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A Quick Afternoon Trip to Melaka

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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. There are also a few outdoor activities in Melaka like visiting a botanical garden and crocodile farm. 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.

River in Melaka, Malaysia - day trip to Melaka
The famous Melaka river.

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.

Entrance to Jonker Street, Melaka
Main entrance to Jonker Street (aka Jonker Walk).

Jonker Street, Melaka, Malaysia

Old house in Melaka, heritage town

Old house in Melaka, heritage town

Old house in Melaka, heritage town

There were souvenir shops and restaurants offering Chinese cuisine, stalls selling puto, various types of kuih, ice cream sticks and cups of coconut shakes.

Putu piring in Melaka
Putu piring being steamed.
Putu piring in Melaka
Putu piring with gula melaka. There is also a choice of peanut filling.
Local foods in Melaka
Local specialties in Melaka, including the ever-present dodol.

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.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Melaka, Malaysia
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

Inside a temple in Melaka, Malaysia

Hermes in temple in Melaka
Hermes sitting with a group of Chinese tourists.

Statues in a temple in Melaka, Malaysia

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!”

Quaint restaurant in Melaka
A quaint restaurant offering rendang and other Malaysian cuisine.
The Orangutan House, Melaka
The Orangutan House – a shop selling art and shirts and arty shirts.
Entrance to The Orangutan House, Melaka
Entrance to The Orangutan House.

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.

Group shot in Melaka
Me with officemates. Hello!

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.

Beach in Melaka
We ended up in this random beach cove.
Bert's Garden, Melaka
Bert’s Garden.

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 foods 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.

Jonker Street night market, Melaka
Jonker Street at night.
Coconut balls in Jonker Street night market, Melaka
Coconut balls. There are also other choices such as coconut ice cream.

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?

Melaka river cruise at night
Melaka river at night.

Katherine in Melaka

Melaka river cruise at night
Passing by wall murals and streetart.

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.


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One thought on “A Quick Afternoon Trip to Melaka

  1. LOL I like all the possible options that you guys ran through when you thought you were going to miss you bus I actually think finding a nice Airbnb by the river would have been a great option! More time to enjoy the night

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