I’ll start this post by saying Malacca deserves more than just a day trip, but sometimes in life a day is all you can spare. While writing this I’m watching day four of a cricket test match (after also watching the first three days), so clearly that doesn’t apply to me. Jobs, kids and general “old people” responsibilities mean most people my age have to make the most of meagre holiday rations, so if you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur (probably on the way to somewhere more exotic) and you’re short on time I recommend a day trip to Malacca. You’ll see plenty of old shop houses, temples and churches and your taste buds will revel in the delights of Peranakan cuisine. All this is just a couple of hours by bus from Kuala Lumpur.
Arriving in Malacca
Buses between Kuala Lumpur (TBS Station) and Malacca will drop you at Melaka Sentral, where you can catch a taxi (or another bus) into the old part of town.
Due to its strategic position on the Straits of Malacca, a key trade route, this small city has been shaped by many different cultures. From its humble beginnings as a fishing village, it became a Malay trading port before being claimed, at one time or another, by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The most striking remnants of Malacca’s past can be found in and around Dutch Square. Christ Church, which dominates the square, is one of the nicest colonial churches in Southeast Asia, and there are plenty of other old buildings nearby. Dutch Square is probably the first place you’ll visit in Malacca and for me it was easily the highlight.
Are you a fan of loud (in a visual sense), eccentric and overpriced transport? If you answered yes, Malacca has you covered in the form of its over the top rickshaws which run people around the central city. You’ll see them lined up close to Christ Church — you’d better bargain hard as I’ve heard many drivers will overcharge tourists. I’ve never been on one, mostly because I hate to bargain for transport that I don’t really need to use (Malacca is an easy place to walk around).
St Paul’s Church
St Paul’s Church, which is now in ruins, is located on a hill above the old town. The old stone shell of this once grand church is a popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. There are some old graves scattered around the hill, and if you walk down the other side you’ll see the remains of A Famosa, a Portuguese Fort built in 1511. There’s also the interesting Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum nearby, and lots of other museums and galleries in the area.
Walking by the river
I’ve been to Malacca three times now (only once as a day trip), and one of my favourite things to do there is walk along the Malacca River. I once walked along the river for a couple of hours and saw lots of quiet (and not so quiet) river scenes. There aren’t many sights along the way but it is a nice walk. If you’re on a day trip to Malacca you won’t want to walk to whole way — luckily the parts close to Chinatown / Dutch Square are the nicest.
Chinatown: Shop houses, Temples and Street Art
Chinatown is where you’ll find most tourist-aimed shops and restaurants. You’ll likely spend a lot of time in and around these streets, wandering below ornate shop houses. I love this kind of architecture — you can also see heaps of it in Singapore, KL and Penang.
There are lots of little Chinese temples in Malacca. It’s hard to know which ones are “better” than the others so it’s best just to wander into some as you’re walking around Chinatown.
There is also lots of street art to be discovered on the streets of Chinatown. It’s not quite as renowned for street art as Penang but there are some interesting pieces on show.
Jonkers Street Night Market
Every Friday and Saturday night Jonkers Street shuts down to vehicles and becomes a big night market, where you’ll find food, souvenirs and entertainment. If you’re visiting Malacca on a day trip from KL you can easily stay to see the night market — buses back run until 8.30 pm.
The food in Malacca is reason enough to visit. Not being anything resembling a food writer, I’ll turn to the all knowing Wikipedia to help explain what this cuisine is all about.
“Nonya cooking is the result of blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. This gives rise to Peranakan interpretations of Malay/Indonesian food that is similarly tangy, aromatic, spicy and herbal. In other instances, the Peranakans have adopted Malay cuisine as part of their taste palate, such as assam fish and beef rendang.”
We tried a few different dishes in a few different restaurants and everything was great. If you’re like me and don’t know much about this cuisine (and food in general) just pop into one of the restaurants and order a few dishes!
Have you been to Malaysia? Do you like old towns like Malacca? Let me know in the comments below!
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