bad Nachi Toddy was not available on weekdays.

The Mandi lamb consisted of rice with mutton, salad with a sweet-spicy sauce and a bowl of gravy or soup. Rice with mutton was always the best at Andalus Kitchen. I remembered having Kabssa rice with lamb 2 years ago. That would be two lamb rice dishes in a row, I would try beef or chicken or their tantalising skewers next time.

Andalus Kitchen: Mandi rice with lamb

Lorong Jambatan was the new nightspot for food and drinks but the dark nights of Malacca had one familiar nuisance — commando mosquitoes and they loved warm nights. Despite having a mosquito repellent patch on me, I was still awarded with 2 big red bumps that itched for days to come.

Lorong Jambatan

Unlike the night scenes of Melaka Old Town with more people during the Hari Raya holiday period the last time I was here, the streets were much quieter and most shops were closed by 6pm. These would be the normal scenes of the old town and Dutch Square on a weekday evening.

Jonker Walk on a weekday night

I got kissed by some mosquitoes again and returned to the hotel around 9:30pm. I made a note to come with insect repellent next time, not just to Malacca but the whole Malaysia, especially when going out at night.


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