Alright. No point keeping this as a secret anymore. Malaysia is my ultimate favourite in Asia. The people, the food, the culture, the nature. Wow.
And so it happened that despite my thirst to explore new countries, I've already been to Malaysia twice and I'm going for the third time in a few days. I'm going to explore some places I missed the previous times and revisit some of my old favourite places.
As I wait for these last few days before departure to pass, I looked through photos from my Christmas trip to Melaka (Malacca). I can't believe I completely skipped this place the first time! Melaka is a laid back haven amidst Asian chaos.
It's a kind of place you visit for a few days and can't leave for several weeks. Everything happens in a slow pace and it should definitely be like that. No matter if you visit during a layover in Kuala Lumpur or as a part of your backpacking trip, you deserve to chill out for a while.
It is also like a miniature of Malaysia (except the beaches). Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese heritage mingle together with their distinctive mosques, temples and churches, all set in well-preserved colonial architecture around a canal which makes you think you are in Amsterdam.
Check out the best things to see and do in Melaka and let me know what you think in the comments! There is so much to see but also remember not to rush from one sight to another. If you don't have enough time to tick all the Melaka's attractions off your list, just don't. This is all about slowing down.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
If you can't get enough of temples, visit this one. It's a taoist/confucianist/buddhist temple sacred to Chinese goddess Kuan Yin. It is one of the oldest temples of this type in Malaysia and it was founded by Chinese immigrants coming to Malaysia hundreds of years ago. The temple is still being used and participates on different festivals of Chinese lunar calendar.
How to get there: If you find yourself on touristy Jonker street, walk down away from the river and the temple will be at the end of the street. Alternatively, walk along quieter Jalan Tukang Emas (also called Harmony Street because of the number of religious buildings, including Cheng Hoon Teng temple).
While this is my far least favourite attraction in Melaka, you probably won't be able to avoid it. Jonker Street is a food street with mainly Malay and Chinese specialities. Some of them look super exotic but it will be rather crowds of people and souvenir shops you will remember. Avoid weekends and public holidays while visiting.
How to get there: Cross the bridge near the Christ Church and walk straight until you see curiously shaped foods on barbecue. The official name of the street is Jalan Hang Jebat.
Christ Church & the Dutch Square
Iconic red Christ Church is a part of the UNESCO heritage and is the most famous place in Melaka. What photos never show (and mine are not exception), all the buildings in a square have that distinctive red colour, including the used-to-be governor's building. Buy your souvenirs here if you have to and ride around in kitschy Hello Kitty and Frozen themed tuk-tuks.
How to get here: Christ Church is on Jalan Gereja street right across the river from the rest of the UNESCO sights. If unsure you are heading in the right direction, just follow other tourists.
Drinks by the river
Sit back and relax
This canal was constructed by the Dutch at times they were hanging out here. Nowadays, it is a perfect spot for sipping a cold beer and watching people and boats passing by. Beers are on a pricier side but as some of the bars have live music in the evenings, you should loosen your budget for at least once. So worth it.
How to get there: River goes through the whole centre but the bars are mainly between the bridge connecting the Dutch Square and Jonker Street and bridge going down to Little India (Jalan Temenggong).
Food in Little India
Indian food coma
This is where you get your roti canai, veg thali and mango lassi. It might not be as delicious as the Indian food in Georgetown but I promise that you will be back for more. If you are new to Indian food, go for rice with different sauces served on a banana leaf. With great prices this is one of the most affordable (and delicious!) dinning options in Melaka.
Once in Little India, stock up with incense, Indian hair cosmetics (a little obsession of mine) and surprisingly cheap beer from local grocery shops.
How to get there: Walk along Jalan Laksamana away from the centre. There are many restaurants and shops on Jalan Temenggong and connecting streets.
Kampung Kling Mosque
Mosque influenced by the Orient
You will definitely walk pass this mosque several times while wandering around the centre. The interior is influenced by Hindu and Chinese cultures as well as Portuguese and English architecture. People gather around here a couple of times a day for prayers. If you intend staying in a hostel nearby, beware of morning prayer calls. It gets pretty noisy.
How to get there: Walk down Jalan Tukang Emas away from the river for about 5 minutes and the mosque will be on your left side.
Scattered around the whole centre, Melaka's street art is colourful and cheeky. Individual paintings will turn up in front of you on house walls as you explore the city or have a look in The Orangutan House. The atelier has a great atmosphere and you can admire the colourful paintings even if you don't want to invest in art.
How to get there: street art is literally all around the place, just pay attention to what's happening around you while strolling down the streets. The Orangutan House is at the corner of Lorong Hang Jebat. Look up and you will see a massive orang-utan mural.
Melaka Straits Mosque
Mosque on the coast
My absolute favourite in Melaka. The mosque stands on a structure above the sea and as the interior opens up to a terrace, it feels like a part of the coastal landscape. I know I just told you to chill out when in Melaka but if you are going to skip something, let it not be this mosque!
The mosque is about 30-minute bike ride away from the centre (or you can take a taxi, I'm not sure if any public transport goes here). Once there, be sure to explore abandoned residential streets just across the road from the mosque.
How to get there: I recommend renting a bike as they are really cheap and you can explore more of Melaka then just a centre. Cycle along the river downstream and when you almost get to the sea, turn left to Lebuhraya Coastal. Be careful as this is quite a big and busy road. After about 10 minutes, turn right to Jalan Melaka Raya 5. Go straight across the bridge and at the roundabout. Cycle along Jalan PM 8 until you get to the mosque.
Be considerate: Just like in any other sacred place, be respectful, wear appropriate clothes and take off your shoes before coming in. You can borrow robes for free near the entrance. Also, women are not allowed in the main part of the mosque.
There are plenty of hostels, guesthouses and hotels of all the price categories. I stayed in Jalan-Jalan Emas, stylish hostel with both, private rooms and dormitories (no bunk beds!). It's super chilled out and located on beautiful Jalan Tukang Emas, just a short walk away from most of the sights. They rent out hipster-looking vintage bikes as well.
So what do you think? Melaka is ace, right? Let me know in the comments :)