Melaka Malacca – A tale of two cities

16 Jul

A few weeks ago Mister Noodle and I thought we would venture out of the Little Red Dot and so joined a group of friends on a road trip to Melaka, Malaysia.

There are various coach options for making the journey from Singapore to Melaka, all of which are relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately trying to coordinate our party of six to find a suitable time to travel after work on a Friday night was not so easy so we opted for hiring a car. I shall use the term ‘we’ fairly loosely when referring to all automobile matters on this trip. I don’t drive, I hate driving, I know little about cars (Father-in-law please forgive me!) so all these arrangements were left in the very capable hands of our friends. A good tip when embarking on road trips: take some teachers with you. Mister Noodle’s colleagues could be relied upon to bring copious snacks for the journeys and numerous pens to enable us to all fill in our immigration forms.

Eschewing all matters car-related, the Noodles were in charge of accommodation. Top of our wish list was rooms at The Majestic – a very beautiful, colonial era hotel where we could imagine ourselves sipping cocktails in the library bar and taking the hotel up on all the offers of walking tours of the town provided free each day. Unfortunately, the hotel was packed to its beautiful, colonial rafters that weekend (as were most of the hotels in Melaka). Just as we feared we would be camping out in our SUV, Mister Noodle happened across a house rental on TripAdvisor. In fact, it was the only Melaka house rental on TripAdvisor. And boy, what a house. When we arrived the very accommodating owners gave us a tour of the vast residence including how to disable the panic alarms in all bedrooms which also set off a dividing barrier that separated the stairs. Don’t get the impression the area we were staying in was very dangerous – I think they had just gone to town on mod cons.

So what to do in Melaka?  The town has a very rich cultural past with a history that meshes together many different cultures and influences, including Peranakan, Dutch, Portuguese and British. We felt the best way to explore all these aspects of Melaka would be through eating, people watching and shopping  (not much different to anywhere else Mister Noodle and I go).

 Our top tips

Hereen House – we had a lovely lunch at this boutique hotel/restaurant although we did leave feeling a bit guilty. Not only had the owners kindly served us lunch beyond their usual afternoon closing time (to which we had been oblivious), the lady owner also made valiant attempts to engage us in conversation that largely went ignored.  We were all so busy woolfing down her delectable food that we probably weren’t the most worthy of conversational companions. According to one guidebook the owners are very willing to show you round the hotel and point out the various colonial/historical influences on the architecture. Maybe do this when you are not starving hungry.

Jonker Street – First stop on our tour of the Jonker Street night market was to witness a man famed for being able to break a coconut shell with his finger. All I can say is, “When in Melaka….”. However, what we did not realise as we avidly watched digital coconut destruction was that whilst the stalls on Jonker Street would be open at night, the many interesting junk/antique shops lining the road and surrounding area would not. This meant we had to make a hurried recce before leaving on the Sunday morning which did not afford us the time we would have liked. Also, as an auctioneer’s daughter, I have to say I approached many of the ‘antique’ shops with a little trepidation. I always feel as if I have a certain Yorkshireman sitting on my shoulder whenever I look at anything purporting to be antique (thank goodness he is not that heavy) and worry that I will buy a dud. However, I think the best attitude to take in such situations is to think that if you love something then buy it, but don’t assume you are getting an incredible bargain that you will be able to proudly present on the Antiques Roadshow in years to come. Oh, and visit during the daytime, obviously.

Trishaws a go-go

I envy Mister Noodle getting this snap. I love it.

Melaka is famed for the vibrant trishaw taxis plying their trade in the town centre and, whilst we did not have time to get a ride on one, taking in the sights and sounds (many have their own inbuilt light and sound show) was fascinating. I was particularly drawn to the one below that inexplicably featured a massive papier-mache scorpion on its roof with two Barbie dolls held in its pincers. I like to think of it as the Lady Gaga of trishaws.

Trishaw driver's contribution to the feminist discourse?

Little Momma

On Saturday night we ventured along to the riverside to enjoy some drinks and a bit of food. Thanks to more teacher-based forward thinking and a downloaded list of restaurants we headed towards Little Momma. A small, family run restaurant, the warmth, welcome and good food made for a very enjoyable evening. I was also taken by the family’s very ancient dog that wandered about with no teeth and a wonky hip. But that’s just me and probably goes some way to explaining why I don’t write reviews on TripAdvisor – noone wants to know about the wonky hipped dog (more’s the pity).

The Geographer Cafe

We enjoyed a lazy Sunday brunch at the Cafe on the corner of Jonker Street, listening to some of the Rat Pack’s finest and taking in our surroundings. Appropriately enough, given the area it is in, the Cafe has the feeling of being an old, established part of Melaka but in fact is only just ten years old. It is the sort of place I could imagine myself in the 1940s, sipping on a cocktail with the perfectly manicured red nails that all women of that era seemed to have. Instead it was nasi lemak and a fresh pineapple juice – not quite so glamorous but very welcome. The Cafe features live jazz on weekend evenings and is a place we would definitely return to.

Not on our list…

So, why a tale of two cities? Well, I have just gone through all the things that we were hoping to find in Melaka, that you will read about in various other travelogues, and for which we were not disappointed. What follows probably won’t make it into the Luxe guide to Melaka but is the true representation of about 30% of our weekend, and is best summed up with these photos:

Nothing says intrepid travel adventures like KFC

Friday night became a calamity of driving round Melaka’s suburbs trying to find somewhere to eat, stopping in a Tesco and finding a two-headed pineapple and a range of Shandy called ‘Anglia’ and ending up at KFC. Saturday morning was spent again driving around the very same suburbs looking for a garage to repair the flat tyre that had mysteriously appeared over night.

Unlikely to feature in Tripadvisor's top 10 things to experience in Melaka

One final thing that is also unlikely to make it into the guidebooks: judging by half of Mister Noodle’s photos Melaka is also a good place for observing middle-aged men going about their business. We have pictures of men on bikes, pictures of men who look suspiciously like Malaysian versions of Johnny Hallyday, pictures of men smoking and playing board games,  and finally pictures of men talking to cockatoos:

Somehow I don’t think I have married Suffolk’s answer to The Sartorialist. However, as I am responsible for taking a photo of a KFC sign reflected in a car window and previously snapping trolleys in Ikea we are probably well suited. Who knows, maybe one day National Geographic will bid for our combined photo library…

4 Responses to “Melaka Malacca – A tale of two cities”

  1. Flora July 16, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Great (and funny) post about Malacca. I ate my way through Jonker Street at night when we were there last weekend.

  2. notabilia July 18, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Brilliant post, my friend. You must post Mr. Noodle’s entire Melaka oeuvre.

  3. Theresa Chapman July 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Fantastic as ever – I want more! Indigo Pearl next?

    • singapore noodle July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you. Yes indeed, due at Indigo Pearl this evening. Anybody who is anybody is in Thailand this summer, of course 😉

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