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Melaka, Malaysia: A traveller’s guide

By Alicia Corbett 8 January 2022

Header image courtesy of Hao Pan (via Unsplash)

Malacca—or Melaka, as it is known to the locals—was once the international trade centre of the East. Malacca is comprised of many ethnic groups, namely the Eurasians, Malays, Malay Chinese, and notably the Baba Nyonya, a culture unique to Melaka where Chinese customs were assimilated into Malay culture. The city has also been deeply influenced by the Dutch, English, and Portuguese colonies that took over throughout the centuries.

Malacca is conveniently located a mere two hours’ drive from the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and makes for a perfect weekend getaway or quick day trip. The city is rainy and humid throughout the year, so pack some t-shirts and slippers into your bag and you will be good to go. Here are a few places to check out during your time there.

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Christ Church Melaka

The vivid red-coloured square in the heart of the city is located just across from Jonker Street, another hubbub of activity and attractions. Christ Church Melaka is largely considered to be the oldest remaining Dutch structure in the East. Built by the Dutch when they took possession of the state from the Portuguese, its interior is modest and cosy, featuring beams uniquely constructed without using nails. Right in front of the church, there is a display of the city’s British influence in the form of Queen Victoria’s Fountain. After taking in your fill of the building, hop onto one of the many colourful trishaws waiting outside, most of which are replete with their own sound systems.

Christ Church Melaka, Jalan Gereja, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Malacca | (+6) 06 284 8804

Jonker Walk

This is one of the most prominent spots in the city, packed with hotels, museums, restaurants, shops, and more. Fridays to Sundays are when Jonker Walk truly comes alive, with a night market full of stalls offering keepsakes and local snacks. There are also three religious sites representing the main religions of Malaysia all in one place: the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the Kampung Kling Mosque, and the Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Temple.

Here, you will be able to indulge in local dishes that will certainly satiate your taste buds, such as the popular gula Melaka cendol, a local dessert that will help you to beat the heat with shaved ice topped with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, and green rice flour jelly. For a full meal, try one of the authentic Baba Nyonya restaurants, offering one-of-a-kind cuisine which has trickled down from the intermarriage between Chinese settlers and native Malays back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Another speciality unique to the city is the chicken rice ball, which is a rice ball prepared with chicken stock and served with tender steamed chicken.

Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum

Walk along Jonker Street and you will find the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, which is a combined structure of three houses painstakingly restored to its former glory of a nineteenth-century-style Baba Nyonya house. The townhouses have since been transformed into a Peranakan museum with hand-painted tiles and teakwood swinging doors. Guides are on hand to divulge tales from the days of yore with 45-minute guided tours.

Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, 48–50, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka | (+6) 06 282 1273

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Melaka River Cruise

If you have an hour or two to spare, take a 45-minute cruise through this UNESCO Heritage-listed city. The river was formerly a site for trading ships to dock, famously known as the “Venice of the East.” The tranquil boat ride spans nine kilometres and weaves through a number of historical bridges and murals along the way, which depict the culture of the Malaysian races and notable historical figures. It is advisable to go on the cruise in the evening as the weather in Malaysia can be scorching hot in the daytime.

Melaka River Cruise, Jalan Persisiran Bunga Raya, 75100 Melaka | (+6) 06 281 4322

Encore Melaka

Although many historical buildings or traditional shophouses can be found throughout the city dating back to the era of colonisation, Encore Melaka has made its mark on the map as a landmark of contemporary architecture. Within a cubic design combining blue and white hues, a highly entertaining show that showcases the life of Malacca locals through intricate props and diverse costumes awaits. The theatre has a 360-degree rotating platform where 200 performers bring audiences through six centuries of history through song and dance. If you do not have the luxury of time to catch the performance, it is still worth a visit to gaze at the extraordinary structure.

Encore Melaka, 3, Jalan KSB, Impression 8 Impression City, Kota Syahbandar, 75200, Melaka | (+6) 06 270 7777

Freeport A’Famosa Outlet

If you have had your fill of eating and strolling through historical sites, indulge in some retail therapy instead. The outlet is loosely inspired by the city’s Dutch heritage and offers discounts from 30 to 70 percent off on brands such as Nike, Skechers, and Forever 21. The entire outlet spans 16,000 square metres and also has some photogenic areas, so don’t forget to strike a pose next to the massive replica of a windmill when you are done shopping. 

Freeport A’Famosa Outlet, Jalan Kemus, Simpang Empat, 78000 Alor Gajah, Melaka | (+6) 06 552 8888

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Alicia Corbett

Contributor

Alicia is a freelance writer and the lead content writer for one of the top resorts in Asia. She’s a sucker for cafes with a great aesthetic and when she’s not traveling, she’s searching for the next one to visit in Malaysia, where she’s based. Her dream is to be a professional food critic but she’s happy digging into a bowl of macaroni soup with ham. She loves working on travel journals in her free time.

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