AM: Once one of the most important ports in the world and now extensively protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Malaysian city of Melaka has a fabulous collection of architecture, monuments, churches and stories from its centuries of trading activity on the Straits of Malacca.
On an early-morning walk along the riverside I was thrilled by the eclectic mix of European and Chinese influences. Once dubbed the “Venice of the East”, the main river canal is flanked by muralled houses, boutique hotels, bars and eateries. It is a great place for getting the measure of the town and planning where to go next.
AM: I enjoyed morning coffee at a Spanish-style tapas bar next to the Swiss Garden Hotel, then joined a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage part of the city. We met our guide in the town square, also known as Dutch Square. From here we proceeded to see the “oldest” of everything in Malaysia and many incredibly preserved buildings and churches that are testimony to those who came before.
St Paul’s Hill and the statue of St Francis Xavier added another dimension to this historic walk, with even the hill itself hiding some secrets and many, many stories. Portugese tombstones revealed more of the history of the region, while others were legacies of great explorers and persons of note who travelled from the farthest corners of the globe to seek their fortune in this mecca of trading. This place really does evoke a sense of stepping back in time to the era of galleons, pirates and yes, much treasure!
PM: Melaka is renowned for its “hawker” street food culture, with the most famous dish being the “World- Famous Chicken Rice Ball”. Fish wrapped in pandanus leaves and of course the renowned satay dishes are also great, and incredibly cheap. Jonker Street is the starting-point for a street food and cultural experience but do venture a little into the side streets where you will find many family-owned restaurants and cafes which are great places to watch the world go by.
Although everything is within an easy walk, we took a super-fun, albeit garishly-decorated “Hello Kitty” trishaw to get to Jonker Street, which added to the experience. Our trishaw driver, who has been pedalling for nearly four decades, also took us to points of interest that included Malaysia’s oldest mosque, and a Chinese temple which was in all its glory during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
In the evening I attended a corporate function at The Shore Sky Tower Melaka, adjacent to the Shore Shopping Centre and the Swiss Gardens Hotel and Residences. The function venue was 42 floors up on an open rooftop with panoramic views across the city to the Straits of Melaka. The glass-bottomed Sky Walk is not for the faint-hearted but it is exhilarating and makes for the best selfies in the region!
On the floor beneath is the Sky Deli and Bar which serves great cocktails and a locally-inspired à la carte menu alongside Western options and bar snacks. Decorated in contemporary plantation style, the Sky Deli and Bar is a must-do!
PM: The sight of the riverboat cruises going up and down the river was too much to resist so we boarded a riverboat cruise for a different perspective and more stories about this town which comes alive at night. The old murals on the side of the houses and restaurants are floodlit after dark and the trishaws are resplendent and no doubt traffic-safe in their night lights of fluoropinks, greens and blues.
We ended the evening by wandering along the riverbanks and popping in and out of the many small bars and eateries along the way. And we stopped for one of the great pleasures of this place: watching the world cruise by.
Have you ever been to a UNESCO World Heritage site? What one did you go to? Let us know below.