In Melaka we finally found the quaint, charming southeast Asian town we'd been looking for. The streets were full of colonial character, with narrow alleys and colorful shutters on the aging mansions and clan houses. We found a place in the heart of Chinatown, the Chong Hoe Hotel, that met all our feng shui requirements from an open courtyard to let the water in to potted plants marking the heart of the building. Plus our room had AC, hot water, and wifi--bonus!
The Chang Hoe is located on "Harmony Street", so called because of the three different houses of worship that live happily side by side. The mosque was intriguingly pagoda-like and Cheng Hoon Teng was another fantastically ornate Buddhist specimen. Just one block over is Jonker Street, famous for its antique stores and bustling nightmarket. In the evening we elbowed our way through the crowds and chose from heaping piles of dumplings, rice balls, fried chicken, pineapple tarts, and other hawker treats to fill our bellies. At night was also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of Malaysian home life as many families open up the doors wide, probably as an attempt to seek refuge from the overwhelming humidity.
Nothing is very far in Melaka and a few minutes walk over the river is the central town square and colonial district full of museums telling the story of the city's sordid history. Control of Melaka changed hands five times between the 16th century up until the 1950s starting with the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and British, then the Japanese occupation during WWII and lastly the British again just before Malaysia gained independence in 1957. There is a full-size reconstruction of the wooden, nail-free Melaka Sultanate Palace filled with dozens of Malaysians' favorite--the diorama. The large Stadthuys, also complete with costumed mannequins, is in its original form from when the Dutch built it in the 17th Century. We hopped from the hillside ruins of St. Paul's Church and the Porta de Santiago (the only two remaining structures from the Portuguese rule of the town in the 1500s) down to Muzium Raykat and it's beauty exhibit full of haunting pictures of scarring, lip plates, and feet binding.
One thing we just missed in Melaka was the 45th Annual Bowling World Cup--the opening competition was set to begin a few days after our departure. We hope the international bowlers enjoyed some great pineapple tarts and antique shopping.
View more pictures from Melaka here.