Year 1400 A.D.
Tired, he slumped down for some respite under a tree. Roles of stumpy leaves that lined the tree branches offered him some temporary shade from the scorching Malayan sun. Parameswara inhaled deeply and closed his eyes as the swooshing of a nearby stream bathed him with calm.
Suddenly, he heard a low growl. His eyes flew open. It was his hunting dog, Si Garang. Si Garang was was looking straight ahead at a mouse deer with bared teeth. Gggrrr….
Oh no, Parameswara thought. He worried about the mouse deer.
Si Garang had his knees bent and game face on. His canines were visible and glistering with spit.
Parameswara was momentarily afraid for the mouse deer. There was a loud thud, followed by a splash in the water.
Parameswara could not believe his eyes. The mouse deer had kicked his hunting dog into the river! He stood up slowly, gripping the trunk of the Melaka tree. “This place is excellent, even the mouse deer is formidable; it is best that we establish a kingdom here,” Parameswara said.
(And kids, that was the beginning of the Melaka Sultanate.)
Year 2020 A.D.
“Parameswara came here to this mountain when he arrived in Melaka,” said Mat, our mountain guide. In a previous life, Mat was a computer programmer before he gave it all up to answer the call of the mountains.
Damn, I, too, wanna answer to nature’s calling. I mean, answer to the mountain’s calling.
We were in Melaka; the state not the city. The Alpulkat Sisters just had to “ke sana ke sini” the moment MCO was loosened and interstate travel permitted. That’s how we found ourselves at Taman Eko-Rimba Bukit Batu Lebah.
At that point, we stood on a small hill under a transmission tower where the elevation gave us a stunning view of rolling mountains. Then, I saw a dark figure riding the currents, gliding like she owned the whole damn sky.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….
Oh, it is a bird.
More accurately, it was a Hornbill. Hello, Madam Hornbill, nice to meet you.
I looked back at the lush trees next to me. Betwixt the vegetation was a flight of carefully-constructed man-made steps. “These were built back when this area was all paddy fields. These steps were the terraces of the paddy fields.”
I squinted and went silent. Partially because I was planning my lunch, but also because sanctuaries flashed before my eyes. I saw paddy fields. I saw grains. I saw hardworking farmers. I saw ploughing and toiling. Times were simpler and life was easier. And then we decided to fuck that up.
I thought of Parameswara, fleeing the Majapahit Empire because he pissed some powerful people off. He eventually went on to piss more people off in Temasek (modern day Singapore) before he arrived at Melaka, where a mouse deer literally kicked his bitch’s ass. Well, their loss is our gain, because he went on to launch Melaka’s glory days, establishing a trading port whose influence would forever be the pride of our history books. The Melaka Straits—the same one my martial arts expert grandfather often swam in as training—teemed with ships and merchants from lands afar, bearing items for trade and gifts. Very often, living in the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine that the land we stand on had a whole life before our meagre existence.
And in this previous lifetime, sea merchants sailed to this great land with boatfuls of treasures, gold, and silver. With gleaming eyes, Mat informed us that they hid some on this very mountain, and the stash is still untouched, yet to be found. Gasp! Old pirate treasures?
As we hiked through jungle, Mat took the time to point out items of interest. We quickly figured that Bukit Batu Lebah was very rich in minerals. Case in point was the razor sharp granite rocks that threatened to rip a healthy chunk of fresh from an innocent bystander, should innocent bystander swing a careless arm.
Also diamonds. With a twinkle in his eye, Mat informed us that Bukit Batu Lebah sprouts diamonds. Man, it’s time for a full-scale treasure hunt. First, old pirate treasures, then diamonds raining from heaven?
Next, we found the boat that brought the treasures here. Kindly refer to following picture. If you look hard enough, you might even spot Jack and Rose.
Last but not least, plants. There are all kinds of those at Bukit Batu Lebah. The sort to treat leech bites; the sort to increase libido; the sort to eat; the sort to smoke. Fret not, dear friend, for there is something for everybody.
Mat also taught us to drink from bamboo shoots. I’ll post a picture here, except that in the ones I have, I look like some distorted creature that took a wrong turn during Darwinian evolution.
On the other hand, he’s a creature that evolution had smiled on. This, dear all, is a grub. Yes, the same kind that Timon and Pumbaa ate in The Lion King.
Disclaimer: None of God’s creation/ product of evolution was harmed in the shooting of the following.
Bukit Batu Lebah was as much a caving adventure as it was a hiking one. We did a lot of traversing of rocks. At one point, the cave even had an upstairs! I thought Mat was kidding. He wasn’t. Neither was he when he said we’ll have to crawl through filth in the dark.
After Bukit Batu Lebah, we spent the rest of the trip doing what Malaysians do best—agreeing on the superiority of one single Laksa.
Hahaha. Just kidding. I can’t even say that with a straight face.
We ate. We dined like dons.
After the hike, we drove to Melaka town and checked into a hotel room that we managed to snag at an insanely cheap price, thanks to Covid-19. Covid-19, killing businesses and human beings since 2019.
Then, we slapped on face masks and beelined for Jonker Street that was just a short walk away. Short walk provided you don’t happen to see 4 seemingly coherent numbers and decide to stop at Magnum 4D, of course. Of which we
did didn’t you’ll never know.
Coming highly recommended by the Chieng family (Gloria‘s family) was Jonker 88. The Baba Laksa here was to die for. Beehoon was served in thick broth that was so rich in flavour that it would indulge all your senses. Also carefully placed in the bowl were onion, cucumbers, prawns, and a hard boiled egg. I drank the broth dry.
On the other hand, Baba Laksa’s sister, Nyonya Laksa, was a tad bit too spicy for me. My friends loved it though. (Baba and Nyonya are respectively the male and female of the Peranakan people. The Peranakan are an ethnic group that arrived from China, yet embraced the local Malay culture.)
The next morning, we ate some more, this time at Nasi Lemak & Minuman Ah Ho. Check out our spread below. Curry chicken, friend chicken, calamari, eggs, and veggie. Yet, it cost us only about RM8 per person.
This is how you grow fat in Melaka.
But a girl’s culinary adventure is never over, because next, we found our way to The Daily Fix Cafe where we ate some more. Pancakes drizzled with syrup and served with ice-cream? Yes, please.
Honestly, they tasted the same.
Both yummy, but perhaps largely due to the scorching sun.
With the coconuts (and sugar and ice and ice-cream) in our stomachs, we decided to head back to the Klang Valley.
So, we turned onto the North-South Highway, and away from Parameswara and the mouse deer. Away from the treasures that we’ll be back for one day. One day.