Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Long Walk

After exploring every corner of the shell of St. Paul's, I decided it really was time to find some dinner.  I made my way back down the hill, past the Porta de Santiago, and down in front of the mall.  I had been reading a guide to Malacca, which listed a few local foods not to miss.  Satay, as those of you familiar with Asian food know, is meat-on-a-stick and one of Malaysia's most prolific contributions to Asian street food.  But I read about something called Satay Celup, which from the description sounded a lot like my beloved hot pot in China: a bowl of boiling soup served with various items on sticks to be cooked in the broth.  Sure, it would be quite different spices to suit local tastes, but it would be fun to compare the two.  According to Lonely Planet, there was an excellent restaurant for this, and I had glanced at its location on the map and thought that my perambulations were taking me in the right general direction, only to find that I had completely confused it and it was exactly in the opposite direction.  Well, a long walk would only make it taste better when I got there. 

Back up the way I came, past all the trishaws--which are a sight in themselves.  A holdover from the days before taxis and still popular due to the crowded and narrow streets of the old town, the bicycle-powered conveyences are an art form, albeit a rather loud and tacky one.  To attract tourists to hire them to take a ride around the sights, the drivers (riders?  cyclers?  Seems there ought to be a more apt word, but it isn't coming to me) began adding decorations.  First a few fake flowers or a colorful fabric on the seat...but by now they've added stuffed animals, enough fake flowers for half a cemetery, ruffle-covered canopies, and even battery packs on the back to run strings of neon lights and steros blaring upbeat pop music.  They look like the sort of thing only a four-year-old girl could love, but the level of garishness and sparkle that they can achieve is a point of pride among the drivers.  

I passed by Dutch Square again and took a few pictures of the square by night, more interesting, really, in the glow of the street lamps and with fewer milling Chinese tour groups.  I checked the map in Lonely Planet again, which pointed me down the street alongside the church passed now-closed souvenir shops and directly out of the tourist area.  Soon I was walk down deserted streets of closed businesses and schools and feeling just a bit nervous--but surely it would be worth it when I got there, and all the better for not being on the tourist strip.  I love maps, and navigating, and usually follow them quite well.  I followed exactly as the map showed--and nothing.  I never saw any side street that could possible be the one indicated.  I finally gave up and decided to just make it back to the river and find something to eat there.  It seemed to me I'd walked more or less parallel to it since passing Christ Church, so if I turned left, it should take me down to the main road.  If I could only find a left-hand turn, which were suddenly scarce.  I had walked such a long way already that I didn't want to retrace my steps all the way back.  So I kept walking and walking, trying to find the streets I passed on the map with no luck.  I was starting to get nervous and ready to turn around even though it would be a long slog back through nothing when I came upon another brightly-lit modern shopping mall, with fancy hotels around.  Through the flourescent glow I saw a Papa John's sign.  Apparently the Satay Celup was not meant to be, I was exhausted and hot and starving as it was pushing nine by now, so I gave up and sat down for pizza and breadsticks drenched in garlic butter in air conditioning.  At least I could rest a while and hopefully figure out where I was before the long walk back.  

After I ate, I asked the waiter if he could show me where we were on a map.  Apparently map-reading was not in his skill set, so he nervously called over a passing local customer who showed me that, somehow, I was at the far end of the very same mall with the A&W I'd stepped into hours before.  I had, and I still have no idea how, walked in a gigantic circle all the way around St. Paul's hill back to exactly where I had started.  Still a bit of a walk back, but nowhere near what I'd thought.  I don't get lost often, but when I do...


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