On our way home to Sydney from Manila, Jonathan and I decided to unwind a bit in Hongkong with a day-long side trip to Macau. His parents, both retired, decided to tag along with us, together with an aunt who was visiting from Vancouver.
To our pleasant surprise, Hongkong had impressively discounted rates for senior citizens (people aged 65 and above). So if anyone is planning to take their parents out on a holiday, Hongkong would be a good idea!
This was the most common (unsolicited) suggestion I got from friends upon them learning that I was going to Melaka. Not particularly a foodie, I pushed those suggestions on the back burner. My fancy with Melaka lay on stuff that I found more interesting. But boy, I didn’t know any better.
It all changed when a Melaka-born friend I met in Indonesia the week prior, drove down from Kuala Lumpur and showed up in my hotel. Nicole and her boyfriend, Casey, very hospitably dragged me on a food trip around town. Bent on awakening the foodporn star in friends visiting their hometown, Nic and Case led me to the best local secrets in Melaka’s merry mix of gastronomic adventures.
Under their tutelage, let me take you to a full day of eating your way around Melaka — my new, by far, favourite food capital in Southeast Asia.
0830H | Start the day with Chicken Rice Balls.
Exploring Melaka entails a lot of walking. Therefore, it is imperative to have breakfast. What better way to carbo-load and fully-charge your energy levels for the day than Chicken Rice Balls?
Kedai Kopi Chung Wah, right outside the Jonker Street marker (beside Hard Rock and across H&M), serves the best in town! The place opens up to 3pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends, but unless you are prepared to line up, it is wisest to go there for breakfast.
Retaining the good old ambiance of traditional Malaysian-style restaurants of open kitchens, Kedai Kopi Chung Wah has no need to hide behind pretty interiors. Its signature Kampung Chicken (steamed) and Rice Balls (rice cooked in chicken stock and rolled into balls) will leave you asking for seconds (or in my case, thirds! LOL).
For spice lovers, a huge jar of chilli sauce is available on every table. Needless to say, it was perfect to tie the whole dish up.
Price: 8RM per single serve (Chicken and 5 Rice Balls)
Kedai Kopi Chung Wah
Address: 18, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Hours: Monday – Friday 830am-3pm ; Saturday – Sunday 8:30am-4pm
Phone: +60 16-733 0699
1030H | Sip a cup of Melaka Kopi for morning tea.
After a morning stroll around Jonker Street, warm up (or cool down if you want the cold variety) with a shot of Melaka Kopi (Malacca Local Coffee).
Geographer Cafe at the corner of Jonker and Hang Jebat, is housed on a pre-war building, with warm and cozy atmosphere. Its woodsy interior and fast internet make the cafe an ideal chill-out place to catch up on journal writing or blogging.
The coffee isn’t really mind-blowing, considering how the coffee culture is cut-throat in Peninsular Malaysia. But the selling point here is in the explorer vibe that Geographer Cafe is able to perfect beautifully. That, plus, the excellent vantage point for people watching that the cafe has effortlessly provided.
Price: 4.5RM (Hot) | 5.5RM (Cold)
Address: Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am-1am ; Sunday 8am-1am
Phone: +60 6-281 6813
1230H | Feast on Green Salad and Pineapple Beer.
For lunch, do splurge for the things that are worth it. Also, when lost in the bustle of Melaka, seek for a refuge where you can enjoy lunch in the stillness of the town without losing grip on the chaos of its art.
Good news for you, The Baboon House is just the place for that.
Doubling as an art gallery and a mini rainforest, it is every oddball’s happy place. It was mine, right off the bat. There is a catch though: no one is supposed to take photographs inside. (But a little bird told me she steals snaps all the time, so I did, too. Don’t judge! :P)
Much has already been written about The Baboon House’s freshly ground coffee and gourmet burgers, so if you are keen, choose to try something else. For example, their garden salad (read: bacon) and homemade pineapple beer are a must-try!
Price: 9.5RM Homemade Pineapple Beer | 15.5RM Green Salad (+2.5RM Service Charge)
The Baboon House
Address: 89, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Kampung Bukit China, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Hours: Wednesday – Monday 10am-5pm
Phone: +60 12-938 6013
1400H | Cool down with a Sugarcane Juice-to-go.
I have a deep love for those who work small jobs with big pride. Street vendors, for instance. So I make it a point to buy from them on my travels, hoping to help, even if it only meant 1.5RM of spare change.
This uncle for example, cheerfully said hello whilst I was taking photos of the facade of Cheen Hoon Teng Temple in Jalan Tokong. So I struck a conversation which ended in me guzzling cold sugarcane juice from a plastic bag.
Here, let me tell you a secret: street vendors are the most credible source of local information on a place. They know not only history, but also folklore. Sometimes, even gossip. Thus, if you are running out of twists to your narratives, go find a street food cart. 🙂
Price: 1.5RM (per serve)
(in front of) Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
Address: 25, Jalan Tokong, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
1700H | Meet friends over Satay Celup for dinner.
The best relationships are forged over food. Communal eating is something that is highlighted in Ban Lee Siang’s Satay Celup.
Similar to the concept of the more well-known Hot Pot, a boiling pot of peanut sauce is sunk into a hole at the centre of the table where skewers of meat, vegetable, tofu and shellfish are dipped into and cooked.
Customers get to choose skewers of food from a buffet style counter, which are then dipped into a boiling peanut sauce. A number of rules are practiced though:
The satay sauce is only refilled, and not replaced between customers.
Ergo, double-dipping is a big no-no.
Skewers don’t get thrown away. You leave it at the table for the attendants to count later.
Skewer count determines how much you have to pay.
Price: 1RM (per stick)
Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup
Address: 53-C, Jalan Ong Kim Wee, 75300 Melaka, Malaysia
Hours: Friday-Tuesday 4pm-1230am
Phone: +60 12-651 5322
1800H | Cap the day off with Putu Piring.
Jalan Tengkera is famed for the Putu Piring sold in the area. Loosely, it translates to Rice Cake Plate, after the delicacy’s plate-like shape. What makes Jalan Tengkera’s Putu Piring is that it specifically uses Gula Melaka, a palm sugar variety that is unique to Melaka.
This family-owned and operated Putu Piring store opens daily (except Sundays) at 6pm, just in time for after-dinner desserts. Try to come a bit earlier though, to beat the queue.
Usually served on a banana leaf with a bed of salted grated coconut, Putu Piring is best eaten while hot.
Price: 1.10RM (per piece)
Putu Piring Tengkera
Address: 252, Jalan Tengkera, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Hours: Monday- Saturday 6pm-10pm
Phone: +60 6-282 1505
Did I miss any must-eat food in Melaka? Please write so in the comments below!
Art, Culture and Nature — these comprise the trifecta from which the Indonesian city of Bandung stands firmly on. My introduction, however, began with food: a hearty lunch of bebek goreng and an overload of sambal, in particular.
Following a 3-hour and 20-minute journey by rail from Jakarta— and after being shown a real-life trailer of West Javanese daily hustle from the train window— it felt I was ready to sit through the whole movie, lunch inclusive.
Nuart Sculpture Park
My first afternoon in the city was spent in the copper and brass wonderland of Nuart Sculpture Park. The compound was littered with installations that demanded space and time. All beckoned not to be merely looked at, but moreso, be looked into.
Women, bare and strong, were showcased intermittently. Along with a multitude of other creations, Nuart’s signature depiction were mostly of Strength amidst Struggle.
Nyoman Nuarta, the Balinese-born, Bandung-educated sociopolitical genius behind Nuart, reeked of inspiration.
“How are you so patient?” I asked him in between selfies, as we were making our way around his smaller installations, after a 3-part film show of his grandest projects.
“When you want something, you wait.” He smiled a smile that was almost cheeky; his eyes deep in introspection, as if in touch with an ever-present hunger to create.
Later, an exclusive access to the park’s workshop reinforced my earlier observations. There, metal smiths forged masterpieces from earth, under fire, but before a waterfall. Such display of the marriage of elements was nothing short of impeccable.
That night, I went to sleep beyond impressed. The privilege of walking into Nuart’s doors has also been the reckoning of how beautifully art is made when Protest is done with and by Restraint.
Early the next day, I found myself hopping on to a bus, being whisked into the woods. There, nestled amongst pine trees, stood a quirky little cafe aptly named Armor (ARabica Multi ORigin).
Featuring only the freshest coffee beans and tea leaves from the archipelago, Armor Kopi boasted of the best in Manual Brewing. The lads manning the counter also doubled as baristas, preparing concoctions in front of awed customers.
Though a coffee junkie, I already had a generous helping at breakfast that day. Instead, I egged my companions to sample Luwak. Arguably, it is the most expensive and perhaps, the most controversial of coffee varieties.
Kopi Luwak is coffee made from beans ingested and defecated by Asian palm civets. As explained by one of the baristas, civet cats eat only the best beans. These beans are further fermented with special stomach enzymes in the digestive tract of civet cats, thus resulting in a less acidic but smoother coffee taste.
I, on the other hand, took advantage of my mortal chance to enjoy a pot of the royally-acclaimed Silver Needle tea. Once served only to China’s Royal Imperial Family, these silver-tipped white tea leaves are harvested only once or twice a year.
Over Pisang Goreng and Rujak Cireng, popular Indonesian delicacies, I savoured my tea whilst my new-found friends raved on their coffee.
Situated on the foothills of Mt. Burangrang, Dusun Bambu stood as a testament for the Indonesians’ regard for family. Built as a retreat for the community to enjoy nature, culture and cuisine, it wasn’t just what I came there for; it was also what I found.
A tower of bamboo manned the entrance like a giant throne fashioned from swords. Further up, there were footbridges that cut across fields, up to a concrete road with bamboo archways. Up in the trees, dedicated dining rooms were cocooned inside what appeared to be huge birds nests.
The principles of Dusun Bambu resonated with me. It was able utilise nature in its architecture and integrate it into modern and practical aesthetics. It also succeeded in harnessing on Bandung’s Sundanese roots whilst transcending beautifully into the present-day Indonesia.
Saung Angklung Udjo
Perhaps, the organisers of our trip knew how to save the best last. I was already a bit knackered when our group was led to a small auditorium, filled to the brim with foreigners and locals alike. But my senses were awakened when the lady manning the till handed the audience necklaces with small angklungs (a bamboo musical instrument) as pendants. On the stage were a group of men playing traditional instruments before an array of puppets.
Soon after, we were treated to an entertaining series of cultural performances ranging from puppet shows to dances and songs from and by different Indonesian ethnic groups. My favourite however— and I’d bet, everybody else’s too— was Angklung Interactive, where each guest was given an angklung and we were collectively taught to play songs.
By the time the exercise concluded, I was on my feet, uber energetic to party with the crowd. It dawned on me right there and then, how entertainment strengthens unity and camaraderie amongst communities.
Admittedly, I was a little envious too. The performers of Angklung Udjo ranged from toddlers to septuagenarians— families, neighbours and friends. Outside, first-world factories peppered the city. But in that small auditorium, a culture as rich, as confident and as alive, thrived; and with certainty, will thrive.
A visit to Bandung won’t be without shopping. Ours was scheduled on a Sunday before flying out to Jogjakarta. But I was naughty and sneaked out for previews on Saturday night, to some hipster-ish boutiques run by local designers.
It turned out to be a good idea though, since Rumah Mode was packed the next day. I browsed, however, but did not end up buying anything. Instead, I sat with friends in a cafe fronting a small makeshift pond and had Iced Coffee.
Soon after, our other companions came out from the shops in throngs, with multiple shopping bags in tow. Maybe that meant they’ve scored good deals.
As I bade goodbye to the weekend, and to Bandung, I was comforted with pride that the best brands from all over the planet chose the craftsmanship of this small Indonesian city to clothe the rest of the fashion world.
Art, Culture and Nature — these comprise the trifecta from which the Indonesian city of Bandung stands firmly on. On the weekend I was there, those aforementioned elements stood apparent everywhere.
Bandung was the first stop in September 2016’s Trip of Wonders, an invitational trip for ASEAN travel influencers. It was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. Opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Ministry.