Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Malaccan Mall Marksmanship

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Another lazy morning spent catching up on email, writing blog posts, and generally avoiding the heat and haze of the real world. Our excuse is that we’re still waiting for our laundry, but that falls apart around 1400 when Sean (the head hostel guy, who as far as we can tell subsists on a steady diet of beer and cigarettes) informs us it won’t be ready until evening…

…but that’s after we grab a lunch of otak-otak, a sort of curry fish paste steamed inside banana leaves. As with most curry dishes here, there’s a noticeable spice to it. Yum!

What to do? We ping Sina and Shermine, who we met at the local CouchSurfing meetup the other night, and resolve to meet up late afternoon for beer and other amusements. Sina remarks that the other amusements should involve pork, as that would complete the non-halal-ness of our sinful debauchery; it seems reasonable enough a request, so Shermine happily recommends a Chinese place for dinner in the expectation that they’ll have some pork on offer.

First, though, it’s off to The Library for beer. As you might guess from the prevailing Muslim culture, alcohol is not exactly in demand here, and so it’s quite expensive: 6 RM and up for even low-quality cans, and usually more like 10-20 RM in bars. The Library is very atas, with prices of 35 RM per pint (that’s about 11 USD!) – fortunately, we hit them up for happy hour, when they offer a 2-for-1 special on draught pints. To sweeten the deal, the pints in question are Erdinger and Franziskaner Dunkel, both imported from Germany. (Hey, globalization isn’t all bad.)

After that, we head to the mall for archery, for in Malaysia (and the other more affluent parts of Southeast Asia) malls are temples to entertainment. In the same mall complex, there’s a roller disco, an aquarium, another archery range (!), a motion ride (6D, the sign informs us, as if a 6-dimensional ride could have any meaning outside the more arcane branches of theoretical physics)…all this, alongside the more usual lineup of cinemas and cafes and the like. 9 RM gets us 12 arrows each, which we fire daringly at the targets with nonexistent skill. Sina and I have one arrow each bounce back at us; they just sit there on the floor the whole time, mocking our lack of bowmanship. I make up for it by landing a surprising number within the outer target circle. Valkyrie draws upon a long-forgotten semester of archery to hit the innermost region once.

Now for the food: we head to a local Chinese rice porridge joint. Valkyrie and I share a steaming bowl of fish rice porridge, which comes with succulent big chunks of white fish in a nice brothy rice mess. To add to the mix, we have a heaping plate of long beans in sambal that we drop into the porridge. SO DELICIOUS. Sina, true to form, gets his pork porridge, and he and Shermine share a side dish of pork to really drive the sin home. We note that all dishes on the menu are translated into English except those containing pork, as if its existence could be hidden by linguistic fiat – who knows, maybe it works. After all, it’s not like the place claims to be halal…

With beer in our blood, archery in our arms, and grub in our guts, we make for the river to catch a spot of relaxation. Everything is quiet during the weekdays, almost eerily so; there’s no sign of the night market down Jonker Walk, no throngs of tourists choking every last passageway of the Old Town. We stay for a bit, then say our goodbyes as we walk back to our hostel to pick up our clothes. We’ll need them for tomorrow so we can escape our mainstream tourism slump along the hiking paths of Jeju Olle! But first, a bus, a flight, a short stay in Seoul with a friend, and one more flight separate us from our pedestrian passions.