Seven days in food heaven aka Melaka
We’ve loved Melaka (Malacca is the non Malay spelling), we did our usual research before visiting and had a number of restaurants and places on our to do list that we’ve ticked off in a leisurely fashion over our week long stay. We like to have some places to see and plenty of time to wander and discover others and return to favourites we find. Below and in no particular order are some of the highlights of our week.
Having toured the Blue Mansion in George Town, the city Melaka shares it’s UNESCO world heritage status with, we were keen to see how the restorations compared here and headed to the Baba and Nyonya Heritage House, a restored colonial era house nestled on the street parallel to Jonker Street. The house is smaller, not a mansion, although still pretty huge and we loved it, seeing much more into the lives of the occupants and there were more day to day items for us to admire. There were just four of us on the tour led by Shirley, our knowledgeable and friendly guide, and it was a lovely informative way to pass an hour.
The Baboon House is a restaurant art gallery, whose amazing burgers we had read about. What the reviews didn’t make clear was the fantastic décor. The buildings here are real treasure troves, even the most dilapidated are works of art with their internal courtyards, indoor wells and winding stairways. Baboon house was one of the many places that annoyingly allowed no photography, we began to hate the no photos sign having not experienced it so rampantly anywhere else in Malaysia or the world come to think of it. But oh the décor, piles of bricks against a wall, ferns growing in and around them, old wooden tables and laid back lawn furniture, eclectic art covering the walls, part indoor, part botanical, the walk to the loos (a hole in the floor – oh the horror) was magical, walking through one serene space after another, passing ponds teeming with life. Absolutely a must visit for the décor alone, the superb food is the icing on the cake.
I had my first coconut shake AND AM HOOKED; coconut water and the flesh of a young coconut blended with ice and ice cream, oh yes please. I convinced myself it’s just a drink, so got one every day, while JHubz indulged in scoops of ice cream from Inside Scoop, a fabulous ice cream parlour we loved in KL who have just opened a franchise here, conveniently across from my favourite coconut shake shop.
We wandered up the hill to St Pauls, a sixteenth century church, now a charming ruin with various Dutch gravestones propped against the roofless walls. A mixture of stalls pepper the route up, drinks, knick knacks and a man with a bearded dragon and parrot, both sadly chained up. On our descent we spotted two impossibly tiny kittens about to stumble over a four foot drop. Having safely scooped them up we started to look for their mother who was nowhere to be seen. Sometime later, mother spotted, we stuck the kittens on their clearly young and not so maternal parent and carried on our way. Cat rescue three and four I think, so much for Jhubz being Team Dog, ha!
Another of the cafes we had read about was The Daily Fix who had quite sublime pandan pancakes with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and coconut. We have loved pandan ever since we first encountered it together on our honeymoon at Japamala on Tioman and these pancakes were spot on, crisp and fluffy and sublime. Lovely shabby chic décor and a calm, peaceful feel to the place, away from the heat and bustle of the streets.
The reception of our hotel had flyers for do it yourself batik painting at GM Choo, a local artist’s shop and we ended up going twice we enjoyed it so much, we were there for hours, slowly painting away. It was 18rm to paint your own twelve inch square piece, we did six in total, which we will get framed when we finally settle somewhere. We also bought two lovely batik paintings by GM Choo who is a good humoured and wonderfully talented old man, even though he critiqued my batik mercilessly.
Many of the places we found just by wandering and stopping when we were hungry, delicious BBQ pork, fragrant wantan mee and other delights. We did not have a bad meal and I think it would be next to impossible to have one in Melaka.
There is a weekly night market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings where they shut the main road to traffic and stalls line the street, we had fresh fried pork dumplings and tart lime juice as we wandered. I found a beautiful dress that despite the sales girl telling me was too small for me, fits me just fine, thank you very much and had an intricate henna design painted onto my hand. I absolutely love henna, I think it’s what first piqued my interest in tattoos. I especially like it’s impermanence and should perhaps dwell on that next time I want to get inked.
There are two large malls only a short distance away from Jonker Street and we used the one closest to our hotel to cool down on several occasions. A large grocery store in the basement became the source of our fruit for breakfast each day because that was one thing we could not find anywhere else until the last few days and we also spent a fun hour doing indoor archery in the Mahkota Parade mall one particularly hot afternoon.
We have walked, walked and walked some more this last week and as treats have had three foot massages. Ha! Treats! I should question my mental health after the first one hurt me so badly you could see the bruises. Seriously what is wrong with me? Do I have the most sensitive feet in the world? The only one that was lovely and we would have gone back to, they ripped us off on the price, ugh! Foot reflexology does NOT mean the same in the UK clearly, as I had a lovely flat mate who was training to be a reflexologist and practised on me regularly and there was no repetitive scraping of my feet, no bruise inducing knuckle rubbing up my calves and there were certainly no wooden tools torturing my toes No no no. But I steadfastly refuse to give up my search for actual reflexology and a good mostly pain free experience, optimistic fool that I am.
Our hotel, The Venus Boutique was a nice enough home, bar the lack of pool and unfortunate location, right beside a four lane overpass which is noisy until well into the wee hours. A back room I am sure would be fine but we were too lazy to change room again, having moved at midnight on our first night due to the ridiculously loud neighbours. The staff were lovely and our new room clean and comfortable, although for two nights we were again disturbed by neighbours from hell but after they moved out we slept well. The Chinese have a well-deserved reputation for being super loud, annoying tourists, our general experience is of people utterly oblivious to the existence of anyone else, which at 2am several nights in a row is just a little trying. Is it really that hard to lower your voice?
During our visit the air pollution (they call it the haze) was pretty bad, every year around September Indonesia clears land by burning and the smoke drifts over Singapore and Malaysia lowering air quality dramatically. It was nice that the sun was not burning down on us but not so nice that at times it was a struggle to breathe. If visiting I would definitely try and avoid this time of year, because despite much talk and many complaints it is a yearly occurrence that doesn’t look like it will be stopping any time soon. I would also make sure you stay at a hotel with a pool as Malaysia sure does heat well and a cooling dip would have been heavenly.
Despite the haze and neighbour nuisance I think I like Melaka more than George Town *gasp* mainly because they have sidewalks; the lack of which was super frustrating and at times perilous and that they have covered the open drains that are prevalent in George Town and Malaysia as a whole. It feels very liberal here, we’ve seen a tonne of whities, more than we have in the last month put together and I’ve worn strappy dresses that have been packed away since Thailand. The food in both Melaka and George Town was spectacular and I would heartily recommend spending time in both if you like some culture with your food.
We are off to Singapore to see friends today and then back in KL for a week before a month diving, snorkelling and relaxing on Gili Meno, woohoo!! Xx