Attractions Near Jonker Street, Melaka : A Day/Night Itinerary

Tucked in the heart of Melaka’s Chinatown, there’s plenty to see and do in Jonker Street – from unique craft shops and museums to temples, mosques, decades-old eateries, chic cafes and more. It also has a rich history. Dutch colonists lived in nearby Heeren Street, just next to the Melaka River, while the main thoroughfare, ie Jalan Hang Jebat, was home to rich Peranakans (Straits Chinese) settlers, who built lavish homes with beautiful architecture and filled them with exquisite furniture.

BY DAY 

Lung Ann Refreshments 

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Start the day with a traditional Malaysian breakfast at Lung Ann Refreshments. The shop’s setting is typical of Malaysian kopitiams, where elderly aunties and uncles bustle about preparing your orders, and drinks are served in white and green ceramic cups. No fancy noodles, only the basics – half boiled eggs, and toast with kaya and butter, washed down with either coffee or Milo.

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I didn’t realise how Malaysians take this for granted (usually if someone asks about local dishes to recommend, I’d think of nasi lemak) until N told me how unique he thought it was (half boiled eggs for breakfast isn’t a thing in the Phils, apparently). Sometimes it’s really the simplest things that are the best. Bread is nicely toasted and fluffy, with generous amounts of kaya and butter. Despite how simple it looks, half boiled eggs are notoriously difficult to get right (the timing has to be extremely accurate). The one’s at Lung Ann were perfect.

Baba And Nyonya Heritage Museum 

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A private housemuseum that once belonged to a wealthy Peranakan businessmen, the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum is a must visit for lovers of culture and history. The Peranakan, or Straits Chinese (also called Baba Nyonya), are a community descended from Chinese settlers who immigrated to parts of the Nusantara, ie Dutch-controlled Java in Indonesia, southern Thailand, the British Straits Settlements of Malaya (Penang and Melaka), as well as Singapore. Many adopted local customs, whilst still maintaining a strong Chinese heritage – resulting in a unique blend of cultures that you will not find elsewhere. The Malaysian Baba and Nyonya, for example, speak a creole version of Hokkien and Malay, dress in baju panjang which is influenced by the Malay kebaya dress, but still practice ancestor worship.

You can wander the museum, which consists of three terrace homes joined together as one, on your own – but I highly recommend the guided tour. The tour brings the entire house and its past occupants to life, as knowledgeable guides point out details and events that have happened in those very spaces. You get a sense of being separated by time, but not space. Everything is lavish, beautiful and meticulously made – from elaborately carved furniture inlaid with mother of pearl and silk embroidered paintings done by masters in China, to hand painted tiles, crystal ware, porcelain dining sets.

Note that photos are only allowed in the foyer.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

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Literally the ‘Temple of the Green Cloud’, Cheng Hoon Teng is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia,  built in 1673. It is dedicated to the three precepts, namely Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, so visitors will see deities dedicated to all of these religious beliefs. The altars in the main hall are dedicated to Guan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, as well as the Taoist goddess Mazu and deities such as Kwan Ti, the God of Justice, and Thai Sway, the god of worldly human welfare.

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Even if you’re not a devotee, the temple is worth visiting for the architecture alone. Lacquered surfaces, gold gilding, intricately carved archways and windows abound. The main hall, made from timber, was built without the use of nails.

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Keilun, ie what Westerners like to call foo dogs (they’re actually mythical lions).

Orangutan House 

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The quirkily named Orangutan House is an art gallery-cum-souvenir shop, where you can get colourful printed tees and art pieces. It’s hard to miss if you’re walking around the area, as there is a huge mural of an orang utan on the side of the building. The inside is equally colourful and trippy.

Explore the Streets

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Jonker Street is chock full of interesting sights, and sometimes the best way to see them is just to explore the area on foot. You never know what hidden gems you might uncover. In any case, they make for great photos. (Above) the doors of the Hokkien Association.

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This neat little nook next to the river.

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BY NIGHT 

We’re not done: sundown is when the fun really begins. Jonker Street is the place to be on weekends, as there is a huge night market, just there for you to snack from one end to the other.

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Crowds, yes.

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Worth it because you get to gorge on delicious street food…

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Did I mention delicious street food?

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Delicious street food!

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One does not come to Melaka and not have a refreshing taste of a coconut shake. 

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You can also commission a street artist to have your portrait drawn…

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Or buy a hand-drawn sketch from this extremely talented young man. His drawings were phenomenal!

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Jonker Street’s entrance is hard to miss, as you have this inn/restaurant lined with red lanterns, which somehow reminds me of the classical Chinese novel ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’.

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You can do the touristy thing and hop on to one of the loud and colourful trishaws for a spin around the city.

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If crowds are not your thing, opt for a cruise down the Melaka River, which is decorated on both sides with neon lights.

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Dutch Square, just a few steps away from Jonker Street, is also much more quiet at night.

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Literally had the whole place to ourselves for photos.

I hope this itinerary has been useful in helping you to plan what attractions to see while in the Jonker Street neighbourhood. Happy travels!

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Pasar Karat: Jonker Street Melaka’s Antique Collector’s Market

The term ‘Flea Market’ comes from the French marché aux puces” or “market of the fleas”, as it was believed that old furniture or items such as clothing, often sold at these bazaars, supposedly contained fleas. In Malaysia, we call our flea markets ‘pasar karat’, or ‘rusty market’ – because people often sold off their scrap metal for a cheap price, and metal rusts, hence ‘karat’. Despite the name, you can get all sorts of things at a pasar karat, ranging from antiques to vintage items, souvenirs, second-hand clothing to furniture. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure!

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The Pasar Karat at Jalan Lekir (just off Jonker Street) in Melaka is open from 9AM to 3PM on Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re in town over the weekend, this is a great place to check out ! The items on sale are mostly antiques and vintage stuff like coins, vinyl discs, old photographs, cassettes and VHS tapes, bowls and plates, home decorations, ornamental weapons and more.

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Even if you aren’t buying, it’s nice to see the old items on display, like these mini grandfather clocks, tea sets and classic rotary dial phones(remember those?). Feels kind of like an open-air street museum!

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Hand-drawn and coloured postcard-sized paintings!

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You can buy ornamental weaponry such as keris blades. Or perhaps you fancy an abacus or an old charcoal iron?

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I was surprised to see some vintage posters of Chinese-communist propaganda on display as well.

The Pasar Karat at Jalan Hang Lekir is open from 9AM to 3PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Staying In A Capsule Hotel – Riccarton Jonkerview, Melaka

Capsule hotels were first mooted in Japan, during the economic boom of the 1980s. The concept came about as a solution for salarymen who needed a place to crash for the night after work and socialising into the wee hours of the morning. ‘Pods’ in these hotels often comprised of a basic, single bed, and perhaps a TV.

While they’re still used for this purpose today, capsule hotels have become a novelty for many travellers, especially backpackers, as they are cheap and provide a better semblance of privacy as compared to traditional shared hostels. The concept can now be found all over the world, including Malaysia.

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My (work) trip to Melaka was on a tight budget (the company wasn’t paying for it), so when I saw a promotion on Agoda for the Riccarton Jonkerview Cottage capsule hotel going for just RM36 per night, I snapped it up faster than Thanos. I was also curious as I had never stayed in one before. There were some hiccups at check-in, as the front desk staff was new and didn’t know what to do (her senior had to prompt her every step of the way, from asking for ID to asking for deposit payment), but nothing major.

There were lockers at the lobby where we had to store our shoes and put on house slippers, for cleanliness reasons. If you have baggage, there are larger storage lockers in the common area as well. Being the paranoid people that we were, we decided to stuff our backpacks inside the pod itself.

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The common area had a couple of chairs and tables + a water dispenser. Bathrooms were shared, but I have to say that everything was super clean and they had all the facilities: warm shower, shampoo, etc.

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Our pod was an upper one. My knees groaned in protest each time I had to climb up and down (which was fairly often to go to the toilet). I had a sudden feeling I was getting too old for this. That being said, the design was definitely interesting and unique. They looked more like space pods than anything else.

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The inside was surprisingly spacious, equivalent to a queen-sized bed. The mattress was thin but firm, and each pod came with a blanket, two pillows and towels. On the side of the panel was a small safe, light controls (you can switch the lights to different colours and have a rave party inside, I suppose), air conditioning control, USB plugs and a small mirror.

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There was an Android TV but their Wifi wasn’t working. Wi-Fi was only available at the lobby.

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When your s/o is more engrossed with playing games than cuddling with you. 😡

We didn’t spend that much time inside the pod since most of the day was spent exploring.

Now this has nothing to do with the comfort and cleanliness of the place and more to me being a spoiled brat, but I couldn’t sleep the entire night. I’m a light sleeper, and the sounds of the creaking (when people got up to use the bathroom, etc.) kept jolting me awake – but I guess it would have been the same if it was a hostel or shared dormitory. Being so close to the action can be a con, as there was loud music blasting away even at midnight, and the walls are thin enough that you’d hear it as if it was inside the pod.

If you’re used to staying in backpacker hostels and don’t mind the noise, the Riccarton Jonkerview Cottage Hotel is a steal. It’s also an interesting experience for anyone who has never stayed in a capsule hotel.

PROS

  • Convenient location (literally steps away from Jonker Street, close to Dutch Square)
  • Clean
  • Shower, locker facilities
  • Towels provided

CONS

  • Noisy
  • Limited parking (there is parking behind the hotel, but it’s usually full. We had to park one kilometre away).
  • No breakfast options, but there are plenty of restos and coffeeshops in the area

RICCARTON JONKERVIEW COTTAGE HOTEL 

No.3, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Taman Kota Laksamana, 76450 Melaka

Phone: 06-281 1691

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Mamee Jonker House : All Things Mamee @ Jonker Street, Melaka

Fun fact: I’ve never been to Jonker Street in Melaka.

I can hear the incredulous gasps. That’s like saying I went to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t that I wilfully ignored the place – I simply couldn’t fit it into my itinerary the last two times I was in Melaka. Well as the saying goes, third time’s the charm – and on my most recent trip to the Historical City, I finally booked a place within the Jonker Street area itself. No excuses now!

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Driving into Melaka, I saw many billboards and posters featuring the iconic blue Mamee Monster (most Malaysians who grew up eating the crunchy noodle snack will know him!). I later learned that it was because Melaka is home to Mamee, the brand that carries the Mamee Monster snack as well as MAMEE Chef instant noodles. All this advertising made me crave for Mamee and lo’ and behold – while hunting for places to eat when we arrived, we stumbled upon Mamee Jonker House  – it must have been a sign! In we went.

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Mamee’s first ‘concept store’, Mamee Jonker House features a nice cafe (where they serve dishes made from Mamee, of course!), a shop selling Mamee goods ,a mini museum on the upper floor as well as a kitchen where you can customise your own noodles! It was 2PM and we were starving so we made a beeline for the cafe before anything else.

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Mamee-inspired wall decor 

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The Mamee Cafe has a good selection of creative dishes. You can have rice and burgers, but the star here is, of course, the Mamee noodles. N had a nasi-lemak inspired Mamee dish which came with all the trimmings – kerepek (crackers), fried egg, peanuts, anchovies, fried chicken drumstick and sambal.

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I had the Mamee in Kuah Lodeh, which is the creamy, coconut-rich gravy that is usually served with lontong (compressed rice) – only they replaced it with noodles, of course! Portions were generous; there was plenty of shrimp and tofu to soak up the delicious broth, topped with half a boiled egg. The noodles were springy with a slight bite.

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All fed and watered, we ventured upstairs to where there was a small Mamee museum of sorts and a Lil Monster Kitchen where they teach kids (with the help of their parents) how to roll the dough and shape them into noodles. You can also personalise your own Mamee instant noodle cup and customise the flavours to take home!

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MAMEE JONKER HOUSE 

No 46 & 48, Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street), 75200 Melaka.

Phone: +606 – 2867 666

Opening hours: 10AM to 5PM (Mons – Thurs), 10AM – 7PM (Fri – Sun)

 

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Review: Tuck Kee @ Ipoh

Ipoh is a foodie haven, and there are many decades-old institutions in town – like Tuck Kee, a famous noodle house along Jalan Yau Tet Shin, which has been in operation since 1963 (Not to be confused with Sun Tuck Kee a couple of doors away, and also the Tuck Kee in Taman Hoover which serves roasties).

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Basic and no-frills, the resto’s decor is typical of Chinese kopitiams – very much a dine-and-dash kind of place. Specialising in wat tarn hor (stir-fried flat noodles in an egg drop sauce/soup) and moonlight kuey teow (same but topped with an egg), it is a popular dinner spot with local families as much as tourists. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the wat tarn hor, but it was tasty – full of wok hei (breath of fire) and well flavoured. Can’t say I’m a big fan though, but that’s just me.

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Another one of their popular dishes is the boiled baby octopus (RM18). The price is pretty steep, and the portion is not that big either, but you’ll be rewarded with springy, chewy pieces of baby octopi, drizzled in a light soy sauce and fragrant fried shallots.

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Giant pork balls are among the new offerings on the menu. Had a nice bite to it, and no overwhelmingly porky smell.

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Another new offering – featuring the same egg drop sauce, but with fish paste shaped into ‘noodle’ strands.

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You can also order fried gyoza from the stall across the road !

TUCK KEE 

61, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Opening hours: 5PM – 2AM (Daily)

Visiting Tsukiji Honganji: Why Is There An Indian-Looking Temple In Tokyo?

There are plenty of beautiful traditional Buddhist and Shinto temples around Tokyo – but one, in particular, piqued my curiosity as I was Googling for places to explore around Tsukiji. Located not too far from where Tsukiji Market used to stand, Tsukiji Honganji is a Buddhist temple of the Jodo Shinsu sect, the largest in Japan, with a history dating back to the 16th century. What is notable, however, is the temple’s appearance, which is modelled after ancient Hindu / Buddhist temples from India.

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Physically, there’s nothing left of the ‘original’ temple, which was totalled in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The current building was completed in 1934, and features many elements common to Hindu temples in India. Rather than the usual red typical of many Japanese temples, the Hongan-ji has a granite-brown hue; as well as dome-like shapes, elaborate carvings and even a pair of stone lions guarding the staircase to the main hall.

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The main hall, aka Hondo.

Japan is known to be more culturally homogenous than many other countries around the world, so it was amazing to see the blend of different cultural elements at the temple. While the interior features many Japanese elements, it also had foreign touches as well, such as a towering 2,000-pipe organ from Germany, and stained glass windows. I also felt it quite unusual to be in a temple with so little red – an auspicious colour for many East Asian cultures – but instead has lots of elegant black and gold.

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The main altar, with a Buddha at its centre. The temple also houses several important artifacts, making it a popular pilgrimage site.

 

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Getting There 

The temple is a 2-minute walk from Tsukiji Metro station.

HONGAN-JI 

3 Chome-15-1 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

Opening hours: 6AM – 5PM

Hamarikyu Gardens @ Chuo, Tokyo – A Green Respite From The Tokugawa Shogunate

Despite being an ultra-modern metropolis, Tokyo has beautiful green spaces – like the Hamarikyu Gardens in Chuo-ku, just a stone’s throw away from Ginza. Like an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle, these tranquil gardens once served as the hunting grounds and imperial R&R spot for the Tokugawa clan, in Edo-era Tokyo.

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I was only able to visit at 4PM – leaving me an hour to explore the place. There had been a typhoon the night before, so some sections of the park were closed for repairs, but there was still plenty to see – like the majestic 300-year-old pine tree greeting visitors at the entrance. Typical of Japanese parks, many of the trees and rocks felt carefully composed and structured, with wide gravel paths and immaculately manicured lawns.

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Each season offers a different view – in the hazy summer heat, tiny yellow cosmos peppered the field. In spring, visitors will be privy to blooming plum and cherry blossoms, while fall brings with it autumn foliage on maple and gingko trees.

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Ignoring the shadow of the buildings surrounding the park, it’s easy to imagine how the royals would use the park as a tranquil retreat, hunting ducks from behind blinds or enjoying tea by the pond.

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Reconstruction of traditional buildings

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The park is built around a man-made lake, which draws its water from the Bay of Tokyo.

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Drop by for a spot of tea at the park’s traditional tea house, which is built on a platform at the edge of the lake, giving it the appearance that it’s floating. Visiting is free, or you can order a matcha for a fee.

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The Hamarikyu Gardens is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for a couple of hours, and it’s also less crowded than some other parks in the city, such as the Imperial Palace East Garden or Kiyosumi Teien – so you’re almost always guaranteed of having the vast grounds to yourself (or close enough to it). It’s also very accessible, being a 5-minute walk from Shiodome Station or a 15-minute walk from Shimbashi Station. Entrance is 300 yen (RM 11 / USD 2.64).

 

 

 

 

One Night In Ginza, Tokyo

With its bespoke boutiques, branded luxury stores, glitzy malls and chic eateries, Ginza is widely considered to be one of Japan’s (if not the world’s) most luxurious and elegant shopping districts. Today, it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than classy and upscale – but did you know that Ginza was actually built over a filled-in swamp in the 16th century? Together with two other districts – Nihonbashi and Kanda – they formed the original downtown centre of Edo-era Tokyo.

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During my stay in Tokyo, I was based in a quiet street just behind the main shopping thoroughfare, which made it very convenient to access the area. Unfortunately due to work and time constraints, I only got one full night to explore what Ginza had to offer; barely a tiny glimpse. It was an interesting glimpse, nevertheless. While the rest of the group took the train to Shinjuku, I wandered around Ginza poking my nose into random shops and department stores.

(Above) The Wako Store, housed in an art deco building that dates back to the 1930s. You’d know Wako now as Seiko, the jewellery and watches brand. The clocktower plays the Westminster Chimes tune every hour.

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The Nissan showroom at the eponymously-named Nissan Crossing, where pedestrians can ogle at the latest high-tech vehicles from the car-manufacturing giant through a glass window.

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As the sun sets over Tokyo, Ginza comes to life, like a magical wonderland of lights filled with a sea of people. Couples stroll hand in hand down the pavement, loud Chinese tourists flaunt their bags of luxury goods, businessmen with sweaty foreheads and crisp suits congregate for a beer and some after-hours socialising, and impeccably-dressed women with the air of rich tai tais push their baby strollers forward.

(Above) Tokyu Plaza, where tourists can enjoy duty free shopping.

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Popped into UNIQLO’s flagship store – which spans a mind-boggling 12 floors. Most of the floors had a display section in the middle with mannequins dressed in the latest fashion pieces. Not big on shopping tbh so I did not spend too much time here, but this will probably be a pilgrimage site for Uniqlo fans.

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One of the peeps I was travelling with was going on about Ginza Six, one of the newest shopping complexes in the area, so I went to see what the hype was all about. It was nice, but again, malls aren’t really my thing (excluding the grocery store + restaurants). What I really liked, though, was the bookstore on the top floor, and the rooftop garden which had an open concept an several interesting art installations. If you’re into branded things, then the flagship stores for Fendi, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent can be found within the building. There is also a Noh theatre, and banquet hall facilities.

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As much as I love sushi, raw fish doesn’t sit well in my stomach these days (getting old and shit). For some inexplicable reason, I also found myself craving a burger lol. Now, fast food isn’t big in Japan because they’ve got all these healthy, delicious and wholesome restaurants to choose from, but they do have a brand called Lotteria, which was originally from South Korea. I found one hidden in an underground nook (you have to descend a staircase into the basement). It seemed largely frequented by locals – I mean, what tourist comes to Ginza and eats fast food, amirite? Oh, wait…

(Above) The setting is catered more towards single diners. After placing your order, they give you a pink slip which you have to clip on the top of the divider, and they’ll send your food to the table.

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Shrimp burger isn’t something we see much in KL (God I miss the ones at Wendy’s before they took it off the menu), so I had to get that. It was close to a 1,000 yen for the set, ie about RM40 lol probably the most I’ve paid for fast food, apart from that Burger King I got at the Hong Kong airport a couple of years ago. I wasn’t expecting it to be American-sized, but boy was the portion paltry. This is why you don’t see fat people in Japan…

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All things considered, I loved the shrimp burger. The patty was fried and breaded well, and was chock full of shrimp rather than flour or filler. Add to that tangy mayonnaise, a slice of cheese, some cabbage to cut through the grease and plain, soft buns.

There are many things to see in Ginza, and it carries well its moniker as a shopper’s paradise. Even for non-shoppers, it is close enough to several attractions such as the Hamarikyu Gardens (will detail in another post), art galleries and museums, making it a great base for travellers.

Where would you visit if you had one night in Ginza?