A Splash of Color in Malacca

The view over the river from my hostel window

After leaving the comfortable confines of Singapore, my next destination was just a few hours up the coast, in that of Melaka, Malaysia.  Formerly a historically significant port in the region, Melaka now has the feel of a sleepy, rural town that – whether due to its relatively small size or the growing presence of nearby cities such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur — time seems to have bypassed, leaving the colonial atmosphere that once existed still intact.  And much like the rest of the surrounding area, the city’s population is a representative mix of the various Asian and European cultural influences that have taken root here over the last few hundred years, with the Nonya being the most noticeable (a mixed heritage resulting from the blending of Malay and Chinese immigrants).

The shipping trade is still a big part of the city (as the Strait of Melaka is one of the world’s busiest waterways), and tourism has started to creep into the picture, but the most apparent aspects of Melaka that’ll you notice immediately upon arriving are the brilliant flashes of color splashed all over the face of the city.  Whether you’re taking a ride in one of the famous tricked-out rickshaws, checking out wares at the weekend night market, or simply strolling the mural-lined riverside of the Melaka River, the vivid hues of the beautiful city will stay with you long after you leave.

The back walls of the buildings along a stretch of the Melaka River the extends the better part of a mile are all adorned with vibrant murals, creating a beautiful atmosphere for a peaceful stroll

Further views of the murals

A few examples of the local taxis: rickshaws that have been decorated with anything ranging from flowers and umbrellas to dolls and stuffed animals

Looking over the gardens of the Sultanate Palace

The interior of the Sultanate Palace

The eclectic interior of a local restaurant in the Chinatown area

Houses along the riverside

Looking out towards the Strait of Melaka

Come nightfall, the vibrancy of the city not only doesn’t diminish, but actually appears to be heightened — a fact also enhanced by the many decorations that are currently in place for the Chinese New Year festivities.  Additionally, if you happen to find yourself here on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll be treated to a bustling night market on Jonker Street (the main drag of the dense Chinatown area):

The Jonker Street Night Market

View back over the river at night

Although it is virtually impossible to top the culinary scene in Singapore, the eating in Melaka is still nothing to bat an eye at.  Besides the Malay cuisine, you’ll also find quite a few restaurants, stalls, and street vendors serving Chinese, Indian, and Nonyan delights — here are a few of the local specialties:

Laksa again, though the Malaysian version eschews much of the sweet coconut milk and in its place adds a LOT more chili, creating a sour-and-spicy dish that will have you instantly sweating through your shirt (as if the heat and humidity hadn’t already done so)

Popiah — a variant of the spring roll, but in this case, stuffed with almost everything the cook can get his hands on

Chicken Rice Balls, similar to that of Singapore aside from the fact that they roll the rice into small balls, intended to enable one to eat with their hands

Nonya Pineapple Tarts

The Indian-influenced banana leaf meal, where as soon as you sit down, waiters descend upon your table and start dishing out dollops of this or that. And the best part is that all nine dishes sampled here, along with rice and a mug of chai tea, all totalled up only a little over two dollars

Satay Celup — instead of grilling the small skewers of meat or veggies over an open grill, this version has the diner dunking the raw ingredients into a bubbling vat of boiling soup fondue-style

I’m trying to branch out from the routine of Tiger Beer

Cendol for dessert: a mix of coconut milk, palm sugar, red beans, and a whole host of grasses and jellies, all served over a bowl of shaved ice

After my time Melaka comes to an end, I’m going to continue my trek northwards, with the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur up next on the docket.  Until then, Sorakan from Melaka!

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About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

7 Responses to “A Splash of Color in Malacca”

  1. I hope you just pulled a chair up to that Satay Celup table!

  2. Very interesting. I’m always fascinated when everyone in a place like a town live up to what the whole community is up to.

  3. I loved the vivid colors of the decorated ricshaws. Very interesting article. Sounds like you learned a lot about the area.

  4. the pictures of malacca here are certainly colourful, and just realised how colourful & historical city it is 🙂

    • It’s funny, I ventured into Malacca on a whim, as it wasn’t on my original itinerary. I had to go, however, after it was recommened to me by a few new friends that I met sitting at the same table as me at a Hawker Center while I was still in Singapore. We got to talking about food (obviously) and they mentioned that Malacca was one of their favorite food cities. And voila, it became a new stop for me! Ha ha. I’m certainly glad I went, however, as it turned out to be a great place to spend a few days.

  5. These are some great photos. I’m headed to Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia later this year and haven’t really looked into it that much yet. I have to add Malacca to the list. Thanks for sharing.

    • I haven’t yet visited Burma or Indonesia, so I can’t speak for those, but Malacca should definitely be on your Malaysian itinerary. Also, if you’re a food lover, a stop in Penang would be worth the visit, too!

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