As far as a weekday getaway goes, you couldn’t pick a much better place than Melaka in Malaysia. Melaka was declared one of Malaysias 4 World Heritage sites in July 2008 and is closely monitored by UNESCO as one of the primary historic cities that made up the Straits of Malacca. Historically, Melaka was developed by Malays in the 15th century but was soon colonised by Dutch and Portugese settlers in the 16th century. In the days of old, Melaka was a substantially influential town that linked a marvellous succession of trade between the East and West. The connections between Europe and Asia because of this trade is evident in the towns architecture, city planning, religious buildings, squares and walled fortifications that can still be seen around the city today. Today Melakas multiculturalism draws in visitors from all over the world which originated during the Golden days of Trade between Great Britain, Europe and the majority of the Middle East and South Asian sub-continent.
Melaka is easy enough to get to from the capital Kuala Lumpur by bus and can be accessed within 2-3 hours. I travelled from KLIA2 which admittedly most people will not travel from. If you are travelling from the Airport you will need to purchase a ticket at the ticket counter in the Airport arrivals area with transvisional for a single one way fee of 24.40 ringgit (under £5). If travelling from Kuala Lumpur city centre, check easy book for timetables and fares for specific details. Easy book is by far the easiest website to use for planning journeys across Malaysia.
After 2 and a half hours on the bus we had arrived at Mahkota Medical Centre in central Melaka (don’t get off at Melaka Central – you will need to get a further bus into the heart of Melaka city centre. If you do get off at Melaka Central just take the number 17 bus which costs 1 Ringgit (18p) and you’ll be there in no time.)
After checking into our very mediocre hostel in Plaza Mahkota we headed out for some food and drink. We had been recommended Jonker street by a friend which I imagine on any other day would of been great but I’m guessing because we visited on a Monday it was extremely quiet.
Only a limited amount of restaurants and bars were open which gave us little choice over where to eat. We unfortunately opted for a characterless local dish from a run-of-the-mill restaurant that was slightly dissapointing. To whet our beer deprived taste buds we dropped by a bar set nearly on the river side. I ordered a London Pride Ale for £5.50 (gulp) and got chatting to the owner of the bar who believe it or not used to live a road down from me whilst I was studying at University in Bournemouth, albeit he has not lived in the UK for 24 years. A couple of beers down we set out for Chinatown and the Dutch Square to take some photographs in the ghostly twilight.
The morning after we had only a limited amount of time to spend in Melaka before we had to return back to Banting to begin work again. So after a quick breakfast adjacent to Melaka River we headed back to the Dutch Square to take some more photos of the picturesque cityscape during daylight. The main focal point of the Dutch (Red) square is the iconic red brick Christ Church. The Anglican place of worship is remarkable on the inside as well as the outside. The 16th century church is situated next to a relatively new Dutch Windmill and the Stadhuys. Melaka is renowned for its ‘becas’.
You will no doubt see a colourful, illuminating array of the kaleidoscopic modes of transport as you visit the centre. If you haggle hard enough you can get a pretty decent tour of the city centre or get a cheap journey from A to B, it definitely is a memory worth making.
A short distance walk away is the infamous Dutch cemetery. The overgrown and poorly maintained burial site is unfairly named the ‘Dutch’ cemetery due to the fact that only 5 Dutch military are buried here compared to 33 British military. The graveyard was designed to bury colonist victims of the Naning War during 1831-1832 between the British East India Company and the Malay Chiefdom which occupied the surrounding area.
Following the graveyard we climbed vertically towards the peak of St. Paul’s Hill which gave the visitor a spectacular 360 degree view of Melaka. The Portugese built this Church in commemoration towards their religion. When the British ruled the city it was mainly used as a lookout post and you can see why;
Climbing down the steep steps back into the town you will pass an enormous amount of museums which is so impressive I feel compelled to leave a list of them here. If I had my way I would visit each and every one of the museums as they all look interesting to me but due to our confined time scale we had to pick one.
The Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum came out on top as our museum of choice. The name of the museum literally translates as ‘The Man Woman Heritage Museum’ so the building celebrates family and Malay culture, class and living arrangements. During the 15th century merchants and traders from China, India and Arabia came to the Straits of Malacca (Singapore, Melaka, Penang etc) in search of acquisition of new goods. Some traders married local women where the children of the marriage were named ‘Peranakan’ which translates as ‘Straits Born’. So, the three terraced property was acquired by the Peranakan Chinese ‘Chan’ family in 1861. In its 7th generation of ownership the house still resembles life in 19th century Melaka with exquisitely decorated rooms, expensive jewelery and cooking equipment and porcelain crockery. The museum was a suprising eye opener into how fashionable and developed this part of the world was in a conflicted period of time. Unfortunately strictly no pictures were allowed to be taken so I will leave the joys of the house to your imagination.
Other than that there were some other notable things to see in Melaka which include;
- Menara Taming Sari
- St. Francis Xavier Church
- Middleburg Bastion
- Independence Memorial
- Kampung Kling Mosque
- Melaka Staits Mosque
- Cheng Hoong Teng Temple
Here are some other memorable buildings/places that I enjoyed photographing.
After waiting 2 hours for a bus back to KLIA2 from Melaka Central our night away had finished. To give you an idea of a typical budget for a night away in a Malaysian city like Melaka I will real off my expenditure.
- Night in cheap hostel £4
- Breakfast £4
- Lunch £3
- Dinner £4
- Museum Entry £3
- Beer £10
- Taxis £2
- Snacks/water £2
- Souvenirs £20 (I bought a pair of Vans shoes, a Timberland wallet amongst other things)
Total spent: £52
In contrast to other South East Asian countries Malaysia is expensive. Expect to spend between £30-£50 a day on a good day out here. Thank god I’m volunteering for the other 6 days of the week.