Melaka: Melting pot of cultures & culinary influences

Melaka (or Malacca) is one of the states on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. My youngest brother completed his tertiary education there, and continued on working as a Engineer. (Yes, we are a brotherhood of 3 engineers.)

I visited Melaka a few times, and every time I am there, it has never lost its charm for me. Melaka is one of my favourite cities, because it is a melting pot of cultures due to its rich history. The local Nyonya cuisine especially marries the best from Malay, Chinese, and Portuguese culinary influences.

Getting here

Melaka has an international airport, however it only services limited international flights to nearby Indonesia.

The nearest railway station is 30 km away from town. Hence, it is not recommended to travel via train as well.

As such, the only way to Melaka is by bus. There are buses connecting KL / Singapore. The buses are very comfortable. My mum would even say that the bus seats are much more comfortable that Airasia seats.

Tip: We always use bus operators, KKKL, Transnasional or Delima Express. Bus tickets can be bought online. The travel from KL to Melaka is about 2 hours. 

When to go

If possible, avoid weekends, especially long weekends. Melaka will be crowded as if everything in town is on fire sale!

But, if your schedule / travel plans only allow weekends, it will still be fine. Take advantage of ride sharing app, Grab, can greatly help you getting around without worrying about traffic jam or parking.

What to do

Walk! The best way to discover Melaka is on foot.

Jonker street is this narrow winding street, lined with vintage Nyonya shop houses. At night, Jonker street turns into a night market with an open karaoke stage at the end of the street.

street art jonker street melaka
Street art along Jonker street

In the morning, we like to take a stroll, and do some cafe hopping. Especially this new hipster art cafe, Heesan Kopi.

pancake daily fix cafe melaka
We also like pancakes from Daily Fix Cafe

Jonker street is on the west bank of the Melaka river, which to me, looks similar to the canals in Venice, minus the smell.

Melaka river canal
Melaka river (the canal)

You can also join the Melaka river cruise.

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Crossing the Jalan Hang Jebat bridge, you’ll come to the infamous Dutch Square. Makes you want to shout out “Let’s paint the town red!”, only that it is already red!

christ church melaka
Christ Church Melaka

Christ Church is the oldest protestant church in Malaysia, dated back to 1753.

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If you are game for some hiking, climb up the hill to St Paul ruins.

st paul ruins panorama melaka
Panorama of St Paul’s ruins
st paul ruins melaka
St Paul ruins

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From St Paul’s, you can descent from the other side, and reach A Famosa, the remains of the fort once used by Old Portuguese and Dutch.

a famosa melaka
A Famosa

You should also visit the Baba and Nyonya Peranakan Museum, to learn more about the local Peranakan history, as well as explore the grounds of an actual Baba Nyonya house.

Masjid Selat, the floating mosque is especially pretty at dusk.

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What to eat

You must try the local Nyonya cuisine. It really is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Portuguese flavours.

nyonya cuisine melaka
Nyonya cuisine

Our favourite Nyonya restaurant is Makko. You must try,

  • Pongteh chicken (chicken in soya sauce and fermented beans),
  • Curry prawns with pineapple,
  • Ngo hiang (pork roll),
  • Pai tee (Chinese turnips and dried shrimps in crispy shells),
  • Mee siam (sweet & spicy vermicelli),
  • and of course for desserts, Cendol!

Nyonya kuih (cakes) are also very delicious. The best is from Baba Charlie.

During my last trip, I found this nice Tapas bar. Will maybe write more about this restaurant in another post.

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