When most people travel to Malaysia, they think of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the crystal clear waters of the Perentian Islands, the street food of Penang, or the jungles of Borneo. In fact, many people cruise through Malaysia in less than a week with their main goal being to get from Thailand to Singapore, or back. I’m a big believer that if people knew more about the country, they’d do a lot more within its borders than get from A to B. After spending an hour in Georgetown, Jamie and I quickly realized that we didn’t want to limit ourselves to the originally planned 7 days in Malaysia. As a result, we extended our stay in order to fit Melaka in to the itinerary as well.
The first thing that you’ll notice when arriving in Melaka is the old town set up along the river. It’s a good place to take a stroll with a ton of street art and graffiti covering the colonial buildings that line the water. There’s river cruises that you can hop on if you feel so inclined, but honestly you can pretty much walk the most attractive part of the river in about 5 minutes or so. We opted not to do the cruise, so I can’t know for certain, but I would imagine that it would be a relatively short ride. The area surrounding the river is especially pretty at night with the buildings all lit up, and is a great place to grab a couple of beers while chilling out. In a way, I suppose you could say that Melaka is kind of like Malaysia’s version of Venice. It also just so happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. Also near the river is Dutch square, a collection of buildings from the Dutch era in Melaka such as the Stadthuys (town hall).
Little India is an accurate name, as it’s certainly small. However, there are a couple of amazing Indian restaurants within the few blocks that make up this district. One in particular, Selvam, served up some of the best Indian food that Jamie or I have ever had. For about $3.50 each we got masala tea and a massive meal composed of chicken tikka masala, lamb masala, rice, and three vegetarian side dishes all served up on a banana leaf. Just a couple doors down were two “famous” restaurants, side by side, with literally 100 Chinese tourists waiting to get in. It baffles me that you’d be willing to wait for over an hour to eat at one of these spots, when you can make your way down to an Indian joint that serves up dinner for less than $5 on a banana leaf. But hey, that’s just me.
The Jonker Street Night Market
Probably the biggest draw in Melaka is the Jonka Street Night Market, which is most active on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Here you can find things such as tacky souvenirs, snacks, and clothes. In other words, it’s not a whole lot different than any other night market you’ll stumble upon in Southeast Asia. However, it’s a good way to kill an hour or two if you’re not yet ready to hit the hay, as long as you’re comfortable with elbowing your way through hundreds of Chinese tourists.
Melaka is a cool little town to explore for a day, or perhaps a day and a half. A full two days is probably a bit much, but it’s not the worst thing you could choose to do either. If you feel like chilling out for a couple of days and grabbing some excellent Indian or street food, then Melaka could be a great place to do that. Just know that it’s a very small town, so don’t be expecting a ton of thrills.