So we went on vacation from the vacation again. This time we went to Melacka, or Melaka, or Melacca. There is always at least two ways to spell anything in this country. We booked three nights at Swiss Heritage Hotel, thinking that would be enough. We ended up staying five nights and leaving already thinking about returning.
Melaka is great! It’s quite a big city, one taxi driver said 800 000 inhabitants, another said 650 000. Anyway, it feels like a much smaller city in a very positive way. The hotel we chose lay just off Jonker Street in the UNESCO protected area. This is the old city, packed with tiny shops, wonderful museums, hotels and restaurants. It is a beautiful part of Melaka, everything is within walking distance. We parked the car at the hotel on Thursday and didn’t use it again until Monday. Only time we used a taxi was going to Oceanarium at the Shore, a new aquarium located in a shopping mall about ten minutes drive from Jonker. Our children loved it, and we enjoyed it too. Entrance fee is RM 28 for adults, RM 18 for children over 3 years. There is a petting pool where you can touch different sea creatures, nicely lit and maintained displays and lots of interesting information written in Bahasa Melayu and English. There is a small Shell Museum and a Mangrove display. The gift shop is not huge and actually offers some cool stuff that isn’t too costly. Our oldest bought a paper mache turtle with watercolours and a brush for RM 5.90. The place is worth a visit if you like fish and other sea animals, you can easily spend an hour or two there.
We went to the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum which was really good. The entrance fee is RM 15 for adults, children free. They give a guided tour of the upper floor and on the lower floor you are free to look around and take pictures. The museum shows the history of the first Chinese immigrants and their descendants, the men called Baba and women Nyonya. The displays are filled with jewellery and there are clothes and furniture to look at. The guide we had, Julia, was really good and could answer any question we had. She showed the children the smaller statues that they could sit on and the fish in the big bowl and so on, making it a nice visit for the whole family.
We went up the hill to Saint Paul’s Church, or the ruins of it. Half way up, with lungs on fire, I felt that maybe it wasn’t the best decision to climb all those stairs at 3 pm. Even after four months in Malaysia we got knocked off our feet by the heat and humidity in Melaka. Apparently this February has been unusually hot and humid due to lack of rain earlier months. That being said, it is a warm city anytime of the year so be sure to drink a lot and by that I mean water and juice, not beer. A lot of tourists make the mistake of drinking a nice, cold beer at lunch and forgetting to add some other kind of fluid like WATER that actually hydrates your body. It is so easy to get dehydrated if you forget to drink enough. And make sure to keep out of the sun during the middle of the day, walk in the shade and wear a hat. They sell lovely sunhats in almost every shop in Melaka, mine cost RM 10 and looked really nice.
There is a night market on Jonker Street every weekend, so three evenings in a row you can wander around, looking at things and people. The market is almost too crowded and there are a lot of plastic toys and knick knacks on sale but overall it is a nice market with lots of local food and snacks.
Unfortunately some of the museums we wanted to visit were closed due to renovation. The signs said they should be open again in January 2015… Being Malaysia they will open when they open, forget what the signs say. I had wanted to visit the Anthropological museum and the Literature one but both were closed. But the Melaka Sultanate Palace was opened and I’m glad we went there. I think we paid RM 2 per adult and nothing for the children. It has interesting dioramas showing the history of Melaka and traditional clothing and more. Outside the museum they are recreating a garden and it will be beautiful, when and if it gets finished.
We also visited the Melaka Straits Mosque that is located on the island Pulau Melaka a short distance from the old city. It is a beautiful mosque with a stunning view of the ocean. As a non Muslim woman you will have to cover your hair and dress appropriately. Don’t worry, there are veils and robes that you can borrow and the people working at the mosque are happy to help if you are unsure of how to dress. At the entrance a woman will offer you some perfume to put on your hand, please accept this. It smells lovely and it is part of the custom in the country you are visiting. If you have issues with the veil and robe, don’t visit the mosque or just have a look from the outside. If you do go inside, don’t forget to remove your shoes!
Even though we stayed two extra nights I still feel Melaka is a city I want to visit again. My husband saw this revolving thing that took you way up high to view the city. Apparently we need to go back so we can go up that thing. Hm, yes and no. Heights are for other people.