Malacca is a fantastic short trip from Kuala Lumpur Airport, from Singapore or even as a means for transiting between the two. The old town is colourful, full of character, history and even hip cafes and guesthouses. You’ll find as little or as much as you need to keep yourself amused for a few days.
Originally a small fishing village, settled by a Raja of Singapura, once allied with the Chinese, captured by the Portuguese, taken by the Dutch, stolen by the French, captured by the English and swapped to the Dutch again. I think that’s a good sum up of Malacca’s mixed history.
It’s home to the oldest mosque in Melaka, a Hindu temple and the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia.
So after all that you should have a good idea of why it’s such a diverse place.
But enough of that..
After flying into KLIA from Hanoi my next destination was meant to be Manila in the Philippines. However, the options were:
1. Spend a 20 hour layover wishing I was dead in KLIA, or
2. Fly to Manila a day later, make it a 44 hour layover and scoot down to Malacca.
So Option 2 was the winner obviously and it’s easy to get the bus straight from KLIA. No need to go via KL city! Head out of arrivals and down to the bottom floor. Here you can find all the buses and the bus counters for tickets. You can book the tickets online (and I did for the return trip), but who doesn’t love warm, efficient, face-to-face Malaysian customer service.
For RM21.40 with Transnasional you can get a ticket to Makota Medical Centre which is the closest stop to the old town. If you arrive too late in the day buses may only stop in Malacca Central in the new city and then you’ll have to take a cab on top of that (same with the return trip).
The bus took about 2 to 2.5 hours and was pretty comfortable. It actually drives along one side of the old town so you can get your bearings a bit before stopping at the Medical Centre. There are a few guesthouses on the opposite side of the shopping mall that the bus stops next to. After a frustrating conversation about the difference in price to the website with Backpacker Freaks I ditched them and went with Lavender Guesthouse (RM20 for a no frills dorm with aircon).
So after locking that in, I headed off to see some of the sights by twilight as the sun had already set. It didn’t take long to find the relics along the river and Dutch Square.
Crossing the bridge to Jonker St seemed like a good idea, but most places were shut. So I skipped over to the parallel street with all the temples which were also closed, but Masjid Kampung Kling Mosque was still open.
After that I decided to see if there really was any sort of view from St Paul’s Church. It wasn’t set on a particularly high hill so I’m not sure what Wikitravel was on about, but it had a nice view down to A Formosa and vice versa.
In actual fact, the area with the most happening was the waterfront near Dutch Square. There were loads of places to grab a bite, a beer, maybe some wine instead. It’s quite a romantic scene under the tungsten street lights.
For me though, travelling alone and famished, I had a better idea. I headed back to a cafe called Halla Inc. near the old waterwheel. Sometimes it’s nice to cheat on the local food. So whilst Peranakan and Nyonya are the big things here, I couldn’t imagine it could be all that different to Singaporean food just a few hours away. The burger was delicious and the mango milkshake was freaking amazing so naturally I revisited the place again later.
The next morning I headed off an hour after sunrise to see what was happening in the early morning. The temples were busy with early morning worshippers so I got in on the incense too.
The Hindu temple was quite different to me. The priest was blessing people and giving out offerings, but I felt too guilty to take a photo and was too unsure what to do and so I didn’t take a blessing either.
Walking along Jonker St in the early morning was much the same as at night. It seems to be a sleepy old town, but you could still appreciate the old buildings and architecture.
While waiting for things to open, I had breakfast Kaya Kaya Cafe, which is actually a guesthouse too I think. People sure know how to do western food here too and I had this great omelette combo. I then decided it was necessary to brunch the shit out of Malacca.
There are a few galleries in town. There was one odd one called The Orangutan House with all sorts of wacky t-shirts inside involving Malaysian humour.
I realised during the day that there was actually much more to the river walk than I’d thought. Walking the length of the river from Masjid Kamping Hulu to Dutch Square is essential and you’ll see a lot of great street art closer to the mosque.
The old buildings were owned by cafes, guesthouses or were just the backs of shops facing the other street, but it feels like a cool area to stay if you can.
The last thing that I thought was worth noting about Malacca was the alternative way to get around. I think the best way to describe them is just – Asian. Super cutesy rickshaws will chauffeur you around for a fee. It was quite hilarious watching the male drivers carefully tending to their Hello Kitty ornaments and adjusting decorations throughout the day.
So that was it! Short lived and enjoyable with an elastic list of things to do. I had no idea where to buy tickets for the bus in the old town so I grabbed one online. Again, just be aware that late in the afternoon it may not be possible to be picked up at Makota Medical Centre.