July 28-Aug 8, 2016
A First-Timer in Malacca
GPS waypoint: 2°11'51.2"N 102°14'44.4"E
Location: Malacca, Malaysia
Here's Lookin' at You, Malacca
Malacca wasn't really in the picture. From Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), I went to Kuala Lumpur to secure my Chinese visa for a trip to Beijing to join Cheng, a Singaporean friend I met in Siargao 3 years ago. But the embassy told me to get it in Manila. That was a deal breaker. From KL, I decided to head south to Malacca instead of Beijing. I wanted to go to Malacca when I first came to Malaysia in Jan 2015 but somehow, that didn't happen. Now, I get a second chance.
Getting to Malacca by bus from Kuala Lumpur was painless. I took the local train to TBS. From there, I boarded the bus to Malacca Sentral, the main bus terminal. Next, I boarded the #17 bus for the MYR 2 10-min ride to Jonker Street, the main tourism hub of Malacca.
Luckily, I stumbled upon a newly opened flashpacker hostel - NOMAPS. It had a modern industrial art-deco theme, friendly and efficient staff and unlimited 24/7 breakfast snack area. Their kitchen had a long table which made it suitable for me to do my online stuff. The manager, Carol Koh, was hands-on and on top of everything. I felt so at home at NoMaps, even acting as 'welcoming committee' to tourists who were curious. I counted 5 hotel guest credits for talking to them, even chasing after them when they already walked away. A couple I took-in even brought 2 of their friends! Not bad for a guy who was just doing work in the kitchen and noticing curious onlookers. NOMAPS was home for my first 4 nights in Malacca - a buffer I badly needed.
If that wasn't good enough, I also got a bicycle for use during my entire stay in Malacca, through Rent-a-Cycle. Their bicycle had a night light, was finely tuned, with a front basket for my laptop. With a hotel and a bike, I was all set to explore Malacca! Optimism was high.
After the initial abundance, I felt a struggle. The deals weren't happening. After my NoMaps episode, I defaulted back to cheap backpacker bunk beds in dorm rooms. At an average of MYR 15/night, it was budget friendly, but I was still hemorrhaging cash. I knocked on hotel doors but couldn't get to talk to the decision makers. I was beginning to wonder if I should continue staying in Malacca. The presence of 'struggle' means there's another place waiting for me. By going to different guesthouses in differents neighborhoods (Victor's Guesthouse and Sayang Sayang Hostel), I got to explore a different facet of Malacca on every move - a very good thing that broadened by landscape.
Rushed and Consumed
I also felt I wasn't being too fair to Malacca. Seven days into it and I haven't really done my exploration - not as much as I normally do. I was too consumed by blog backlogs from way back Ubud, consumed about making deals and proposals for a roof over my head and food in my tummy, and trouble-shooting friends' issues, that Malacca itself was being ignored. I had to snap out of it and smell the flowers again. A leisurely walk along the charming riverbank of the city allowed me to regain perspective.
discovering an almost hidden food alley
Because Malacca tourists are mostly Orientals (local Malaysians and Mainland Chinese), I didn't get as much social interaction as I might normally get as talking to complete strangers is not in their culture. But I've become friends with a few unlikely people who have shaped my peoplescape.
She was my first friend in Malacca. We met when I stumbled upon NoMaps Hostel, a newly opened flashpacker hostel she was managing. Very hands-on with clearly set goals, she finds ways to sustain the hostel's competitive advantage. We had a few non-business chats which were refreshing as she talked about her family, kids and the immediate future.
His friends fondly call him Master G because he is DA MAN. He fixes things. With his wit, instinct, life experience, general know-how and bubbly personality, people rely on him to troubleshoot anything. I met him as he was trouble-shooting the cafe/resto, Malang 8. It had potential but wasn't making money. So he brought his own crew, revised the menu, renovated the place, strategized on marketing targets, etc. An insightful man, it was fun having a tete-a-tete with him.
I can't say we bonded, but it was an interesting short talk. I stumbled upon a Luwak cafe he owned and wanted to expand - Bangga Coffee. We talked. He was business savvy, offering me distributorship of Luwak Coffee which I thankfully declined. I don't think I can ever work for anyone again given my freedom. He has local and global interests which take him mostly around Malaysia. He's a rich guy who didn't seem concerned about being rich - he just wants to win the game. He feels light to be with and was quite engaging.
Meet Cassandra. She's a local who likes food, like me. When I saw a line forming on a food cart, I knew it had to be something good. Not knowing what it was, I lined-up too. Cassandra was in front of me. We got into a conversation about food, had dinner together which happened to be Char Koay Teoy, Penang's culinary staple. This was followed by teh halia across the street. It was a fun spontaneous over-extended talk.
I feel guilty about this. I kept complaining about my cheap phone not having the features I needed. So one day, I just forgot to take it with me and left it on a river bank after working out. Needless to say, someone took it. From a conversation with a cabbie, I was told that the best value now is a Huawei phone. I canvassed and the new one cost around MYR 800. Ouch! That's a major dent on the budget. My benevolent universe works in mysterious but somehow predictable ways. Predictable because I've seen this repeating pattern manifest itself so many times in the past. Lo and behold, I made a little money in Malacca. How much? You guessed it right - exactly MYR 800. My universe provides exactly what I need, when I need it - nothing more, nothing less, no sooner and no later than when needed. I'm not even surprised. But of course, I am always grateful. It's not everyone who acknowledges and benefits from an unseen hand looking after his well-being.
Penang and Malacca
I know this is an unfair statement, but Malacca suffers in comparison to Penang - it cannot be helped by those who have gone to both places. At first, they looked the same. Malacca felt like Penang with the food scene, the city architecture that earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, the Chinese majority, the street art, etc. But staying 11 days revealed Malacca's own charm and attracton. Penang was more busy, enjoying a strong presence of Oriental and European tourists while Malacca seem to be favored more by Chinese and local tourists. Penang feels genuinely and refreshingly raw. Malacca feels a little more polished...a little more manufactured for tourism. Malacca is charming and even more romantic than Penang. If you stay the usual 2 to 3 days, Malacca is perfect. However, if you stay beyond that time frame and have exhausted the tourist offerings, there won't be much left to do. In Penang however, it doesn't matter if you stay there for months. It's a engaging place to permeate yourself into. It doesn't rely on tourism to make it interesting and engaging.
After covering my bases and securing some loose ends, it felt time to go. Logical destination was Singapore to catch my plane for Davao. My disappointment over Penang's exhorbitantly expensive Musang King durian is prompting me to go back to the Philippines to have my one kilo a day durian fix. Yes, I am stupid for spending for a flight instead of just paying for that Musang King. I can be stubborn...and I am.
Malacca was like a mini-life - the places that gave me shelter, the struggle and bliss for survival, the wonderful people I met, the gastronomic indulgence, the validation I got from my benevolent universe, etc. For all the blessings of Malacca, I am grateful. Malacca will remain special.
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is concentrated along the Jonker Walk area. Best to book your hotel within this area
- from Kuala Lumpur, take any local train or bus that would take you to the TBS ().
- inside TBS, go to the Ticket Counter and tell them you'll go to Malacca. You can choose a particular bus line otherwise, they will give you the next bus leaving for Malacca. With your ticket comes the Gate No. where you board your bus - it's like an airport when you take your flight.
- go to the Gate No. and look at the Departure board to see if your bus is there and if boarding is already allowed.
- Board the bus and it will drop you at the Malacca Sentral bus terminal in Malacca. Trip takes 2 hours. You are still far from the city center.
- take the local bus within the same terminal to take you to Jonker Walk, the main tourism hub of Malacca (below)
(US$1 = Malaysian Ringit MYR 4.031 = Philippines Php 46.97 as of August 6, 2016)
- upon arriving at the Malacca Sentral, look for and follow the signs for the Domestic Bus area
- at the Domestic Bus area, look for Quay #17. That's where the bus is for Jonker Walk, MYR 2 | 10 mins
- Daging Salai Masak Lemak Cili Padi (house specialty) at Mayang 8 Cafe And Restaurant , local and Western cuisine
- all-day American breakfast + coffee/boh tea at A & D Tea House , aromatic tea and dessert
- local bus fare from Malacca Sentral bus terminal to Jonker Walk in the city center, 15 mins
- cheapest bunk bed in a dorm room in a backpacker hostel, shared toilet
- bunk bed in NOMAPS , a flashpacker hostel with first rate amenities
- bicycle rental at Rent-a-Cycle
- coffee in trendy cafes
- coffee in kedai coffee shops (local eateries)
- haircut on local barber shops (not touristy salons)
- coin-operated laundromat
- coin-operated laundromat
- bus ride from TBS (Kuala Lumpur) to Melaka Sentral (Malacca)
- bus ride from Melaka Sentral (Malacca) to Jonker area (tourist hub of Malacca) using #17 bus
- 1 liter petrol
- Cool Climate of Cameron Highlands June 19-23, 2016
- Overnight in Kluang, Malaysia Aug 13-14, 2016
- Funky Flow Yoga with Lora Lorenzo at YogaOneThatIWant Studios July 27, 2016
- Deja Vu Kuala Lumpur with Karine July 21-26, 2016
- Layover in Kuala Lumpur June 22, 2016
- The Kuala Lumpur Experience Jan 21 - Feb 20, 2015
- Police Harassment in Kuala Lumpur Feb 17, 2015
- Visiting Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur Feb 18, 2015
- Walking Tour of China Town Feb 5, 2015
- Breaking New Ground in Kuala Lumpur Jan 21, 2015
- A First-Timer in Malacca July 28-Aug 8, 2016
- Art Scene of Malacca August 6, 2016
- The River Charm of Malacca August 5, 2016
- About Malacca July 28, 2016
- Penang (Malaysia) Immersion May 27-Jun 19, 2016
- Exploring the Emergent Cafe Culture of Penang Jun 18, 2016
- Encounters with the Guru-Types of Penang Jun 17, 2016
- Overnight Camping at Turtle Beach Jun 10, 2016
- Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation in Penang Jun 10, 2016
- Daytrip to Batu Ferringhi Jun 9, 2016
- Savouring the Food of Penang May 27 - Jun 6, 2016
- Surreal Glow-in-the-Dark 3D World at Dark Mansion June 3, 2016
- The Animated Street Art of Penang Jun 3, 2016
- Exploring the Lush Greenery of Botanic Gardens May 29, 2016
- Up up and Away to Penang Hill May 28, 2016
- About Penang May 27, 2016
(28 Aug 2016) Till we meet again. Take care.
(28 Aug 2016) You've got some great yarns from your travels. Malacca is an old favourite. Look forward to catching up in person.
July 28-Aug 8, 2016
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