Around the world in taxi cabs

We’ve caught taxis in most places around the world, an experience that is unique to each locale. In India the taxis are quaint old fashioned Ambassadors but you can also hire drivers with more ‘modern’ vehicles. Doesn’t really make a difference because the experience is hair-raising either way. And noisy. Indian drivers beep their horns all the time. I think its because no one really bothers to obey the road rules (if indeed there are any) so drivers are constantly making their presence known by way of their loud horn. But maybe its also a male macho thing (“my horn’s bigger/louder than yours”?). Similarly in Vietnam, but there it appears to be some logic to the madness and because people don’t drive fast, they seem to be able to cope with negotiating cross roads etc without lights and passing by. It still makes me incredibly anxious – I can’t bear to look out the windows, I have to occupy myself by reading or doing something. Either that or taking a chill pill (does help). In Malaysia its much more ‘civilised’ and organised but even so, drivers pay little attention to lanes: a 3 lane highway can easily become 5 and I’ve even seen drivers driving on the shoulder in order to bypass traffic. Still, I felt relatively safe in taxis in Malaysia. In London, one of the things I wanted to do (as well as riding on the top of a London bus) was take one of those traditional black cabs. They’re very different from our Aussie cabs: roomy in the back – enough room to put your suitcases in with you or to fit 6 people: 3 on the backseat and 3 on the pull down seat opposite. Plus they have individual settings for air con and music. Now that’s civilised. One of the things I noticed was the protocol of getting into a cab. You hail one, and then you talk to the driver about where you want to go through the front left side window, and only then do you get in. Here in Australia, you just jump in the cab and say where you want to go. I always sit in the back – I don’t think that in London people sit in the front. In Singapore we were amazed that you couldn’t just flag down a taxi. You have to wait at a designated taxi pick-up place. One time we saw a taxi stop at the lights and ran across 3 lanes of traffic and jumped in. The taxi driver was horrified. You just don’t do that there. He gabbled on and on about how we couldn’t just jump in. Finally I asked him if he didn’t want the fare and and should we get out? Eventually he clamed down and explained that it was illegal for him to pick up people in that manner and he could be fined. We found that very strange indeed. So regulated. But that’s Singapore. People queue and they never venture beyond that white line. Oh the freedom of being in Australia where you simply hail an empty cab and just hop in.

Malacca/Melaka

There seem to be 2 spellings for this city/province in south Malaysia. Settled by Portugese in 1511 and then later taken over by the Dutch in 1641.  The British ruled Melaka from 1846 to 1946  before finally being given independence.   It is a very multicultural place (in SE Asian terms).  The Chinese began trading with Meleka in 1405.  Straits-born Chinese who intermarried with Malays are known as Peranakans and its this culture that makes Melaka so unique.

Nyonya is the term commonly used for the Peranakans and their cuisine is distict – a fusion of Malay, Indonesioan, Indian, Portugese and English – and as I understand it, famous throughout both Malaysia and Singapore.  People make trips to Melaka specifically for the food.  There is a famous section called Jonker Walk where on weekends night markets abound with street food and stalls selling everything garish.  That’s the Chinese influence: everything you could possibly not want or need.  But the food is good.

Durian takes pride of place – ice cream, pastries, puffs, etc.  I decided that despite its off-putting smell (and it does smell bad) and my husband’s avowed distaste for it, I was going to try a small pastry.  Why not? When in Rome .. so we bought 3 little durian puffs.  Small balls of light pastrty with a centre of durian custard cream. Looked inoffensive.  Just like a little Italian deep-fired pastry with a custard cream centre.  Only difference was the smell.  And its hard to get beyond the smell.  Taste wise its OK.  An acquired taste, and probably one that would forever evade me.  But, tick: durian tried and tasted.  Next dish: I just need a beer.image