Malacca is only three hours away from Singapore (door to door by car), but it’s a world away from our bustling, urban metropolis. It’s as if time stood still in this quaint little town, with its old world traditions, tastes and trades.
We checked into the Majestic Malacca, a beautifully restored old mansion constructed in the 1920s by a Chinese tycoon, and converted into a small luxury hotel in 2008 by the YTL Group (the same folk behind the Pangkor Laut Resort). The boys loved the complimentary traditional snacks in the lobby (we were probably single-handedly responsible for depleting their jar of kacam putih peas and those little round biscuits with the colored icing)!
The hotel is centrally located within walking distance of The Shore (Mall and kids activities) as well as Jonker Street. We traveled with a group of friends and found Majestic ideal for both families and couples. We booked two deluxe rooms for our family, and managed to get adjoining rooms on the top floor (901 and 902).
The rooms were clean and spacious, and each had a charming claw-footed bath-tub which the boys enjoyed nightly bubble baths in, and an open-concept bathroom which also offered privacy with its wooden sliding doors drawn. The boys loved the room so much, they refused to leave when it came time to do some sightseeing, so we left them behind (we brought their nanny along, which was a good thing, as there were some things I don’t recommend for kids, which I’ll share later)!
The only drawback to the hotel is that they didn’t offer room service! Oh well.
We set off exploring Malacca on foot the first evening, and found many quaint merchants, cafes and bars in little back lanes. One of the group’s favourites was Sin Hiap Hin – an authentic little hole-in-the-wall bar which sold moonshine, I mean rice wines and liquor, manned by a bar-auntie in her 60s whose family has tended the bar for five generations.
The little street that the bar is on is worth visiting, it has an authentic heritage charm to it, and the coolest old world barber shop opposite.
Food is plentiful in Malacca, but an eatery I recommend a short walk from our hotel would be TaChi Nonya House, where we fed the boys right after checking in. We enjoyed it, not only because it is quaint and uncrowded, which makes it family-friendly, but for the hearty Nonya fare (we had the Nasi Lemak with rendang chicken, curry noodles – super hot!- and otak otak), all were yummy. But I especially liked the old-school rattan high chairs they provided which fit both boys, including my gigantic four year old! Post-lunch (and without the boys), we walked by the river, and found many charming cafes and bars, like this spot which featured a row of vintage car boots and trunks that turn into a marketplace on weekends.You can take a seat in a VW bug for a meal at the Discovery Cafe, right outside Jonker Walk.When we hit Jonker Walk, the main tourist strip in the late afternoon around 4pm, we found it bustling but not over-crowded. Featuring a row of heritage pre-war shophouses crammed with local snack-sellers, knick-knack shops, fashion boutiques, tiny cafes and a Mamee Museum, we found the Geographer Cafe a good place to have a break. Set smack in the middle of the Jonker Street stretch, it’s about this point that the daddies might crave a cold beer, while I enjoyed my Gula Melaka iced milk tea. I must also share that I found a great toy shop about seven doors down from Geographer Cafe in the direction of traffic (I forget the name, Poh something). The toys are well-priced in Ringgit, and we came back three times to shop!
Although it wasn’t my intention to leave the boys in the hotel, I was glad I hadn’t brought them along, especially as it grew increasingly crowded as the night progressed, where there was no room but to shuffle back to front against the heaving crowd. It would have been very challenging to push a pram through the narrow walkways, and I saw many flustered parents with their hot, wailing infants, and have to say that this Jonker weekend market is really not a place for toddlers. As it may not be an option to leave the kids behind in the hotel, my suggestion would be to do Jonker Walk earlier in the day, and skip the night market (which starts at 7pm) if you have babies or very young children. You can see from my photos above that it can be quite unpleasant for a toddler to brave the heaving sea of people. The shops are small and narrow, many set on steps or over ledged doorways which would make it hard to navigate a pram.
My solution: I booked a private trishaw tour (RM50 for an hour) and had it customised to my own schedule and itinerary for the kids. We made it down Jonker in the relative comfort of a trishaw (Tip: you CAN ask for them to turn off that blaring music)! More on that below.
Tyler’s Hello Kitty airplane cost me RM180 (about SG$60) and the Jurassic World dinosaur was RM35 (about SG12), we also bought a pack of eight small dinosaurs with jointed, moving parts for RM25 (about $1 a dinosaur).Look mama! The boys were super-excited with their new toys.
Having left the boys behind last night, I made up for it the next couple of days with activities for the kids.
We started with the Submarine Museum where we got to view and board a real-life submarine! The monolith looks like a beached whale, and hurray! – it’s air conditioned inside. It’s a decomissioned sub used for training that can house 35 men at one time. Once inside, Tyler was a little scared as it can be dark, cramp and not for the claustrophobic. It was an eye-opener to be in a real submarine, to view the living conditions and cramped quarters. Watch out for the creepy mannequins!
In addition to the submarine, there were also two old fighter jets on display, which the boys enjoyed, of course. As the Submarine Museum is not centrally located, it’s about 20 minutes from town by car, it’s a good idea to ask the taxi to wait. You’ll take about 30 minutes to complete your explorations (and take some cool photos).
Next up, the Toy Museum at The Shore. This was an incidental discovery as I was actually at The Shore looking for the Oceanarium. This is good for half an hour of entertaining the kids. It’s definitely fun if your young kids are into Iron Man or StarWars. I probably wouldn’t have made the effort if we were a group of adults, or teenagers, but for kids under 6, it’s probably quite fun (and maybe a little scary as well)! Tyler was apprehensive about walking through this tunnel of Storm Troopers… A little nervous, he poses in Tony Stark’s Iron Man lair, and gives the Hulk his most fearsome pose.There was a little table of dinosaur toys, which didn’t have a Do Not Touch sigh on it. I assume it was for interactive play, so I let him pet the dinosaurs. Entry was RM35 for adults and RM25 for kids above three (Jake is just under two and gets in free). It wasn’t the cheapest in Malacca, but we found it entertaining and the boys enjoyed it.
Housed in the same building, just one floor up, is the Oceanarium. Mainly, we were there for the turtle-feeding. I had got the boys all excited about the Turtle Conservation beach, and when we found out they were closed over the long weekend (aargh! I’ll have to come back for this) I met their clamours to see turtles, by bringing them to the indoor Oceanarium. What was most unique about this Oceanarium was there range of interactive touch experiences. Kids could get up close to quite a few species of fish, starfish and even stingrays. I couldn’t get any photos as I had my hands full carrying Jake so he could pet all the fishy fishy.
I did get a photo of Tyler dipping his hands into this tank, where the little pink fish come up to nibble your fingers. They probably think you’re feeding them, and are playful and curious. The boys were so excited to interact with them! They had a few small Sharks, a big turtle tank with various species including a pair of giant frogs, seahorses etc (the usual aquarium denizens) and a 3D movie where you can watch a short movie about a turtle. But best of all for the boys, the turtle feeding pool at the end of the Oceanarium journey.
We spent close to three hours at The Shore covering the two museums with a lunch break in between. It’s a great place to spend half a day.
Located in The Shore as well, is the Sky Tower. You can take a lift up to Level 41, and climb the steps up to Level 42 to view the city from its highest point.
When we arrived at Level 42, we saw a ticketing counter where you have to pay for the walkabout and a big tour group ahead of us. So we decided to give this a miss. Instead, I spied looking over the Level 42 balcony that there was a restaurant and bar just one floor down that would pretty much have exactly the same view… so I brought the boys downstairs instead!
Ok, apart from the very Insta-worthy birdcage booth seats, the food is mediocre at best. The view isn’t anything to hype about. You can see the river snaking through the town, but overall the view was pretty underwhelming. At least I got to hold a Mojito in my hand, instead of queue upstairs and jostle with the crowd.Wrapping up our activities in Malacca, probably wouldn’t be complete without a touristy trishaw ride! Part of the fun for Tyler was spotting all the different themed trishaws. There were a lot of Hello Kitty, Frozen and Pikachu trishaws, but I managed to score a Minion one and took it back to the hotel so my boys could take a spin on it! We had so much fun that I decided to do a custom tour the next day, and got the hotel to call us a trishaw for a one hour tour.
Here we are, all ready for our trishaw adventure! Each trishaw can take two adults and a kid or an adult and two kids, but it was just Mommy and Tyler as Jake was napping before our drive back to Singapore later in the day.
The trishaw picked us up from from the doorstep of our hotel, and I asked the Uncle to take us to eat Baskin Robbins, then whiz by our favorite toy shop in Jonker, and surprise me with a little street art – which he did! One happy little boy. We got to choose from a wide variety of Baskin Robbins flavours while the trishaw parked on the curb right outside (this Baskin Robbins is located on street level facing the taxi drop-off of the Pahlawan Megamall). We took our take-out ice cream and carried on our journey through town! It was much more enjoyable for Tyler to see the streets whiz by in a trishaw than doing it on foot. We also did a little stop by a back alley with some 3D street art that was off the beaten path. Here are our masterpieces! The journey home, where we rode through Jonker and the old town to show Tyler the sights and sounds, before being dropped off back at the hotel!
To be honest, the trishaw ride in traffic, going off the tourist track probably isn’t for the faint of heart. Our driver took shortcuts and rode through traffic going in the other direction a couple of times. I was a little nervous at first, but he assured me that drivers in Malacca are accustomed to driving around trishaws and giving way to them.
If you’re not for riding in traffic, stick to the tourist routes, there are areas cordoned off where only foot traffic and trishshaws are allowed. There were harrowing moments, but we didn’t mow down any pedestrians after all.
We definitely enjoyed Malacca more than we expected to. We initially thought we would be bored stiff with three nights in this sleepy little town (we went over a long weekend), but were pleasantly surprised!
In fact, we didnt get to do all that I wanted to do, I would come back for the Padang Kamunting Turtle Sanctuary where you can visit the hatchery on a gazetted conservation beach and even release baby turtles back into the ocean, as well as check out the Huskitory, a husky cafe near Jonker where you can have coffee and enjoy cuddle time with more than 20 huskies!
Looks like we’ll be back!