The Malaysian city of Melaka (or Malacca, depending which dictionary you use), is 150 km south of Kuala Lumpur and 230 km north of Singapore.
Why visit Melaka?
Melaka is probably famous for 2 main things – it’s history and it’s food.
It has been awarded World Heritage status and has a long history related to its position on sea trading routes. The Chinese visited regularly until 16th century when it became a Portuguese colony. The Dutch took over in 17th century before it became part of the British colonial empire in 19th century. It was occupied by the Japanese during WWII and only returned to Malaysia post WWII. As a result there were plenty of architectural styles on display
Probably the most obvious Portuguese remnant is the Fort A Famosa. And the fort is what you see in the picture – nothing more & not overly exciting.
On the hill above is the shell of the Portuguese church, St Paul’s. Inside personal history was on display with enormous carved gravestones. They lean against the interior walls. Many were so big they came up to your shoulders. This is a snippet of social history with the gravestones telling of the hardships of colonial life – e.g. illnesses, lost at sea, or born in Amsterdam but died far away in Malaysia.
Mixed with this is the strong Chinese influence on the town. Many of the Chinese houses were rather ornate. This included the circular viewing cut-outs on many of the front verandas.
And there is no avoiding the bicycle taxis of Melaka. They are an assault on bother the ears and the eyes. The are decorated to within an inch of their lives. Pink and Hello Kitty are popular themes. Then there is the music and if you hear “Gangnam Style” booming it’s way towards to you – step aside, a bicycle taxi is heading your way.
And food deserves it’s own mention. The popular night market on Jonker Street, seems to always be lively and there are no shortage of excellent cafes. You can always tell a popular place from the long line standing outside it’s door.
How long do I need there?
2 nights and 1 full day in Melaka was enough for a good taste of the city, but like anywhere, more time gives you more options to understand and enjoy the location.
On public transport you are going to take the bus, along good highways.
From Kuala Lumpur there are a number of buses driving this route and consequently various departure points. Most leave from Bandar Tasik Selatan Station (take the MRT to get there), a few from Kuala Lumpur MRT station and a few from the International airports. As schedules and companies change the best idea is to Google the current options for the most convenient from your location. Google maps will also give you some starting research ideas.
Whichever bus you take allow for delays. The 2 hour ride I did, turned into a 3.5 hour endurance marathon. Most of the initial delay was due to traffic getting out of KL.
Where to stay?
Given that the inner town is very small, you should never be too far from the action and sights. I stayed at the Hotel Puri, one block over from the night market. It was a good clean hotel and had a good, if crowded, breakfast. It also has a unique feature with swallow’s nests in the open air foyer.