Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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While in Malacca I was staying in a guest house run by a very friendly Malaysian guy that invited me to out to meet his family one day. I hopped on the back of his motorscooter and zipped out of town to his house. It was a good sized house, perhaps three large rooms and a kitchen, and sprawled out in the living room were three of Amy's sisters (the Malaysian guy is named Amy). On the front porch his father sat smoking drawing a spiral pattern that at first I mistook for Arabic, and only eventually realized that when I asked what it said he replied "It says nothing, it's just art." Amy took off and fixed us all some strong coffee, and even went back into town to get some fried chicken and sweet treats. I'm not sure exactly what the protocol was there, especially with Amy out fetching snacks, but I just sat jotting thoughts into my notebook and enjoyed the quiet countryside. Eventually Amy returned and for some reason I was the only one eating, even though I figured it was just polite because I wasn't particularly hungry. One of Amy's little brothers kept peeking around the corner, and whenever I caught him spying he would just laugh and run away, trying to find a sneakier vantage point. Behind the house was this field, which perhaps isn't remarkable in any way other than I was surprised to find an endless stretch of tiny fields right on the outskirts of a rather major city. No suburbs here.

Malacca is one of the oldest cities in Malaysia, and boasts a long and tumultuous history of successive invasions and occupations. The most notable Western occupations were the Dutch and subsequently the Portuguese, both of which have left indelible marks upon the local culture and cuisine. From the large bank of seats in the photo, tourists can witness a sound and light extravaganza that educates and celebrates this history. I didn't actually catch this show, and instead just wandered through the ruined church (behind the camera) and amongst the military exhibits (offcamera to the left) by myself.
Malacca is home to a really great coffeeshop called the Geographers Cafe. It's clean and cheap, has decent food and a great view. It even has an electric plug for the laptop! Outside the window, at which I sit on a stool and drink my tea, is a vendor selling tofu fried rice. Normally I'd always figured tofu was a pretty healthy thing, and that fried rice - not that it was particularly healthy, but better than a sharp stick in the eye. Well, all vague thoughts of health have been banished from my mind watching this man prepare his dish. He has this huge wok lit from beneath by a constant flame, and into the wok he pours something like a gallon of cooking oil. It must be at least this, as the entire wok was filled perhaps two-inches deep with the stuff. This he heats to its critical point, when he adds the tofu. Instantly, as if I blinked and he were performing a magic trick, all the oil is gone and he's just cooking tofu. Er... huh? To this he adds even more oil, which is soaked up by the rice he... [more]
Undoubtedly the craziest thing I saw in Malaysia was this wacky sport called Gasing. I just happened to wander through the fairgrounds during a big competition for the Asean 2002 games where... how can I explain it. Two teams of four in a cage with a clay floor. Each competitor, who might be aged anywhere from late teens to eighties, has in his hand a metal top wrapped tightly with a long string. One end of this string is wrapped in a complicated way around his hand and up his arm. A whistle blows and the first team steps up. In quick succession they charge up and, with every bit of force mustered, throw forward the top while simultaneously yanking back on the string with an attack cry like they're crushing a stack of bricks with their foreheads. Immediately after the first top is placed the second comes in right next to it until in a few seconds the four tops are spinning motionless in a tight huddle. The whistle blows again and the second team comes up. Mimicking the first team they slap down ... [more]

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