A Multicultural City
We decided to escape the bustling metropolis of KL for the more tranquil and smaller UNESCO World Heritage Site of Malacca (Melaka to Malaysians). The city is known for a blend of history and culture derived from being ruled by the Portuguese, British and Dutch. (Not to mention a hefty scattering of Chinese and Indian influences).
It was an easy and comfortable bus journey of under two hours from KL. We took a cab to our accommodation – Hotel Hong. It was a budget option hidden in the backstreets, but we received a warm welcome and the service was excellent throughout our stay. As well as friendly staff, the cosy room was spotlessly clean with a new bathroom, fierce air con (required!) and speedy wi-fi. We left our bags and, armed with a map supplied by the front desk, we set off to explore.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple was a stone’s throw away from our hotel and is apparently, the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia. Ornately decorated and fully of ambience and the aroma of incense, it was certainly worth a visit.
We realised we were right in the centre of the historical area. Most of the houses and shops are nearly a century old and built by Chinese traders. Many have fantastic details, such as beautifully painted plaster reliefs.
We located the main drag of Jonker Street easily. It was crammed with shops, cafes and antique stores, as were most of streets leading off it. Along with the mosques, temples and interesting houses, there was much to look at. After crossing the river, we came across the impressive sight of Christ Church, a red building with a Dutch square in front of it. Opposite, there was a fountain and the Tang Beng Swee Clock Tower, also painted in red.
It was very picturesque scene, full of life, and was also where the trishaws congregated. Furthermore, they were decked out in bright colours, flamboyantly decorated with fake flowers and stuffed soft toys. ‘Hello Kitty’ seemed to be most popular! They were a hit with children and tour groups, who were loaded onto them for tours of the city. Not only were they a sight to behold, but each trishaw had a speaker attached with music booming out of it!
Museums and Malls
There were several museums in the city including the Peoples Museum, Islamic Museum and Naval Museum. We paid a visit to the Architecture Museum, which was housed in a lovely red colonial building. Additionally, it was free of charge to enter (always good news to a couple of thrifty backpackers!)
We wandered around, enjoying the ambience and sunshine. Within minutes from Christ Church, we found ourselves in the modern part of the city, an area brimming with shopping malls. After a quick visit to one to one of the malls to escape the humidity and have a cold drink, we wandered back to the old city.
We passed the Duck Boat (yes – Malacca has a Duck Boat!) and also the striking Taming Sari Revolving Tower. The elevator there takes people one hundred and ten metres up, and has hundred-and-sixty-degree views of the historic city and the coastline. The building looks futuristic, but somehow there’s something a little 1970’s about it! Eventually we surrendered to the sun and humidity and called it a day.
Churches and Mosques
The following day we headed to Little India, which was full of colour and activity. Additionally, we visited Saint Paul’s Church which is on a hillside and had fantastic views of the city and the coastline. Who needs to go up in a revolving tower?! The church itself dates back as far as 1521 and was then converted into a fortress, making sense considering its position. A few local artists had set up shop up there and there were a few friendly stray cats and kittens too – always a bonus! We then made tracks to the Masjid Kampung Hulu – a lovely white mosque, which was built in 1728.
The shopping was plentiful. With a thriving local artist’s scene, Malacca is also home to many antique stores and even a few boutique shops. There were also lots of places to grab a drink when the heat was too much to bear.
The Geographer Cafe
We stopped at the Geographer Café for sustenance. It had a funky ambience and was playing a great range of music including Celia Cruz, Joni Mitchell and Manu Chanu – our kind of place! The girl serving was smiley and efficient and we were treated to some fabulously tasty food. Veggie curry, naan bread, chicken satay, rice and fresh spring rolls – quite a feast! If you find yourself in Malacca, it’s definitely worth checking out!
We had a good time in Malacca and the city was certainly worthy of a couple of days exploration. Furthermore, the owner at Hotel Hong even gave us a lift to the bus station. They also helped us buy our bus tickets and got someone to escort us to the correct terminal! Indeed, it was all part of the service and topped off a lovely a couple of days in Malacca.