Because of its uniqueness, rich and complex heritage, multiracial people with warm hospitality, and exquisite dishes, it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Melaka over and over. The city – despite being small in size – is righteously proud of what it has to offer. Regarded by Malaysia as the city where it all began, the historic city now showcases a harmonious existence between the past and the present.
Tourism Melaka and Gaya Travel, recently organised the second edition of In Case You Didn’t Know (#ICYDK) Melaka in conjunction with the Asia Urban Youth Assembly (AUYA) 2017. AUYA is an international event where 34 youth representatives from Asian countries are given the chance to voice out their opinions and significant concerns that contribute to the formulation of United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) urban agenda.
Follow me as I uncover places and activities that add to Melaka’s allure, which travellers should not overlook.
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE
Strolling around the village on a bullock cart
Kampung Balik Bukit may not be famous among international travellers yet but this beautiful village deserves some attention. When other parts in Malaysia decide to ditch traditional modes of transport, Kampung Balik Bukit did the opposite by continuing to maintain offer rides on bullock carts, which was quite common in Melaka decades ago. Nowadays, these bullock carts are mainly used to ferry tourists around the village, or for special demonstrations and exhibitions.
As such, travellers to Melaka must experience the authentic, traditional bullock cart ride, which is as quintessential as riding the colourful Melaka beca (trishaw). It offers a 45-minute unforgettable ride with the sceneries of a typical contemporary Malay village. You may opt to try riding on the bollock cart with a well-carved roof or an open-air carriage for more unobstructed view.
Address: Warisan Kereta Melayu Tambak Bugis, KM 10, Jalan Tambak Bugis, Telok Mas, 75460 Melaka
Tel: +6 019 756 3341 / +6 012 765 3341
Trying out traditional Malay costumes
Malay traditional costume is modest yet elegant. Generally, the costume for the men is called baju Melayu while for the women is called baju kurung. Baju means clothing. Today, the traditional Malay costume is worn during special occasions such as official events, weddings and celebrations like Eid ul Fitr. Malay men usually wear baju Melayu on Fridays to perform the Friday prayer.
Travellers, especially foreigners, must try out the Malay costumes to get the real sense of living like the locals, including learning some Malay words, ethics, tradition and savouring authentic local food like asam pedas (spicy sour dish), popiah (spicy spring rolls) and seri muka (sweet layered snack with pandan-flavoured jelly on top and glutinous rice at the bottom).
Scooting around the village on a Vespa
The Vespa motorcycles are undoubtedly famous back then and now, they are considered exclusive and fashionable due to its nostalgic and vintage value.
We managed to experience the ride not only with the locals, but also with the Chief Minister of Melaka, Datuk Seri Ir. Idris Haji Haron, who was present when we visited Kampung Balik Bukit for a casual, high-tea session with the villagers and media representatives. In a convoy of 20 Vespas, we experienced riding amidst muddy paddy fields to reach to the venue for the high tea, where even more exciting activities awaited us.
Getting muddy for paddy field games
What is more fun than playing to our hearts content in the mud? Travellers are recommended to join the village locals in exciting traditional games like tarik tali (tug war), tarik upeh (pulling palm fronds race) and catching ducks. Those who are brave enough can play and sit at the back of the enormous, horned buffalos too. Do not afraid to get dirty as these classic, exhilarating games will surely leave travellers memorably delighted.
Attending a traditional Malay mock-wedding and trying folk games
To immerse yourself even more in Malay culture, head to Balai Adat (Cultural Centre), close to the Hang Tuah Settlement at Kampung Duyong, Melaka. The centre offers interesting activities to teach travellers about Malay culture; one of them is to attend a traditional Malay mock-wedding. Travellers are invited to participate not just as guests but also the bride and groom, which means that travellers get to dress up in stylish traditional Malay costumes. The feast continues with makan beradat where the bride and groom, including the guests, are served with toothsome Malay dishes and cakes while being entertained by graceful Malay dance performances such as zapin and dondang sayang. Travellers can also learn and play Malay folk games such as chap teh, congkak, batu seremban, lompat getah and more.
Address: Balai Adat, Perkampungan Hang Tuah, Kampung Duyong, 75450 Melaka
Entrance Fee: MYR3 (adult), MYR2 (senior citizen) and MYR1 (children)
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
Rest Hours (Friday – 12:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday – 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
Tel: +6 06 292 6340 / +6 06 286 0453
Visiting traditional Malay house
A settlement that carries the name of a Malay legendary warrior, Hang Tuah, would never be complete without possessing authentic Malay houses. One such example is the private abode belonging to Patimah Mat and family, located close to Balai Adat and Perigi Hang Tuah (Hang Tuah’s Well). This Malay house is open to the public. The house’s main feature, which is synonymous to Melaka, is the tangga Melaka (entrance staircase), constructed using cement and bricks, then embellished with colourful glazed tiles. This style is different than the other traditional houses across Malaysia that normally use wood for its entrance staircase. Symbolically, the steps of Melaka’s staircase is built in odd numbers to denote indivisibility in faith and belief in one God.
Address: Rumah Tradisional Melayu Melaka Perigi Hang Tuah, Perkampungan Hang Tuah, Kampung Duyong, 75450 Melaka
Entrance Fee: MYR2 (adult) and MYR1 (children)
Tel: +6 012 285 0446 / +6 016 613 0776
Play around with butterflies and reptiles at Malacca Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary
For those who do not know, here is a fun fact: a butterfly only has a 10-day lifespan! This is among many other surprising facts that I learned during my visit to this fantasy-like attraction. It is the home of over 20 species of butterfly such as Black and White Helen, Malayan Birdwing, and the protected species Rajah Brooke, the national butterfly of Malaysia. It is truly fascinating to watch these lovely little pilots dancing and flying freely – some are even downright friendly, landing on our head and arm.
Although butterflies are the main attraction, travellers are also able to mingle face-to-face with other insects, birds and reptiles like moving leaf insect, iguanas and cockatoos, which are all harmless. To add to the excitement, there are a total of 14 different parts in the sanctuary such as Kampung Buaya (Crocodile Village), Snake Garden, Bird Aviary, Lizard Territory, Emu Ranch, Bugs Kingdom, Tarantula Cave, Larva Centre, Pupae House, Giant Snapping Turtle, Koi Garden and three Butterfly Aviaries. Spending an hour at this attraction is definitely not enough!
Address: Malacca Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary, Lebuh Ayer Keroh, 75450 Melaka
Tel: +6 06 232 0033
Entrance Fee: MYR22 (adult) and MYR16 (child 3-12 years old)
Business Hour: Open Daily (8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.)
Witnessing sunset from the top of Equatorial Hotel Melaka
There are a few spots where travellers get to enjoy sunset in Melaka. One of them is on the 26th floor of Equatorial Hotel Melaka. From there, travellers will not only get the stunning view of the setting sun but also the panoramic view of the historic Melaka city that includes landmarks like A Famosa, Taming Sari Tower, Malay Sultanate Palace and Dataran Pahlawan Megamall. The experience felt even better with a glass of refreshing asam boi (preserved or sour plum) drink with lime and lemon grass.
Address: Equatorial Hotel Melaka, Bandar Hilir 75000 Melaka
Tel: +6 06 282 8333
Riding the Melaka River Cruise (melakarivercruise.my)
This is a brilliant way to get to know Melaka at a leisurely pace. During the ride, passengers will pass by historic buildings, old warehouses, mangrove strands, the traditional Morten village and cafes. It is recommended that travellers take the river cruise during sunset as the lights are about to be switched on.
Entrance Fee: MYR10 (adult) and MYR5 (child)
WHAT TO EAT
Spicy Mutton Curry and Asam Pedas Claypot
We never had enough of the ‘power’ yet tender mutton in thick spiced gravy here in Melaka, which we savoured during the first ICYDK Melaka. So, for this second edition of ICYDK Melaka, we visited the place again! The taste remains authentic and delicious like the first time we ate there. The spicy mutton curry can also be eaten with nasi impit (cubes of compacted rice). If mutton is not your preference, then opt for the stingray cooked in asam pedas claypot, which is sure to gratify travellers’ taste buds. This shop is popular among locals, so if you intend to taste it for yourself, be sure to come early to avoid disappointment.
Address: Warung Kari Kambing Power & Asam Pedas Claypot, KM42, Jalan Tambak Merlang 1, Kampung Simpang Bekoh, 77100 Asahan Melaka
Tel: +6 012 777 5006 / +6 013 682 2800
Durian Cendol at San Shu Gong, Jonker Street
Need good dessert to beat the heat? Try out cendol, a dessert with ingredients like shaved ice, Gula Melaka (palm sugar), coconut milk and green, jelly-like noodles. This dessert is also what Melaka is known for. Although it can be easily found almost everywhere in the state, travellers may visit San Shu Gong on the famous Jonker Street that offers a little more than what most cendol shops offer: durian cendol! The taste of this king of fruit racks up the flavour of the cendol a few notches, making it another ‘must-taste’ when in Melaka. There is also a shop on the first floor selling Baba Nyonya delicacies.
Address: San Shu Gong, 33, Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street), 75200 Melaka
Tel: +6 06 282 8381
Nyonya Cuisine at The Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant
In the modern, deluxe Equatorial Hotel in the heart of Melaka city, there is a Nyonya-styled restaurant notably the best of its kind that travellers could find. This gorgeously decorated restaurant is famous for its home-cooked meals, among them are Hee Peow Soup, Ayam Pongteh, Nyonya Chap Chye and Nyonya Pie Tie. However, one should never give the Nyonya Cendol a miss. This icy treat tastes exceptionally wonderful with the intense flavour of gula Melaka and satiating taste of coconut milk.
Address: The Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant, Level 3, Hotel Equatorial Melaka, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka
Tel: +606 282 8333
WHERE WE SLEPT
Located in the heart of Melaka city, Hatten Hotel offers 704 modern deluxe suites for travellers who long for a relaxing and comfortable accommodation. It is also convenient for travellers to experience many attractions in Melaka since they are in close proximity to the hotel. Hatten Hotel also has interesting dining venues such as Chatterz and Alto Sky Lounge, each with its own uniqueness and specialties to suit travellers’ palates.
Address: Hatten Square, Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka
Tel: +6 06 286 9696