Aside from the world famous skyscrapers and multi-ethnic cornucopia of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia remains shrouded in mystery for even the most seasoned of globe-trotters. The diversity of destinations offered on the Windstar 10-day Palaces and Pagodas itinerary allowed travelers to scratch far below the surface and come away with a new understanding of the history, people and idiosyncrasies which further stretched our imagination of this beautiful land.
The UNESCO World Heritage City of Malacca offers limitless layers of intrigue and cultural development while representing one of the greatest melting pots in South-East Asia. The city has many particular charms and quirks perhaps the most energizing and whimsical element of Malacca is not the Christ Church, Hindu Temples or even the impressive consumption of Durian fruit by unknowing visitors, but rather the flamboyant decoration on the cities unique trishaws and those who “drive” them.
Cyclos, peddle carts, rickshaws and other human powered transportation are icons of the south east Asian experience but in Malacca these truly take on a unique unforgettable personality all their own. The story is a simple one. Trishaw “drivers” in Malacca have long attempted to distinguish themselves from one another in an effort to gain the attention and therefore trade of visitors. What 20 years ago would have been paint and ribbon led to a near limitless competition to attract the most attention. Today one can spot a trishaw from hundreds of feet away, though only when you get close can you confirm it is not a balloon stand, flower shop or candy floss vendor, but rather a mode of transportation.
Global trends are reflected in the various décor of these trishaws and I’m sure the copyright teams from Disney, Hello Kitty and Warner Brothers would have a field day if they ever tried to impress their licensing rights on the favorite local transport. There is no doubt that one should take the time to visit the Maritime Museum, Churches, Temples and waterways of this historic city, but take an hour at the end of the day to step out of your comfort zone and into a comfortable seat and become part of the circus that is the trishaws of Malacca.
Written by Geoff DeVitto @geoffdevito who is a Cultural Anthropologist focuses on the relationships between heritage, history and contemporary cross-cultural exchange. He is traveling Southeast Asia onboard of Star Pride as a honored guest lecturer.