An arty farty 24 Hours eating and shopping my way through Malacca

Malacca night market

Malacca is a perfect arty farty weekend getaway if you live in Singapore. It is only a bus ride away and an easy place to get around on foot. You can see all the main sights within 24 hours! Malacca has an amazing foodie scene and the Malacca night market alone is worth the visit. Make sure you go on an empty stomach so you can sample all the local delights. But between eating and drinking, there is also shopping and some artistic things to do. Enjoy my 24 hour guide to Malacca!

Cafe Hopping

It is not a widely known fact that Malaysians are coffee lovers! In fact, Malaysia has a long history of growing and serving coffee. Coffee was first bought to Malaysia in 1779 and today coffee Arabica, Robusta and Liberica varieties are all grown. In Malaysia coffee is normally served strong with a dash of condensed milk.

If you are keen to try the local brew, visit the 13 State’s of Malaysia coffee house. Here you can sample coffee from all the states of Malaysia as well as learn about the history and different properties. During my visit I enjoyed a cup of coffee from the state of Perlis, where Liberica beans are grown. The coffee has a herbal taste and invigorating quality. Besides the coffee, this cafe is super arty farty with all sorts of quirky decorations as well as hand crafts for sale inside.

Malacca Night Market

The quirky 13 State’s of Malacca coffee shop

Malacca Night Market

An invigorating cuppa from the Malaysian state of Perlis

Malacca also has a vibrant expresso coffee scene, with countless cafes dotting the riverside and main roads. If you feeling the heat, pop into the Coffee Jar for the creamiest and most amazing iced latte served in a jar… of course!

Malacca Night Market

Great espresso coffee at the Coffee Jar

Sample the Local Delights

Most people come to Malacca just for the food. Every weekend, scores of visitors jump on a bus to Malacca to eat to their hearts content. The city is most famous for its good Baba Nyonya cuisine. These dishes originate from the 15th and 17th centuries when Malaysia was under Dutch colonial rule and there was significant Chinese immigration to the region. Chinese and Malay intermarriages, as well as European influence, resulted in a hearty fusion cuisine known for its rich gravies and use of aromatic spices, herbs and roots.

Whilst there are many good Baba Nyonya restaurants to choose from, we visited the Kocik Kitchen as it was decidedly less touristy and still busy at 3pm in the afternoon (always a good sign). We ordered the classic dishes of chicken kapitan and prawn curry with rice. Flavours of lemon grass, coriander, coconut and chilli wowed our senses and the succulent ingredients satisfied our stomachs and our souls.

Malacca Night Market

Delicious and creamy chicken kapitam at Kocik Kitchen Nyonya restaurant

Chicken and rice balls is another specialty of the region. If you live in Singapore, you will already be acquainted with Singapore’s national dish of chicken and rice. In Malacca, they take it one step further and serve the chicken together with rice rolled into tight and oily balls. This is not recommended if you are dieting, but you only live once… Pretty much every chicken and rice ball shop has extensive queues during the lunch hour. We checked out the Famosa Chicken Ball house. We waited for 20 minutes in line before being served. The service was atrocious and the chicken was average, although the rice balls were tasty. We also ordered a side of roasted pork belly which was more dry than is typically served in Asia but nice and crunchy nonetheless.

Malacca night market

Roasted chicken, pork belly and chicken rice balls

If something sweet is more your style, there are no shortage of sugary options to indulge in. The Cinderella Ondeh Ondeh street vendor on Jalan Hang Kasturi is must. He is always there from early in the day rolling those delicious glutinous green balls, flavoured with pandan and filled with sticky palm sugar.

Malacca Night Market

Cinderella Ondeh Ondeh are a traditional sweet of this region

My personal favourite however are the signature coconut milkshakes as Bikini toppings. I have always been an avid coconut fan and so it is just my luck that coconut milkshakes are a big thing in south east Asia! I have sampled coconut shakes across the region, and whilst the ones in Penang were pretty good they don’t compare to these creamy babies dished up at Bikini toppings. They are made with home made coconut ice cream, coconut water, fresh coconut flesh and desiccated coconut. Delicious and creamy, but not too thick or icy!

Malacca night market

The best coconut milkshakes are in Malacca

Sweat it out at the Malacca Night Market

The Malacca night market was the highlight of my trip. I have visited my fair share of night markets in Asia, from Harbin to Tainan and Ipoh, but this one was a favourite. Firstly, a couple of warnings before embarking on the Jonker Street market. It is hot – stinking hot! The weather is warm and humid all year round and the night market is densely populated with people, so be prepared to sweat. Secondly, make sure you visit on an empty stomach. Whilst there are plenty of interesting knick knacks to buy, it is the delicious food and drink that you will want to try.

A prelude to the market is the crazy coconut stall. You cannot miss the spectacular showman carving up and juggling cocktails like it was second nature! It is quite the spectacle. Theatrics aside, make sure you grab a coconut water here so you are hydrated before embarking on the rest of the night market, which can take up to several hours.

From here on out, your senses will be overwhelmed with the smells of cooking. Popular food stuffs to sample include Chinese dim sum, Hello Kitty-inspired steamed pork buns, octopus balls, oysters with fried garlic, fried quails eggs, BBQ skewers and seafood, and many other wonderful treats.

Malacca night market

The oysters are frozen but still tasty laden with garlic

Malacca night market

BBQ quail eggs on skewers

Malacca night market

Pick and mix Chinese dim sum on giant steamers for cheap!

Malacca night market

Sugary sweets cooked and smashed for your delight

Malacca night market

Steamed pork buns decorated as Hello Kitty characters!

There are also plenty of tropical drinks. If you are not a fan of coconut juice, you will come across plenty of shop sellers serving fresh watermelon juice, chendol, mango smoothies and other coolers. Chendol is unique to south east Asia and is coconut crushed ice with pandan flavoured jelly and palm sugar. Gi Kiat Huay on Jonker street is famous for dishing up the best cooling chendol!

Malacca night market

Chendol is Malaysia’s answer to ice cream

Malacca night market

Stay hydrated… and make sure you get a selfie with your drink

When you tire of eating, the Malacca night market has other entertainments such as fortune telling, shopping and traditional live music most evenings.

malacca night market

Get your fortune told at the Malacca night market

The Malacca night market has a number of stalls and shops selling souvenirs, jewellery, hand crafts, accessories and fashions. If you take your time, you can discover interesting knick knacks in addition to the usual commercial t-shirts, rip-off handbags and other rubbish they normally flog.

Malacca night market

Interesting antiques for sale at the Malacca night market

Malacca night market

Malacca night market has its fair share of crap for sale too

Visit the Churches

Malacca is famous for a number of old churches thanks to the areas European roots. Today the churches are not really operational, as the city centre is primarily catered to tourists and the locals are mostly Muslim, Buddhist or freethinkers. Nonetheless, they are beautiful.

Christ Church by the city square is the most recognisable. This Anglican church was built in the 18th century and is painted in a deep terracotta colour with shapely roof and windows erected in the Dutch style.

malacca night market

The famous Christ Church in Malacca

Beyond the clock tower and up the hill is Saint Paul’s church, which is the oldest church in south east Asia as well as the oldest building in Malaysia. It was first built in 1521 by a grateful Portuguese traveler who sought refuge in Malacca. Whilst the church has undergone some redevelopments since then, it still looks like a really old building and many of the original engraved tombstones that once paved the chapel floor remain in good condition. Although the church is small, wandering around these ruins makes you feel like you are in Europe.

malacca night market

A statue of Saint Paul outside the remaining church ruins

The other notable church is Saint Francis Xavier church. It is a little further from the main square and was originally erected in the late 17th century by a French priest. The church remains in good condition and was the only place of worship that seemed operational. I actually saw people praying here.

Malacca night market

A statue of Mary outside St Francis Xavier church

Stock up on Malaysian Products

Many visitors to Malacca from Singapore come just for the shopping. Here you can buy unique ingredients and sweets at a fraction of the price of what it would cost in Singapore. Stroll along the main roads and stop at local shops for packets of curry, vegetable noodles, shrimp paste and chilli sauce.

San Shu Gong is the place you need to go if you want to buy popular Malaysian sweets and biscuits. The place is always packed but the brands they stock are reputable and make nice gifts. The hottest selling item are dodol, which are sticky toffees cooked with palm sugar that come in coconut or durian flavours.

Malacca night market

Malaysians love anything made with palm sugar

If you are really cheap, you might want to head to the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Mega Mall for discount clothing, shoes and groceries. I made sure to duck into the Giant supermarket there and stock up on cat food for my kitties, its half the price of Singapore!

Get Crafty

Malacca has an arty farty vibe and there are so many galleries, craft shops and street vendors selling cutsie handmade items in every which direction. Spend an hour or two just strolling the streets and ducking in and out of the various stories. My favourite has to be the drinky store on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, where everything is made by hand and visitors can also learn to make their own jewellery.

Malacca night market

Everything here is hand crafted!

There is also the local flea market every Sunday morning, where you can see all sorts of old Asian stuff from ornate soup spoons and bowls to bitsy jewellery and some weird aged records. The market is on Jalan Hang Jebat.

Malacca night market

Uncles lay out their goods every Sunday morning at the flea market

malacca night market

All sorts of things for sale at the flea market

And if you are feeling really tourist, stop by the Nyonya House to check out some local photography and get a selfie in some traditional garb.

Malacca night market

Who doesn’t like a selfie?

Drink by the River

After plenty of shopping and eating, there is no better way to end the day then a cooling drink by the Malacca river. One one side of the Jalan Hang Jebat bridge you have lots of small, boutique bars with cute tables out front where you can enjoy a pint or two. The other side of the bridge tends to have your more larger pubs and hotels. One of the more popular drinking holes is Reggae on the River, which plays non-stop reggae music. Wherever you go, the alcohol here is much cheaper than Singapore so enjoy knocking back a few without spending a fortune.

Malacca night market

The view is not too shabby at Reggae by the River

There is plenty to do in Malacca and this is not an exhaustive list. But if you are limited to 24 hours the definite head straight for the Malacca night market… happy eating and shopping!

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