Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia
, has made a name for itself as one of Asia's happening cities. The modern metropolis is usually the first port of call for holidaymakers but as Natalie Gruzlewski discovered Melaka, south of the capital and on the coast, is a real gem. It's full of history, yet, old meets new and the locals are friendly while the food is heavenly.
In the 15th century, Melaka was South-East Asia's greatest trading port. It's been ruled by the Dutch, British and Portuguese, which all contributed to its multicultural landscape.
Also known as The Stadthuys, Dutch Square was once a centre of the Dutch administration and housed its governors and officers. It's known for its red buildings. One was built between 1641 and 1660, on the ruins of a Portuguese fort using imported bricks. It houses the Historic Museum and Ethnography Museum which has relics and traditional bridal costumes on display.
Make sure you have plenty of time, as lovely and interesting gift shops line the square's narrow laneways. The clock tower in the centre of the square is an annoyance to many locals. The Tan Beng Swee clock was donated by a millionaire in 1886.
With dwellings dating back to the 17th century, Jonker Street is informally known as the antique street or, rather unkindly by some, Junk Street. Shops feature artefacts from the various periods of rule and you really can find some good buys.
Furniture, Chinese porcelain, brassware, lamps, coins and priceless Buddha statues can be found on Jonker Street. Beyond Treasures is a shop filled with fantastic stock and has an excellent reputation. In your wanderings, you'll see Chinese Peranakan shop houses, Buddhist temples and ancient mosques.
Meaning "the famous" in Portuguese, A'Famosa is one of Asia's longest-surviving European architectural remains. Natalie hopped in a trishaw and was taken to a tiny gate named Porta de Santiago, all that's left of the once mighty fortress. Nevertheless, it's an interesting visit the place once had long ramparts and four major towers and served to protect the city.
As the city's population expanded, it outgrew the original fort and extensions were added in 1586. It changed hands in 1641, when the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Melaka.
St Paul's Church
The ruins of St Paul's are the only architectural remains of Portuguese presence. Built in 1521 as the small Our Lady of the Hill Chapel, St Francis Xavier was a regular visitor. It has been in ruins for 150 years but is an interesting site and has fantastic views over the city and across to the straits.
Eating is more than just nourishment for Malaysians. It's cultural, social and they like to linger. Chicken and rice balls are a favourite and Natalie, who loves satays and laksa, enjoyed tasting the popular local dish. There are restaurants everywhere and Natalie enjoyed Low Yong Moh.
Majestic Melacca Hotel
Once you've shopped, walked and enjoyed some of the local cuisine and colour, Majestic Melacca Hotel is a great place to relax and put your feet up. It's on the banks of the river and is an integral part of the city's history.
A 1920s mansion remains at the heart of the hotel with a new building of 54 rooms and suites echoing the original architecture. Guests are treated to the original porcelain flooring, teakwood fittings and intricate artwork and antiques.
Rooms have bespoke furnishings and the floor-to-ceiling windows are dressed with silk drapes. Teak four-poster beds have cotton and ornate silk covers and there's a matching chaise longue.
Bathrooms have large claw-foot tubs and are installed with a TV to watch while luxuriating in a fragrant bubble bath.
With the influence of Dutch, Portuguese, English, Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines, your tastebuds are in for a treat in Melaka. Nyonya cuisine has been developed from a blend of the Malays and early Chinese settlers. It requires many hours of preparation and blending of aromatic spices and fragrant leaves and roots. It can be enjoyed in The Mansion Restaurant. There is also a Mansion Lounge and Mansion Bar.
The Spa Village Malacca is the world's only spa to base its therapies on the healing heritage of the Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan culture again, a combination of Malay and Chinese influences.
Melaka on Malaysia's south-west coast.
Freestyle Holidays has a four-night package, including return flights with Malaysia Airlines, accommodation at the Majestic Malacca Hotel, a city tour with trishaw ride and airport transfers. Getaway
viewers will receive an exclusive free night tour, river cruise and dinner.
- Perth $1633
- Melbourne $1635
- Sydney $1653
- Brisbane $1654
- Adelaide $1649
Tours depart from August 17 through to November 30, 2009, and from January 6 through to March 31, 2010. They must be booked and paid for by September 4, 2009.
Prices correct at August 27, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 132 627
57 Jalan Hang Jebat
Ph: +60 6 281 9466
Low Yong Moh Restaurant
Jalan Tukang Emas 32
Ph: +60 6 282 1235
Ph: 1300 880 268
Level 2, 171 Clarence Street
Ph: (02) 9299 4441
Fax: (02) 92622026
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya
Ph: +60 6 289 8000
Fax: +60 6 289 8080
Visas: Australians can enter Malaysia without a visa. Thirty-day entry permits will be issued, but customs officials can grant 90-day permits at their discretion.
Electricity: Plugs have three pins, identical in shape and voltage to British plugs, so Australian travellers will need a UK adaptor. They operate at 230V at 50Hz.
Time zone: GMT +8.
Currency: Ringgit Malaysia (RM).
International dialling code: +60.
It is recommended visitors to Malaysia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.