Our Uber dropped us off in a big square next to some sort of off-brand Pirates of the Caribbean. It was so hot and humid our camera lenses immediately fogged over.
Noting our confusion, our driver gestured at a small stone building across the square. “Famosa!” he called, as he sped out of sight. Melaka spent a century under Portuguese colonial rule, and a gate house from the old fortress is still standing, as heavily supported as Japan’s ancient trees. We strolled through it, past huddles of school children and a slouching man playing old American rock songs on his guitar.
It was stickily, oppressively hot as we slowly climbed St. Paul’s Hill, up stairs that wound through orderly trees and flowers.
As we wandered the ruins, a herd of veiled ten-year-olds spotted me. Shy but determined, they quickly surrounded me, the bravest among them gesturing at my face with their cameras. I nodded and twenty cell phones emerged to capture the sea of smiles.
Once they moved on to their next victims, we turned our attention to the ornate tombstones scattered about, which were inscribed with a mysterious, long-forgotten language.
Outside the mottled stone walls, the modern city waited in the distance.