The compact city of Melaka, or Malacca, is irresistible. It's packed with heritage, culture and an eclectic mix of delicious food. We visited on a two day trip from KL, it's about a 3 hour bus drive away and well worth it.
On arrival from KL, we headed straight to the old centre: Chinatown. Chinatown is a must visit cluster of UNESCO protected streets centered around the tourist drag of Jonkers Street. Wander and explore the Peranakan townhouses, mosques and Chinese and Hindi temples. Chinatown is also packed with cafes, hip boutiques and some of Malaysia's best places to eat. Don't miss the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple - which dates from 1646 and and lies at the core of Melaka's Buddhist community. Our tip - we suggest the side streets if you want to avoid tourists and experience the more authentic side of Melaka. Plus, try to visit on a Friday or Saturday to include the Jonkers Street night market in your trip. It's commercial, but endlessly colourful.
After walking the streets, and visiting the townhouses, we relaxed by the pool and then went to Little India for dinner. We ate at the incredible Selvam Banana Leaf Restaurant. In a city with such eclectic and mouth watering food, it's hard to pick one cafe, but for a bargain meal Selvam is unbeatable. This local, friendly cafe on the edge of Melaka's Little India serves the best banana leaf curry we've ever had. It's basic, cheap and usually busy with locals. Not only does the food easily rival that in Chinatown, but it ticks the box for both meat eaters and vegans. You couldn't keep us away during our stay. Tip - don't miss the Friday vegetarian specials or the idli.
First up we visited Red Square or Dutch square to see Christ Church. The distinctive salmon pink church was built in 1753 and is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. It's a beautiful example of Dutch Colonial architecture and simple inside with Dutch and Armenian tombstones on the floor. The main draw for us was taking in the view of the square outside which includes the Stadthuys, the oldest Dutch building in the East, and the old clock tower all painted in matching pink.
Next we decided to explore the historic port and river. The Melaka, or Malacca, River is a major tourist draw due to the 45 minute river cruises, but it's better to explore the rejuvenated riverbank on foot. You will see more and experience more. Called the "Venice of the East" by the Europeans in the late 16th century, it's lined with antique shophouses, colonial buildings and bridges, so it's easy to criss cross to the pedestrian walkways on either side. We loved: the street art of the Melaka River Street Art Project near the bottom of Jonker St; exploring Kampung Morten - an old Malay settlement and living museum of traditional Malay lifestyle; and slowly experiencing local life along the banks. Tip - take water as it gets very hot.
We finished off with St Peter's Church at the end of our riverwalk and didn't expect it to be so memorable. Built in 1710, St Peter's Church is the oldest Catholic church in Malaysia and a fascinating mix of East and West. Painted bright white, it stands out from what seems to be abandoned scrubland which was home to several chickens when we visited. Tip - the colonial Majestic Hotel is nearby if you want to quench your thirst in historic surroundings. We splurged on a gin and tonic and then had early dinner wandering Chinatown and eating streetfood - don't miss The Daily Fix Cafe.
After dinner we got the bus back to Kuala Lumpur. Do visit Melaka if you're in KL or Malaysia!