Jan 2, 2008

MALACCA, Malaysia

Only 2 days after getting back from Ujung Kulon, I flew to Singapore for a conference with my workmates. We stayed in that city island for a couple of days, and I took that opportunity to extend my trip to Malacca, Malaysia. Why? Well, Malaysia is the closest country to Singapore geographically. I had to take that into account because my flight back to Jakarta - which was on my office's expense - was scheduled from Singapore, so I had to choose a close enough place to go back and forth from and to Singapore only in 2 days time.

I've been to Malacca only a few months ago, but it was a really too short of a trip. I only had about 4 hours exploring the exotic city. This time, I decided to stay overnight along with my friend Rifa and Sas. In the end, I thought one night was not enough either, but well it was better than 4 hours, and who knows, maybe I can go back there again someday!

GETTING THERE - BY BUS (from Singapore)

Nov 17, 07

I was misinformed about how long the trip between Singapore and Malacca was gonna be. The plan of 3 hours trip by bus turned to be 5 hours! Our way up there was quite a pain, cos not only we had to run around bus ticket dealers in the morning (so much for a go-show trip - I thought it would be much easier to get bus tickets to Malacca than it actually was..), the bus that we hopped on was not well air-conditioned while we were on the road from 10 a.m. with the sun so bright outside!

Our bus was called Malacca-Singapore Express. It was one of the few coach services that had more than just one departure a day to Malacca. Others mostly departed early in the morning, around 8 a.m. Malacca-Singapore Express, as stated on the ticket, had departures on every hour between 8am - 7pm. The ticket price was SGD 16. Their Singapore office (to order tickets in advance) is at Kallang Bahru Terminal, but the terminal is at Alexandra Rd... I think. It was like a big parking lot with small downmarket ticket booths. Something that I didn't expect from a bus terminal in Singapore. I guess I kinda overated the country, huh? Hehehe..


What Rifa and I weren't prepared for was the fuss at the immigration office. Less than an hour from departure, we arrived at Singapore's immigration. All passengers had to get off the bus and get into lines where they checked your passports. Unlike other places in Singapore, for us the immigration was not very informative as in there was noone and no signage telling you what papers or documents to prepare for the checking. (But now that I think about it, any immigration anywhere I've been doesn't inform you all the details either.) So we were quite confused and scared that Indonesian passport holders would get hassled more than the others. Well, you know, with all the illegal workers coming in and out of Malaysia and everything, we just didn't want them to think we're that.

Stupidly, an officer told us to fill out a form, after I asked him which line we were supposed to go and whether there should be any form we had to fill out. Why do I think it's stupid? Because it turned out that the form was to be checked LATER when we come back to Singapore. What they actually checked here were only our passport and the immigration piece that we filled when we got in Singapore from Jakarta (I forgot the name of the card, but it's that white card with little green boxes that you filled). LUCKY we brought that thing.. I was gonna leave it in Singapore cos I didn't think I'd need it.. Phewwh..!!

Then, when we finally passed the officers, we hurriedly ran out to our bus. The driver was waiting for us with an angry look on his face. He questioned us about why we took so long in there. On the bus, the people that sat in front of us said that we were lucky the driver was willing to wait for us, cos usually bus drivers would just leave on-time and wouldn't care about people left behind, no matter what!

Our worry was not over yet. There was still Malaysia immigration we had to deal with. On the bus, the kind passengers in front of us told us to get a form to fill out, it was provided beside the driver's seat. Gee..how else would we know what to do if we didn't accidentally look stupid and had someone else notice and care enough to tell us what to do!

The Malaysia immigration was only a couple of minutes drive from the Singapore immigration. There, everyone had to get off the bus with all their luggages. Such a good thing that we did what a friend of ours in Jakarta had told us, that was not to bring too many stuff to get to Malaysia by bus cos it could be troublesome. Our business in the Malaysia immigration went smooth, despite the pervert-look officer that commented something unclear about our passport being Indonesian. We got on the bus on time, there was even still some people that got on after us! Yaay!!


The bus arrived at Melaka Sentral, the only bus terminal in Malacca. The first thing we did was find my friend Sas who drove from Kuala Lumpur and already got there about 2 hours before we did. And then, of course, we had our late lunch. We wanted something very Malaysian, although most of the restaurants in Melaka Sentral didn't look tempting, at least not for Rifa and me. But our tummies were grumbling and shouting asking for food, so we had the chicken rice ball at one of the restaurants. The chicken that I had was good, but the rice balls were kinda..the outer part had some hard surface that seemed like they were cooked long time before served.


Next in our to-do list (as if we made any..) was check in at Puri Hotel which I already booked 2 weeks in advance via their website, www.hotelpuri.com. It's located on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Jalan = street / road / avenue), in the heart of the Chinatown, parallel and side by side with the most famous area called Jonker Street, which was the perfect location if you're into strolling about the city day or night.

The cost:
deluxe room + 1 extra bed for a night = RM 236

Mind you, the hotel was not only clean and uniquely decorated, it also provided free wifi.


The area was of narrow streets, old chinese buildings with some touch of Portuguese. Lots of restaurants, cafes, clothes and gift shops. First, we went straight to the famous red church on Merdeka street, only about 15 minutes of slow walking. Lotsa tourists of any race, taking pictures or just sightseeing, riding the becak (threeshaw?) and shopping for souvenirs. Sitting and relaxing in the park could also be a relaxing activity. Oh there are some museums as well in one of those red buildings, but I forgot what kinda museum it was.


Now, this is where the most fun is, especially if you're a true shopper ;) The street is jam-packed with shops, and as the sun starts to go down, hawkers start to come out and display their goods along the sidewalks and the narrow street. The whole Jonker Street is now closed for vehicles (around 6pm until about midnight).

You can find various things in the streets. Just name it - clothes, bags, purses, jewelry, keychains, toys, food, drinks, sunglasses, souvenirs, even temples to pray in.

A short street connects Jonker Street and Tun Tan Cheng Lock Street where pubs and sidewalk cafes are at night.

We had a nice relaxing time just sitting, drinking light stuff, while talking and commenting on people around us there :D A lot of western tourists and escort ladies were seen. Oh but don't expect much on the music. We heard a lot of oldies and quite tasteless music played by the pub bands. No offense.


There's an area called Dataran Pahlawan where there's a shopping mall - with goods of the usual brands, hotels, and eating places. Of course we didn't choose the "all american junk food" cos we can find them like in every corner of the Earth. Instead, we had our dinner at a foodcourt called Newton Culture Food Village, across the street from the Dataran Pahlawan shopping mall.

We chose dishes that we've never found in Indonesia, so much like noodle but they're smaller and round, called Yee Mee. They combine the yee mee with beef, chicken, mushroom, and many other options.

But of course there are many other kinds of food that you can choose from the many stalls there. For example, Sas choose to have steamed fish, which was also very tastey.

The unique thing about foodcourts in Malaysia is that they often bluntly inform which is the halal and non-halal food section (halal is for food that are allowed to be consumed by moslems, and non-halal aren't - non-halal mostly consist of pork in food and alcoholic beverages).

Still in the foodcourt area, there was this shop that sold plastic-packaged dry food. Some came in unique packages.


There are actually a lot more that one can see, explore, and enjoy in Malacca other than all of the above. I think 2 or 3 nights of staying would be more convenient to go around the city and get to know more of the cultures. Well, if you're a really relaxed and slow-moving-life lover then maybe an even longer stay would still do.

Our bus back to Singapore was scheduled at 9AM. We bought the ticket when we just arrived at Melaka Sentral the day before. We wanted to get the 11AM but the 9AM was the only one available since it turned out to be a school holiday season. (Lesson learned: find out whether it's peak season or not whenever you're going somewhere, so you'd know what consequences to expect.)

We went back with Delima Express, RM 17 each ticket. Went through all the imigration hassles again, but this time we were experts ;)
Goodbye Melacca, I hope I can visit you again sometime soon..! :)

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