Friday, May 15, 2015

International Summer:10 Things To Remember When Swinging Around in the City of Malacca, Malaysia

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

The City of Malacca is a popular swing around destination among tourists for a lot of reasons - it is charming, historic, accessible, inexpensive, compact, mixed of the old and new, diverse culture, and in July 2008, a UNESCO World Heritage City. So between our Kuala Lumpur leg of our international summer trip and our supposed arrival in  Singaporewe decided to visit Bandaraya Melaka in Malay language or simply Melaka

With only less than 24 hours to spare last April 21 - 22, 2015, here's how we were able to squeeze our time and make the most of our visit.

1. Travel At Night To Melaka (9PM - 11PM). Being only 2 hours away by bus from KL, we opted to travel at night and have the whole day for our sightseeing. We took the 9PM trip aboard the super  comfy  KKKL bus for MYR 13 each (P157) and arrived at the Melaka Sentral Bus Terminal before midnight. Since we didn't have any hotel booking, we followed the cab driver's suggestion on where to stay at the city centre where most of the attractions are situated. Taxis don't have meter so be sure to negotiate the fare. Our taxi driver charged us MYR 35 (P423) but later on we learned that it was a rip - off since usually it is MYR 20 during daytime and MYR 25  (P302) at night. 

2. Choose a Hotel at the City Centre (11PM - 9AM). We stayed at Venus Boutique Hotel  for MYR 116 a night (P1,405). It has everything we want for a comfy stay in an unfamiliar place - a window room with a queen size bed, nice bathroom with toiletries and towels, TV with cable channels, free internet and the hotel is serviced by an elevator! Also, the hotel staff are really friendly and helpful and let us leave our luggage at the concierge so we can tour around. But the biggest plus of Venus Hotel is its location as it enjoys close proximity to the Pahlawan Walk Market, restaurants, hawker centre, malls, cinemas, and the Melaka Heritage sites, perfect for our limited time adventure!

3. Eat Malaysian Cuisine at the Mall (9AM - 10AM). Since our hotel does not serve breakfast, it was comforting to find that there are so many restaurants and a hawker centre within 5 - minute walk, serving traditional Malayan dishes. However, the food looks all the same, and we were not sure if it's clean. Good thing the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Mega Mall  food court is just around the corner. It is indoor and air conditioned, perfect because it is so hot outside. I like the food court concept in Melaka (or Malaysia in general) as it is slightly different in the Philippines since there are a number of individual stalls selling different kinds of food items, but there's just one designated shop that sells the drinks. 

4. Be Sure To Have A Melaka Historical Street Map. With a very limited time from 10AM to 7PM at most in Melaka, amidst the scorching heat, we were very glad that I grabbed a map at the hotel! It came in handy as we planned our self-guided walking tour. There are also street map like this so just take a picture. It will save you one heck of a time!.

5. Coronation Park (10AM - 11: 00AM).The Coronation Park was created in 1956 after the proclamation of Malaysia's Independence. Because of the huge trees and beautiful local flowers planted all around, this recreational garden is a refuge from the heat as soon as we got out of Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall's food court! But that was not the only reason we chose this park as our first stop.  The park now hosts an old train which doubles as a museum for our first taste of Melaka's old charm, a number of aircrafts, children's playground, and a huge red heart (for photo ops) on the other side of the park towards Pahlawan Walk Market

6.Taming Sari Tower (11: 00AM - 12:00NN) or the Menara Taming Sari in Bahasa is another great option to see Melaka while avoiding the direct heat of the sun at noon time! Located towards the other side of the Pahlawan Walk. It is a 360 - degree viewing tower that can seat 66 passengers. From a height of 80 meters, we were able to have a breathtaking and panoramic view of this Heritage City  for seven (7) minutes and sampled interesting sites like the Flor De la Mar, Melaka River, St. Paul's Hill, and other developments.

Record: The Menara Taming Sari is the first revolving "gyro tower" in Malaysia.
Cost: MYR 20 (P242) each. This comes with a free snack - a drink and local biscuits! (another reason why it's good to take this ride at lunchtime)
Operation Hour: 10AM - 10PM  - Daily

Red posing by the Flor De La Mar 
7.Maritime Museum (12:00NN - 2:00PM). The museum itself was a replica of a Portuguese galleon called "Flor De La Mar" or "Flower of the Sea" that sunk in shipwreck off the coast of Sumatra in the 16th century. It was built only in 1994, with a height of 34 meters, a length of 36 meters and a width of 8 meters. Since we entered the museum at 12nn, we stayed long inside where we learned so much about the maritime history of Malacca and its golden era through thexhibits, artifacts and documents on display. 

Cost: MYR 5 each (P60). This allows you access to the Flor Del Mar exhibits area, upper deck of the ship to see the captains diorama, as well as the exhibits in the phase 2 of the museum. There's not much on the other side, except for the chair massager (MYR 1 or P13) for 3 minutes, a relief for your aching feet!
Operation Hour: 9AM to 5PM - on weekdays and 9AM to 8:30PM on weekends

8. Melaka River Cruise (2:00PM - 3:00PM). When the heat of the sun just starting to subside, and after seeing Malacca up high (Taming Sari ride) and down below (Flor Del Mar lower deck exhibits), then it was time for another adventure - the Melaka River Cruise. We bought ticket (MYR 15 each or P 181) at the Muara Jetty which is just a stone's throw away from the Maritime Museum and next to the Quayside Heritage Centre. On board a small boat, the cruise sails upstream from Maura Jetty until Taman Rempah Jetty and then back for about 45 - minutes.  It was an interesting and relaxing ride (my feet was able to relax), seeing the historic buildings, warehouses, mangroves, churches and villages along side of the river.  

(This was where a portion of Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones movie "Entrapment" was shot, which became controversial because the river with slums was shown next to the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur.) 

9. Self Guided Walking Tour (3:00PM - 5:00PM). Now on to the real Melaka Historical Site self -guided walking tour. It's cooler at this time, and your feet have been massaged and somewhat rested so you are ready for the two hour walk. If you still need further help, you can visit the Melaka Tourist Information Center in Jalan Kota near the Tam Kim Seng Bridge.

First Stop: Bastion Middleburg
After getting off the Maura Jetty, the  Dutch control tower called Bastion Middleburg will just be around the corner. The bastion was built in 1660 to fortify the surrounding area of the Melaka river which was busy with trading and shipping in those times, against enemies attacks. 

Second Stop: Stadthuys (Not the souvenir shop lol)
Red Square or Dutch Square is the oldest surviving part of Malacca city dominated by bright red terracotta buildings completed between 1660 to 1700. 

Stadthuys (the building on the right side when you are looking at the picture) is the oldest building in the Square, which served as the official residence of Dutch governors and was used as a town hall during the British Administration. Now, it houses a museum (which unfortunately was already closing when we got there because we got lured by the souvenir shops and hawker stall near the entrance.) Be sure to go there a bit early as I've read that the Stadthuys is very beautiful inside and is well maintained. 

In the middle of the Square is a Victorian water fountain built only in 1906 to commemorate the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria. Beside it is Tang Bee Swee Clocktower, which is a rather misplaced addition to this all-Dutch Square as it was built in 1886 in honor of Tang Bee Swee, a rich Chinese merchant not a Dutch.

See the souvenir shops? culprit for missing the Stadthuys
Facing the fountain is Christ Church built in 1753 as a replacement of an earlier Portuguese church and to commemorate the centenary of Dutch occupation in Malacca. 

Aerial View of Melaka from Taming Sari Tower
10. Shopping for Souvenir in Jonker Street and the Malls (5:00 PM - 7:00 PM). We spent the last two hours in Melaka just walking to have a feel of the rest of what the city has to offer other than the historic buildings. Towards the evening, we headed to Jonker Street, the center street of Chinatown, to buy some cheap keepsakes. But because it was a Wednesday, we missed the best part of Jonker Street which is the night market on Friday and Saturday nights. We went to Makhota Parade and Dataran Pahlawan shopping malls instead and were lucky to buy branded, quality clothing for cheap since there was a store wide sale during our visit!
(7:00 PM - 11:00 PM).Took the KKKL bus bound for Singapore at the Melaka Sentral Terminal and arrived in Singapore at 11PM!

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