Discovering Malacca

The husband and I have been taking trips to Malacca over the last couple of months.  In-between Sri Lanka and Chiang Mai, we’ve visited Malacca to attend a ‘durian party’, visited a fabulous durian plantation and in the process, re-acquainted our selves with the town of Malacca, all in the company of good friends.  Finding our way to Malacca was through the investment of a GPS to help us navigate the ‘unknown’ in Malaysia but be warned, some of the roads are so new, even the GPS can’t find it!  Nevertheless, each trip brings a new discovery and a greater love for Malaysia!

Malacca is a true mash up of European, Asian and Muslim influences.  From Parameswara, to Zheng Ho, to the Sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch, the history of Malacca can be found along the narrow roads and conservation monuments.  With a mash up, you also get a cuisine that’s deliciously unforgettable.  The influences of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European is perpetuated in dishes such as Ayam Buah Keluak, Chicken Rice Balls, Murtabak, Laksa and the list goes on.  It’s interesting that some of these dishes are still made the traditional way in Malacca – by using a wood fire to cook!

Briyani made the old-fashioned way

Frying Ham Chin Peng

To enjoy food is to enjoy life and Malacca is testimony to this.  Food is part of the Malaysian culture.  Take a leisurely stroll along the historic Jonker Street (also known as Jonker Walk) and catch the action of  street vendors, hawkers and buskers.  While you’re at it, meander around the side streets which greet you with some traditional and somewhat modern businesses.  I came across three – an iron-monger, a printer with a press (who knows how long more we’ll see print!) and a traditional clog maker.

Printing shop and Iron-monger

ClogMaker’s shop with his little boy in the background

These trades still survive in Malacca and it reminds me of how artisans pass their craft along to their children.  Sadly, the world is moving too quickly for knowledge to be handed down and craftsmanship to develop.  I am wondering if such crafts/business will go the way of the dodo in time to come.  I hope not.  The shops here can be found in and around the surrounds of Jonker Street and the river. The saying ‘the river brings new life’ is apt for Malacca.  Much renovation and revitalizing of the surrounding area is taking place.  The narrow roads with old houses have given way to conserved homes and shophouses that have been turned into beautiful boutique hotels, shops and cafes.  Even the historical landmarks are carefully preserved for both locals and tourists to enjoy.  Mosques, churches and temples can be found a stone’s throw from one another, making it an easy walk for visitors to view these beautiful buildings.  Great job that the local Malaccans are  doing on conservation!

Kampung Kling Mosque along Jln Tokong Emas

Well, this being Asia, every which way you turn brings up a food stall, fruit stall or open market.  In this case, an open air bicycle that bears durians!  The durian season is the best during the months of  June, July and August.  Known as the ‘King of Fruit’, its rich, custard like fruit is well received by most South Asians.  I came across the durian when I visited Sri Lanka as well.  Wouldn’t have thought to find the fruit but there it was – as like how you’d find it in Malaysia – by the roadside!  Sharing equal limelight with the durian is the mangosteen.  If you eat durians, you’re invariably invited to help yourself to the bowl of mangosteens that seem to appear next to the durians.  This is because the durian is known as a ‘heaty’ fruit, meaning that too much a a good thing makes you break out our lose your voice.  The mangosteen on the other hand, is a ‘cooling’ fruit and helps to take away the durian’s heat.  A bit ying and yang in thinking 🙂

Speaking of ying and yang, Jonker Street is transformed during weekend nights.  For one, the roads within this street artery is closed and locals and tourists come out to hog the road.  These street carts get a chance to line the walkways and these vendors sell not only food but also bags, clothes, toys and ‘night market’ attractions.  Interestingly, there’s even an open air karaoke stage where many eagerly wait to belt out their Hokkien or Teochew songs!

Malacca is just a short two hour drive from Singapore so that makes it an easy destination to get to and a quick get away from Singapore’s urban jungle. For those who don’t drive, try one of the many tour bus companies or travel agents that have Malacca getaway packages.  I’m loving exploring neighbouring Malaysia and of course, I’m looking forward to my next trip to Malacca!