I’ll take you for a walk. We open a blue door and step into a thick, sticky heat.
On our street there are three temples: a Hindu one, a Chinese one and a mosque. Where shall we go? Let’s turn left. Little India starts here. It’s crowded and noisy. Hindu hits roar, a different one from each loudspeaker, garlands of flowers are sold and everywhere there’s the scent of incense. Can you smell it? On the square they are building a scene, can you see? In a couple of days a Hindu festival of lights begins – here it’s called Deepavali. Hence the holiday atmosphere and frenzy all around. We can walk by the stalls but you need to be careful not to bump into anyone. We go past tables loaded with sweets and crisps, past glittering bracelets but we can stop next to amazingly colourful clothes. There, where those young girls are picking a scarf. Good place for a photo, we just need to let pass three mopeds, a taxi and a rickshaw so that they don’t knock us down while we take the shot. Oh, behind, inside a building, there’s a restaurant so we can stop for breakfast. Everybody in? Have you made your way through the crowd by the entrance? Let’s wash our hands then because we’ll eat with our fingers. In this huge pot there’s rice and in tin trays, take a look, fish, meat, vegetables. Get whatever you feel like eating. Plates are on the left. Now we’ll search for a free table. Near the window someone is leaving so let’s sit down and enjoy your meal. What? Is something wrong? Yes, we have dinner for breakfast. That’s what you do here. But how delicious! Full of spices and hot. In a minute a worker of the restaurant will come, look at our plates and give us pieces of paper with prices written down. Don’t loose them. We’ll need to show them when we go to pay later. Are you full now? Have you rested a little from the heat? So let’s go.
Straight, where there are maroon buildings of the old fort and a hill. Just be careful of rickshaws as a big group of Chinese tourists has just arrived and all of them are strenuously departing from the roundabout. No, some remained. Rickshaw drivers wave at us offering their services. We’ll refuse, OK? Here we stand in a colonial soup up to our waists. There’s a spoonful of Portugal, three handfuls of Holland and a pinch of Great Britain. Plus oriental spices. We can climb up the hill, it isn’t very high. Don’t step on a cat with short, rolled tail laying lazily in the middle of the path. On top there’s a Sixteenth century Catholic church; the oldest in southeast Asia according to the sign underneath it. Oh, what a picturesque group of Muslims in traditional outfits. They are standing right under the cross. Let’s take their picture. From here we can see a Dutch fort, a Portuguese gate, former storehouses turned into museums, a sultan’s palace, an art nouveau memorial, a British lighthouse. A real soup. On a marble slate in the church someone sculpted their grief after losing a 22-year-old wife and three children who had died on diphtheria in 1723. We can wonder for a while how they lived here back then. What made them travel so far into the unknown lands? What did they find here?
Uff, but it’s a little hot to stand here for so long. Let’s go down. First, over a bridge, next to a big H&M store. Then, we’ll turn right into a side road where a real blacksmith’s workshop hides. The owner patiently hits the iron with a heavy hammer. And then along the canal. Small eateries and pubs squat here. We’ll stop in one of them for a drink. Do you like this one with pretty tables surrounded by flower pots? What would you like to have? Tea, coffee, cocoa? Hot or iced? I guess iced with this heat all around. Or maybe a fresh juice of a syrup? Or maybe you prefer coconut milk? You drink it straight from the nut, they will just cut the top off and put a straw inside. So coconut, yes? Now we can lazily stare around. At the colourful graffitis on the walls of the buildings by the canal, on tourist cruises, on the houses on the other side of the river. Can you see these old wooden huts on pillars? They are build on the swampy ground and they look poor. Clothes are drying on the walls and there’s a lot of rubbish around. We can stare at people. Next to us there’s a couple of slant-eyed people and further a group of Europeans. The Asians are covered from head to toes to protect themselves from the sun. The Europeans on contrary, wear short sleeves and shorts. All of them are taking selfies. It’s nice here, we could stay all day, right?
But Chinatown awaits. Now we’ll walk through small side roads. Here red lanterns hang and all inscriptions are painted in Chinese signs. In archways restaurants reside and stoop-shouldered old people ride their ancient bikes. There are Chinese temples. Every now and then someone stops by with incense sticks, pays a bow and prays for a while. There are also bric-a-brac shops and a colourful rainbow of towels is drying in front of a hairdresser. Look at these pretty altars outside the houses. Let’s turn right and go on the main square. Here it’s crowded again, we need to be careful. Right now a karaoke is taking place. On a big scene there are well-dressed Chinese. None of them can sing. Can you hear how they are singing out of tune? Let’s run away from here, it’s unbearable.
Are you tired? We’ll only step into a mosque on our way back. Here it’s quiet. At the entrance there are scarfs and robes for women. Guys, I hope you’re not in shorts. No? OK, let’s go inside then. Soft carpets, dark wooden roof, plain white paint on the walls decorated with golden inscriptions. Simplicity and elegance. But you are surprised by the minaret, aren’t you? Me too. It’s totally in Hindu style. Oh, they are singing adhan. Let’s leave, now people will come to pray.
We are back. On the left there’s our blue door.