Friday, August 19, 2011

Love is in the air in Malacca

This morning, the Travelife TV team was walking along the ruins of the St. Paul's Church on top of a hill in Malacca, with a perfect view of the city and it's blue-and-white shophouses and red roofed buildings, and the Malacca Straits -- one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, and one that about 350 tankers and cargo ships pass through everyday.


Along the walls of the church, a man with a guitar was softly singing a popular song in English. It caught my attention because it was in English and it was rather nice as background music to the ruins we were walking through. So I passed him and smiled, and then started making my way down the hill. Halfway down, I noticed that the guys were taking their sweet time and we had a full schedule of things to do before lunchtime.

"What's taking them so long?" I asked Bernice, our assistant, who I spotted on top of the ridge. It turned out, they'd given the singer a couple of ringgits and asked him to play a Malaysian song instead so they could record it on film. Well, when I heard this, I decided to go up the hill again as the choice was either to wait for them in the heat below or to join them in the shade of the old church, listening to music.

The moment I rejoined them was the exact time that the singer began belting out the refrain of this beautiful Malaysian song. I was speechless both by the beauty of the song and by the amazing voice of the singer, who was only someone who sang for a few ringgits if he was lucky in the shade of an old church. What a shame.

UPDATE: 25 August 2011
Click here to see and hear a clip of this singer
Shot during the recent Travelife shoot
in Malacca, Malaysia


In fact, everyone was dumbstruck, because we all stood there in amazement without saying a word. And when he finished, I fished out a couple more ringgits and had him sing the whole song again. It's the Malaysian song "Tiada Lagi" and it's about a love that's no longer there. We certainly didn't know what the song was all about when we fell in love with it, but the melody and the singer's voice enchanted us.

Of course, on the way down the hill finally, we were all singing or humming the refrain of the song. "This is called the 'last song syndrome,'" someone said. None of us could get the song out of our heads. And when I got back to the hotel, the first thing I did -- or at least one of the first things -- was to google Tiada Lagi on You Tube. I found several versions, but frankly, none so far has come close to the singing of that man in the church this morning.

Click here to listen to
the beautiful Malaysian song
So -- maybe it was this sad love song that put us in the mood to talk about love afterwards in the van. Or maybe it was just that we were finally getting some breathing space to think about funnier or sadder things, after a really hectic but wonderful week in Malaysia so far.


"So the song's about someone losing a love, and he's not there anymore," someone said.

Hmmm. "Isn't there a saying about the irony of love?" I wondered aloud, "how the people who like you are never the ones you really like, and the ones you like are never the ones who like you?" Everyone laughed, and I don't know whether they were laughing because they remembered some ironic situation, or whether they were just amused over so many other people's misfortune to be loved by someone they didn't like, and not to be loved by someone they did.


"Well, do you want to know a spell that will make someone fall in love with you?" Someone asked. This was addressed to everyone and we all laughed again at the preposterousness of the idea of a magic love spell.

"Have you actually tried it?" I asked the guy. "Did it work?" I was more amused than serious, of course.

"It works," he assured all of us. I just couldn't believe it. "Does it really work?"

Someone else said: "Of course it works. Girls try it on me all the time."

And when I heard what it involved, I had to laugh again. Apparently, you're supposed to get three red candles and light it; and then you're supposed to chant the following phrase:

Light the flame
Bright the fire
Red is the color of desire
I then asked: "How is this supposed to ensure that the person you like will like you back? Are you supposed to think of that person while chanting the lines? Or are you supposed to put a photo by candle? What if the lines get crossed and the spell goes out to a stranger?"

We were now just having fun and being silly. Work was over for the morning, it was almost lunch and we were headed for a Baba-Nyonya restaurant for another big feast.

"Of course you're supposed to think of the person while chanting," he replied. "And it's up to you to make sure you focus on the right person."

We all started laughing again. "I still don't see how chanting some phrase would ever work," I said.

The guy said: "I even have a stronger spell. Do you want an even stronger way to make someone like you?"

This was when Miko, one of our editors, who'd been quiet all this time and seemingly uninterested in the conversation, chimed in: "For something stronger, you'll need a shotgun next."

For the nth time this morning, I burst out laughing. It was a nice prelude to another spicy feast of Baba-Nyonya food, followed by the best chendol I've had so far on this trip. The chendol was so good that I ordered two portions -- and I reckon that's better than any spell involving chanting with three candles.

Join us in Italy this September 8.
Travelife Italy Night with Margarita Fores

with Margarita Fores
and the Embassy of Italy & Bacchus Epicerie
September 8 at Whitespace

Please call TRAVELIFE at 8138400/ 8922620
to reserve a limited seat

For reservations and information, please contact:
Bernice or Rachel at TRAVELIFE
813-8400/ 892-2620


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