One of the pedestrian bridges throughout Melaka
We got a much needed holiday break at the end of our second week of school (haha), for Malaysia’s Independence Day or Merdeka Day. I could get used to this type of schedule, work a week, get a long weekend. Due to a passport issue for my wife, we couldn’t take a flight anywhere, domestic or international, so we were limited to places we could visit by bus or train. However, when we tried to look for train tickets they were all sold out. So with even fewer choices, we decided to take a bus down to Melaka/Malacca for a pleasant two night holiday.
Beautifully painted building along the riverside
With our limited prep time, we took a somewhat lackadaisical approach to planning. We flipped through the pages highlighting Melaka on the Lonely Planet guide that my colleague had so graciously lent us, but our main plan was to do what we often do these days: wander around on foot and try as much local food as possible. Our new method of traveling is such a huge departure from how we started traveling, where we, mostly me, would meticulously plan every detail of the trip. When I think back to the way we used to travel I can’t believe how much time I spent researching online and pre booking all our activities, leaving almost no room for spontaneity. I think the changes we’ve made shows our growth, not only in travel experience, but in our characters, that have been molded by our time outside of our comfort area.
Old colonial designs on the buildings
As our bus wove through the city streets, we could see that Melaka was a popular place to spend the holiday. The streets were bustling with throngs of people, not to the level of China during a national holiday, but certainly more than we have encountered during our other trips in Malaysia. We hastily tossed our bags down in our room at the ND Hotel, which would belong in the dictionary under the word adequate, and headed out to explore.
Architecture in Melaka
Our first stop was at the remnants of the St. Paul Church, located on top of St. Paul’s Hill, which gives a nice aerial view of the city leading out to the Melaka Strait. The church itself was one of the oldest churches built in Malaysia, but fell into disuse after the Dutch conquered the area and built a church in the main town square. From the top of the hill you can visit a few small museums, including the former governor’s mansion, but we bypassed them as we meandered down the hill into the heart of the old town.
St Paul’s Church
Memorials inside the church
View to the Melaka Strait
The town square is where all the hustle and bustle starts. First you hear the blaring music coming from the psychedelic, neon trishaws plying the motorways. The greatest concentration of which, can be found at the base of the bridge leading to Jonker Street. The cacophony they cause when they form a small train going down the road is definitely an experience not to miss. The buildings surrounding the square are all painted the same deep shade of red, which is pretty unique. For one, it’s unusual to see a building painted the same color from top to bottom, let alone several buildings all the same color. From the square you can visit several museums. We took a break from the pounding sunshine by taking a turn through the sparsely decorated Christ Church. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in an old church that had so little on the walls.
Leaving the church, we traveled into the madhouse that is Jonker Street, where you can find all your touristy kitsch alongside antiques, with a sprinkle of local food. Here, on this narrow street, we found ourselves amongst waves of people, all while dodging scooters and cars trying to navigate their way through. We did our tourist duty of checking out the local wares, coming away with a few wooden pieces for our new home.
With the sun setting we were famished so we set out in search of a nice local restaurant and settled on Manis J Nyonya restaurant. Nyonya cuisine was created by the Peranakans, which is a term used to describe the early-Chinese migrants who married with the local Malays. As you might guess, the food is a combination of Chinese and Malay flavors and the various dishes are popular in the Melaka area. We ordered three dishes, one bowl of steamed tofu, a plate of spicy, stir-fried chicken, and some fried squid. The flavors of the squid and especially the chicken were amazing, but we both found the steamed tofu a bit bland for our liking. As we were eating, we noticed that everyone around us was eating cendol, a local dessert made with ice, coconut milk, red beans, palm sugar, and green rice flour jelly. During our previous visit to Penang, we tried cendol and didn’t really enjoy it. However, we decided to give it another go since it was supposed to be a speciality of Manis J. While it did taste much better than the one from Penang, it will still take some time to get used to the flavors. Feeling satiated, we walked back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.
In my next post I’ll write about some nice out of the way finds and our surviving the night market on Jonker Street. If you’re interested you can read my post about the Floating Mosque in Melaka, that’s a bit outside of the tourist area.