Malacca (or Melaka) is the third smallest state in Malaysia which had Dutch, Portuguese and British influences and earned its title as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Just 2½ – 3 hours drive away, it’s easy to make a day trip from Singapore. Malacca is charming in her own way with her rich historical heritage and is also famous for her Baba-Nyonya food. It is a small city which can be easily explored on foot, taxis or for a more unique experience, trishaws.
Dutch Square (or Red Square) next to the Malacca River is a good starting point for visitors. The buildings around this area are painted red and especially prominent is Stadthuys & Christ Church believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East. Visitors interested in taking trishaw rides can easily take a ride from here.
Another interest place to visit is A’Famosa Portuguese fort believed to be the oldest surviving European architecture in Asia. It was built by the Portuguese who saw Malacca as an important port in the spice route to China. The Portuguese also built St. Paul’s Church – another heritage site in Malacca. Climbing up a long flight of stairs up St. Paul’s Hill, you will be rewarded with the magnificent church ruins and a breath-taking view of the city.
Just across Dutch Square is Jonker Street, the heart of Malacca’s Chinatown. Here, you can spend a leisurely afternoon shopping and indulging in the best of Malacca’s food. Along Jonker Street, you can find interesting souvenir and crafts shops and Baba-Nyonya shops selling traditional snacks such as pineapple tarts, ondeh ondeh (coconut snack) and a variety of cookies. There’s also a great selection of restaurants and eateries to tease your palate. After a hot afternoon of shopping, drop by the Geographer Café for a cold beer and relax. And when the sun sets, the street transforms into a bustling street market. Watch as the local hawkers push their carts out and display their fares to curious visitors.
So what are some good Malacca restaurants to try? One of them is Hoe Kee Hainan Chicken Rice Ball restaurant. Located at the entrance of Jonker Street, they sell steamed chicken served alongside with steamed rice mixed with sesame oil and rolled into little balls. Walk a bit further down (opposite Geographer Café) is Jonker Desserts 88. Here, enjoy some traditional Nyonya desserts such as durian chendol (side photo), ice-kachang or a hot bowl of laksa (curry noodles). Venturing out of Jonker Street, you can try a traditional Nyonya restaurant serving tempting dishes such as Ayam Ponteh (chicken in bean paste gravy), Sambal Udang Petai (chili with prawns and petai beans), Cincalok Omelette (egg with preserved shrimps) and Jenak Goreng Chili (fried fish with chili). A good place to start is Restaurant Makko (located opposite Hotel Equatorial).
If you would like to spend a night in Malacca, you can try staying in one of their boutique hotels which offers you a room filled with the splendor of their rich history. One such example is Courtyard at Hereen which is an old shop house that is converted into a small, cosy hotel.
All in all, Malacca is an interesting historical city and definitely worth a visit. It is a quaint city that engages its visitors with its history, friendly locals and exotic flavours.
Malacca is only a short drive away from Singapore and you can easily spend a short weekend here lost in its culture, history and food. So why not organize something with your class and have a fun cultural experience together? Please remember to check on your visitor visa entry requirements into Malaysia though.
Grassland Coaches: http://www.grassland.com.sg/ (About SGD 18 one way)
Delima Coaches: http://www.busonlineticket.com/ (About SGD 25 one way)
Various Coach Companies: http://www.easibook.com/ (About SGD 35 – 20 one way)