The Charming City of Melaka

The Charming City of Melaka

Located almost between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Melaka is one of Malaysia’s two historical cities alongside Georgetown in Penang. Now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Malaysia’s oldest city is steeped in multicultural influences.

This port city has not been colonized once, nor twice, but three times by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Its strange colonial past is still evident through its unique architectural styles and culture influenced by these periods.

From its narrow winding streets lined with temples and antique shophouses to its peaceful lantern-lighted canals, nowhere conjures up romantic images quite like Melaka.

Arriving there from Kuala Lumpur we had no plans. I didn’t really know what to see and do, and we had no map. Making our way to the visitor’s center to grab a map and some information, we were disappointed to find they had nothing of that sort, they only had this gem here…

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Just take picture, this map not available

Luckily, we still found out way around. Walking around Stadthuys, the ‘Red Square’, I was amazed at the architecture, but yet, something still felt off. This feeling lingered and continued to grow stronger as we made our way through the winding streets of the old town around Jonker Street.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Filled with tourists, vendors, and modern chains, this old, historic place suddenly felt unnatural. It was like some weird historical theme park. I mean, there was a Hard Rock Cafe there. You know you’re somewhere touristy if there’s a Hard Rock Cafe.

Malaysia - Jan 2014
Malaysia - Jan 2014
It wasn’t until we began exploring off the main road, that I felt the real charm of Melaka set in.

It was finding all the antique shophouses, the quaint art galleries and the hidden teahouses and cafes. Those were the real gems of Melaka.

I could easily spend a few days here just relaxing inside any of the cafes– working, writing.

Malaysia - Jan 2014  Malaysia - Jan 2014

And then it was the temples. The oldest temple in all of Malaysia, Cheng Hoon Teng, is not just a temple for Buddhism, but for Taoism and Confucianism as well.

Take a walk down the street for a few seconds and suddenly you’ll be standing before Kampung Kling Mosque and Sri Poyatha Moorthi Temple.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

We heard Buddhist monks chanting, only minutes later to hear a Muslim prayer call as if it was in response to the chants. It was amazing how all of these religious practices nonchalantly co-exist on one small street. It’s no wonder that street is named Harmony Street. 

Spending the day in Melaka I didn’t experience most of the touristy things, and I can’t say I regret it. It was exploring the backroads that showed me the real charm of the city, a charm worth going back for. At this point, even if I were to return, I probably wouldn’t bother with any of the main tourist attractions… although I still want to take a ride in one of those crazy rickshaws!

Malaysia - Jan 2014
Malaysia - Jan 2014

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Getting there: There are many daily buses between Melaka (Melaka Sentral Bus Terminal) and Kuala Lumpur (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) that run every half-hour. I used Metrobus Ekspres, but there are a number of companies with most being relatively the same in terms of cost, speed and comfort. Plan on the journey to take around 2 hours each way.

Cost: Bus fares generally run RM10 (USD $3) one way. There is no reduced fare for return trip, and to book your return you need to know the exact time. When we wanted to head back, we just purchased our tickets and had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus departure– and this was on a Sunday.

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Would you like to visit Melaka?

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14 Comments

  1. tsuna
    November 24, 2014 / 8:00 am

    wow! beautiful. can’t wait to go there

  2. Kevin Bigam
    March 28, 2014 / 6:50 am

    I was in Malaysia last year on a trip through 3 countries in SE Asia. My biggest regret was not staying in the country long enough and only doing one day in Melaka. We actually were invited by one of the vendors to listen to him play in a band that night but had to get back to KL to fly out. Can’t wait to go back and spend 2 or 3 more days there.

    • Beth Williams
      March 30, 2014 / 5:10 pm

      I only stayed in Melaka for one day as well, next time I’ll be sure to slow down and stay a few days like it deserves.

  3. March 22, 2014 / 5:18 am

    It would have to be the Hello Kitty rickshaw, wouldn’t it? :D

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 4:03 pm

      Hello Kitty is everywhere, you can’t escape her!

  4. March 18, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    Awesome rickshaws! I love them anyways, but one of those I’d pay double for!

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 3:43 pm

      I really wanted to as well. The prices actually weren’t all that bad, considering you were getting a guided tour as well!

  5. March 18, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    It’s so pretty and colourful! Shame about the touristyness (is that a word) of it but at least you got to find its charm and explore a bit. I totally want to go on that Hello Kitty rickshaw.

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 3:42 pm

      I really, really wanted to ride those Hello Kitty rickshaws! Even though they were a bit overpriced I totally would have, but we were a bit short on time and they only offered set packages for sightseeing.

  6. March 18, 2014 / 6:30 am

    I wouldn’t have wanted to hang around the touristy area, either – the more authentic places are definitely more appealing! Great photos!!

    • Beth Williams
      March 18, 2014 / 1:34 pm

      Yeah, the touristy area was fine for a bit, but then it just got to be too much.

  7. March 18, 2014 / 2:20 am

    Beth, thanks for a great article about Melaka. I have just been doing some research into a trip to this part of the world so your information is very timely!

    • Beth Williams
      March 18, 2014 / 1:33 pm

      If you make it to peninsular Malaysia, do check out Melaka! Before I went, I actually couldn’t find too much on there so I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it, but I really enjoyed it.