Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend Trip to Malacca

Last weekend my husband, myself and some friends of ours decided to drive to Malacca.

Malacca is a historical town located on the Western Peninsular of Malaysia and is about a 2 hour drive from Singapore. We set up early in the morning at 6am expecting a traffic jam at the Woodlands check-point. This is the exit border from Singapore into Malaysia. And sure enough there were already a long queque of cars at the border - it took us close to an hour just to exit Singapore. It's not our first time going to Malacca. I've forgotten how many times we've been there and we'll usually just stay one night only.

Malacca is rich in history and had a lot of conquerors in the past century : Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch en English. In the past the city was a strategic place at the border of the Strait of Malacca. It was a major port along the spice-route, and its harbor bristled with the sails and masts of Chinese junks and spice-loaded vessels from all over world. Other goods traded included silk and porcelain from China; textiles from Gujarat and Coromandel in India; camphor from Borneo; sandalwood from East Timor islands (now called Indonesia); nutmeg, mace, and cloves from the Moluccas, gold and pepper from Sumatra; and tin from western Malaysia.

In 1511 Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese. The Portuguese came to the East to capture the spice trade, led by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Portuguese failed to maintain the glory and prosperity of Malacca because of restrictive policies, competition and wars. The Portuguese ruled Malacca from 1511 to 1641 and during their ruling , they built a fort called "A Famosa". To this day, this fort still stands and is a major tourist landmark.

However on today's modern streets of Malacca, it is the Chinese influence that is felt most. Over the centuries, the Chinese and local Malay cultures in Malacca intertwined, eventually producing a completey unique society, the Baba-Nyona. This fascinating microculture reached its height around the turn-of-the-century, and Malacca's Baba-Nyonya Heritiage Museum preserves typical Baba-Nyonya household.

We stayed at our usual hotel which is Hotel Puri. The hotel is a carefully restored Peranakan house which once belonged to the decendants of an eminent philanthropist and rubber plantation owner, Tan Kim Seng. The original architecture of the building has been preserved which makes this a unique building compared to modern style hotels.

Hotel Puri is conveniently located right in the middle of Jonker's Street. Within walking distance are souvenior shops, lots of eateries, antique shops, museums and on week-ends, the stretch of road behind the hotel is closed to vehicles. A night market is held every week-end nights - Friday to Sunday.

Upon checking into the hotel we immediately made a bee-line for our favorite assam laksa and chendol. Assam laksa is a noodle dish with a tamarind based-soup. The other ingredients would consist of flaked fish meat, slice onions, cucumber and fried wanton. Chendol is a local dessert made of shaved ice, coconut milk, starch noodles with green food colour (I call it green worms) and palm sugar .... Yummy! Beside assam laksa we also ordered curry laksa and fried fritters.

Assam Laksa & Curry Laksa

Fried fritters and Chendol

After our delicious meal we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and rest, but not before making arrangements to meet again at the hotel lobby for dinner.

For dinner we decided that we'll walk (about 20 minutes walk) to Jalan Ong Kim Wee for satay celup. Satay Celup (steamboat or hot pot satay) which is popular in Malacca is a dish where an assortment of raw and semi-cooked seafood, meat and vegetables on skewers are dunked into a continously boiling pot of satay sauce (a spicy peanut sauce). How much your dinner bill would cost is determined by the number of empty satay sticks on your table. Some sticks are coloured at the ends to indicate that the price is slightly more.

After dinner, we strolled down to Jonker's Walk (which is just behind our hotel) to browse at the various street stalls at the night market. It was also the eve of Father's Day and a celebration was also being held that Saturday night with singing and stage performances.

A variety of knick-knacks and food are sold by the street stalls, including a vendor who was selling all sorts of steaming dim sum snacks.

I even caught sight of one vendor who was selling this chewing gum amongst his other wares.

Guess anything and everything goes .... haha!

After strolling through the night market and picking up some small items and snacks, we decided to head for Coconut Restaurant which is located a few shop lots away from our hotel. We love this place for it's wood fired pizzas. Every time we're in Malacca we will not fail to drop by this joint. Even though we were still stuffed from dinner, we "die die must try" (famous Singaporean phrase) their pizzas. We ordered our usual large extremely thin crust Margarita pizza - this is the best way to eat pizza and a variety of their drink concotions!

After our supper we strolled back to the hotel. It was bed time for my friend's children (and their mother) but my friend, my husband and I went to a nearby pub just around the corner - in fact quite a number of pubs have now sprung up since my last visit. The locals as well as tourists will hang out here and there's a singer who will sing the oldies on weekends. Some of the locals will also put on their dancing shoes! It's quite fun sitting there, sipping our drinks whilst soaking in the local scene.

Come Sunday morning and we decided not to have breakfast in the hotel even though it comes with the room. We went out instead to have mee sua. This particular coffee shop near Jalan Tukang Besi (translates to Blacksmith Road) serves very good mee sua.

Mee sua is a noodle made from flour and in Chinese tradition, mee sua is served on your birthday accompanied with 2 hard ball eggs. In addition to ordering mee sua soup we also ordered a dish of bitter gourd with sliced pork and liver cooked in black bean paste. Also not forgetting our "wake-up beverage" aka local coffee.

After breakfast we strolled around Jonker's Street and took in the local architecture and scenery.

The oldest Chinese temple in Malacca - Cheng Hoon Ting Temple

A shop selling red clogs (wooden shoes) and another shop selling antiques.

Close to noon time we went back to the hotel to pack and check out. We then headed to a local Teochew restaurant for lunch.

Teochew is a prefecture-level city in Eastern Guangdong province in China. The Teochews have a different style of cooking and are famous for their steamed fish and braised goose.

You could say we went "wild" here and ordered a variety of everything. All I can say is the food here is good and their standard is always consistent. It is a small family run restaurant - only 8 tables and will seat about 60 people. The owner who is probably in his 70's and his son will mingle and chit-chat with the customers.

Famous oyster noodle & Stir fried leeks with mushrooms and baby corn

Braised pork belly - eaten with steam bun (Chinese version of a burger)

Steamed pomfret Teochew style with preserved vegetable & crispy chicken

Famous Teochew dessert - Yam with Gingko Nuts, where the hearty flavour of taro is transformed into a smooth sweet paste that melts in the mouth. This is surely a traditional Teochew dessert not to be missed

All in all our weekend in Malacca had been a most enjoyable one ... good food and good friends! Malacca has not seen the last of us as we will be back soon.

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