An Abba ballad rings out through the street. The music gets louder and louder as a trishaw driver with a toothless grin rounds the corner in front of us, offering a wave and a ride. Another half a dozen follow behind. I suspect these trishaws are the product of a Malaysian spin-off of "Pimp my Ride" because they've all been garishly decorated with plastic flowers, tinsel, fairy lights and some have seemingly had sub-woofers installed in them to blare out western tunes.
An old Indian man with leathery skin, riding one of the less "blinged-up" trishaws pulls up and offers to take us for a spin. We politely decline but it seems he'd rather have a chat than pilfer our pockets anyway. When we tell him we're from Australia he flashes us a cheeky smile.
"But you forgot one thing" he says, to which we raise our eyebrows.
"Your karn-gar-ooooo", he chuckles.
Our new friend goes on to explain that tomorrow he'll be celebrating Deepavali, the Indian "Festival of the Lights". It's the only day of the year he doesn't work and he tells us we'll be welcome in his home if we're passing by.
It's these kind of friendly exhanges we encounter throughout Melaka, once a thriving port town about two hours south of Kuala Lumpur. More than 600-thousand people live in the town but it's centre is easy to get around and a welcome change from the hectic capital. The historic red buildings surrounding the town square are a throw-back to a time when the town was ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and British conquerers. However, developers have found their way to Melaka and a number of giant megamalls now sprawl out beside the old town centre.
Besides the friendly people and relaxed pace, the most enjoyable part of our stay in Melaka was the Friday night market which winds its way through the streets of Chinatown. Here is sold all multitude of jewellery, shoes, homewares and an array of food including Chinese dumplings, potato swizzle sticks (so tasty I think I'll be exporting them to Australia) and Malaysian sweets (not quite sweet enough for my liking). And for the karaoke diehards (and for a good laugh), right in the middle of the market is a stage where Chinese men of 60-something belt out slow heartfelt tunes to passers-by. Despite the exorbitant price of alcohol (it's a Muslim country after all) we couldn't pass up the opportunity to sit at a cafe with a Tiger beer and soak it all up!