Melaka is a UNESCO world heritage site in the South of Malaysia and easily accessible from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
In its hey-day Melaka played a central role in Malaysia’s history as a thriving port for trading spices and textiles. Conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, and then the Dutch in 1641, before being handed over to the British in 1798, the city also has a well-preserved colonial heritage. We did this walk over two days, but it can be accomplished in one day if time is tight.
We started our walk on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock at the Hotel Puri. This is a carefully restored Paranakan house which has been converted into a boutique hotel. It’s a nice place to stay, particularly if you are interested in the traditional architecture of the old town.
Opposite the hotel is the Chee Ancestral Mansion, which is a grand mansion and private residence belonging to an old Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) clan. There is no public access to the house, but you can admire it from the gates.
Turn left and you will find the Cocoa Heritage shop, which has excellent information about cocoa production in Malaysia and sells delicious chocolate products. However, the persistent sales pitch is a bit off-putting.
On this street, you will also find the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum which is well worth a visit and presents an excellent opportunity to find out more about the Peranakan community of Melaka. A guided tour should last approximately one hour and costs 16 MYR for adults and 11 MYR for children (prices May 2018).
There are plenty of restaurants serving traditional Nyonya cuisine in this area if you are feeling peckish.
Cut through to Jonker Street and catch your breath at the UNESCO World Heritage Park which has a statue dedicated to Datuk Wira Dr Gan Boon Leong, ‘Mr Universe’, Mr Asia, Mr Malaysia and the Father of Bodybuilders in Malaysia. As a park, it is a little disappointing, but it is fun to explore the statues.
Running parallel to Jonker Street is Harmony Street where different faiths worship side by side. We visited the Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Hindu temple; the Kampung Kling mosque; and the impressive Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (pictured above), which was built in 1673 and claims to be Malaysia’s oldest Chinese temple. Wear modest clothing if you wish to enter these places of worship and remove your shoes at the entrance.
Walk along Harmony Street until you reach the river. Cross the bridge to the Stadhuys area where you will find some iconic sights, including the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Fountain, Christ Church and the Stadthuys Museum Complex. The ticket price of 10 MYR covers entrance to all the museums, including the history and ethnology museums and the literature museum. You will need a couple of hours to explore all these museums properly.
From the literature museum, we walked up the hill to the remains of St Paul’s Church and from there to Porta de Santiago, a Portuguese fortress built in 1511. Opposite the fortress you will find a shopping mall which has a fun, but overpriced, 3D museum which kids would enjoy.
If you’ve still got some energy, return to Jonker Street as night falls and explore the busy night market where you will find the usual souvenir stands and an eclectic range of food stalls. Snack on dim sum, Thai sausages, smoothies, coconut ice cream, oysters and even ‘toilet bowl’ ice cream (a bizarre novelty item with ice cream served in a small plastic bowl shaped like a toilet).
At the top of the street, near a roundabout, you will find brightly lit and garish trishaws, heavily decorated with popular brands such as Hello Kitty and the Minions, which will take you back to your hotel or make a night of it at the popular Geographer Café which serves a good range of food and drinks.