Melaka where?

View of the Old Town from above. 

A sleepy, seaside, UNESCO world heritage town, Melaka, Malaysia, is a good stop over on the way to KL (Kuala Lumpur). You can easily stay for a day or two and feel like you saw the town. I had never heard of Melaka until I was in Singapore.  I was having a little trouble figuring out my general route. Melaka appeared as an opportunity for a stop over on the way to KL. I had always wanted to go to KL and see the Petronas Towers, so I figured why not. It was only a short bus ride away.

I took Star Mart Express for my bus service and it was very, very nice, possibly the nicest bus I have ever been on. This obviously surprised me. The seats were extra wide, had a crazy pattern on them and were quite comfortable. The air con was cranked to full volume, some people even had to put extra clothing on. The ride itself was pretty uneventful except for the fact that the skies opened up just as we passed the port of Singapore. It had rained a bit while I was in Singapore but nothing like it did that afternoon. The highway was sopping wet and we did a few hard brakes which made my heart skip for a second. For some reason some of the nicest, most interesting trees I saw while in all of Singapore were along the highway. I would later learn that they are also all numbered.

Leaving Singapore you go through customs. The bus driver yells “get off, get off” and you run in, get checked out and hop back on the bus on the other side of the building. If you hurry you might be able to sneak in a trip to the bathroom located right outside the door.  Upon departure from Singapore, the bus heads over a bridge connecting Singapore and Malaysia. Once you cross, there is fencing on each side for about a mile and then we were chucked off the bus again to go through Malaysian customs. I was passed through without even a word, just a  stamp. Our bags were sent through a scanner and then back to the bus. The ride took a turn when we got back on, it had movie screens! Such a posh bus! The driver put on some sort of Hong Kong action movie with Jet Li. I was more into the scenery, but caught myself watching via subtitles. Between the border and Melaka there were mountains and palm trees as far as you could see.  There were so many palms, it was reminiscent of Costa Rica.

I arrived at Melaka station and was surprised at it’s lack of taxi cadre. A few people yelled taxi, but no one was chasing me down. It was a pleasant surprise. I did get a few weird looks but I think that was mostly because of the massive pack on my back. Everyone seemed to be looking at it instead of me. I was able to hop on the right bus without event and even got off at the right stop for my hostel. I was let off in one of the busiest tourist areas of the city, Red Dutch Square. My hostel was just over the bride and around the corner from the big touristy shopping area, Jonker Street. I didn’t  realize that at the time of booking but it was a bonus to be well located to some of the more popular things to do in the area since it’s not that big.  I’m not always such a tourist, but I sure was in Melaka. My guesthouse/hostel was nice enough for the price $17USD a night (high by South East Asian standards).

Basically in Melaka or Malacca, as I also saw it spelled, there is the old town, which is comprised of the main drag of Jonker street and the surrounding area, the Stadthuys, an original Dutch building, the tower with a rotating view platform, a river cruise, a fun park and several mosques and temples.  The water front has little to offer, but the river has a long, developed walking path on both sides, that is quite enjoyable. Just don’t walk past the Casa Rio Residences on the right side, there is no bridge crossover after that. You can’t miss the residences, they are modern, slightly out of place and look like a Marriott hotel. All of these main “attractions” are within walking distance of each other and as it turns out my hostel was as well. I found this out the way I usually do, by wandering around. I  made a nice big accidental loop of the area when I went out for my morning walk.

For me, the tower, although super touristy, was a great way to get an overview of the entire city. It moved faster than I expected but that was kind of fun. Right outside the tower they have an outdoor massage parlor area where the blind give foot, neck and back massages. There are plenty of rickshaw/trishaws elaborately decorated waiting at the entrance trying to entice you into a tour. You can’t believe how colorful they are. The effort put into them is apparent. You can also pick these up at Red Dutch Square. The river cruise is a good way to get some wind in your hair but that’s about it. Technically it is a “hop on, hop off,” but they don’t make it that easy to do that.  Most people ride it end to end. I think you are better off walking the river walk than taking the cruise (depending how hot it is).

One of the many riverwalk murals.
The posh part of the riverwalk. 

Kampung Kling Mosque, just off Jonker Street. 
Sunset from the guest house. 
River walk.

"Giant Monitor Lizard" aka the water lizard found all up and down the river. 

Jonker street was an attraction all it’s own.  Shops sell a lot of touristy stuff but it is worth the walk down just to check out the street food. There are fresh fruit stands, noodle stands, restaurants with lines out the door, juices and vats of some sort of dumpling. It was a sensual delight. The clothing shops are a bit curious in this area, they are higher end and the staff followed me around. Every time I touched something or moved once piece out of the way to view another, no matter how meticulously I had put it back they would rush to adjust it, even if they didn’t do anything to it. I was told by two stores that the sizes were “free size.” I thought they were saying three sizes, but it turns out they meant “one size.” I was told by two shops that I was not the right size. Apparently, women are only one size. It didn’t do wonders for my body image I have to say. That and the women I have encountered so far are stereotypically tiny. Another shop told me that my neck and my hips were the same size, so I could measure a pair of pants around my neck and by that way. That was a new one on me, and I don’t believe that for a second. Maybe it is so with Malaysian women.

Melaka is a good for a two night stop on the way to KL if you are traveling by bus. KL is a short two hours by bus and there are many companies and options at the Melaka Sentral Station. I recommend getting a ticket for your departure when you arrive. It will save you an extra trip back to the station.

Top Tips

In Singapore, go to the Nicholl Highway stop for bus tickets. There are a few different agencies in the "Golden Triangle" Building. I liked Star Mart but shop around to see what suits you . 

Jonker street is hailed as a night market but it is just as interesting during the day in my opinion.
Singapore to Melaka by bus 3.5 – 4 hours depending on which carrier you use. Cost is about 25 Singapore Dollars.

Melaka Tower – They will ask you where you are from and basically non Asians get charged more. There is not much you can do about this. It happens a lot of places. If you are white-ish you will probably pay more.

River Cruise – 15 MYR

Roof Top Guest House and Hostel – basic, decent rooms, nice roof sitting area

If you are staying near Red Dutch Square take the bus, it costs 1.30 MYR as  opposed to the taxi which is 20MYR. It is easy to navigate and the drivers are very helpful if you don’t know which stop you need to get off.  Bus 17 or the Panorama Bus will take you from Melaka Sentral to Red Dutch Square.

There are plenty of western style cafes in the tourist areas if you are concerned about eating the street food. You will pay more of course. Try the street food! 

Durian Fruit

Dumplings and other awesome bites. 

Fried spiral potato. 



  1. Great look into Melaka , looks interesting!

  2. Great look into Melaka , looks interesting!

  3. You are giving me the wanderlust again!! I had a wonderful time in Malasia with my daughter 15 years ago! Hope you make it into the Highlands for some jungle treking....