Malacca, or Melaka, is the oldest Malaysian city in the Straits of Malacca, where has been ruled by different powers in the colonial times due to its strategic geographic location. It has historical affiliations with the Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, Britain, and ultimately Malaysian; and a strong Chinese and Indonesian influence with the influx of immigrants in the last few decades. The old city center of Malacca is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site with architecture from different cultures, walking through the Melaka Heritage Trail is like “Round the world in one hot day”! The best way to explore these heritages would be on foot, or, by trishaws, the flamboyantly decorated tricycle operated by the locals.
We visited Malacca from Kuala Lumpur internal airport (KLCC) – there’s a bus service that connects the KLCC and Malacca conveniently. Once we arrived and settled down in the hotel (which is very close to the Menara Taming Sari, the revolving observation tower), we headed out for our walking tour of the day!
Malaysia is immensely hot, hot, and hot all year round. Our first stop was Melaka River Cruise; on the way, we passed the Flora de la Mar Maritime Museum. It is a replica of a Portuguese ship that sank off the coast of Malacca. The museum is a restoration of the ship and provides information about the trading history of Malacca, an important port where east meets west.
The Malacca River runs through the city into the Straits of Malacca and it offers an overview of the city. Traveling in a small boat we could see historic buildings, old warehouses, mangrove stands, churches, temples, and villas. Once we got off the boat (the same spot we got on), we walked towards the Dutch square – which is merely 150 meters away.
Dutch Square is the most iconic place of Malacca. It is also called the “Red Square” as all the buildings around the square are painted in red (decorated by colorful umbrellas and trishaws with fresh flowers). The square marked the history of Dutch colonization of the city in the 17th century. The Christ Church, completed in 1753, was an eye-catching landmark of the entire area. It was built by Dutch and the bricks that built the church were specially shipped from Holland. The church is not huge but visitors are free to enter and explore the interior of the structure – photography is not allowed. More, the square is surrounded by other attractions like Stadthuys (the Museum of History and Ethnography) and Queen Victoria’s Fountain (and then the following looped in my head: I threw a wish in the well; don’t ask me I’ll never tell…).
Next, it was time for lunch ~ and we headed to Donald & Lily, which is on the other side of the river! I am sure every traveler has a long list of “must-try” food and restaurants in Malacca; sadly, too much food, too little time! Donald & Lily is a popular place with simple, authentic, and yummy local cuisine. Nasi, Laksa, Kuay Teow… and so much more! We had a great time because, to me, it’s always fun to enjoy local food in a local way. Another famous cuisine that is well-known in Malacca is the chicken rice balls. Chung Wah Chicken Rice is located quite convenient in the city center and it’s hard to miss with the constant long queue outside the shop under immense heat (a.k.a. avoid coming at peak hours). Honestly, I have tasted much better chicken rice in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. The rice balls are too gimmicky and unless you are really determined, I would say it’s not worth queuing up more than 20-30 minutes for that.
After the great meal, we strolled through the allies in the town and re-charged for our city walk in the afternoon. Crossing the Malacca River again, we reached Saint Paul’s Hill. The Saint Paul’s Church was built 500 years ago in 1521, and it had been a fort on the hilltop. Both Portuguese and Dutch have left their marks on this structure. Although the church remained in ruins, we could still appreciate the architecture up close and enjoy the view of the city all the way to the ocean (from the highest viewpoint). The Portuguese tombstones in the church have inscribed the history of the colonial times. The trail connects both sides of Saint Paul’s Hill. Therefore, it’s possible to go up one side and proceed with the journey on the other side of the hill.
Crossing the river again we were freely wandering in the old places like Hang Li Poh’s Well, Dutch Graveyard, Melaka Sultanate Palace, Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, Hang Jebat’s Mausoleum, Kampung Mosque, Sri Poyatha Vinayagara Moorthy Hindu Temple, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, and Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum are definitely not to miss!
Later in the day, it was so hot that we had to cool down and take a break at the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, which is a huge shopping mall where the locals could hang. We had ice-cream (and shaved ice) and then we took rest shooting arrows ~ :P.
So after a quick change back at the hotel, we headed out again for dinner and there’s no place else than the Jonker Street Night Market. Jonker Street was in the middle of the Heritage Trail, so we had already covered a little bit of the street during our walk in the day. However, the 500-meter long street transforms itself into a vibrant night scene when the road closed for traffic and food truck and street stalls set up.
How could a day trip be complete without a walk through the shopping carts and yummy local food? They had a wide range of “tourist” gifts but my mind was set for the 1,000 pairs of flip-flops. Then we immersed ourselves into the Malay food nirvana with Laska, finger food, dried snacks, fruits, durian-flavor delicacies, and the lists goes on and on… For those who had a long day walking, sit down and relax at a roadside restaurant, enjoy a cold drink and witness the hustle bustle looking out.