TRAVEL GUIDE TO MALACCA
Once a very busy location where spices were traded, Malacca has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its significance in history. Known as “The Historic State”, it is the third smallest state in Malaysia, next to Perlis and Penang.
Malacca was once the location of the earliest Malay sultanates, however, the local monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered the state in 1511. Before the first sultan arrived, the state was a fishing village inhabited by local Malays.
Malacca was founded by Parameswara and legend has it that he was resting under a tree near a river after a hunt when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. The mouse deer pushed the dog into the water. Parameswara was so impressed that he decided to build an empire on that very spot and he called it “Melaka” after the tree where he had taken shelter.
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Malacca is October, April and early May. September and November are generally the wettest months. Otherwise, Malacca has a stable weather so you should be able to enjoy the city at any time of the year. To maximize your holiday fun, you should check the local festivals.
The weather in the city is humid and hot with temperatures soaring above 30°C so it is best to wear cotton clothes to let your skin breathe and do not forget to bring your sunblock!
The currency in Malacca is the Malaysian Ringgit.
GETTING A BUS FROM SINGAPORE TO MALACCA
I am based in Singapore and since taking a bus is cheaper than going to Malacca by plane, my friends and I chose to the former. Booking a bus to Malacca is not difficult as there are numerous companies which ply the route.
Most coaches terminate at Melaka Sentral, however, there are some bus operators which provide alternate routes and arrival points in Malacca. By providing direct service to hotels, it is more convenient for guests as the do not need to take a taxi from the terminal to their hotels.
The travel time from Singapore to Malacca is 3 to 4 hours depending on the traffic condition. Round trip fares start from USD $32.
GETTING AROUND MALACCA
Malacca is a highly pedestrian city and most attractions are located near each other so walking around is a good idea. Not only do you get to exercise, you also get to see historical places which make the city so unique.
Bus. When we were in Malacca, we never had to take the bus because as stated Malacca is really not very big and because we were only there for the weekend, we opted to take the taxi as there were six of us. However, if you plan to stay longer you should take the bus. Melaka Sentral is a modern and well-designed long distance bus station but it is inconveniently located opposite a huge branch of Tesco.
You will find all the major bus companies in Melaka Sentral which go to Butterworth, KL, Kota Bahru and other places. If you want to take the bus to the city from the bus station, you should take bus 19 going to Chinatown.
Train. The nearest train station is located more than 30km north of Malacca. Taxis to the train station from Malacca costs RM40.
Private cars. Car hire prices start at RM160 per day and prices are inclusive of tax and insurance.
TIP: Malacca has a one-way traffic system which requires a lot of patience. It is also a very good idea to ask your hotel if they can arrange transport for you. Most of the time hotel car prices are cheaper than private car rates.
WHERE TO STAY
Malacca has a myriad of hotels as it is one of the most visited places in Malaysia. There are hotels, hostels and homestays. For our trip last May, we stayed at the Hotel Sunflower which is about 30 minutes outside of the city proper by car. It was quiet and peaceful and the food served during the breakfast buffet was decent and filling. For one twin room, we paid only USD $16.
WHAT TO EAT
- Chicken Tandoori
Chicken tandoori is savory and filling. The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and then seasoned with a mixture called tandoori masala. Turmeric gives the chicken an orange color. Tandoori is a dish which originated in India.
Naan comes from the original Persian word nan which means bread. Typically nan is served hot and brushed with butter. It is used to scoop other foods and it can also be stuffed with different types of fillings.
TIP: Pak Putra Nan and Tandoori Restaurant, located in Jalan Laksamana 4 is one of the best places that serve naan and chicken tandoori. Although it is not to be classified as fine dining, the food is excellent and the prices are very reasonable. As a matter of fact, Pak Putra has been featured on the list of top 17 foods to try in Malacca but do not just take my word for it, try it yourself!
- Fruit juices
After a long day walking around, the last thing you want to happen is to be dehydrated. Fruit juices are the perfect way to quench your thirst. The fruit juice in Eha Juice Bistro is some of the best which I have ever tasted.
TIP: Eha Juice Bistro is located near Cheng Ho Museum.
WHAT TO SEE
A’ Famosa Porta de Santiago
A’ Famosa has a Romanesque architecture which now has ruined walls. If you are a history buff, you will love this spot in Malacca. Originally constructed by Alfonso de Albuquerque, the man responsible for leading the Portuguese invasion on the sultanate of Malacca, it has now become a crumbling gatehouse located nearby St. Paul’s Church. If you want to avoid the crowd, visit the fort early.
Malacca Sultanate Palace
The Malacca Sultanate Palace is a replica of the original palace which is known as Istana. Visitors will be able to see various artefacts, drawings and photographs which tell the history of Malacca. The replica has three storeys, eight chambers and three galleries.
Christ Church can be found in the Dutch Square. It is arguably the most popular spot in Malacca, both enjoyed by the locals, as well as tourists. It was built in the 18th century and it remains one of the most visited places so be early so you can take decent pictures.
Flora de la Mar Maritime Museum
Entrance fee: RM6
This maritime museum is actually just a replica of the Flora del Mar, the Portuguese ship which sank off the coast of Malaysia. It now houses various artefacts and sometimes there are also exhibitions. Couples with children should make sure to drop by, the little tots will love it.
St. Paul’s Hill
St. Paul’s Hill is also known as Bukit St. Paul by locals and it is one of the best places to go to if you like taking outstanding photographs. You can have great views of the city from the top of the hill and also see St. Paul’s Church.
Dutch Square, also known as Red Square, has two of Melacca’s most prominent landmarks, namely, Christ Church and Stadthuys or the old town. One of the things which you should never miss is the tri-shaw. You will enjoy the ride!
Entrace Fee: RM10
Located in the heart of Melaka International Trade Centre or MITC, the Melacca Planetarium is dedicated to the world of science and astronomy. The Islamic inspired complex has a strong Islamic influence. It has numerous exhibition areas, a library, cafeteria and the largest dome in the country which is used for periodical movie screenings.