This is one of those casual posts where I’ll simply be babbling about what I did on one weekend here in Malaysia — a month before I go back home to the Philippines!
My officemates (two cool people named Mika and Hermes) and I decided to go on a day trip to Melaka. Melaka (also called Malacca) is a historical state in the country, with visible colonial architecture, located 2 hours away from Kuala Lumpur. But it’s one of those day trips that were lazily planned, if planned at all.
We listed the food we would eat.
We listed some places we would like to see, including a cat cafe several kilometers away — without checking where each one is located.
We did not book a bus seat from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur in advance.
We did not really read must-see guides.
Instead, we arrived at past 9AM in the bus terminal in TBS and got the earliest seats we could book which was at 12 noon, arrived late afternoon in Melaka, walked around the heritage town, slowly and lazily, realized our Places to See is too ambitious, realized our Foods to Eat is too long, booked a Grab to the public beach and ended up in the middle of nowhere, booked a ride back to the heritage town and got stuck in a traffic jam, went to peek at the night market in Jonker Walk, took the river cruise and realized it is NOT 15 minutes long but more than half an hour, rushed back to the bus station in Melaka Sentral, got scolded by a harried-looking barker and almost missed our ride back to Kuala Lumpur. But oh boy, we made it.
Day trip to Melaka, a heritage town
Melaka is a World Heritage City, not unlike Vigan in the Philippines. Only it is wider and has a lovely river where you can take a cruise to see the riverside cafes, restaurants and hotels. Although there are visible old buildings and authentic restaurants particularly in Jonker Walk, it is also modernized by souvenir shops and flashy tricycles in Hello Kitty or other colorful designs.
We arrived at about 2PM in Melaka Sentral, where the bus terminal is located, and booked a Grab straight to the heritage town. Once there, we strolled past the Tower Ride and souvenir shops selling knick knacks and dodol (a toffee-like confection) before walking to Jonker Walk, Melaka’s own chinatown
It was hot and humid and we walked languidly, taking pictures of old houses now and then.
There were souvenir shops and restaurants offering Chinese cuisine, stalls selling puto, various types of kuih, ice cream sticks and cups of coconut shakes.
As in other cities in Malaysia, there are various temples to visit. We entered one with its gates open. I would later learn that it is the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the oldest functioning temple in the country.
There were also quirky and quaint coffee shops, some old restaurants that look as if they’d been there for decades, clothes stores selling the usual tourist stuff but also nice fabrics with Malaysian design. I bought a white beach dress (another one!) and we also bought fun shirts from this shop called The Orangutan House. Mika’s favorite is one with a print of “To lah or not to lah — that is the question in Malaysia!”
We grabbed a late lunch in a Chinese restaurant (roasted pork and salted-egg chicken) and a bit later booked a Grab to Lebang Beach.
This was my idea because, if it isn’t obvious enough, I love beaches.
We ended up not in the public beach, but a resort in the middle of nowhere. We walked nearby and found a small beach cove, which was nice (as nice as Malaysian beaches can be) although littered with the usual small pieces of trash. We took pictures and discussed Malaysian beaches and what to do with our sneakers, which where now dipped in mud.
After a short bit of walking, we found a nice restaurant called Bert’s Garden, which is facing an inlet (or is it a swamp?). The restaurant plays jazz, and with the wind and the view, it was very relaxing. I really like this restaurant — it has great location, the staff was nice and attentive, and it seems a perfect fit for families. We ordered drinks before deciding to go back.
We went back to Jonker Walk. By this time, food stalls had been set up and the street had transformed to a lively pasar malam, with Melaka’s popular specialties such as coconut balls. There were tons of people milling about, and we had to fought our way for Mika and Hermes to buy keychains as souvenir.
It was a few minutes before 8PM when we made our way to the river cruise. The queue was short and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in a boat, gliding smoothly across the Melaka river. People weren’t exaggerating, the river cruise was really nice. Hotels and buildings on the side look glam under the yellow lights. We passed by people sitting and having drinks on riverside cafes. There were streetart and murals we hadn’t seen when we were wandering earlier, and there were also historical buildings as well (as pointed out by a voiceover playing during the cruise). In one part of the river, there were mangroves, sturdy and thriving.
Unfortunately for us, we’d learned from our earlier mistake and we’d already reserved and booked online bus tickets for 9PM. We rode the cruise at 8PM and (naively, perhaps in denial as well) thought it would be about 15-20 minutes long only. It wasn’t!
This was our mood during the river cruise:
8:00PM – Oooh this is really nice.
8:15PM – Look at all those quaint cafes by the river! Why hadn’t we seen them earlier.
8:30PM – Ohgod get us off of this boat!
As there were no more tickets online for trips back to Kuala Lumpur that night, we really had to make it to the 9PM bus. We thought about various scenarios if we wouldn’t be able to make it: going back to the city and getting a beer by a riverside bar (Mika), going to Jonker Walk for more food as we barely crossed off items in our Foods to Eat (me), buying extra clothes for overnight (Hermes), booking a hotel for overnight (Mika) or booking a nice Airbnb by the river (me). I mean, it wouldn’t mean the end of the world if we missed the bus, but it wasn’t in our plan, that’s all. And what is a day trip without a little rush and adventure?
To cut it short, we booked another Grab and made it to the bus station at past 9PM. We desperately looked for the ticket counter for printouts of our ticket and didn’t find it. A man eventually pointed us to our bus, which was miraculously waiting for us. The barker scolded us and hurried us inside (“Look at the time!” “Is that them? Three people?”). It was 9:11PM, by the way.
We were tucked safely inside and moving back to Kuala Lumpur in no time.
If there are things I learned about this day trip, it would be:
- Always reserve bus tickets in advance;
- Do a little bit of research;
- Remember that Melaka is best explored from late afternoon until night, when Jonker Walk is alive with food stalls and the river reflects the lights from buildings and streetlamps. Get a 10PM bus or later!
And that sums up our quick day trip to Melaka.
P.S. Looking for weekend trips from Kuala Lumpur?
Here are other ideas: