Town we didn’t know much about and we both missed on our first visits to Malaysia (yet separate before Stingy Nomads). Melaka was a dark horse for us, luckily we had some time to kill in KL before our flight to Sumatra and decided to visit it while waiting. We liked the city from the first sight and even more after two days of walking around, trying different food and enjoying tranquility of the place. Hopefully our Melaka city guide will inspire you to visit this beautiful town.
Reasons we liked Melaka
First of all because it’s simply beautiful, colorful houses along the river, flowers everywhere, bright rickshaws, colonial architecture all these and more make Melaka a perfect weekend destination for KL citizens.
Second, food, hundreds of options from cheap street food to expensive restaurants with cuisine from all around the world, not to mention a weekend night market with many interesting things to try.
Third, Melaka offers a nice escape from bustling, huge and noisy Kuala Lumpur, you have all you need but walking distance from each other. Don’t get us wrong there are many interesting places in Kuala Lumpur we just prefer smallish towns.
Melaka city guide. Things to do
I’d like to start from our favorite, Night market at Jonker street. We love food markets and night food markets even more! The market is opened only at the weekends, Friday to Sunday, the busiest time is after the sunset. Hundreds of food and curiosity stands, music stage with karaoke, lights, steam rising from pots and pans, locals and tourists, all these together create a cool vibe.
Walk along the river, stop for a coffee on the way, try some local pastries, spot a big lizard on the tree or watch schools of small fish swimming in the muddy water. If you walk a bit further towards the open sea you will have a chance to see water birds hunting in shallow water or jumping mud fish.
Sights not to miss
- A Famosa – ruins of old fortress;
- Dutch square;
- Kampung Klin mosque;
- St.Paul’s church;
- Cheng Hoon Teng – Chinese temple;
- Maritime museum of Melaka – replica of Portuguese ship that sank near Melaka;
Jump on a boat and navigate along the river, recommended at nighttime, 30 min. ride costs 15 Ringgit/3,5$.
Visit one of city museums, e.g. Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, Malacca Sultanate Palace museum, History and Ethnography museum and more.
Take a look over the city from Taming Sari tower, beautiful during the day and stunning at night-time.
Get a colorful ride in a trishaw (three wheel rickshaw) through night streets of Melaka. Unique experience, rickshaws decorated with teddy bears, batman, my kitty, frozen etc. All blinking, with hundreds of lights and loud music making their way through night streets, competing in speed and colorfulness.
Join a free walking tour to know more about Melaka and its history. Every Tue, Thu and Sat at 9.30 from the Tourist Information Center at Dutch square.
If you are a photography lover you’ll enjoy walking along picturesque streets of Melaka, taking photos of colorful houses, rickshaws and their passengers, locals sitting in multiple street cafes and boats cruising up and down the river.
Don’t forget to check a dancing fountain at night, maybe not as big and impressive as one in KL but lovely and very musical. We went there every night thanks to its proximity to our hostel, right around the corner.
Shopping in Melaka
Melaka has a couple of big malls with all the same brands you can find in KL. The good thing is that they all are located near the historical center and next to each other so you don’t need to spend time on getting there.
If you have more time you can go and see famous Hang Tuah’s well, which is located 15km outside the town or visit thematic water park Melaka Wonderland.
Where to stay in Melaka?
We stayed at Victor’s guesthouse, found it in booking.com, good price and very good rating. The place is very nice, clean, the location is good, close to the river, dancing fountain and cheap food places. For a double/twin with shared bathroom we paid 40 Ringgit/10$, bed in dorm 15/3,5$. Free tea/coffee, drinking water, hot shower, wi-fi. AC room 55 Ringgit/13,5$. It’s better to book for the whole period of staying, doubles are often fully booked, on the second day we had to move to a twin room.
Along the river there are many guest houses and hostels, prices are about the same 15-20 Ringgit for a dorm bed, 40-50 for a double.
Places to eat
We both are big fans of Indian food and Malaysia in general was a paradise for us. Our favorite place in Melaka was Banana Leaf cafe, just across the road from our guesthouse. Typical breakfast with rotis dipped in curry and milk tea, average bill was 10 Ringgit/2,5$ for both. For lunch we ate masala dosa, not sweet pancake with vegetables inside, delicious and cheap, about 12 Ringgit/3$ for both. The place is clean, the food is fresh and people are very friendly.
Second place we went twice was a chain sushi restaurant Sakae sushi. Usually we don’t eat in restaurants but after Melaka we were heading to Sumatra and from our experience we knew for next couple of weeks nasi or mi goreng would be in our menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The place was good, some sushi a bit strange, different from what we are used to, no California or Philadelphia but Salmon and Butterfish sushi were great. For our dinner including one non alcohol cocktail we paid 60 Ringgit/15$.
For lunch we usually went to one of many Chinese food places around, to eat… What do you think? Of course fried rice with… For a portion with meat/shrimps/chicken expect to pay between 7-9 Ringgit/1,5-2$.
Great place for burgers and coffee is Baboon house in the historical center, juicy burgers for 15 Ringgit/3,5$, Vietnamese coffee for 5/1,2$ and many other things. Closed on Tuesdays.
How to get from KL to Melaka?
Melaka is just 130km from KL, to get there is easy, just take a bus from TBS-BTS terminal in KL, buses depart every 15-30 min., average price 10 Ringgit/2,5$, journey takes about 2 hours. To get from KL center to TBS you have many options, we took a shuttle bus from Pudu sentral (old bus terminal) for 2 Ringgit/0,5$, it was the easiest for us, 400m from our guesthouse in KL. It takes about 20-30 min. to get to TBS, buses depart every 30 min. or so. The other option is to use LRT or Monorail train, from 2,5 Ringgit depends on a distance.
At TBS in the main hall there are many ticket offices selling tickets to all destinations, you don’t need to walk around trying to find a right counter. Once at Melaka bus station, go to local departures terminal, buses to downtown depart regularly, price is 1 Ringgit/0,2$.
When is the best time to visit Melaka?
Definitely weekends, to see its Night market and experience festive atmosphere of the city. Weather wise the best months are August, December and January, we were there in July and had heavy rains only late at night, during the day it was quite hot but at night nice and cool.
If you have some time to hang out in KL waiting for your flight or for any other reason, go to Melaka, we found it nicer and cheaper than Malaysian capital. Some of our friends we met travelling did the same just stayed in Melaka for a week or even longer relaxing and resting from ‘tough’ nomad life.
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