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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A Famosa & St Paul’s Church, Malacca

The Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511 and were here for over a 100 years – so its not surprising that they left behind a legacy.

The Serani (or Kristang) people are a product of intermarriages between Portuguese sailors and local Malay women. Numbering about 37,000, they are considered Portuguese-Eurasian and intermarriages are common today between Kristang and local Chinese and Indians. Because most are Christians, not all are willing to change their religious identities by marrying Malays (Malaysia has religious laws on conversion – you have to convert to Islam if you’re marrying a Malay, who are Muslim by birth.)

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Other important pieces of history left behind by the Portuguese is a fortress called A Famosa. Called the ‘Porta de Santiago’, it is one of the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Southeast Asia. Once consisting of four towers and four storeys, all that’s left today is the front at the foot of St Paul’s Hill. At the height of their occupation, the fort had an ammunition storage room, captains’ residence and officers quarters.

After the Dutch took over, they pretty much maintained the place, renovating the arch with ‘Anno 1670’ plus adding a bas-relief logo of the Dutch East India Company.

But the English who came in the 18th century were not so obliging. They destroyed most of the fort, leaving behind only this arch and a small part of the wall.

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On top of the nearby hill is St Paul’s Church, a Portuguese church built by a nobleman called Duarte Coelho. Originally built in 1521, it is the oldest church building in Malaysia and Southeast Asia (although non-functioning). The ruins are well preserved and attracts a large number of tourists every year.

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Strategic location: view of the sea from the hills for any enemy ships and whatnot.

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Dedicated to the Virgin Mary (the Portuguese were Catholics), the church was deeded to St Francis Xavier in Goa (he’s a canonized saint). His body was interred here for a short time. Visitors will see a statue of him in front of the church tower and ruins.

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The inside of the church was lined with old Portuguese tombstones. Despite being hundreds of years old, the stones were well kept and some were only slightly weathered. Most still carried beautiful details and inscriptions.

The church was used by the Dutch after they drove out the Portuguese, until they built the Christchurch near Stadthuys. It was then deconstructed and used as part of the old fort. When the Brits came, they used it as gun powder storage.

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We found a family of cats here!

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We saw this little fellow sleeping without a care for the world on top of a metal grilled protecting an underground burial chamber.

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The kitten was a real heavy sleeper.

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And then E found a treasure trove of kittens behind one of the old tombstones.

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Sleepy kittens. Don’t worry, we know the rules about handling kittens.. these were not newborn but had already opened their eyes and could walk around. They were just so sleepy from the afternoon heat lol.

St Paul’s Church and A Famosa are must sees (and must photograph-s!) when in Melaka, and a good reminder of the city’s history. Bonus points for having cats.

ST PAUL’S CHURCH/ A FAMOSA FORT 

Jalan Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia.

Things To Do At The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum, Melaka

The Melaka/Malacca Sultanate was one of the most powerful and wealthy Islamic Malay kingdoms in Southeast Asia, dating back to the early 1400s. It flourished for over a 100 years, establishing trade and diplomatic relations with foreign powers, and received tributes from smaller kingdoms in the region.

Dubbed ‘the Venice of the East’, Malacca’s influence spread far and wide, with traders from Arab, Persia, China, India and even Europe coming to do business. It had a proper government and laws in place (Hukum Kanun Melaka), and arts such as poetry and writing flourished.

Of course, no Asian kingdom could match European conquest and firepower – so it fell to the Portuguese in 1511, and then to the Dutch and English. But it is exactly because of this rich and varied history that has made Malacca a major tourist attraction today.

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The Malacca Sultanate Palace Replica is a re-imagination of how the palace would have looked like at the height of the Sultanate’s power, based on historical accounts in the ancient text called Malay Annals. Located at the foot of St Paul’s Hill, this imposing wooden museum was completed without nails, as how the ancients used to build them. Divided into eight chambers and three galleries housing hundreds of old items, visitors pay a small entrance fee of RM3 (locals) to go inside.

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Like many buildings in Malaysia with Islamic influences, patterns and calligraphy dominate the decor and they are carved into the support pillars, along the edges of the windows and on tapestries.

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The English on the signages was terrible. It’s like whoever wrote this just threw grammar out the window.

“This porch is used to vivitors come and meet Sultan” …so much fail it wins (?)

Also, I think they haven’t bothered to change this since opening in 1986.

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That aside, the museum grounds are well kept and clean.

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The inside isn’t big, it’s pretty long from one end to the other. The smooth, polished floor is made of Kayu Resak (a type of mangrove hardwood found in Southeast Asia).

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An example of the royal ‘throne room’ where the Sultan admitted visitors and foreign delegates.

Ministers with important positions such as the Bendahara (Chief Minister), Temenggung (Police Chief) and Laksamana (Admiral) sat atop the dias, while the sides were lined by nobles/lesser chiefs. Foreign envoys and traders requesting an audience sat on the floor facing the Sultan. Yellow was the royal colour of Malay Sultans which is still used today.

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Javanese traders

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Flowery carvings.

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Exhibits of clothing worn by the royals. Sultan and the Queen not only wore different coloured clothing from princes, princesses and nobles, but they were also differentiated according to the way they tied their clothes/wore their head gear.

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Upstairs on the second floor is a reproduction of the Sultan’s bedroom and antechambers.

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A section of the museum is dedicated to the story of Hang Tuah, a legendary Malay warrior and admiral of the Malacca Sultanate during Sultan Mansur Shah’s time. He was known to be fiercely loyal to king and country. Naturally, he was the Sultan’s favourite. Jealous, other ministers plotted to bring him down by spreading rumours that he was seeing a court stewardess. Enraged, the Sultan put him to death.

Realising something amiss, the then Chief Minister, Tun Perak, hid Hang Tuah in a cave to wait things out.

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Hearing of the unjust ‘execution’, Hang Tuah’s best friend, Hang Jebat, ran amok at the castle to avenge him. The Sultan was at his wits end as Hang Jebat was one of the best warriors in the country, second only to Hang Tuah.

At the moment of crisis, Hang Tuah returned, and fought Jebat in combat. The latter was defeated and died at the keris of his best friend. Allegiance and loyalty to the ruler was above all else in ancient Malay culture, something embodied in the legend of Hang Tuah.

Was Hang Tuah real? Although accounts of this person were written in the Malay Annals, there is no concrete evidence to support it. Either way, time and the retelling of stories have made him an almost mystical figure in Malay culture.

All in all, it was an educational trip and worth the cheap entry price. The Palace is located in a cluster of attractions so make sure not to miss it.

MALACCA SULTANATE PALACE

Kota, Complex Warisan, 75000 Malacca, Malaysia

Tel:+606 282 6526

Opening hours: 9am – 6pm (Daily)

Hotel Review: Rucksack Caratel, Malacca

When a friend of mine went to Malacca, she posted a picture of her room at the Rucksack Caratel – a newly opened designer boutique hotel just a few minutes away from Dutch Square. It looked so cool and comfy that I booked a room for a trip. Almost didn’t get it because the place was fully booked!

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For RM200 a night, the price was steeper than backpacker hotels… but worth it just for the convenience (and the room!).

The lobby area is open, with loads of natural sunlight filtering in, leafy green plants and tasteful, hipster-ish decorations like a swinging tire and a Foosball table. The hotel is also right next to the backdoor of the Malacca Palace Replica, with beautiful garden views.

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Taking glass elevator up to our room on the 2nd floor. So much pretty

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Passed by this blackboard where you can leave messages.

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Room got full marks for style and comfort. Minimalist design, big windows, glass on wood. Clean white walls and sheets were accented by dark shades and blown up vintage photos. The toilet and shower were separated into cubicles, but the sink and toiletries + coffee making facilities were laid out on a smooth long table next to the bed. Love the design!

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TV had loads of channels to choose from. If we weren’t sightseeing around Malacca I would have gladly just stayed in bed  all day and ordered pizza lol.

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Breakfast was included so we went down the next morning for some chow. The buffet was very basic – fried noodles, fried rice, toast, cereal and chicken curry. I’m pretty sure they don’t have a kitchen coz there’s no room service.. but you can buy snacks, drinks and ice-cream from the concierge.

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There was a small pool outside. We didn’t get to swim in it coz we were pressed for time.

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Bikes for rent on the patio. On the right are some drums that have been converted into seats.

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And then we met this little girl.  She belongs to the owner and was seen walking in and out of the lobby and playing outside together with her black coloured sibling. Super manja and curious. ❤

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Ngaw. I’m assuming it’s a she because she had tricoloured fur.

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“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything. If you can conquer a man’s head, you can conquer mountains.”

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The black sibling. They were so pretty in contrast,  the white and the black. I thought of calling them Ivory and Ebony. ❤

Rucksack Caratel is a great place to stay – convenient, comfy, stylish and great for Instagram photos (lol). If you’re driving, there is limited parking in front of the hotel. They might ask you to leave your keys with them since trucks use the Palace backdoor and they’ll have to move your vehicle. The attractions are all within 10-15 mins walk away. It would be great if they have a proper kitchen and more variety with their breakfast, but anyway, there are loads of restaurants nearby. And I think any small, homely hotel with such cute cats deserves an A in my books.

RUCKSACK CARATEL 

107 Jalan Banda Kaba 75000 Melaka

Tel: +6 06 2922107

Email: caratel@therucksackgroup.com

Or visit : therucksackgroup.com/caratel/ for more info.

Old Dutch Building: Stadthuys, Malacca

If you’re a history buff, then you’ll love Malacca.

Founded in 1396 by a Sumatran prince called Parameswara, it is one of the oldest cities in Malaysia and was once a bustling trade center, with merchants coming from far and wide to do business. Due to a strong influence from Arab, Persian and Indian traders, the Malacca Sultanate embraced Islam – an important point in history that pervades modern-day Malaysia.

The Europeans came in the 1500s. Sailing from their homelands, they conquered kingdoms under the banner of Gospel (proselytization of Christianity), Glory, and Gold. Malacca was a golden goose. It was invaded by the Portuguese (130 years), Dutch (150 years) and then the British (until independence). It’s no wonder Malacca boasts an impressive number of old buildings, forts and structures dating back to the 16th century – making it a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

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History lesson aside.. E and I were in town to celebrate Valentine’s Day! We made a beeline for the central attractions; namely Dutch Square/Red Square. No points for guessing how the plaza got it’s name – it’s surrounded by fire-station red buildings. The centre of the square has a fountain and a clocktower, and just next to it is Stadthuys (old Dutch for ‘city hall’), which was built in 1650 as the office of the Dutch Governor and Deputy Governor. The building has been converted into a museum.

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Across the road is Christ Church Melaka, painted in the same terracotta red. Built in 1753 on the site of an old Portuguese church, it is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.

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Despite being hundreds of years old, the buildings were well kept with fresh coats of paint. Lining the entire stretch outside were souvenir stalls and colourful trishaws. Like jeepneys in Manila and tuktuks in Thailand, trishaws were (note: were) very much part of the fabric of Malacca. These days they are used to ferry tourists around the square rather than an actual mode of transportation.

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Not all were traditional – we saw loads of quirky designs like Hello Kitty, Frozen (the kids must love it), Doraemon and other cartoon characters.

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The weather was crazy hot, so we were glad to step inside the cool, air-conditioned museum. Entry for Malaysians was RM6 (RM10 for foreigners). *A trick to save money if you’re bringing a foreign friend around. Buy the tickets, and speak Malay to the counter people. We saved a lot this way. Shhh. 😛

The ticket also included entry to several smaller museums within the Stadthuys Museum compound.

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Exhibits were mostly artifacts from Malacca’s glorious past, including earthernware, pots and pans, Ming China bowls, teapots,  cannon balls, weapons etc.

The thing about Malaysian museums is that they are so static. Just the displays and long ass descriptions (in font so tiny we had to bend down with our noses almost touching the display boards). A pity, because the history is there – they just have to make it more interesting. This is why I like museums in US and the UK: they usually have hands on stuff and interactive displays. Learning should be fun. And they wonder why kids always think that history is the most boring subject in school!

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The building is shaped like a ‘U’. In the middle is a statue of Admiral Cheng Ho, the famed Muslim Chinese admiral who established diplomatic relations between China and the Malacca Sultanate. The Chinese came to Malacca to trade; some stayed and intermarried with the locals, creating a unique community called the Straits Chinese or Baba/Nyonya. The Baba Nyonya adopted many Malay customs and practices, including clothing and language, but still spoke their native dialect (usually Hokkien) and lived in Chinese-style homes.

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Traditional Malay-Malacca wedding. Note the diverse cultural influences, such as the bride’s headdress above (similar to ancient Chinese), while the best man wears a suit along with his sarong.

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The wooden bed frame had similar Chinese/Indian influences, from the colours to the carvings. Truly a melting pot!

The museum isn’t very big, so we were done within the hour. Informational, but can get a little boring especially if you don’t like reading descriptions.

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The Education Museum next to the Stadhuys was even smaller – just two floors with old photos, trophies, phones, typewriters, books, and mannequins describing early education in the country.

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Hopping on over to the Literature Museum behind the Stadthuys. It was empty, the fiance and  were the only two people inside. Shoes had to be removed. Air conditioning was really cold, and the outside was really hot… I suspect this was why the fiance fell sick later that day.

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Here, we read about early and modern Malay literatis, poets and writers, as well as how literature has evolved from the early days of the Malacca Sultanate.

All in all, the museums are educational but with no variety in the exhibits, can get quite boring. Still a good place to drop by just to understand a bit more about Malacca, and it’s in a central location where all the other attractions are so why not?

STADTHUYS MALACCA 

Circle intersection of Jalan Quayside, Jalan Laksamana, and Jalan Chan Koon Cheng

Tel: + 606 282 6526

Opening hours: Mon – Thurs (9am – 5pm), Fri-Sun (9am – 830pm).

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Quick lunch at a local kopitiam (coffee shop) nearby.

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Just next to the Malacca River, where you can see the colourful graffitied backsides of buildings across the water.

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Mushroom chicken chop with fries and salad. Not too filling as you can tell from the size, but cheap and tasty (RM10!)

 

Malacca Zoo, Malaysia

These last two weeks have been crazy.

The long holidays lulled me into a false sense of chill…. and then BAM! I’ve been swamped with work with articles to write and events to cover almost every single day. Doesn’t help that the deadline for our next issue is in 10 more days D:

Anyway, I’ll do what I do best – procrastinate by blogging. lol.

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After coming back from Manila, E and I decided to head to Malacca. A two hour drive from KL, this historic state was once an important trade route and was conquered by many different powers, including the Portuguese, Dutch, English and Japanese – leaving behind a rich legacy of buildings and cultures.

The weather was sunny as we set off from home. All these road trippy songs came on the radio, like The Pixies ‘Where is My Mind’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ cover by Bono from U2. Took them as a good sign that the trip would go well (it didn’t. he fell sick lol).

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Our first stop on the way to city center was Malacca Zoo in Alor Gajah. The second largest zoo in Malaysia, this 54 acre park was once a wildlife rescue base and currently houses over 1,200 animals. Despite being a Sunday, it was pretty empty during our visit.

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Vibrant-coloured blue and yellow macaws greeted visitors at the entrance with shrill cries.

The zoo has different sections, with an aviary, mousedeer enclosure, reptile house, and more. Some of the facilities were run down, like the toilet. There were also branches and leaves strewn everywhere, spilling onto walkways. It left the place feeling unkempt and jungle-y, somehow.

Speaking of jungles, there were loads of fire ants crawling all over the place, so be careful when stepping around especially off the pavement.

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I find it adorable how these lovebirds seem to constantly be making the ‘double chin face’.

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We caught the animals during feeding time. A pair of white rhinos (which were not white when we saw them) were munching on grass along with a lone, skinny wildebeest. It looked pretty malnourished D:

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Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. They don’t look so much like rodents as they do furry pigs.

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“Why good morning Alfred. Nice weather we’re having.”

“It certainly is, John. What do you think’s for breakfast today?”

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“Don’t give me that look, I don’t want to put you in a cage either. I told you to eat your medicine on time, didn’t I? You know how crazy you get when you don’t take your meds”

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Some type of deer. Pretty sure they’re not mouse deer coz I don’t remember them having horns.

There’s an interesting story that all Malaysian kids learn in history about the founding of Malacca.

Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince, was the ruler of Singapura (Singapore) in the 1400s,  before the invasion of the Majapahit forced him to flee to Malacca. While in this new land, the prince rested under a Melaka tree and saw his hunting dog being kicked into the river by a tiny mousedeer (they weigh about 0.7kg to 8kg). Taking this as a good omen (although small, the mousedeer was fearless against a hunting dog many times its size), he decided to found a new kingdom and hence, Malacca was born. It quickly became one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia, even making trade relations as far as Arab and China.

Hail the tiny mousedeer! They’re adorable by the way. Like a fat round thing with spindly legs.

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Graceful giraffes nomming on leaves.

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Why hello there, ladies.

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Bullseye butt. These deer scared easily. E accidentally made a sudden movement and they scattered so fast it scared us lol.

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Dinosaurs Ostriches. Scientists now believe that birds are the modern day descendants of dinos.

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Sleeping leopard. An impressive set of balls.

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Tiger resting in the shade.

Sometimes they look so fluffy and cat-like that it’s easy to forget that they can kill you.

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A mama tigress and her cub getting some R&R. Aww.

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“Have you no manners, sir? Can’t you see that I’m eating?”

This was one picky hornbill. There was a whole tray of fruits, but it only picked out the papaya and left all the bananas intact. lol.

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Mean geese that honked at us. I bet they would have chased us if it weren’t for the fence. Ever been pecked by a goose? It hurts like a biatch

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Orangutans chilling on a platform.

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Is that you, Baloo?

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Last but not least, two Asian elephants. They were orange from dried mud, probably to keep cool in the sweltering heat. Visitors can buy food to feed them. But instead of fruits and veggies, the zoo sold packets of bread (??) – must not be very nutritious for the elephants.

Malacca Zoo is okay to visit if you’ve run out of places to go to in Malacca. Needs better maintenance, but there are some nice animals here that I think kids (and adults) would enjoy seeing.

MALACCA ZOO 

75450, Malacca, Malaysia.

Opening hours: Daily (9am – 6pm)

*They have Night Safari on Fris-Sats (8pm- 11pm)

Ticket price: Adults (Malaysian – RM17.80), Children (Malaysian – RM7.10)

Phone: +60 6-232 4053