|Travelling: Driving to Malacca|
Driving to Malacca
With the North-South Expressway(NSE), drivers from Singapore can reach Malacca in two hours. But the NSE bypasses the more interesting sights along the way. Take the old coastal route to cover Batu Pahat, Bugis House, Tanjung Gardens and Penghulu's House. Resist the temptation to visit every mosque, temple, hot spring and tombstone. They are usually very small, deserted spots- hardly worth the effort figuring out how to get there.
After crossing the Causeway into Johor Bahru, continue on Route 17. Just before the UTM (Universiti Tecknologi Malaysia) campus, turn left into Route 5 towards Pekan Nenas and Pontian Kecil.
The Pekan Nenas area is known for its pineapples growing in peat soil- plantations line the roads. At the town, look out for Jalan Sawah on your right. Around Jalan Sawah, the narrow streets become the market. Don't try to drive through- unless you want a glimpse of live chickens through the windscreen.
Park along the main road where there are coffee shops and stop for breakfast. At Restoran Hup Chong, they serve porridge, noodles and hot drinks in thick cups and saucers- with the stuff sloshing over. Check out the toilet and its "splishin-splash" flushing system. (You may not get another toilet stop at Gunung Pulai).
Pulai is only worth going if you want to spend the day there. A brown arch marks the entrance to the falls, where there is parking space and a couple of small stalls selling drinks and snacks. Don't follow the green sign even though the arrows to the falls point upward. Go only as far as the playground, with its wooden structures built across stepped pools. The highest parts of Guning Pulai's 2,147 feet are restricted military areas.
Pack your swimming gear and a picnic lunch, to spend the earlier half of the day at the falls. Enjoy the cool waters and soothing sounds before moving on to Batu Pahat.
Hit Jalan Kluang from Ayer Hitam or hit Jalan Tanjung Labuh from Pontian Kecil. Both roads meet at a roundabout. Connect onto Jalan Rahmat. This leads straight to Glutton's Corner, which runs parallel to Jalan Shah Bandar and Sungai Batu Pahat.
At Parit Pecah, along the stretch between Sungai Grisek and Parit Jawa. It's easy to miss, so go slow and look out for it on the left while its moving towards Parit Jawa. Its about four houses behind a blue sign, near an UMNO quarters across the road.
This Bugis House is reputed to be the only one of its kind on the Peninsular. The old Bugis lady who lives there is camera-shy, but willing to show her home to visitors and to tell about the "orang puteh" (white men) who come by the busloads.
Built in 1907, the house is a curious juxtaposition of the old and the new- uneven wooden panels covered by vinyl flooring, wood carvings and yellow tinged photographs set alongside radio and TV sets, the former wood roof shingles replaced with zinc. Look out for elaborately carved window traceries and inner porches with islamic motifs.
Muar (Bandar Maharani)
From Parit Jawa, hit Jalan Abdul Rahman or Jalan Suleiman. Both roads lead to Jalan Petri and Tanjung Gardens.
Tanjung Gardens is most pleasant in the late afternoon. Sample the rojak petris(RM1 per plate) at the food stalls before strolling through the park shaded by huge rain trees and flame of the forest - reminiscent of Elizabeth Walk in colonial times.
A great place for picnics and for trying out the colourful swings in the playground (but beware the lack of safety specifications). The riverbank overlooks Sungai Muar, where you can spot a boat or two, and perhaps someone digging for clams. The ice-cream man makes his rounds on a bike, so listen for the rings of his bell.
About 5 km from Merlimau. After crossing over Sungai Kesang, the road forks into two. Take the right fork towards Merlimau. Go slow and look out for the house on the left.
The house has seen better days. Its opulence has been tamed somewhat - hinting at itself in a four poster bed, antique furniture and an intricate wooden pillar. Blue curtains held back by lace and ribbons add to the sense of "prettiness." You can spot places where tiles have been removed, probably sold off to collectors who want a piece of history. Durians are displayed for sale at the front porch.
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