Melaka (also known as Malacca) is a tiny waterfront city in Malaysia with a strong Portuguese historical influence. It is a very popular weekend getaway for food exploration and antique shopping. The city is located roughly four hours bus ride away from Singapore and two hours plus bus ride away from Kuala Lumpur.
No matter how tiny a city I keep referring, that Melaka houses 500 plus big and small hotels is a good indicator of the number of tourist inflows. The town is packed during the weekends, especially with tourists from Singapore. For the Lion city residents, the options for a weekend getaway are limited. Singaporeans can either visit the Indonesian islands (Batam & Bintan), Melaka or the ones with deeper pockets, can spend time at the Sentosa island. Hence Melaka comes across the cheapest best option for a weekend considering it has more things to see, eat and do than Batam or Bintan. Singapore residents, if needed, can get a one-year Malaysian visa and visit this lovely country multiple times. The cheapest best place to get this visa is from Serangoon Travels (Little India) for 60 SGD.
A visit to Melaka is meaningless without a visit to the Jonker Walk (night market street) on a weekend. Apart from the street exploration – trying out a wild variety of tasty dishes, munchies, juices, ice creams, puffs and other beverages – you need just another three hours to cover the rest of the best of Melaka. Hence a two-night weekend stay is ideal for this place.
Recommended itinerary & transport:
The best day and time to reach Melaka would be on a Friday evening around 9pm. This would mean, one needs to start from Singapore around 4pm – 430pm; after kids have finished school and adults just take a half day off from work. One can either drive down, hire a Malaysia based taxi (from Singapore it costs around 100 SGD) or take a bus (30 SGD ticket prices approximately). If you are taking a bus, take one that drops you around the Hatten hotel square area, Melaka. Grassland buses are strongly recommended: they have very spacious and comfortable seats, drivers are courteous and they have wi-fi too. Try to book accommodation around that Hatten square area too. This will ensure your hotel is bang next to your bus drop point and when you return back, the buses start right from there. There are a host of good hotels right where the bus drops.
There is another advantage of taking the bus from Singapore around 4pm. That time is just the last window to cross the immigration checkpoints with fewer crowds. After 630pm the checkpoints get very crowded on a Friday.
Reach Melaka, check-in to your hotel and head straight to Jonker Street night market – alive only on weekends and open till midnight. The street is roughly 1km away from your hotel. Explore street food out there for dinner and get first hand experience of Melaka.
Start the morning with your hotel buffet breakfast. After that. walk down to the Mahkota Parade square – enjoy the Tamang Sari tower ride to get a bird’s eye view of Melaka, visit the Maritime Museum and do a river cruise. After that, take a Grab taxi and visit the beautiful Melaka Straits mosque, stop for ten minutes, take photographs and then take the same taxi to Nancy’s Kitchen for a delicious lunch.
Post lunch, if you wish to take a relaxing nap (my blogs always keep in mind that a family is travelling with kids), do that, but leave your hotel by 7pm. Walk down to the Melaka Dutch square, sit by the fountain, admire the brick-red colour Portuguese architecture and walk down to Jonker street again. Tonight, Saturday, it will be extremely happening and busy. Hold your kid’s hand tightly and ensure the family always walk together amidst the crowds in that narrow lane. Take a colourful rickshaw ride if you want to. Those rickshaws are nicely decorated with cartoons that will please small kids and they play loud funky music that gives a lot of energy to the place.
Relax and enjoy the hotel facilities. Go for a swim in the pool. Checkout time is 12pm and hopefully, you have booked a return bus that departs around 12pm. This is to ensure you hit the highway and return back to Singapore much before the traffic peaks. On Sunday nights, a huge number of Singaporean residents return back to their country.
Recommended Jonker Street food exploration route to take in one trip!
Stop 1: Nonya Baba Laksa @ Jonker 88
Jonker 88 is the most famous Laksa shop in Melaka and stocks run out fast. It’s crowded and always a struggle to get seats. The self-serving area seems like two street carts but boy the food here is mind-blowing. Their Baba Laksa – a thick sour spicy seafood broth – is a 10/10 dish. A bowl of it is large enough, so I recommend you share amongst your group. If you feel spicy after finishing, take a fresh watermelon or sugarcane juice from one of the stalls on the street. The cold and fresh juice gives relief from the humid Melaka weather too.
Stop 2: Pandan Pancake with vanilla ice-cream @ The Daily Fix Cafe
Just opposite Jonker 88 is The Daily Fix Cafe and you will struggle to locate it as the cafe is inside a souvenir shop. Trust Google maps to help you locate it. The place is cosy, crowded and their Pandan pancakes with gula-melaka is quite something you may have never tasted. Ensure you order only one plate to be shared amongst the group .. you have many more dishes to taste tonight!
Stop 3: Chicken cutlet sandwich @ Navy Cafe
Navy Cafe is a quaint cafe just opposite The Daily Fix Cafe. Order a chicken cutlet sandwich. It’s a spicy cutlet as the patty has sambal mixed with chicken. This will be one of the best sandwiches you ever had.
Stop 4: Vietnamese Filter coffee @ Navy Cafe
Finish the meal with a Vietnamese filter coffee. The coffee is strong and they serve in a unique pot worth admiring.
Stop 5: Homemade coconut ice-cream @ Bikini Toppings
After your coffee, do some souvenir shopping, pick up some Tambun cookie packs to take back for your friends and walk down the Jonker street towards your hotel. At end of the street towards the left, find out ‘Bikini Toppings Cafe’. This place is special for home-made coconut ice-cream with no use of sugar or chemicals. Naturally the product may not taste as good as the Chatuchak Bangkok coconut ice-cream but nevertheless, it’s the healthier option. And a great way to finish your Jonker street walk.
I hope you liked this blog and do take out a weekend to travel Melaka sometime. Nothing gives me more happiness than my readers getting inspired to go for vacations, exploring different cultures, exposing kids to different cuisines, smiling together and creating memories.
Scissors Paper Stones
I have recently launched my first travel book “Scissors Paper Stones” – A budget travel guide for middle-class families who have dreams unlimited, but their thoughts and pockets restricted. You can buy the book here: