By: Andrew J Wood
From my home town Bangkok, it was a short 1 hour 40 mins flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur with AirAsia (US$203 return) to their impressive KLIA 2 hub (Kuala Lumpur Intl Airport 2).
The airport building is a grandiose, monolithic, architectural celebration, owned by the Malaysian government. Used exclusively for low cost airlines (currently AirAsia, AirAsiaX and Malindo Air). With gargantuan long walkways and masses of concrete and glass, it has a separate runway and control tower.
It was designed with a capacity to meet the expected explosive growth in LCC. A very modern style – it’s impressive and spacious, however I found it cold and heartless and a long walk from the plane to passport control!
Malacca is often referred to as The Historic State, it’s the third smallest (there are 13 states plus 3 federal territories in Malaysia) with a population of just 181,000. Located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, next to the Straits of Malacca.
Once an outpost of the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the state capital is Malacca City, 148 kms (92 miles) south east of Kuala Lumpur. The city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Malacca (Malay: Melaka), was named by Prince Parameswara of Sumatra, who is credited with founding the city in the 14th century, following a hunting trip and naming it Melaka, after the abundant Melaka trees which grew in the area. The date is thought to be between 1376 and 1400.
Malaysia is the only federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It is divided into two separate parts by the South China Sea, Peninsula Malaysia (West Malaysia) and on Borneo Island (East Malaysia).
Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957. The lowering of the UK’s Union Jack coincided with the simultaneous raising of the very first Malaysian flag. Singapore was initially part of Malaysia, however Singapore became an independent republic in 1965.
We were met on arrival at KLIA 2 by the driver from the Hatten hotel. Our home for the next 5 days. We drove through truly beautiful countryside for the 90 minute trip. As we approached Malacca, I was pleased to see a green and well managed city.
Much of the infrastructure was of a very high quality. Certainly when you land in Malaysia you cannot fail to notice the quality of the roads and sidewalks and I remarked on the journey down from the airport that I had seen no litter.
On arrival into Malacca you drive past the historic quarter which gives you a very quick feel as to why Malacca was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were looking forward to exploring further.
I was reminded of Dr Who’s tardis which was a fairly ordinary looking police box which was tiny on the outside and enormous on the inside.
We settled into our hotel room on the 20th floor with impressive views across the city and the Straits of Malacca. A gorgeous bed and an equally luxurious bathroom were a welcome sight.
Hatten Group has interests not only in hotels but in real estate, shopping malls and residential condominiums. We were impressed with the amount of tourist information in our room including the advice that we could not visit Malacca without a visit to the historic street with it’s impressive colonial-style buildings and churches.
We headed off after unpacking and after a short 10 min walk we arrived at Jalan Kota.
The area was busy with brightly decorated cyclos ferrying tourists around. It’s a safe walking city and many of the attractions appeal to both adults and children alike. The area has been very well thought out. We took a walk along the canal and then walked along to the Church of St Francis Xavier built in 1849.
On the way passing underneath archways of colonial styled shophouses near Christ Church (built in 1753) and the Victoria Fountain (1904).
I was reminded of Penang’s architecture, it is very similar to George Town and not surprisingly in July 2008, George Town was, together with Malacca, formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both are officially recognised as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.
Jonker Street was one of my favourite walks. It is a particularly interesting Chinatown, which is still fully functional today.
For me the most impressive and even amusing, shopfronts can be found here.
We took a right turn half way along the street and delighted to find the Kampung Kling Mosque, one of the early old mosques in Malacca which are still in daily use. Built in 1748, the architecture is Sumatran with Hindu influences, the minaret resembles a pagoda.
The Kampung Kling Mosque is situated at Jalan Tukang Emas, also known as Harmony Street.
We returned to the hotel past historic ships, the Naval Museum and the famous Taming Sari Tower.
From our vantage point on the 20th floor we could see not only the streets below but also looking to the horizion we noticed a mountain, actually it looked more like a volcano and had the profile of Fuji-san in Japan.
This is Mount Ophir (Malay: Gunung Ledang) rising 1286m (4187 ft), a popular trek for many visitors.
The hotel is perfectly located in the heart of the city and has become a focal point for the community and is sited above Hatten Square with a link to Dataran Pahlawan Megamall.
The pool area and gym were clearly a popular draw and the lounge on the 12th floor offered guests all-day refreshments and a quiet corner to read or relax. The hotel has complimentary WiFi throughout and an extensive breakfast buffet.
You cannot visit Malaysia without trying the street food. We were able to visit hawker stalls on two separate occasions, the largest of which was Newton Food Court on Jalan Parameswara.
Simple rustic food of the people. Great satays and grilled fish, with ice cold beer – perfect! It’s very down to earth and simple. The seating is a tad hard and no credit cards – bring cash and a cushion.
It was the holiday weekend for the Singapore National Day. Just 195kms (121 miles) it’s a short drive from Singapore to Malacca, a popular destination for Singaporeans. Not only bargain prices (30% cheaper than home and with many large shopping malls) but also great value hotel accommodation and food.
If live music is your thing then look no further than the top of the hotel at the Alto Sky Lounge on the 22nd floor.