It is proximal, cheap and forthright: these I have heard from friends, a well-known fact I have yet to substantiate in writing. Didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know how to start plotting, planning, the works. Adamant as I was to lavish on the long weekend, things I’ve got to know about Malacca took me half a day to read online. It kind of made me twisted whether I should delve into this plan because there was nothing spectacular really on the information I have gathered. Besides, I cannot think of what else is left to experience in Malaysia, but as per always, travel itch trumped the reluctance, and no, I don’t think I could ever loathe that each time it happens.
So it is Malaysia, an easy hightail, a cradle for wandering souls, a country full of festivities and life. And in the spirit of something to look forward to and just to skid my thoughts away from the bluster of cancer research, I knew I needed this trip. After all, who has time for a setback when it comes to traveling? I certainly don’t.
Snippets of what you should know. . .
Point of compass
Malacca or locally known as Melaka is a tiny city 4 hours away from Singapore via bus, and a mere hour from Kuala Lumpur. The greatest thing about choosing this city for a short trip is that it doesn’t require too much planning and map-studying for it is too small. All you need is a whole 24-hours to experience everything.
Situated at the southwestern coast of Malay Peninsula, it covers an area of 621 sq mi. In 2008, the city was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich history. Quite amazing how this “Historic State” has well preserved all their Colonic and post-Colonic sites up to this day. No wonder that a day trip to Malacca could change a traveller’s perspective in so many ways.
If traveling from Singapore, the best option is to book a 2-way bus ticket to Melacca. In this case, I used the Easy Book Website for they have multiple trips in a day. You can actually choose your preferred pick-up and drop-off points. Several bus companies offer trips in and out of Singapore to nearby Malaysia, so you can always check the site if you’re in a mood for some land adventure to neighboring cities.
Here’s how the booking website looks like:
For some quick, note-worthy information about traveling to Malaysia, I have previously posted a similar travel experience in my blog — Pit Stop: Kuala Lumpur. Notice the first part that briefly discusses relevant tips for fellow travelers as well as basic input on all things that you should know.
Information like weather, currency and language are indicated on that particular blog post, so make a quick detour for an overview.
Want to read the rest? Here’s the link on my Kuala Lumpur blog post:
Pit Stop: Kuala Lumpur
Nyonya or Peranakan is the type of cuisine specialized by most restaurants in Malacca. It is Malay with the influence of Chinese so you would not find a similar blend like this anywhere else.
Amigo Steak and Grill Restaurant
Located at Jalan Melaka Raya 8, this steak house is the most popular Western food restaurant in Melacca. It’s not too hard to miss, because the location is so ideal you would see the huge Amigo signage when you happen to pass by that road.
Taste: Not too bad. They serve all sorts of steak, meat is superbly tender but manage your expectations for it might have a tiny bit aftertaste of curry in their sauces. No surprise in that, Malay cuisine uses a lot of spices especially curry.
Price: Cheap for the food quality. Or maybe I’m saying this because we have actually eaten a similar food in Singapore but has just paid more than half the price. But still, a little savings on the pocket is always welcome.
Catch: If you are dining in with a group and would like to save on the drinks, try the large serving of their fruit juices. From the looks of it, that pitcher (yes, a pitcher!) could actually serve 3 people.
Just like the usual hawker centers you see in Singapore, Malacca roadsides are also lined up with restaurants and bistros with multiple cuisine options. Among them are seafood restaurants with guaranteed fresh marine produce. We had prawns, some pork and veggies for dinner.
Taste: Wonderful and fresh. What more can you expect if the seafood served on your table were the best of the day’s catch?
Price: Way way way cheaper than they are supposed to. The prawns we had were actually large, so I’m kind of amazed that they weren’t expensive at all. Affordability is an unquestionable plus factor.
This popular dessert which is what Melacca is known for comprises of coconut milk, pandan flavored jelly noodles (the green, worm-looking thing), palm sugar and lots of shaved ice. When in town, the only problem you need to solve is where to find the best place that serves Cendol. There are numerous stalls and roadside vendors selling this sweet treat, all of them boasting about authencity. You can try them all, but if you want to spare yourself from Diabetes just to find the best one, here are my top picks for the superb Cendol in Malacca (based on on line reviews and raves from friends):
Aunty Koh – Type cendol on google and this name will immediately pop-up. A lot of food bloggers have actually featured this on their websites, claiming that this is by far the best cendol in all of Malaysia. But all good things come with a price don’t they? Finding the stall is tricky, location is in Bukit Rambai, about 25-30 minutes drive from Melaka Sentral.
Jonker88 – Unlike Aunty Koh’s, Jonker88 is easier to locate. It isn’t your average cendol house for this is a museum cafe that serves a variety of authentic Nyonya food. It is along Jonker street so you might want to pass by to put a break on your day’s shopping.
So sugar rush is definitely an enemy, especially if it includes a big gulp of Coco shake topped with a scoop of ice cream. But as you can see, me and my friend certainly didn’t care. The stall at the back is near the Revolving Tower in Melacca (Melaka Taming Sari). 1 cup costs 5 MYR. I know, cheap right? And oh so good for the humid weather. Aside from the shake, you can also try out other coconut flavored sweets like the snow ball and jelly delight, which I’m sure are equally refreshing.
Nyonya & Peranakan Restaurants
If wondering which restaurant serves the authentic and the best Nyonya food in town, walk around the major roads and spot which one has the longest queue of people. That was a Sunday when we did some strolling along Jalan Melaka Raya 6, and it was obvious that people make sure to line up early to secure a table and have a feast with family and friends. I will never understand some people’s profound love to food, but aren’t we all in constant search for the mundane that makes us happy? And happiness spells F-O-O-D most of the time.
My top picks, which are again, based on reviews and write ups all over the web:
AMY HERITAGE NYONYA CUISINE
It is said that this restaurant is one of the very few that has successfully preserved the wonderful taste of authentic Peranakan cuisine. Which is why since it was established almost a decade ago, it has maintained its position as one of the most visited and sought after eating place in the city.
Conveniently located at Jonker Street, Nancy’s Kitchen boast of simplicity when it comes to setting. The look and feel is homey and relaxed, a quality you should look for if authentic nyonya food is what you want. The recipes of the food they serve originated from the owner’s grandmother, so there is no question as to how classic their menu is.
Spots/Activities never dare to miss. . .
Museum and Other Historical Sites
Let’s do this the “Dora” way by consulting the map while we take a peak on the interesting historical sites of the city. Since these places are situated just merely few trots away from each other, a half day could easily be consumed when checking them all out.
A’Fomosa or Porta de Santiago
Built in 1511, this fortress was created by a Portuguese admiral named Alfonso d’Albuquerque. Although it was badly hit during the Dutch invasion, it was the effort of a British general that paved the way to its preservation.
St. Paul’s Hill
When the missionary Francis Xavier died in 1553, his body was laid to rest on this hill for some months. It is also where the Ruins of St. Paul church is located. Originally, the area is where the Church of Annunciation lies, built in 1521 by Duarte Coelho.
The place being on top of a hill, an amazing view of the sea can be seen from the front of the church. It was very surprising and is perfect for some soul searching and a few moments of peace & quiet.
This museum has 8 main exhibit areas which not only displays Islamic artefacts but also presents the history of how Muslims came to Malacca. It was educational and well executed. For someone who is not familiar to all things Islam, it surely was an eye opener and an exciting experience.
Proclamation of Independence Memorial
The building was built in 1912 by the British Colonial, but it was opened to public in 1985 by their first Prime Minister. It houses all the important events that lead to Malacca’s independence.
Some photos of what to expect inside this 2-storey museum:
Christ Church Melaka
Did you know that it took them 12 years to build this church? It was 1753 when the Dutch invaders started the construction, and all the materials especially the pews were all handmade. At one look, the church is very distinct because of its vibrant color. This is the oldest Protestant Church in all of Malaysia.
When in tourist mode, make sure to snap that obligatory photo in a city’s most famous spot. And in Malacca’s case, this definitely is the most popular picture site. =)
The area where Christ Church is located is also known as Dutch Square. Obviously because it was the architectural genius of the Dutch invaders who created this wonderful place. Their love for color and old school design is reflected in every corner.
On the left side of the church is another museum that houses a comprehensive exhibit of Malacca’s history starting from the Malay Sultanate up to the invasion of Portuguese, Dutch and British.
But before it was transformed into what it is now, Stadthuys used to be the administrative center of their government in a span of 300 years. They say that this is by far the oldest Dutch building in the East.
Malacca Sultanate Palace
A replica of a palace in the 15th century, this museum is where the rich culture of Malacca is displayed. Inside, you can witness how a sultanate in those days look like. There even is a diorama of sultan’s court with life size mannequins in traditional clothings.
The woodworks are amazing, the museum is so spacious and well ventilated. Footwears are not allowed inside, so stepping in barefooted, be marveled on the the display of weapons, photographs and clothings used by the ancient Melaka people.
What to expect inside:
Forgive the shamelessly inappropriate & unnecessary pose. Yikes.
Menara Taming Sari
At 110 meters above ground, this is the only gyro tower in the country, a revolving tower that offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city. It was opened in 2008 and is a local favorite among people who are not afraid of heights, which the three of us do not categorically belong. =)
The ride lasts for about 7 minutes. From above you’ll get to see the other famous landmarks I have previously mentioned. Ticket price is around RM20 per person.
During the Portuguese invasion, a giant ship sank in the coast of Malacca on its way to Portugal. This replica was made in commemoration of that tragic event. Also well known as Flora de Lamar, the museum is about 34 meters tall and 8 meters wide.
The maritime musuem showcases the golden age of Malacca’s Sultanate as Emporium of the East. The history of Malaccan maritime is featured in the artefacts and memoribilias well preserved.
Not only that, the deck has an amazing view and couldn’t be any more perfect for a selfie shot, or two, or three or as much as your go pro battery could handle. Cheers to vanity!
Melaka River Cruise
Hop off the Maritime Museum and there goes the Melaka River Cruise boat jetty. There is another one located in Taman Rempah, but both offers a 45-minute cruise along the Sungal Melaka. It is a glorious and refreshing way of checking out the other must-see sites in Malacca like the Chinatown and Kampong Morten.
Ticket sells for RM15 for adults and RM7 for kids. Price differs for Malaysian nationals and foreigners. The cruise has built-in audio commentary that will guide every tourist on the whole journey.
This probably is the highlight of my entire Malacca experience. Well, any activity that includes shopping at terribly cheap price plus non-stop street food eating should rightfully be, correct?
So what are the things you need to know about this ever famous district?
First — It is the major street of Chinatown previously known as the antique center of Malacca. But over time, it was slowly transformed into a shopping and eating place.
Second — The night market is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, so if you want to experience a real circus of bargain hunters and food savvy people, plot your trip on a weekend.
Practically all things cheap could be found in Jonker. Aside from food stalls and sellers of trinkets, you could find unique eating places with different ambiance. I think this is how it got famous, those tiny and cute restaurants that double as a musuem of some sort.
And if you’re lucky, you could bump into a famous person or a celebrity while having some fun. Hi, Ms. Cherry Pie, love the bag! =)
Walkabout and Fun
Some of the places you can see when you roam around the city. A lot of them are really picture worthy so make sure to sport your camera-ready faces all the freakin time!
Foot Reflexology & Spa
Another not-to-miss opportunity in Malacca is to experience their one of a kind Foot Reflexology and whole body massage. In every corner, there is a spa that will remind you that relaxation should follow after a whole day of touring.
Although numerous, one problem we have encountered is that almost all these spas are fully booked during our stay. So I think it would be very wise to pre-book an appointment if you are really keen. After all, there’s nothing more divine than a soothing relief to all those aches from stress and walking.
The primary mode of transportation in Melaka is perhaps the taxi cab, unless you are checked-in to a hotel where you can manage to just walk towards the major spots you need to see. In our case, we were fortunate enough to have chosen a hotel that doesn’t require hiring a cab when we explored the town. Of course, going to and from the bus station compelled us to hire one.
Taxi rides aren’t that expensive at all. But the case is different if you unfortunately hired those drivers with cheating meters.
Or you can also hire those tricycles with colorful decors that take tourists for a quick stroll. We didn’t try hiring one though, we opted in walking which is pretty much cheaper, and healthier.
Since the dawn of the mall era, we travelers always make sure to check out the shopping malls to any city we go to. In Melaka, 2 big shopping malls can be found in front of each other, the Makota Parade Mall and the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Mall. They both have major brands that are similar to what Singapore or any other place has, except maybe that they do offer the exact same retail therapy at a more affordable rate.
Where To Stay
In choosing for a place to stay, as a traveler I always go cheap. Lol. Why not, I travel to explore places, not to seek a temporary niche to spend my whole day sleeping around and doing nothing! A valid excuse since I cannot afford a luxurious accommodation hah! Plus I don’t see the point in taking your convenience as a top priority when in a foreign place. Safety, yes.
Anyway, in Melaka we booked a room in Pergola Hotel, a 3-star accommodation along Jalan Melaka Raya 6. Aside from the basics like free wi-fi, a pool and breakfast, what convinced me that this is a good deal is the location itself. But of course, on line reviews helped me hugely. It’s a good practice to read alright?
Malacca is essentially worthy of a 7 rating from me.
Reasons why you should go:
- It is a few hours away from Singapore which can easily be reached by bus.
- The food, hotel and almost all the places you need to see are CHEAP.
- It’s an ultimate breather for weary souls in dire need for some letup.
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Consider it as a mere sidetrip when in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. I don’t think you need to plan a vacation solely for MALACCA, it’s not worthy that way.
- When you have been to KL, nothing will surprise you that much.
Wrapping up my Melaka experience, some part of me still considers going back, but in all honesty, maybe it would take some time before I do. Aside from sun kissed skin I suffered from walking tirelessly during midday, I really don’t think one has to necessarily check-out Melaka just for the sake of a new place to visit. But if you’re addicted to traveling like me, and you don’t foresee seeking intervention in ceasing it, believe me, it surely does ease up the itch from the travel bug’s bite. =)