Malacca Travel Blog. First Impressions.

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Malacca is a strange place. Arriving on the bus from Kuala Lumpur, on motorways that could easily have been in Surrey, I felt as if we’d left Asia. It was all a bit too Western. We got off the bus at Malacca Sentral, not to be greeted by touts, but by helpful people pointing us in the direction of the official taxi rank. The taxi drivers didn’t try to rip us off, they got together to discuss where we were going, agreed on a reasonable price and who should take us. When the driver couldn’t find our guesthouse he drove around searching and didn’t charge us any extra.

Malacca pretty street photo
Malacca is incredibly pretty in parts and really well preserved. We’ll share more photos of beautiful places in Malacca.

Refreshing and lovely, but really weird, I’m not used to this after months in Southeast Asia. More from our Malacca travel blog section on pretty, historic Malacca, impressions, travel tips, thoughts and places to see.

We also talk a little about food and restaurants in Malacca, further down the page.

Food in Malacca photos
Malacca was where we first tried nasi lemak, fat rice. It wasn’t for us! We also tried Indian and Nyonya food in Malacca.

Malacca is famous for many things, other than its UNESCO-listed old town and night markets, including being home to Malaysia’s Mr Universe, photo below.

Malacca famous person photo
Malacca is famous for being home to Malaysia’s Mr Universe.

Malacca Travel Blog

I’m struggling to write a blog post about Malacca in Malaysia, it’s so diverse and parts we like, parts we don’t.

The city itself is incredibly modern, but the old town that centres around Jonker St. is a different world. Old, really, really old, and stunningly beautiful.

Malacca (AKA Melaka ) is UNESCO listed, conserved and preserved, painted, spruced and ready to impress. But I’ve got this weird feeling that I’m in a kind of historical theme park.

 Malacca or Melaka, Malaysia.
Another ancient and stunningly preserved doorway in the Malacca Old Town Area. Chinese, of course.

It’s beautiful and gorgeous, but it’s SO full of tourists, so full you can barely move on the weekends, let alone find a room.

The roads are littered with crazy, decorated, musical pedal rickshaws pumping Gangnam Style through pimped up sound systems. There is a Hard Rock Cafe.

 Malacca or Melaka, Malaysia.
Malacca’s weird musical cycle rickshaws pump Gangnam Style into the night. The local tourists seem to love them.

Jonker St. itself is a historical and architectural delight, turned gift shop.

I have mixed feelings. I love it, but it’s not the sleepy old town I expected.

The diversity is what gives Malaysia and Malacca its uniqueness. The Indian, Malay and Chinese communities live side by side with colonial history showing through.

There is blending, of course, but each community retains some identity.

 Malacca or Melaka, Malaysia. Colonial charm. Read more about the fascinating mix of cultures in Malacca here.
A beautiful old colonial cafe. We stopped here for breakfast and it was good.

Back at our guest house we’re woken by the call to prayer from the mosque at 5 something am, shortly followed by the gongs of the Chinese Temple directly opposite, our first day of exploration has begun.

 Malacca Travel Blog. Chenese Temple or Melaka, Malaysia.
A stunning Chinese Temple, first of our places to visit in Malacca.

Within 2 minutes we can be in a Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh, step inside and you really wouldn’t know you were anywhere other than India.

I really love the authenticity, diversity and acceptance. Malacca is, without a doubt, my favourite part of Malaysia so far. If I had to recommend one part of Malaysia to visit, this would be it.

It’s not what I expected, but that’s OK. I suppose it’s like going to Devon or Cornwall and expecting genuine fishermen to live in the fishermen’s cottages and finding tea shops instead.

I think I just expected too much. Expectations are your worst enemy sometimes.

We have almost a week to explore and enjoy Malacca before we head south towards Singapore for Johor Baru and Legoland, I’m looking forward to some great food while we’re here. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Malacca Old Town Travel Blog and Guide
Sights like these are common around Malacca’s historic Old Town, but get there early before the hordes of tourists arrive.

Update: As our time in Malacca passed we never did find that great food. We tried Indian, Chinese, and Nonya, but unfortunately, we found nothing to rave about. The Indian was authentic, cheap, and good, but nothing unusual about it it was the usual food you’d find in the south of India. You need to go to Little India for that.

Malacca restaurant
This Malacca restaurant was one of our favourites, but it was a little expensive to use often. It’s called The Geographer, and there’s also a branch in Kuala Lumpur, near Chinatown. They also serve red wine, much enjoyed after months in Asia.

Everywhere we go in Malaysia, we gravitate towards the very good Indian food you can find there. You can read more in our post on Indian food in Malaysia.

Traditional nyonya restaurant in Malacca
A nyonya restaurant in Malacca Old Town. The building and decorations were gorgeous, but we didn’t really like the food, unfortunately.

Nyonya cuisine is a result of Malaysia’s mix of cultures and nations, it’s particularly noticeable in Malacca. Nyonya cuisine comes from the Peranakans, local descendants of Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia, blending their cuisines with local Malay dishes. Nyonya cuisine is a mother’s or grandmother’s food. In Baba Malay, a female Peranakan is a nonya, and a male a baba.  You’ll see a nyonya menu below.

Nyonya cuisine restaurant menu photo
A nyonya cuisine restaurant menu

The Malacca night market serves some interesting street food and we tried satay and more, still nothing too exciting. We visited the Bird’s Nest Soup production facility and museum, found playgrounds and parks for the kids, and the superb Malacca Museum (the one that looks like a giant boat). Malacca is a nice place, just not our scene. It’s pretty, and you have to love it for that. Its history is fascinating but it’s not a place we’d particularly choose to visit again. Back to our main Malaysia travel blog page here.

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This Melaka blog post was written a very long time ago on our first trip to Malaysia. And it is written travel blog style, not as an information post. We’ve since returned to Malaysia many times. I’d have to say now that our two favourite places in Malaysia are Kuala Lumpur and Kuching Sarawak. We still haven’t returned to Malacca, but maybe one day we will.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

19 thoughts on “Malacca Travel Blog. First Impressions.”

  1. Yep, I like my Asia as Asia-y as possible. I adore India, Nepal, Vietnam, so Malaysia just doesn’t really float my boat. Maybe if I’d gone there first, 20 years ago before I fell in love with Thailand, then India, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, but it was a good experience to see some of Malaysia and I’d very much like to see the rest of it.

  2. Very interesting impressions. I wonder how much you were influenced by where you came from. I visited Malacca in 1999 as my first stop in the “real” Asia after landing in Singapore and spending a week there. It seemed so exotic and cheap in comparison! I didn’t know much about it so I loved the history and the old buildings and I loved being able to ride a gaudy bicycle rickshaw from my guesthouse in an old colonial building to the entrance of a modern, western style shopping mall! I agree with folks that suggested that it would be a great entrance city to Asia for people who haven’t traveled there before. But I’m also guessing it’s a lot busier now than it was 15 years ago, too. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to go back and check it out again with the family in tow.

  3. I’ll be in KL for a week this January. Originally I was thinking of doing just a day trip to Malacca, but maybe I’ll stay a bit longer.

    Thanks for all the info! 🙂

    • Hi Beth, you could certainly spend a few days in Malacca exploring the old town and the churches etc. Try and be there for the weekend night market, but it’s very busy on weekends. We stayed a week and I was very glad to leave. Malaysia and I don’t get on so well.

  4. Melaka was my favourite place in Malaysia too – I ended up spending three weeks there! I found a place with the most killer roti cenai and those statues of the bodybuilder made me laugh every time I saw them. I would love to return.

  5. I agree, expectations are often your worst enemy! Malacca looks lovely though, I wish we’d visited while we were in Malaysia – looking forward to hearing more about your stay there.

  6. This looks like such a culturally rich place. Judging by your beautiful photos, I would love to travel there. Waking up to the gongs reminds me of waking up to the bell tower ringing in Italy <3

  7. I will have to save this info for our time in SE Asia next year. We had Penang and KL on our list, but now I need to learn more about this place.

  8. Accommodation is more expensive in Malayasia, certainly Suzanne and you get less for your money ( posts coming out today about room costs). Alcoholic drinks are more, but not if you want a shot of Chinese fire water from a “real” bar.. If you eat in the real Indian restaurants you can get a meal for a dollar. So food can be cheaper if you want it to be. There are also plenty of up market places where a fairly fancy meal is maybe $5. Buses and taxis are great value. So it’s not too bad overall.

  9. I loved Malacca – I was there about eight years ago – just after they had finished building Tescos! But there was a full complement of touts then, and bits of the city looked like it was falling down. But I loved it – the whole multicultural chaos of it. The Museum of Beauty – which raises all sorts of questions about the how we construct beauty. And there was a museum near the quayside showing goodies appropriated by Customs Officers with a curtained-off bit for adults only, with a small statue of a naked woman that looked almost tasteful to me; and, on full display, a rubber vagina – I can only assume they didn’t know what it was!

    Later, when I was in Penang, I learned that they were hoping to apply for World Heritage status and, in order to get it, they would have to work in partnership with Malacca – and they felt that Malacca was letting the side down, with the modern bits of the city taking over and the historical bits left to rot. Sounds like that has changed – hopefully for the better.

  10. Can you do a post at some point about Malaysia that I (& others lol) can use as a guide. We are flying into KL in May next year for 2 weeks. The only plans we have are to fly down to Johor to take the kids to Legoland.
    We don’t want to go remote at all as will have the new baby who will be about 8/9 weeks old but I want to be able to experience Malaysia and for the kids to get a taste of travel.
    What do you reckon? Can you write me an itinerary of sorts? 😉 xx

    • I’ll do my best Korina, but I can’t really recommend things for other people to do. I can tell you what we did, what we thought of it and how much it cost, but everyone is different and wants travel to be something particular to them. I’ve been pretty fed up in the past trying to do things recommended on travel blogs when all the information wasn’t given. ie. it costs a fortune or will take 2 hours to get there. I’ll tell it like it is, always.

  11. My Dad couldn’t believe our last holiday we spent the whole time in KL and didn’t go to Malacca. We love KL and never ran out of things to do there but Malacca is on my list of places I want to go – so I’ll be interested to see what else you have to say.

    • Yep, Kuala Lumpur is great, we spent almost 3 weeks there, but I’d prefer Malacca. It’s more compact, walking from the old town to the mega malls or to Little India is easy and it has more of the old buildings concentrated in one area. Like Georgetown but much nicer and bigger. We really didn’t think much of Penang at all, particularly not Batu Ferringhi, but this is good, crazy, weird, beautiful good.

  12. Interesting. I did a day trip to Melaka many years ago and I wondered what the fuss was about. I feel like I must have missed something! It was empty when I went for a start! I wonder if the popularity is a new thing, or if I just went on a bad/good day, but it just seemed boring to me. However, I read things like this and it inspires me to give it another go, especially since I never used to like Malaysia either but now I love it.

    • I think Malacca only fills up on the weekends Sharon, it’s heaving right now, mostly with local tourists. It’s so pretty, did you not find the old town and all the temples and churches? Some of the chicken rice ball shops have had queues going round the block for the last 2 days, it must be good, but it smells terrible to me! I think the Jonker St Night market only happens on the weekends, it was so busy last night we could barely move.


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