Thursday, 14 January 2016

Travelling Southeast Asia: Melaka, Malaysia

The second place we visited on our travels was Melaka (sometimes written as Malacca), on the southwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. We travelled to Melaka by coach from Singapore, which is the easiest and cheapest way to travel between the two. It only cost nine pounds each and the coach was super luxurious with fully reclining seats.

It seems like it’s usually a painless journey, but unfortunately we got a little stuck at the Singapore border control. If you get the coach from Singapore to anywhere in Malaysia you will have to stop both to leave Singapore and to enter Malaysia. Because of a huge backlog of people trying to leave Singapore and the fact that there were only 3 lanes of about 30 open, it took us over an hour to get to the front of the queue and have our passports checked. By this point our driver was ready to leave without us and demanded to know why we hadn’t just snuck through the Malaysian citizens only lane like everyone else on the coach had…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought immigration is not the place to be trying to break rules or ‘sneak’ anywhere! But like I said, I think we were just particularly unlucky, as friends who have done the same journey passed through in a matter of minutes.

Once you arrive at Melaka bus station you are still a good fifteen minute drive from the centre of Melaka, and it’s here that we (or should I say Tom) had our first experience of haggling. Having read the guidebook, we knew what the price should be but it still took a lot of effort and fake walking away to get the price down to 20 Ringgit, which is around three English pounds.

We spent two nights in Melaka, and this was just the right amount of time to see everything in the town. Melaka is a popular destination for local tourists of the surrounding countries to come for the weekend, and our visit unintentionally fell over a weekend, which meant it was extremely busy. So busy that it was often hard to find a space on the pavements.

The hostel we stayed at in Singapore also had a hostel in Melaka, and the 15% discount tempted us to stay with them again. Fernloft in Melaka was even more rustic (read dilapidated and perhaps a little unclean), although we did have a window this time (with a lovely view of the communal shower courtyard. Even though we didn’t have any major issues staying here, I think you can definitely get more for your money if you search around online or even once you arrive, as some fairly nice hostels and guesthouses don’t have websites or feature on sites like Agoda.

We were only allowed the air conditioning on in the hostel after 7pm, so we got out of the sweatbox that was our room as quickly as we could and headed to Geographer Café for lunch. This was our favourite place we ate in Melaka; Tom ate his soup out of a coconut, and things don’t get much cooler than that.

That evening we headed to Jonker Street for the night market. This main street was now a plethora of different stalls, selling everything from food, juices, toys, souvenirs, shoes and the odd fake handbag. This is the one advantage of visiting Melaka at the weekends, as the night market only comes out on Fridays and Saturdays.

The following morning we went on the hunt for an ATM. It seems obvious and pretty stupid of us on reflection, but having come from Singapore with the naïve view that Malaysia was going to be fairly similar, we hadn’t even considered the fact that hostels and restaurants wouldn’t take card and only had a small amount of Malaysian Ringgit with us.

Once we’d sourced some more cash we had lunch at Limau-Limau café. This was a recommendation from the guidebook, but we were pretty disappointed; the service was beyond slow and the food didn’t match up to the high standard we’d found so far.

As it was our only full day in Melaka we saw everything we could: Cheng Hoon Temple, Porta de Santiago, Stadthuys and China Town. Melaka was once under Portuguese and then Dutch rule, which is why a lot of the architecture, particularly the Stadthuys area is of European influence.

We were struggling to find somewhere to eat that evening in the pouring rain, so resorted to the Hard Rock Café, which we didn’t feel too guilty about as we always try to visit one in every place we visit, and it was the only time on the whole trip that we ate in one! The drinks prices were just as high as anywhere else in the world, so we just stuck to water and food, which were of a similar cost to local restaurants.

I feel like all I talk about is food, but I have to mention our breakfast the following morning at Calanthe Art Café; it was such a lovely little place and we both had amazing curry-based dishes before heading off to get our coach to Kuala Lumpur.

Although I wouldn’t suggest spending a long time in Melaka, it’s a great place to stop off for a night or two if you’re travelling between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

I also vlogged our stay, which gives an even better impression of Melaka, so give that a watch and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the vlogs from the rest of the trip.

Have you been to Malaysia or Southeast Asia? Let me know what you did or saw in the comments! 


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