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Day 6 and and it’s the day we leave on the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka. We realise that we’ve not stayed long enough, really. Over a three-month trip, 4 nights in the capital city, a vibrant and multicultural melting pot, is just not enough. Especially when we all have jetlag and are still getting used to the heat and humidity. Not to mention the difference in cultures; it’s not a huge wrench for us but to know we have all the facilities and shops we need should we want something western, or realise we’ve not packed something, is reassuring. No matter. Today we go to Melaka.
NB. It’s ‘Melaka’ to Malaysians, and also appears as ‘Malacca’ (mainly to westerners). I’ll call it Melaka from here on in, but they are interchangeable.
Less of a rush for breakfast today, so I peruse the options, as it’s always interesting when abroad. Roti Canai (a soft, indian-influenced flatbread that Malaysians seem to eat any time of day) is there, a load of fresh watermelon, the ‘continental’ choice of meats and cheeses (popular with our children), and some pastries. And curry. And cheesecake. Cheesecake. The other stuff I get; lots of cultures have curry and suchlike for breakfast, but who’s having cheesecake for breakfast? Heidi spots someone doing just that. Fair enough.
Cheesecake for breakfast?
We load ourselves with our heavy rucksacks and head out into the heat, bound for the monorail, then the train, then our bus from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka.
Packed and ready to leave KL
3.20RM (about £0.60) gets us the ten minutes or so to Huang Tuah, where we change onto the LRT train to the bus station (TBS), and this costs us a further 6.40RM. The train is cool and takes about 20 minutes. It’s a relief to be off our feet and in the aircon again. Loaded up with rucksacks we’re a lot slower and the children are wilting in the heat. A brief chat with an American leaving for home today, and it’s time to get off at TBS. There’s elevators here, which is great, and a few minutes after arriving we’re in the modern, airport-like bus station.
Elevators and trolleys available at TBS
We queue to collect our tickets and after a coffee that can only be described as ‘indescribably bad’ and buying some snacks for the journey, we get on the coach for Melaka. It’s cool, and comfortable and is replete with 80s-style tigerprint seat covers. There was supposed to be wifi on the bus but it’s not materialised. Not a lot to say about the journey. It was two hours on a bus. It was fine. The end.
CATCHING THE BUS FROM KUALA LUMPUR TO MELAKA
We arrive at the ‘international’ side of the bus station, Melaka Sentral (which isn’t actually ‘Sentral’ at all. It’s basically a Ryanair interpretation of ‘Sentral’). At the other side of the bus station are the local buses, and we get bus 17 from gate 17 to the centre of the city (2RM each, kids are free). I’ve seen this bus described as ‘colourful’, and I wouldn’t stray far from that. It’s ‘rustic’, being kind.
Twenty minutes later and we’re in Dutch Square, the actual centre of Melaka. Getting off the bus we see the beautiful red buildings around the square, the river, and a host of buildings of differing architectural styles and dates. Then we’re swamped with selfie stick-wielding lunatics, like we’d entered some sort of Royal Rumble modern jousting battle. There’s also the sight of an H&M, and a Hard Rock cafe. It’s really strange seeing these buildings juxtoposed with the historic centre of this small city, but there you go. Over the bridge and a mere 2 minutes away from that carnage, we are on very quiet small streets, a world away from H&M. Melaka is full of these streets, with seemingly-deserted buildings next to art galleries next to modern coffee shops next to rustic local eateries. It’s a charming place, no doubt, and the atmosphere is clearly in these small sidestreets, away from the crowds.
Street art in Melaka
Our bags are dumped in the hotel and it’s a bit of a comedown from the 5-star accommodation we had in KL, particularly after a hot journey. We stayed at the Hotel by the River, which was about the best we could get within our rough budget, as centrally to Chinatown as we wanted to be. We came to Melaka for the famous Jonker Street market which takes place every Friday-Sunday, and which attracts visitors from across Malaysia and beyond. The hotel is a few minutes walk to the market, so a more basic level of accommodation is the sacrifice. It is clean and the staff are friendly. There is aircon, but the room is very small and there is no window. Wifi is ok, and there’s a bar out the back door, on the river.
Wandering the streets is our next activity and it’s a joy, not least because we are free of the rucksacks. We able around the incense-filled streets and alleyways, taking in small historical monuments and exchanging smiles and waves with locals. On the lookout for somewhere to get a coffee, we spot a sign for a rooftop cafe, seemingly atop a modern, boutique hotel. We slip in and make our way to the roof. There’s no cafe, just a great view, so we stop a while to take it in.
We head down to the street and round the corner to The Stolen Cup cafe; a modern coffee shop which also makes and sells ice cream. Hello!
After a tremendous coffee and smooth and delicious ice cream (think Mr Whippy but actually tasty, and in a charcoal cone) we meander through the progressively-busier streets. There’s a great feel about this place, and the sights and smells of the food cooking permeate out of the buildings and into the streets.
I can’t help stopping by a cafe advertising cendol. Cendol is a cold dessert, popular here. It’s made with crushed ice, worm-like green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. In the photo below the jelly (and red beans) are underneath. Refreshing and weird in equal measures. We spot the staff at the back of the shop making blue and white rice balls, which are being wrapped in banana leaves and tied up, ready to steam for later.
Cendol. Green worms underneath.
Dinner is at the highly-recommended Nancy’s Kitchen, which is a 30 minute walk along the dark streets. Once again we struggle to find anything resembling a pavement, which becomes particularly problematic when we reach a huge crossroads. A combined 16 lanes of traffic and not a single pedestrian crossing, or pavement at either side. We spend a few minutes analysing where and when the traffic goes, then, life in hands, we say our goodbyes to each other and step out.
We make it.
There is a large queue so we put our names on the list and 20 minutes later, we’re in. Well, we’re up in the ‘backup restaurant’ as they called it, which is a strange restaurant-cum-storeroom on the top floor. A flustered waiter brings us the wrong drinks then the right food, which is tasty but far from the best we’ve had so far on the trip. Slightly dull.
Nancy’s Kitchen: decent but no more.
There’s a great bakery next door, so we treat ourselves to a bun and begin our sojourn back along the roads to the hotel, where we rest up in the cell, sorry, windowless room.