Malaysia’s Melaka captivated us with its interesting history. Located halfway between China and India, with easy access to Indonesia, the city attracted merchants from these far off lands, allowing it to blossom from a 14th century fishing village into a favoured port. It thus became a powerful trading state with a mix of Chinese settlers and Malays that became known as the Baba and Nyonya, Peranakans or Straits Chinese.
Then, the Portuguese came seeking spice wealth in 1509 and remains of their rule, such as the fort A’Famosa still stand today.
Later, the city came under Dutch rule for around 150 years. When the French occupied Holland in 1795, the British (allies of the Dutch) temporarily took over Dutch colonies, including Melaka, Penang and Singapore. Melaka became overshadowed by the rapid growth of Singapore and its fortunes declined. Due to it’s architectural importance, it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. Since then, the city has overgone a makeover with the beautiful preservation of architecture widely influenced by its past. It holds a charm and magic, as it welcomes visitors with kindness and cultural tolerance.
In the city’s centre stand streets of bold red buildings that are quite mesmerising. The town hall is believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East.
We enjoyed wandering around Chinatown, the heart of Melaka, and seeing the mix of craft, art, clothing and cafes.
Thankfully, we missed the weekend surge of tourists, so were able to stroll leisurely around its myriad of cute streets, pop into places like the Baba and Nyonya Heritage museum (where we learnt about 19th century Baba-Nyonya life)…
…chat to well-known local artist Charles Cham in his cool Orangutan shop…
…and wander along the river, admiring the different buildings and street art…
The multicoloured, multi-lit cartoon-style trishaws are perhaps one of the craziest sights in this city of surprises. You hear them coming a mile off as they cheerfully honk their horns and play a ‘melody’ of music from hip-hop to lurve songs! We couldn’t leave this gem of a city without riding in one of these blinged-up flashy modes of transport!
We were intrigued by abandoned buildings, yet to be reloved and renovated. Many a tale we span about who could have lived there and what might lurk up the stairs..!
The quirky and fun nature of Melaka is also evident in the accommodation choices available. We found a boutique hotel/hostel and were made to feel so incredibly at home. The Rucksack Inn could be one of the funkiest places we stay in! Caravan-style ‘pods’ line the ground floor alongside rubber tyre swings, table footie and a lime-infused water station. Outside hides the bonus of a secret swimming pool. Upstairs, you’ll find deluxe rooms. We loved our ‘buddy caravan’, so much space even though there were 2 bunk beds and a bathroom. We also can’t credit the staff highly enough, especially after Lola left her Kindle behind on the day we left, and one of the staff pegged it to the bus station on a bike, chased after our bus and delivered it back to her – above and beyond the call of duty 🙏. If you ever visit Melaka, stay here!!
As always, it was too short a stay, but we enjoyed every second of it. This was the cleanest, tidiest and most looked after city we visited in Malaysia, and we were glad we found it on our final stop in the country. We left by bus from Melaka Sentral bus station, bound for Singapore.