After spending my twenties and thirties zipping around Europe, United States and various Asian nations, I'm now finding myself more interested in becoming a backyard tourist by visiting Malaysia's various states. And why not, there's so much Malaysia has to offer!
During the recent Thaipusam long weekend, I took the chance to drive down to Malacca. "Took the chance" because you just don't know how traffic will be like during public holidays like these. Fortunately, the highways were mostly clear - except for one boneheaded weird moment when highway workers blocked the entire highway for half an hour, forcing us to a standstill, - it was clear to and from from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca.
A brief visit a few months ago made me realise that a day trip is just not enough when it comes to Malacca. You really need to at least spend three days. Here are things you must do when visiting Malacca:
1. Explore Jonker Walk
There's just so much to discover when you walk the narrow streets of Malacca town. You can walk down the river - the government actually did a good job upgrading the riverside area so it's now a great place to have a morning walk or a cuppa. There are numerous cafes, museums, curiosities, art places to explore as well. Take your time looking around, you'll be sure to find something interesting. The only thing I dislike about walking around the area is that I feel like target practice for the cars that are zipping around way too fast around the narrow lanes. I wish they'll turn the area into a pedestrian mall.
2. Take the river cruise
To be honest, I wasn't terribly sold about the idea of taking a boat ride down the river. I mean, it's a short river with nothing much to see, I thought. Wrong! The 45-minute ride - best experienced at night, IMHO - takes you from the touristy parts of Malacca river to the end where there are old Malay villages and flats. There will be a recorded audio telling you the history of the river too. I'm pretty impressed.
3. Visit the night market
The streets of Malacca town come alive on Friday to Sunday. Here you'll find tonnes and tonnes of food. I bought yummy jam tarts for RM25 a big box from an old uncle. Take a drink of the "watermelon bag" or take a "coconut ball". There's the usual Malaysian fare of satay and nasi lemak besides potato chips on a skewer dusted with chilli and cheese. Just be sure to have an empty stomach when you visit!
4. Eat a lot!
Uhm, yes, that goes without saying! Jam tarts, giant chicken curry baked paus, dim sum, Peranakan food, Portuguese cuisine, chicken rice balls - Malacca has it all. But their Western cafes are just as wonderful. My favourite haunt was the Heesan cafe because they have such delectable breads and such a soothing ambience. Be sure to pop around a nearby shop selling traditional Chinese biscuits. Its yum! And yes, another must-do: dine al fresco by the river at night at one of the many restaurants that dot the river. Romantic and relaxing.
5. Visit the Baba Nyonya heritage museum
I've visited the Penang Peranakan museum, which was very impressive, and I wondered if I needed to tour another Peranakan mansion. But the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum in Malacca is worth it. Everything is well preserved. You can either have a tour guide taking you around the mansion, or have a self-guided tour where you're given a book that explains each room of the mansion. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the mansion but I can assure you that it's worth the visit.