Malacca, an amazingly small melting pot of rich culture, history and arts.
Ever since I rekindled this love affair with wanderlust, I have bucket-listed UNESCO World Heritage sites as my must-experience destinations, and I am glad that four to five hours away by bus from Singapore is a perfect weekend sweet escape – Malacca, an amazingly small melting pot of rich culture, history and arts.
I visited this happy place twice in 2014, and I simply cannot get enough of its seemingly laid back sleepy facade that craftily masks a multifaceted beauty. Because of Malacca’ strong colonial past under the Portuguese, Dutch and British rulers, exploring it gives a feeling akin to time-traveling, like being transported from one century to another fast, really fast, so you would have little time to digest information. But the good thing is for me, I can easily return for a quick date and more. Now, if this is not enticing enough for you, allow me to describe Melaka’s awesomeness and how to spend your visit there.
But first prep the Dora essentials. Read up a bit about Malacca. Secure a map to plan your routes depending on your interests so you can manage your time and easily find your location, or have fun getting lost if you’re staying longer than 2 days. Tip: You can lump hotspots together in a single route. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hat or umbrella and your smile. Now, you’re ready.
1. Stay at a hostel.
I don’t really fancy staying at hotels unless it is “needed,” and in Malacca, you will find artsy fartsy hostels that are worth your budget, safe, tourist/traveler friendly, and, did I say artsy? Ringo’s Foyer Guesthouse and Tidur Tidur’s Guesthouse where we stayed are fantastic examples of these. Art is everywhere, from café, souvenir stores, resto, galleries, museums, ruins, antique shops, mural-infested buildings, and did I mention hostels? These artsy hostels whetted my appetite for more of Malacca’s entrees, and again shall I return. I just love and admire the creativity, ingenuity and novelty bursting from every corner of this quiet city.
2. Ride a trishaw and paint the town red.
Found in the heart of the city is the Dutch Square and its equally flamboyant neighbors, Christ Church, Queen Victoria’s Fountain and the Stadthuys. This area is difficult to miss because of its color, hence the other name Red Square, and the lineup of colorful trishaws in front of the Christ Church. Package tour price for Beca rides ranges from 25-50RM. I have not tried this, but it looks fun though with upbeat music blaring and that princess-ey feeling of being in a grand majestic parade.
3. Walk up to the Bukit St. Paul and down to Porta de Santiago (A’Famosa).
There are two pathways leading to the ruins of the old St. Paul’s Cathedral; you can either go from the Stadthuys (the front part) or the Porta de Santiago (the back side). Here you can have a semi-panoramic view of Malacca, see old Portuguese tombstones which reminded me of the Ten Commandments tablets, and find local artisans and merchants selling their masterpieces and souvenirs. So, if you can ascend that hill, why not continue this exercise all throughout your stay? It is the cheapest mode of transport as the likelihood of spending more than your budget is curtailed; even if you have moolah burning a hole in your pocket, you only burn calories.
4. Bike to Villa Sentosa, the Malay Living Museum.
When I, my best friends and my brother went to Kampong Morten on two separate occasions, it took us about 30-45 minutes on foot to reach the village. The first time, we were able to meet the owner and caretaker of one of the houses, and he showed us around, sharing stories, proud of his history, heritage and culture. Talking to him, his storytelling prowess and how simple life was back then reminded us, my brother and I, of our own grandfather and our childhood, and we realized how terribly we missed him. Yeah, we were a bit emotional that time. Too bad, it was closed on my second visit. To save time, I am going to bike, another exercise, for a third one. Bikes can be rented for a cheap price the entire day and if you’re lucky, your hostel owner might take you up on a free tour.
5. Cruise around Melaka.
For a 45-minute ride on the Melaka River Cruise, you will enjoy a showcase of the picturesque bits of this city from the preserved traditional Malay villages to the lovely murals decorating establishments and houses by the river.
6. Stroll around Jonker Street.
Your Melaka trip is incomplete without the Jonker Street happening. During the day, you can learn from the city’s heritage and history by visiting some of its museums of which I highly recommend Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum and Cheng Ho’s Cultural Museum, temples, and the World Heritage Park. But what you should not miss is the party vibe and fun atmosphere every Friday and Saturday Night Market where the souvenir shops, bars, food stalls and the likes sell their products and all sorts of thingamajigs, so you have an array of goodies to choose from and bring home while you feast nonstop.
7. Promise to come back for a different taste, a different feel, a different touch, a different side of Malacca.
With all of its assortment and mixture of modern and traditional ways that have been greatly influenced by colonizers yet somehow managed to keep intact by the locals, Malacca never runs out of surprises and treats, thus never fails to pique my interest and inspire me to aspire for a well-lived life. Botanical Garden, Public Library and batik making are a few of the items on my to-visit list.
About the Writer:
I am Lorelyn, Balot/Lo for short. A perpetually curious crabby dragon, a chocolate diva whose favourite sins are forgetfulness, wordplays, art galleries, books, extra (brown) rice, haiku, ice cream, red, masturdating, running, laughing, and a crazy imagination. I am changing the chaotic order of my universe by clocking in early.