Just 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur is Melaka, designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2008 along with Penang. It was once a trading port that was once run by the Portuguese. The town is small and walk friendly as most of its attractions are within a 1km radius. Being a huge fan of Penang, I was excited to hear about Melaka having the same cultural feel and couldn’t wait to check it out.
*Note: all prices were what I paid for my trip in May 2017. Current prices subject to change.*
It’s easy to get to Melaka by Bus from Kuala Lumpur via Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The VIP luxury buses are only 14.40 MYR ($3.25) each way, the seats are roomy, and the ride is smooth, unlike other buses I’ve taken in Southeast Asia! If you are only making a day out of Melaka and plan to take the bus back on the same day, make sure you buy your return to guarantee your spot back. You can buy tickets at the station or for ease of mind you can pay an extra $0.25 to book them online. Once you get to the bus station in Melaka, you can quickly grab an Uber for ~7 MYR (~$2) to take you to Dutch Square, which is the heart of Melaka.
Dutch Square is a photographer’s dream! All the buildings are painted red and make for stunning pictures. Dutch Square has four main buildings: the Stadthuys, Christ Church, Queen Victoria’s Fountain, and Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower. Here you will also see elaborate decorative trishaws lined up looking to take tourists on a ride around the city. There’s also a food stall across the street, selling chendol and fresh watermelon juice. This is a great place to start. The museum in Stadthuys is worth the visit and gives the history of Melaka.
CHICKEN AND RICE BALLS
Melaka is known for chicken and rice balls and the place to get it is Chung Wah. This shop is right at the entrance to Jonker Street and has been there since the 1960’s. Locals and tourists start lining up right before they open at 8:30 am to have a plate of their family recipe. Only two things are on the menu, Hainanese chicken, and rice balls. You have your option of half-chicken, whole chicken or two chickens served along with rice balls and an amazing chili sauce. I’m a huge fan of chili and dumped easily ½ a cup on my chicken! The flavor is amazing! You can find chicken rice everywhere in Melaka, but this is the best place to get it. The chicken was super fresh and probably the juiciest I’ve tasted. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch so make sure you head over there before they close at 3 pm
Price: 25 MYR ($5.75) for half a chicken and rice balls
Hours: 8:30 am – 3 pm
Location: 18, Jalan Hang Jebat
BABA CHARLIE NYONYA CAKE
I heard about this place from a friend in Penang; she said I must go there to get some Nyonya treats. I took an Uber to go check them out as they’re ~2.5 Km from town. Located down a narrow alley is a residential house that sells about a few dozen different kinds of desserts called kuih. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was a bunch of ladies hard at work making the treats. I asked if I could take pictures of them, which they happily smiled for. Walking into another room is where all the magic was. So many colorful kuih! They give you baskets to load up, and I decided on three to take away and try. At ~$0.50-1.00 a dessert, it’s easy to add one of each to your basket! I refrained and picked three traditional items to taste. I liked all of them, but really loved the blue rice with palm sugar coconut.
I hadn’t heard about the street art here, but one thing that keeps bringing me back to Penang (besides the fantastic food!) is the street art. It was an awesome surprise to see that Melaka also has their fair share of art on the street. Most of it is concentrated along the river, so I highly recommend walking the river and checking out all the wall murals out.
JONKER 88 - CHENDOL
I’m not going to lie; I haven’t tried chendol until now. I know I’ve been to Malaysia at least eight times over the past year, and I haven’t tried chendol?? Honestly, there’s just so much going on with it that it intimidated me. Upon arriving in Melaka everyone, of course, says get the chendol! I hadn’t planned on getting it, but then I saw Melaka Chendol wasn’t like Penang’s. It’s like a stripped down version of it and not so scary. Melaka’s chedol is basic, served with red bean, green chendol and shaved ice then topped with a healthy portion of Gula Melaka (palm sugar sauce) and coconut milk. I figured I’d give it a go and was told Jonker88 was the place to get it. WOW! So good! I got mine without beans (don’t like them), and just the simpleness of the other four ingredients was a milkshake in my mouth. Jonker88 makes a few different types from plain to durian. Maybe next time I’ll try the durian version.
Price: 4-5 MYR ($1.00-1.25)
Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Location: 88, Jonker Street
JONKER STREET - NIGHT MARKET
I had heard about Jonker Street Night Market and decided to come to Melaka during the weekend so that I could check it out. The night market is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am. I love markets! Jonker Street shuts down car traffic to make it a walking street after 6:00 pm. The road is narrow, so I would suggest going early as you’ll be walking through like sardines after 8:00 pm. At the end of the street, I noticed a big stage, huge screen, and a microphone. Karaoke!!!! There are even seats set up in front of the stage so your friends, family, and strangers can cheer you on!
FLORA DE LA MAR MUSEUM
You can’t miss the restored Flora De La Mar Portuguese ship that has now been converted into a museum. There are many museums in Melaka, and this is one I highly recommend. Your ticket not only gets you into the Flora De La Mar but also the Royal Navy Museum and Maritime Museum. I rented the walking tour headsets to learn about the history. Was surreal to learn Macallum had a fingerprint in Melaka after just hearing about him in Cebu, Philippines. I love that all my travels and history are intertwining together.
Cost: 10 MYR ($2.25) Admission; 3 MYR ($0.75) headphone tour
While I didn’t actually take a river cruise, it looked awesome! I winded up walking down the riverside instead. I was told the best time to ride is at night, unfortunately, I was already set to leave that day. Next time I go, I will take the sunset or night tour. For only $3.50 for a 40-minute boat ride, it’s worth it!
MENARA TAMING SARI TOWER RIDE
While checking out the maritime museum, I noticed tower across the way and walked over to check it out. It was the Menara Taming Sari Tower that rotates in the sky giving a 360-degree view of Melaka. The ride itself is only about 7-8 minutes long, but it’s worth the price. I couldn’t stop smiling or taking pictures the whole time I was up there. I rode up during the day, but I bet a sunset or night ride would be spectacular.
Cost: 23 MYR ($5.25) and includes a free water bottle
I’ve taken trishaw rides in Penang, but these take trishaw to a whole another level! These trishaws are elaborately decorated with loud music booming. You can find them lined up at Dutch Square with menus of attractions they can take you to. This is an excellent way to see the city on a hot day if you don’t feel like walking around.
Cost: 40 MYR ($9.25) for 60 minutes
WALK ALONG THE RIVER
My favorite part of Melaka! I love the river running through the center of town. I would pick cafes to hang out at just to view the river. My hotel was right on the river too, so I walked the river every morning. There is a lot to see on the river walk as that’s’ where most of the street art is. Highly recommend walking in the morning or early evening.
This is the first time I’ve seen this! They take a small watermelon, make a hole in the top, take a hand mixer and mix up the inside, then use a funnel to add ice, then serve. Mind blown!
Locations: Dutch Square & Jonker Night Market