Thailand Fling - Part 11...East Meets West
Malacca, Malaysia – January 2023
Like Georgetown, this once important trading hub situated on the straits between Malaysia and Indonesia, Malacca (or Melaka if you prefer) had a varied and interesting history. Influences from the original Malays, the Chinese and Indian settlers, and then the European colonizers – the Portuguese, Dutch and British, combined to make this a gloriously multi-cultural city, and a UNESCO World Heritage centre to boot.
Although we were staying in another high-rise condo on the somewhat bleak and windswept outskirts of the city – massive developments started before the Covid epidemic had been left half-empty or abandoned – we were only a short “Grab” (the wonderfully efficient and cheap taxi service) ride away from the colourful centre.
We were dropped off outside the bright orange Stadthuys, the former Dutch governor’s mansion, now a museum and believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East. Being quite late in the afternoon, we opted to postpone our visit until later in the week, and took a stroll along the river which ran through the town. Although a river, rather than a canal, we couldn’t help feeling like we were in a hot, steamy version of the Dutch capital! They even had a roundabout boasting a small windmill and some painted cows, but no coffee shops! They did have plenty of bicycles though, in the form of gaudily decorated cycle rickshaws ferrying tourists around the town to the accompaniment of blaring sound systems, that seemed to be competing with each other…
The waterfront was lined with bars and cafés and more of the ubiquitous street art but feeling a little drained, we chose to explore the easy way as we sat back and admired the views on a river cruise. This provided a good overview of the town as we passed by A’Formosa – the 16th Century Portuguese fortress, a 17th century Dutch church, and some lovely old bridges.
We then made our way to Jonker Walk for its famous night market, admiring the fabulous Chinese shop houses containing bars, restaurants, antique shops and temples. We gave the street food a miss as Ian was coming down with a dose of “Malay belly” which sadly confined him to our apartment for the next few days. The incessant fireworks and fire crackers going off at all hours of the day and night didn’t help either!
Fortunately, I discovered that Malacca had an unusual abundance of vegan/vegetarian restaurants, so I had a great choice of take-aways while Ian was recovering!
Fortified by this healthy diet, I managed to explore more widely, albeit solo – and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon following the footpath along the river past an authentic Malay village (or kampung) complete with ornate carved wooden stilt houses. This did feel slightly incongruous set amongst the surrounding high-rise buildings and yes…yet another huge shopping mall!
Feeling a little better, Ian accompanied me for a look around the Stadthuys which housed an interesting collection of colonial artifacts and provided a great insight into Melaka’s history and culture. Leaving Ian at ground level, I then set off up the hill to find the ruins of St Paul’s Church, originally built by a Portuguese captain in 1521, which offered splendid views over the town.
The heavy clouds which seemed to be following us around during most of our Malaysian side trip, finally burst and we found ourselves having to shelter in a nearby bar (!) while we waited for the rain to abate. Fearing another downpour, we hopped from bar to bar to Mexican restaurant (Malaccan maracas anyone?), and needless to say, we enjoyed our last night in this charismatic corner of Malaysia.
Next Stop: The beach is back!