Malacca or Melaka is a city in Southern Malaysia and our last stop in the country (or so we thought; we wound up back in Malaysia months later). It gives off a slightly less weird vibe than some of Malaysia’s northern cities, and its history includes rule by a Hindu prince from Sumatra as well as the Portuguese.
By the time we got to Melaka we were exhausted. We splurged on a Holiday Inn, which was nicer than any Holiday Inn in(n) the USA, and determined we would “not leave the hotel” for 24 hours and take some time to rest.
[1 Hour Later]
We’re outside the hotel, in the spot the night market will soon be, eating Roti Canai and other delights in a tiny local restaurant with blue towels and a nice man. Hours later we’re still outside the hotel, strolling the night market and eating Milo Kepal; our favorite treat as you might know if you read the blog before. There were zero Westerners in the market, and everyone was friendly and smiling at us. We even got free samples of things we should have paid for! We were loving Malacca from the start…
Things To Do In Melaka Slash Melacca
Visit Melaka’s Musuems
There are several museums, and naturally we visited 2 of the stranger ones. First up the Postage Stamp Museum, which was a bit lackluster even for a stamp lover like me (I really am a stamp lover). There is a LOT of information on stamps, more than imagined, including an interesting history of the spelling of a town named Johor/Johore which we found very funny for some reason. We also visited the Museum of Enduring Beauty, which covers the unique topic of mutilation and body modifications as beauty practice around the world. From tattoos to piercings to limb stretching, the museum provided in-depth context into past and present-day applications. It is quite interesting, really, but unfortunately during our visit we both became ill from snacks we ate on the way and we nearly vomited. Reading about mutilation did not help us to feel better.
While we were in the museum area we of course took some scary photos…
Ride in a Trishaw (Or At Least Watch Them Go By)
These crazy vehicles are all over Malacca. They are basically bikes with carts affixed to them, with stuffed animals stapled on the front, bright and aggressively flashing lights (by night) and blaring music at all times. While not really in budget, we were overcome by excitement and decided to take a ride. We got lucky, as it began raining and our ride was cut short and we did not have to pay as a result!
Check Out Dutch Square/Red Square
There is an area of town with red buildings, some stadthuys (funny word) and some other buildings. Plus an I Love Malacca sign which we obviously had to pose with for the collection. Some rude and aggressive tourists repeatedly butted in front of the long line of people waiting, with no self awareness. By mistake I filmed this interaction and have a lengthy video of disgruntled tourists yelling. There is also a pretty church nearby.
Go To Jonker Street
This much-talked about street has a market on the weekend apparently, although we went midweek. There are some food places but the prices are steep, even in the hawker center portion. The food tastes better than the outside looks (which is pretty rough, even for hawker center lovers like us). On the street, a man played guitar and I remarked it was kind of good. “Give him money” Sarah said. I did not give him money.
Hang By The Waterfront (Or Don’t Because It Smells)
There is a pretty-looking and gross-smelling waterfront area between Little India and Jonker Street. Along this are some bars, restaurants and accommodations of the questionable variety. It was not quite pleasant enough to stop for a drink. But beautiful, nonetheless.
See the Diverse History
Melaka’s melding of cultures is evidenced through its neighborhoods from Little India to Chinatown. I checked out the old Bukit Cina, a cemetery on a hill with creative headstones in shapes of things like ships and buildings. There are signs that say not to enter alone, so naturally I entered alone on my morning run. In the heart of downtown is the A Famosa Fortress, the remains of a former Portuguese fort (1511) and one of the oldest remnants of European architectural remains in Asia.
See the Melaka Straits Mosque…But DON’T GO ON FOOT
We went to famous mosque for sunset, obviously walking the 2 miles each way to stay in budget. Once we exited the city center things suddenly got weird, as the atmosphere turned from “normal” (for Malaysia) to uber sketchy. We found ourselves wandering alone, on the side of the road, mototaxis whizzing by, with extreme harassment coming from said taxis, random unknown windows and wooded areas. The walk definitely required more vigilance than we were displaying! We walked onward, and found ourselves in a remote and deserted area next to dilapidated cement buildings that appeared to have squatters, past a soccer field with nefarious-seeming youths playing. Eventually we made it to the mosque, which was quite incredible, and crowded with people who obviously did not walk 4+ miles round trip but instead arrived in fancy tour buses.
After viewing the sunset on the water, we were heading back when suddenly a man emerged from behind the tandas (toilets) and started yelling “taxi!” at us. We shook our heads and kept going, but next thing we knew he was following us in a car, again yelling “taxi,” while driving behind us. “$15!” he yelled. Then, “$10!” Shortly thereafter “OK $5!” Which was interesting as we didn’t acknowledge nor negotiate for any of these prices. He kept driving beside us, slowly and creepily. When we ignored him he eventually opened his window to yell louder, then stopped his car next to us and started to open the door.
Slightly terrified at this point (we were back in the dilapidated, deserted wooded area; the youths weren’t even within yelling distance), we made an escape by cutting through a new apartment building that was going up. It was still mostly empty but manned by a guard. We saw the taxi laying in wait out front, but cut through the back to evade him. At this time, in my haste, I tried to exit through a gate that led to an underground restricted access area I mistook for the street. The guard materialized and yelled at us in Malay, of course.
All in all, though, Malacca was cool and one of my favorite spots in Malaysia.