Malacca (or Melaka) is the perfect introduction to South East Asia. About 2.5 hours away from Kuala Lumpur, this little city which sits on the Straight of Malacca has a lot to offer. From night markets to temples, and street food vendors to colonial architecture, this place is very much underrated but it won’t stay that way for long.
What to See
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Chinatown – This is, in our opinion, the best part of the city to explore. The area is home to temples, mosques, shrines, restaurants and street markets. If you happen to be in town on a weekend, be sure to check out the Night Market which takes places along Jonker Street. The streets come to a complete standstill with only pedestrians allowed. You can buy all sorts of street snacks, beverages, and desserts like durian ice floss (flavoured shaved ice) and cendol (a refreshing dessert made with ice, coconut milk, palm sugar, and kidney beans). Even if you are not looking to shop, this is a great place to people watch and take in the hustle and bustle of the city. Touring around Chinatown is no doubt one of the top attractions in Melaka worth exploring for hours.
Stadhuys Melaka – The Stadhuys, also known as the Red Square, is at the heart of Melaka’s old town and is immediately recognizable by the red buildings which dominates the architecture. The town hall, church, and clock tower were built during the Dutch occupancy.
Orangutan House – Charles Cham is the artist behind this studio/gallery/t-shirt establishment. Despite his high profile, Charles can often be seen walking around the neighbourhood in one of his own t-shirt creations.
Where to Eat
Voyage Traveller’s Cafe – This is a popular spot with the backpacking crowd. It is a very laid back place that plays The Beatles and Jack Johnson, and serves up some excellent food. Our personal favourites were the banana crepes with chocolate ice cream, the peanut butter and banana sandwich, and the toasted cheese sandwich.
Rong Mao Restaurant – If you can rise early, and I mean early (this places opens at 5am), there is a great little dim sum place that is only open for breakfast. Located directly across from the mosque, this place serves up a variety of steamed dumplings. Our two favourites were: har gow (shrimp dumpling) and bau (a steamed bread dumpling filled with barbecue pork). Servers will come around your table carrying a large tray that holds a plethora of varieties. You tell them which ones you like and then pay by the number of plates you consume. This tasty breakfast is accompanied with a cup of Chinese tea.
Geographer – Located on Jonker Street, right in the heart of Chinatown, this establishment is always busy. While it may be difficult to find an open restaurant past 7 pm during the off-season, you can always count on Geographer to be open. They serve up local specialties, curries, sandwiches, spring rolls, and a delicious ice cream sundae.
Where to Sleep
Sama Sama Guesthouse – If you are looking for a guesthouse that has some quirky charm and character, then this is the place to rest your head. Located in Chinatown, this guesthouse has a nice hangout area, a quaint inner courtyard, and beds with nets (an absolute must in my opinion!) The bathroom facilities are all shared (bathrooms on the ground floor, and showers on the second floor); the showers only have cold water, but that’s honestly all you’ll want in this heat and humidity.
Chong Hoe Hotel – Another great find in Chinatown, this little hotel offers a number of different sleeping options at affordable rates. My two favourite things about this place: air conditioning and free Wi-fi. (One double room with AC and shared bathroom will cost you 40 Ringgits = 13 USD.
For more accommodations options, you can have a look here and book Melaka hotels on Traveloka.
What to Splurge on
Trishaw Tour – One of the first things you will notice upon arrival to the old part of Malacca are the bedazzled bicycle rickshaws around town. Bright coloured with plastic flowers, plenty of bling-bling, and loud pop songs blaring from the speakers. The driver will take you around the main attractions in the center of town, and also give you a chance to hop off, snap some pictures, and check out the stops along the way. The tour lasts one hour and will set you back 40 Ringgits = 13 USD. (Some drivers may try to charge you more, but the prices for this tour are clearly posted on a sign in the town square, so don’t be fooled.)
Boat Tour – Once you’ve tired yourself out from all the walking, you can head down to the pier and hop on a boat tour that will take you up the Melaka River. Tours run during the daytime and at night. Though it’s not the most exciting of tours, it is a nice way to see the architecture that lines the riverside, particularly when you reach the buildings covered in street art. The journey up and down the river lasts about 45 minutes, and costs 15 Ringgits = 5 USD.