Three Nights in Malacca : Trip with Family & Friends

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.

The Hotel

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. 

General Sightseeing

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. 

Kid-Friendly Activities 

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! 

My Tot-Friendly Travel: Penang, Malaysia

So we’ve just spent a weekend (3 days and 2 nights) in sunny Penang, a short one hour flight from Singapore, but truly a world apart. Here are my photos and tips on how to make it a junior-friendly excursion!

Stylish boutique hotel Macalister Mansion may not come to the top of mind as a family friendly location, but it was an awesome experience that exceeded all expectations, and one reason we really enjoyed our experience in Penang.

Here’s the entrance, with a modernist sculpture at the arrival (which Bubu refers to as “Big Head”) as you drive up the sweeping driveway to a graceful colonial style mansion.  “Big Head” also makes an awesome photo opp … If only Bubu didnt get scared and run away!


This is a boutique design hotel set in a heritage mansion with only eight rooms. All the rooms were unique and had different layouts, I recommend booking way ahead to get the room you really want. Two of the rooms are adjoining if you are traveling in a larger family party.

Being a family of three, we checked into Room 3 which is the largest room with its own huge balcony, sitting area and a massive room-sized bathroom.

He had fun exploring the room, it was a good family size with a super king bed that fit us all comfortably.
Bubu LOVES the bathroom, the look on his face says it all!The bath tub is the highlight of the hotel for him. I considered for 10 seconds to let him sleep in it because he climbed right into it and lay down right away (and because Macalister isn’t entirely baby-friendly, they don’t provide extra beds or baby cots).   Spot the Bubu below…

This is Room 2, the only room with a four poster bed, hmm… probably better for couples.

Next we proceeded to explore the grounds and various nooks and crannies in the hotel, and found…

The Living Room- A gorgeous breakfast hall – which served equally gorgeous breakfasts that  were included in the room rates. The must-try here is the unagi and scrambled egg on toast…mmmmm.

Quaint and quirky design touches can be discovered all over the hotel if you take the time to explore. The cafe had beautiful wall murals which echoed the street art in Penang.  I highly recommend brunch at the Living Room (open daily 8am to 10pm) even if you don’t stay in Macalister Mansion. The food is great, the space is pretty and the coffees are satisfying!

The cafe and gift shop space
The quaint curated offerings in the gift shop 
Just next to The Living Room is a room which houses the gift shop, and has a big central table that doubles up in the evenings as a pool table. The gift shop sells all kinds of cool curios like these funky porcelain cups. I also bought some beautiful  hard-cover children’s classic books – Peter Pan, Secret Garden and Frankenstein-  to decorate the boys’ rooms with, and hopefully become cherished keepsakes as they become older.

Next, we wandered into The Dining Room- a beautiful wonderland of a restaurant which featured an elegant all-white tree as its centerpiece and a baby blue and pink deer. Such a dreamy space for an intimate wedding dinner – love! 

Bubu would greet the animals in the little courtyard outside the restaurant each morning, with a VERY LOUD “Hello Bear!” – thankfully, with only 8 rooms, we had the whole property pretty much to ourselves (another perk of staying in a very small hotel)!



Giant book on the landing which shows Macalister  Mansion among other cool design hotels from all around the world.


(Almost) Reluctantly, we leave the sanctuary of this beautiful Gatsy-inspired mansion and head out to Penang for the real reason we are here: Street Food! 

There are many foodie blogs which detail where to go for the best this and that – so I’m not going to do that here (Don’t be lazy, do a bit of your own research!) … But I will say that the best Or Luak (oyster omelette) can be found at Lam Ah kopi tiam (opposite the fire station) and the yummiest Penang Char Kway Teow (fried seafood noodles) can be found at Pulau Tikus. Most of these local eateries do have high chairs, and they are very cute, old-school 80s style antiquities (read: bring wet wipes!!!).

Now my favorite part, the street art in Penang. So most of you will be familiar by now with these iconic wall murals. The most famous and original ones were done by artist Ernest Zacharevic – we found a series of three – the swing, the basketball and the bicycle, all in the Jalan Pantai area.

You may be asking how to find them, and in all honestly, I couldn’t exactly tell you, they’re not really side by side, as I expect they were designed to be part of an exploratory trail.

The swing is my favorite, as the bicycle can get very crowded being in the middle of a busy weekend street market which despite being closed off as a pedestrian throughfare still had cars and bikes going through.  I will tell you later though exactly how we found them, and that’s one good way to explore.

The swing was tucked away in a small side alley, no one there but us. Don’t sit on the other swing for the photo, it will block the little painted kids which are the highlight, unless your tot is so tiny he/she doesn’t go past their knees.

The basketball mural – daddy takes a shot!Other murals can also be discovered along bustling Jalan Pantai. So a good place to drop off if you want to explore the area on foot would be at China House. It looks fairly unassuming like a regular shophouse from the outside (look out for some flags on the exterior which help you locate it), but the inside is a long, snaking series of gardens and cafes.

  Inside the gorgeous interiors and escapes of the China House (with my grumpy Bubu).  Graffiti covered walls make for a subversive cool arty/underground vibe.
There’s even a pretty pond and garden inside – so unexpected.  Cake spread at the cafe inside Asia House.

There are so many fun and memorable photo spots- Enjoy yourself scouting them all out and interacting with them to create your own Penang Family Album!

It can get uncomfortably hot for tots in the afternoon, the best time to probably have gone would be about 4 or 5pm as the sun is still up, but it wouldn’t have been as hot and humid, and the market and street life would start to transition to evening.
Bubu starts to get grumpy about 20 minutes in, and and clamours to go back to the van, even though there’s so much to see and buy, that I was wishing I had brought the pram!
I really wanted a small hand-knit Totoro, but made the mistake of taking a photo first and when I turned around – it was gone! Many of the things in the market are one-off or hard to find again, so if you see something you love, just buy it first!
    Another place we loved for having uber cool decor was the Awesome Canteen. Being stuffed already, we didn’t get to try the food and drinks, but it’s on my must-try when we return list.  Check out the photo below, it’s like dining in the sunny courtyard of a heritage house.

 We find lovely photo corners all around Jalan Pantai.

That pout though…   

Grumpy Bubu…
Spoiling my photos!
  Three men and a (grumpy) baby.

Bubu finally gets happy again when we get back to the van!

Next we head on to Penang Hill to catch the train that takes you to the top of the hill, one of Penang’s most popular attractions.

  Waiting for the train…On board the train with the “aunties and uncles” as he calls them. We traveled in a group of 7 adults and Bubu,  and I’m happy to share that Penang if well-planned (like having a van with a driver that fits everyone), is a fabulous group destination that can accommodate both adults and kids.
The journey by train takes about 10 minutes up and down either way.  If I’m honest, I don’t see a lot to do at the top of the hill- unless you’re big time into scenery, and maybe it was the haze, but it wasn’t all that clear, and Bubu got bored after about 10 minutes.

However, I would still recommend this place because of the stupendous train ride.

Here’s the million dollar tip: Sit at the very front of the train coming down. Pay the RM30 extra for the express ticket – there seems to be less of a queue going up than down). We saw the snaking, long queue that would take about three train loads to clear – not great with small kids, so we bought the express pass at the top for the return journey, which gave us access to an air-conditioned waiting room and the privilege to board the train first. Of course we made a beeline for the first row with a huge window overlooking the track directly – and this totally made the trip worthwhile (best SG$10 you can spend to make sure baby and you get the best sears in da house)!

After a day of eating and sightseeing, we carried on with more gluttony into the night, dining at the Jetty Restaurant in Bukit Tambun. It’s not as scenic as it looks in these photos, mainly smelly fishy water and it took us an hour to drive out to the mainland. The food was so-so, I would give it a miss traveling with young ones, especially if you’re on a short weekend trip. 

Getting back to the hotel, we spoil Bubu with a bubble bath before bedtime. He really enjoyed himself and is still saying “Bubu go bath tub”- two whole days later! 

Good morning Macalister Mansion!  Note, Room 3 is the only one with a balcony and it has quite a low railing, so if you’re traveling with more than one tot, or unable to keep an eye on your little one all the time, lock the door leading to the balcony- that’s just safety common sense.

That view though! We check out the pool before heading out for the day. Good news! It’s baby-friendly with shallow splash areas, and also daddy friendly with a bar built into the pool. We headed out for a spot of shopping on Gurney Drive, where you’ll find big shopping centers like Paragon and G Plaza next to the iconic Gurney open-air hawker centre. Another highlight for Bubu, we found a kids amusement area on level 4 of G Plaza where we changed RM20 (about SG$7) worth of tokens and he rode on all the car, plane, helicopter and train rides to his little heart’s content!

Tip: make a video on your phone of him riding each ride if he’s the kind of kid that loves to watch his own videos. Bubu has been reliving the joy of these Gurney Plaza rides over and over again – RM20 well spent indeed!

We wrapped up a busy weekend with high tea  at the E&O Hotel. It’s kinda like the Raffles Hotel of Singapore… Ish. The pool was super crowded when we checked it out, and the hotel can smell a little old and musty- but it’s still a grand old dame, and you can have lovely tea and scones there if that’s your cup of tea! (Note: they are purist about their colonial style high tea. We asked if we could have coffee and were met with a snooty negative!… I would take the Living Room at Macalister Mansion for tea in a heartbeat over stuffy E&O for a fraction of the price).The waterfront at E&O is a little hazy and grey.   Still in the mood for  taking fun photos, these canons are part of the heritage setting at this historic hotel.   High tea at the E&O (I did say it looks a lot like Raffles Hotel).   Bubu is grumpy because he still wants to go back to the van!


Okay, so I wanted to end by sharing that apart from the standout experience at Macalister Mansion, the tip to ride at the very front of the train coming down from Penang Hill and the Or Lua at Lam Ah – the best tip I can give you is to book a driver and car (in our case a van) for getting around. First, a good driver comes equipped with local knowledge on where to go, and won’t take you to the tourist traps, and he will be able to take you straight to all the fun street art and murals (even those tucked away)!

I am happy to recommend my van driver, Mr Ong +60 16 473 2138. He was patient, friendly, always nearby and knew all the places we wanted to go to. He collected us from the airport, dropped us off, and charged RM500 per day for 10 hours , and always had a smile on his face. This could explain why Bubu was always asking for the van! If you are a smaller group traveling and don’t need a van, you can call Mr Teh +019-411-9703.  Mr Teh was recommended by a friend of mine who swears by his services, and Mr Ong was his introduction when we needed a van.

One last note: there can be quite a lot of walking in Penang – with the street markets, walking trails etc- if you have a grumpy (and extra heavy) toddler like mine, a pram could be a lifesaver! I can’t recommend enough a pram that folds up small enough to hoist into an airplane overhead compartment, cutting out the wait on arrival where even if you are first to exit the plane, you are last to reach the customs. This one is the Mothercare XXS, smallest pram in the world (and check out the funky leopard print)! Clocking in at a mere 3.9kg, it still supports my giant baby at 20kg (even though we are over the recommended weight limit); we actually bought it for future travel with Baby Jake, and I foresee a lot of use coming out of this little lifesaver!