These days tour packages have become an almost integral part of a trouble-free fun-filled holiday. Coming in all shapes and sizes, tours are oftentimes the best way to explore a sprawling countryside or bustling conurbation with ease.
When I was told I would be going on a full-day tour of Malacca, I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled. After all trekking through Malacca in this scorching heat is no one’s idea of a picnic but I buckled down and agreed to it and boy was I glad. I’ve been to Malacca before but there’s just something about this place that doesn’t get ‘old’; no matter how many times I visit, I always feel a sense of peace steal through me the instant I step into its boundaries.
Hot hot hot!
We kick off our tour in the wee hours of the morning by heading over to our transfer pick-up point. After getting some java from a nearby mamak-shop, we pack ourselves into the tourist-van and begin our 2-hour long journey to Malacca. Along the way we exchange stories to pass time and before you know it we’re pouring out of the van onto the streets of Malacca.
First up on the itinerary is the Stadhtuys – Malacca’s most unmistakable landmark. Believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, it consists of the imposing coral-red town hall and governor’s residence. I was tickled pink because one of the most fascinating things about the Stadthuys is that it is a favourite trishaw pick-up point and there were dozens of these colourful tricked-out bikes sporting gaudy flowers and miniature sparkling lights thronging the square.
I decided to take a solitary walk on over to Christ Church – adjacent to the Stadthuys – where I perused the small and hushed artwork-laden interior. The oldest Protestant church in Malaysia; this salmon-pink church is one of the most distinguished heritage sites in the city.
I rejoined my group and we bustled down towards the renowned Jonker Street. Since it’s close to mid-afternoon now, the sun is shining down hot and hard down upon us. We’re sweating buckets but most of us are grinning ear-to-ear at the prospect of souvenir-shopping.
However before we start our journey we decide to sample a Malaccan speciality – chicken rice balls – at Hoe Kee Chicken Rice restaurant along Jalan Hang Jebat. When we arrive the restaurant isn’t jam-packed but as we’re getting ready to leave groups of people are beginning to crowd the entrance, so my advice is either arrive outside of peak time or expect to wait for a table.
Chinatown is the heart of Malacca and is by far the most interesting area to wander around. Stroll along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Jalan Hang Jebat; once-famous for its antique shops this avenue now boasts a collection of clothing and crafts outlets and restaurants. On Friday and Saturday nights the streets are transformed into the Jonker Walk Night Market, a lively market of food and trinket stalls.
While strolling the boulevard we drop-in at the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum – a traditional Peranakan townhouse steeped in the past. We finish off our tour of Jonker Street and tote our kitschy knick knacks back towards the transfer pick-up point to break for lunch!
Our meal is at an authentic generations-old Nyonya restaurant called Restoran Peranakan, located along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. We sample their set menu of curry prawns, chicken rendang, calamari and mixed vegetables; dessert is a Malaccan favourite – cendol!
After lunch – even though most of us are too full to do more than fall into a comfy bed and snooze the afternoon away – we make our way to Cheng Hoon Teng Temple – Malaysia’s oldest traditional Chinese temple. I was mesmerized as I watched devotees jostling wooden-sticks in wooden containers and dropping smooth rocks onto the floor to divine their futures. Along this road – Jalan Tokong – is also the Kampung Kling Mosque – a white Moorish-esque mosque as well as the Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple – one of the first Hindu temples built in Malaysia.
After lunch we hopped aboard the Duck Tour! Located beside Menara Taming Sari, the ticket booth for this tour may be teensy weensy but it’s easily noticeable due to its sunshine-yellow exterior. Publicized as Malaysia’s first land and sea adventure this tour ‘duck-bus’ is definitely the most entertaining way to explore Melaka. The tour guide is especially entertaining as she booms out her quirky little facts about Malacca’s attractions in a cheesy TV-show-announcer manner.
And let’s face it when this duck-boat went splashing into the water I was gripping the seat hard and praying that I wasn’t in a defective boat. I’m not a great swimmer and given the choice of saving me or themselves, I’m pretty sure my colleagues were going to say ‘every man for himself’!. Thankfully when the engines started whirring and we were gliding over the waters, just shy of the shores, I started to relax. The sight of the vast calm blue-green ocean stretched out before me was instrumental in helping me keep cool – literally and figuratively; after such a hot and humid day, being out on the seas – even if it was only for 20 minutes was a gift and I was almost disappointed when we headed back towards land.
After the Duck Tour we stop by at Porta De Santiago (A’Famosa) – a quick but necessary photo-stop opportunity – before heading over to the Sultanate Palace – a wooden replica of a 15th century Malacca sultan’s palace which boasts numerous dioramas portraying the true palace atmosphere of the era.
Our tour ended with a trip to Melaka Raya because a colleague of mine had to stop by Nadeje Patisserie – a classy and cosy café that specializes in a simply heavenly and delicious mille crêpe. The prices are a little steep but this French cake is so spectacular – and you can’t find it anywhere else in Malaysia – that a visit is definitely a must. The tour was actually quite fun and at the end of the day I was glad that I decided to brave the scorching heat and go. After all – as they say – nothing ventured; nothing gained. The Duck Tour was the best part as it allowed us to cool off but I have to say that the Full-Day Tour is practically a must for first-time visitors of Malacca.
Reviewed By: Edina