After a 3-day whirlwind tour of Singapore, our shrinking bank balance meant we had to move on. We were definitely heading into Malaysia – as we are to fly out of Kuala Lumpur on 2 January to Perth – but we weren’t too sure where in Malaysia.
We were keen to do more scubadiving and Malaysia’s Peninsular east coast has world-renowned dive sites, but, unfortunately for us, it’s practically a no-go area in the wet season, which we were slap bang in the middle of. So the west coast it was then, and after a quick bit of research we decided on Melaka.
Melaka is an old port town with a rich history. It was a major port for hundreds of years under Portuguese, Dutch and English rule. A brief look at some pics of beautiful colonial era architecture did it for us. We used on busonlineticket.com to book a bus to Melaka with Superior Coach for 25 Singapore dollars/£12 per person. The bus was modern, comfortable and got us to Melaka on time and without a hitch, so it was money well spent. It only took 10 minutes to get through Singapore immigration and just 5 minutes to get stamped and into Malaysia…compare that to our Cambodian nightmare!
Another big plus for Malaysia, on the west coast anyway, is that its road system is extremely modern, comparable to the UK. The whole journey was done on large motorways and it only took around 4 ½ hours, whereas in Vietnam, Laos etc the same distance would take about twice that!
Melaka itself posed no problems either and we had a blast, albeit a very slow paced, relaxed blast – here are the highlights so you can see for yourself…
Balik Pulau Hotel
Overlooking the Melaka Straits, Balik Pulau is a new hotel with small but cosy rooms. The receptionists were friendly, the cleaners were attentive and the view from the roof looking out to the huge cargo ships was beautiful. Oh, and at the weekends they put on a decent free breakfast. It is really close to all the tourist shizzle as well, just a 5 minute walk away.
Calanthe Art Cafe
We had breakfast at Calanthe a couple of times and it was consistently good. It did the healthy stuff, muesli with fruit and yoghurt, well, and the fry up was even better, although we still can’t come around to chicken sausages! There’s a large selection of great coffees available too. But the highlight for us was the blind woman across the road, who sat on her front porch playing traditional Malay and Western songs on an Asian string instrument (it looked like a Cambodian tro). It gave the street a very chilled out atmosphere.
For only a £1, we visited the maritime museum, which is inside a replica of the 16th century Portuguese ship, the Flora de la Mar. It tells the story of Melaka over the past 600 hundred years and, unlike many museums in South East Asia, it has a logical flow and the setting is unique in these parts…
Melaka has lots of cool art galleries and plenty of street art for you to enjoy, oh and colourful old buildings everywhere…
We saw a huge monitor lizard, over a metre long, swimming about in the river and it attracted lots of tourist attention. Pity we didn’t have the camera with us.
Sunset at the little beach near the mouth of the river
Just out the front of Balik Pulau Hotel, there is an area where the river flows into the Melaka Straits. It has a tiny beach where you can watch the beautiful sunset along with the locals who gather there.
Pak Putra is unassuming and a little hard to find, but once there, you’ll be glad you made the effort. The naans and signature tandoori chicken are cooked in authentic tandoors outside the restaurant and it is some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had – and we’ve sampled the best London has to offer! Its curry dishes are also great, thick and full of good quality ingredients and flavour. The place may have a hawker feel to it, but the food is a completely different level.
If you’ve been to Melaka and have any recommendations, please be a sport and share them below.