The Nightmare from Down Under: Paying the price for gluttony

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The Nightmare from Down Under: Paying the price for gluttony

The small city of Melaka two hours south of Kuala Lumpur is considered the cuisine capital of Malaysia, and my happy task there for a few days was to sample then write about the various foods -- notably the highly-spiced Baba-Nyonya style for which Melaka (aka Malacca and other variants) is renown.

But with so many styles still to be sampled I decided to stay on longer and, to save money, check into a ridiculously cheap guest house ($7 a night) in Chinatown.

And all that day I ate well and with great frequency: breakfast of rice porridge and dried pork at a spit-floor Chinese place in an alley; mid-morning laksa and sweet coffee by the riverside, lunch of Baba Nyonya-style chicken, then at dusk the local bus to the Kampong Portugis area just outside of town for dinner where their speciality was Portuguese-Indian food.

That night by the Straits of Melaka I again traversed the menu with professional determination: a brutally hot devil’s curry, tart ginger clams, baked cuttlefish; and prawns sambal washed down with a couple of large beers. My research that night cost about $25.

Later at the rundown guesthouse I fell into a sound sleep only to be awoken an hour later with a sudden and unwelcome feeling in my stomach. I had to very quickly tiptoe along the old wooden corridor past where other guests were sleeping and down two flights of uneven stairs to find the unlit bathroom out the back.

However the ancient floorboards squeaked with every urgent footfall and the guests stirred and grumbled loudly. As they did on my return -- then every hour or so afterwards as my days of gluttony reached their foul and often sudden conclusion.IMGP0001

Just before dawn I finally fell asleep, but was jolted awake by the call to prayer from the nearby mosque, gongs from the Chinese temple, an elderly neighbour having a cigarette and morning spit, and finally a dog fight below my window.

I got up drained and weary and knowing that my day was only going to get worse.

Ahead of me was five hours on a bus to Singapore, one without modern conveniences.

I knew that I and, more worryingly, my fellow passengers might have to endure the awful consequences of my gourmand greed . . .

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