It’s what you didn’t buy…

I don’t like buses. I used to ride one to school every day when I lived on a farm and the memories I recollect of my bus rides to and from school are actually quite fond so my dislike of buses doesn’t stem from there. I’m quite sure it has something to do with being a poor uni student who couldn’t afford to park my car at the university and the drama that was catching Brisbane City Council buses at the turn of the millennium. My dislike could also have something to do with being part of a three bus convoy carrying over one hundred Year 7 students (most of whom contracted influenza via the bus air-conditioning ducts by the end of the trip like me) alllllllllll the way to our nation’s capital. I’m sure my loathing of buses has something to do with that!

On Thursday just gone, I caught a two hour bus ride with my family to Melaka (or Melacca). We chose this mode of transport because it was cheap and it’s so close to KL, you can’t actually fly there. To be honest (and possibly in light of my aforementioned bus-scars), I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. As soon as I boarded the bus, I sensed two quintessential Malaysian smells: Nasi Lemak (fatty coconut rice) and pandan (super sweet but pungent palm leaves). Needless to say, my re-acquaintance with said mode of transport wasn’t all that thrilling BUT then, perhaps because my husband is the nicest man in the world, I happened to mention I was feeling a little motion sick so I got the window seat and the kids moved (with Dad) behind me.

Whilst sitting entirely alone, by myself, not with any person (spouse, child or otherwise) beside me, I took the liberty of listening to my favourite Podcast created by two stellar Australian female journalists: Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, “Chat 10, Looks 3.” Leigh Sales mentioned that she had presented a story produced by her colleague, Callum Denness, on an Australian literary novelist, Gerald Murnane nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this story, there is a killer quote by Murnane who talks about his life living in a small, regional Australian town,

“A person can reveal more about themselves by saying what they have never done than by saying what they have done. Some of the things I have never done: I have never been in an aeroplane. I have never been in an ocean-going vessel. I have never voluntarily immersed myself in the ocean. I’ve never voluntarily gone into an art gallery. I can’t remember ever watching television or listening to radio for more than 20 or 30 minutes since my kids were little, in the 1970s.”

He then went on to explain how he’d never needed to leave his home because he simply writes about, “the contents of my mind.”

That line got me thinking about things I’ve never done but also, things I’ve never purchased. You see, much like my initial post about “Things” on this site, I am currently going through an analysis of things phase. The big announcement has been made (via a hashtag on Social Media that I don’t think many people actually read or understood) and we are returning home to Australia at the end of July. As we now have a leave date, I also have an expanse of time to analyse and reflect upon to see how quickly we have acquired things (especially when we came to Malaysia with only four suitcases initially).

I think when you travel as a parent (but I definitely remember doing the same thing as a single person), you find it pretty easy to part with a few bucks (ringgit/insert currency here) because “you’re on holidays” and “it’s cute” although said object may very well break before you even return home or to your hotel room for that matter. Most of it though, is and will eventually end up in landfill somewhere. That’s what my friend Cath calls bad presents and the useless junk parents (me included) put in birthday party bags: Landfill.

With our budget, but more importantly, our 30kg luggage limit for our flight home to Australia, things (and landfill type things) are well and truly on my mind. So much so, that the only thing we bought in Melaka was a bamboo slide whistle – because it was cute! (Now this thing has got me thinking and stressing even more about quarantine and our strict bio security laws because it’s made of wood!).

Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice every now and then when someone says, “I like your bag,” and you reply with a traveller’s grin, “Thanks, I bought it in Laos!” – it makes a great conversation starter like the scratch map!  But ever-increasingly I’m aware as a tourist that I’m not that different to the ninty-nine other tourists who walked up to Bukit St Paul’s in Melaka, ate dinner at Jonker Street markets and took their kids to “Bikini Toppings” for an afternoon coconut ice-cream (sugar, dairy and additive free) because Trip Advisor said they were good things to do.

No one told me to go to Jonker Street markets to buy landfill BUT plenty of tourists have (otherwise the vendors wouldn’t sell them, right?!). I don’t suspect they bought the plastic gadgets because they needed them; I’d hazard a guess that they thought it was “cute” or they thought the landfill electronic music toy might bring some joy to their child – before it broke.

With #waronwaste fresh on my mind because of our visit to Saffron Coffee in Luang Prabang recently, I am viewing every one of our family’s upcoming purchases in the following light: will it be eaten (if it’s food) by the end of July? Can we get it in Australia and not have to cram it in our precious luggage allocation? And, can it be recycled, reused or repurposed to benefit someone else?

The greatest moment I had last week was when I realised that I know a lady who is setting up house in KL soon who is interested in having/buying/acquiring all the things we had to buy to set up our lives here. I am so thoroughly relieved by her willingness to take our pre-loved home-wares. Not because we will recover a bit of money that we outlaid initially but because I won’t have to dump it, haphazardly give it away nor will I have to sell it to some Expat miser on Facebook marketplace for a price that isn’t worth my time nor my effort.

It’s not about the money; it’s about the purpose. I hope that’s always the case when we travel and do life in general.

Some quick, practical travel tips for making Melaka purposeful:

  • If you love a good walking city – this is your place! If you stay somewhere near the river and/or Jonker Street then you will be able to walk to most historical sights, see the street art and stop in at some cute cafes to refresh
  • Jonker Street Night Markets (known more for their great food than potential landfill purchases), only run on Friday and Saturday nights. We arrived on a Thursday which was perfect as we largely missed the weekend jams
  • There are lots of lovely old buildings to see – see below. You’ll find them, just put your walking shoes on and go!
  • The best Guesthouse we’ve stayed in (with the BEST and softest towels) in SE Asia is Wayfarer’s Guesthouse. I cannot recommend it enough. We had a double bed and the kids had a single bed each on a loft floor and I think we paid only AUD$80 per night! Go to their website and email them directly asking for a rate
  • Go to the Floating Mosque! It’s about a 10min Grab drive out from the Old Town but if you go a bit before sunset, you’ll get a real treat. I read about it on the “MumPack Travel” blog and took the blogger’s word for it. It was great to just sit, watch the colours light up and see the ocean for the first time in months!
The Floating Mosque
  • To my knowledge, there is nowhere to have a beer and watch the sunset over the ocean in Melaka. There are places on the river but I asked many a local Grab driver for “the place” – sadly, I don’t believe it exists
  • Food prices on Jonker Street (when the markets aren’t in session) are inflated. For dinner on the Thursday night (you only need two nights here max. if you have a tight schedule) we were given a hot tip by a local to keep walking past the touristy strip and we ended up at “Jonker Walk Hawker Centre.” We ate REALLY good local food for only about RM5-8 per dish
  • Speaking of food, the street on which Wayfarer’s Guesthouse is located, boasts a whole heap of local fare. One sells soft shell crab which was AMAZING! Another one does noodles, rice, prawn sambals etc for breakfast & lunch. Just look for lots of locals eating along Lorong Hang Jebat
  • If you’re travelling with kids, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere open for breakfast before 9am. It’s always good to have museli bars or the equivalent on hand
  • And finally, if you’re travelling with kids, the roads and streets in Melaka are not built all that well for pedestrians, let alone prams. Try a carrier and be mindful of the fact that, in my honest opinion, walking around an Old Town (wherever it is!), eating some food and doing some more walking and exploring is really only sustainable for a couple of days before kids start complaining. There are museums in Melaka – like 100s of them – but, again, that’s also really just walking around and looking at things
  • How could I forget the pimped up Trishaws?! This attraction needs no explanation… you’ll see them and hear them at all hours of the day! Just make sure you negotiate a price and a journey before you leave. I recommend near the river.



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