Melaka Revisited

We were in Melaka from 30 January, staying for two nights in a boutique hotel called Liu Men, and returned home last night. It was part of a trip to Malaysia, primarily to Kuala Lumpur, with some Rotary leaders from Hong Kong to visit their counterparts in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia, to update each other and to explore more opportunities for service to our communities, collectively and individually. I would skip the Rotary part; except that we left Hong Kong early on 27 January; which would have been well documented elsewhere by others.

Melaka is also known as Malacca City and is the capital of the coastal state of Malacca in southwestern Malaysia, with a population of less than 600,000. It is about 150 km from Kuala Lumpur and about two-hours driving. I must have been to Melaka a couple of times before, and had my first visit around 1972 with Vincent, Joseph and Augustine when we were all bachelor boys. Stephen who had persuaded us to accompany him to visit his wife Nancy who was on a study tour in Singapore, was probably with us, but I am not sure. Anyway, both Joseph and Augustine had passed away since. Melaka was then and still is a very much laid-back enclave with good hotels and touristic attractions, and inexpensive. I had been here on some Masonic meetings in the last decade – my memories were inaccurate – but Su had definitely took her mother here about eight years ago, while I was attending Masonic functions in Kuala Lumpur, and apparently had a great culinary sojourn, so much so that she was determined to visit the city with Mei Mei – who was with us for last year’s visit to Loire Valley – when she learned that I had to be in Kuala Lumpur. So much for the introduction.

Anyway, Su had booked us – Mei Mei and us – for two nights at Liu Men which is a heritage building, or what we in Hong Kong would call a monument, with only 30 rooms and limited services. But to compensate for the insufficiency, the hotel features excellent ambience and unbelievably good location, with ready access – within walking distance – to the major touristic destinations. It also offers free coffee and tea between 3 to 6 pm with snacks and drinks and even beer, no other alcoholic beverages though, but would provide ice and glasses for the whisky we brought to the lounge. We loved the place as soon as we walked in. The rooms were classically designed with wooden teak flooring and the tiles in the toilets were of period designs.

Against such background, we had indulged ourselves with enough traditional local food in the tourist outlets around the hotel and walked the main attractions by 6pm on the day we arrived and were having our free tea session supplemented by the whisky we brought. It was great. While the hotel won’t serve whiskies, they have proper cut-glass whisky glasses, and they would provide unlimited instant noodles – which Su had banned in Mei Foo – and other snacks. I didn’t indulge myself to the limit; and by 9pm we decided to return to our respective rooms for the evening. I decided to have the forbidden food. I sat before the TV set – not on – with my back to the bed; and halfway with the noodles, leaned backwards on my seat, unbeknown to the fact that the seat had no back. The seat slipped and I landed with my back on the rather slippery teakwood floor and my head on the edge of bed end which was razor sharp. I remained conscious, touched my head with my hand and felt blood. Suddenly, hell broke loose. I put on my clothes, as Su grabbed our carry bags and raced downstairs to ask the hotel staff to call for an ambulance. Mei Mei came up to keep me talking. The ambulance arrived in about 20 minutes and took Su and I to the local general hospital, but not before having my head wrapped round with bandages. We arrived at the A&E station around 10 pm. Initially, the hospital took us for Malays; and when we identified ourselves as tourists, asked whether we carried sufficient cash. Fortunately, we did. Su went through the admission procedures as I was taken for triage.  A doctor asked me the expected usual questions, then gave me a tetanus shot, and sent me for treatment, meaning to have the laceration stitched up.

I was put on a wheelchair the moment I arrived at the A&E and was pushed around, mainly by Su, between rooms and the toilet. Eventually, I got to the station where I was to be stitched up. Su noticed that the nurse had applied local anesthetics before she began the stitching. In any case, I didn’t feel too much pain. After the operation, the nurse gave me a sheet of paper – all in Malays – indicating that I should go to any clinic to have the sutures removed on 7 February. I asked her how many she had given me. She said she wasn’t counting, but guessed that it was about eight. She guessed right.

I was then taken to the pharmacy of the hospital and given medications, comprising 20 antibiotic tablets for five days, four a day, which must be all consumed; 10 anti-inflammation tablets; plenty of pain killers in two types, one for normal and the other for serious pains, which should only be taken when needed, and some cleansing solutions for wounds. I am happy that I didn’t need the pain killers. It was past mid-night by the time we were ready to return to Liu Men. Luckily, Su had arranged with a hospital staff to call for a taxi beforehand so that we didn’t wait too long. It was a short trip back and the driver was like driving a racing car. He got the direction wrong near the hotel, but Su managed to correct him at the right time.

It was 1 am in the morning when we got back to our room and time to plan the rest of the trip and the events for the following week, but the immediate task was to get some sleep and rest. I had to sleep on my right side to avoid putting pressure on the wound, which I found it difficult, and I ended up at times trying to sleep while sitting with my back against three pillows.

But life must go on, at least for Su and Mei Mei. After breakfast, the ladies went for shopping, after assuring me that they would pick me up around noon. They had a great trawl. I cleaned up and tried to get as much rest as I could and in between, canceled most of the appointments for the following week. We had lunch in an Italian restaurant next door, after which I returned for more rest and contemplation, as they continued with their shopping spree. I was told later that they went to the other side of the river and had high tea at the Majestic Hotel, which Su had thought of booking before she decided on Liu Men. They brought back the sandwiches they couldn’t finish for my dinner; and we all spent a quiet evening, packing and so on.  The bandages on the wound fell off when I got up to change my underwear, soaked with perspiration, either from pain or from heat. It was around 4 am. Su took a shot of the wound, and it was then we could confirm the number of stitches.

The next day – 1 February – was the day we would leave Melaka for KLIA and back to Hong Kong.  Su had arranged for transport, and because she had decided to have the last meal in Melaka at Donald and Lily, billed as amongst the top 10 best hawker’s food provider, and which she claimed was the main reason why she had decided to re-visit Melaka, she had asked our transport provider, Alex, to arrive slightly earlier at Liu Men to have a meal with us together there. Donald had passed away and Lily was too fragile to work. The place with the same name was now run by their daughter Jennifer with her friend Melissa. Su was fully satisfied with what she got; and we arrived at KLIA very early, four hours before departure time.

Between them, the ladies had arranged with Cathay Pacific for boarding assistance, meaning that I would be placed on a wheelchair from the check-in counter to the plane boarding platform, with priority for immigration and customs clearance and luggage retrieval at both airports. The idea was to prevent or minimise accidents or inflict stress to the patient. It was good experience and great fun. For the journey back home, Su had called Keith, a young brother, while waiting for me to be stitched up at around 11:45pm to pick us up at CLK and take us to Mei Foo. Su had even asked Keith to get me bandages and other first-aid essentials. Keith was professional and business-like. We are indeed blessed. Thank God.

Back to the present, I got up wondering how the local hospitals and clinics fit into the question. At 10:45 am, I called the Families Clinic where I had my quarterly check-ups and to cut the long story short, I managed to secure by 11 am an appointment at noon. It was worth the patience and perseverance waiting at the line. The doctor at the Clinic heard my narrative and appeared nonplussed. He wrote on a piece of paper which he asked me to present at the Nurse Station to have my wound cleaned and for further advice on how to have the sutures removed. I did as I was told. The nurse gave me the Rambo look and advised me to go to the Clinic next door because theirs were not equipped for removing sutures. Thereupon, I went to the Nurse Station at Violet Peel and the very helpful staff there advised me that I could visit them again during opening hours on the day I needed the operation. It was thus that I had most of my questions answered, in less than 30 minutes, at two clinics next door to each other. I took the No. 10 bus outside to CCC to have my thoughts composed and issued a post on Facebook, which attracted close to 100 reactions by the time I am ready to upload this blog.

Life continues to be interesting; and Thank God for that. Meanwhile, the ladies said they would use Liu Men again next time they are in Melaka. We would see.

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