Saturday, January 24, 2015

Malacca - old and new

Since my last visit to Malacca three years ago, there have indeed been a number of changes. Malacca (together with Georgetown, Penang, were awarded UNESCO World Heritage site status in 2008.  This has resulted in a lot more visitors to Malacca, and a lot more tourism-related investments.

Casa del Rio - view from our window
So when I go visiting Malacca, it is a little bit old, a little bit new.  This time round, we stayed in Casa del Rio, this swanky new hotel along the Malacca river.  It has a slightly Mediterranean (Portuguese?) vibe, and a great view from our hotel room out on the river, and out to the Straits of Malacca beyond.  It was kind of pricey, but after I got a refreshing ice-cold towel and ginger and lemongrass sorbet at reception; and checked  into our lovely spacious room, complete with a little balcony, large bathroom, and another welcome snack of a little cup with ondeh-ondeh waiting for us to tuck in, I didn't mind at all.  There were a few books left for guests to read - including "Kebaya Tales", by local girl Lee Su Kim.  Of course, I had already read it :-)  

From our hotel, it was a short walk to Jonker Street (Jalan Hang Jebat).  We walked down the familiar streets and looked for our old, favourite shops - the goldsmith shop, San Shu Gong (the biscuit and snack shop), the kebaya shop where my friend also buys her ground coffee, our regular kasut manek shops and pineapple tart shops.  They were all there and seemed to be doing well.  In fact some had expanded! I bought my Pineapple tarts from Christine Ee at Jalan Hang Lekir, together with some good quality gula melaka. It was good to be back.  

There were new shops too - a chocolate shop, a shop selling essential oils and soaps, and the like.  The hotel we stayed in previously has expanded across the road and has gone into retail as well, with yet another shop a few doors down the road  -  I actually managed to buy myself a kebaya top (my third) - white, with pink flowers and green leaves, with the delicate line of "potong" running around the seams.  Simple, but very charming and can probably be used with my pants and skirts (not just the sarong).  Also picked up some nice enamel mugs for my morning coffee.

Interior of the old Dutch House
There were other new boutique hotels to be seen, as well as new indie cafes, occupying the old, long, narrow courtyard houses around Heeren (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) and Jonker Street.  On a more plebian but very practical note, pavements are being extended onto the road, so that pedestrians can now walk in greater comfort and safety on the narrow streets.  We also visited one of the few remaining Dutch houses on Heeren street.  It's a restoration project, aimed at giving an example of what housing was like many years ago. We met an elderly gentlemen here, who told us about the history of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.  The street is named after him because this is where he used to stay.

Sun May Hiong Satay
Gula Melaka Chicken Wings!
Foodwise, I had checked for new food options and found a useful post from ieatishootipost.   I was a little disappointed that Baboon House appeared closed when we walked past it but we managed to eat at both of the satay stalls on the list, "Loi Satay" (on Lorong Hang Jebat) and Sun May Hiong, (at Jalan Kota Laksamana).  What struck me was the sauce!  Loi Satay apparently uses belimbing, so you get this sharp sour taste contrasting with the richness of the pork and in Sun May Hiong you get loads of sweet pineapple in the sauce.  I preferred the sauce with the pineapple inside, but I must say that I preferred the slightly more chunky satay meat at Loi's.   We also went to Geographers' Cafe, as my friend wanted to try the "no coconut milk" curry mee.  The curry used ground cashew nuts to thicken the gravy but I must say that I would rather consume the calories - nothing beats the lemak-ness of coconut.  I also tried Eleven Bistro - the Portuguese restaurant which seems to have expanded considerably since my last visit.  We had the green curry mussels, which reminded me a little of a mussel dish I had in Macau.  I suppose this means that it is authentic!  My favourite though was the gula melaka chicken wings - chicken wings well-marinated in a gula melaka based sauce. Sticky on the fingers but really rather yummy.

A little shopping, a little sightseeing, a little eating, a little lounging around in a comfortable hotel room.  That's what a good holiday is all about! 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Blinging out in Malacca

Bridal Head-dress
Checking back through this blog, I was surprised that I had not been to Malacca for over three years, since 2011. I note that my post was all about buying cooking equipment!  Am glad to report that this time round, I have a more "cultural" highlight - my visit to the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum in Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Heeren Street).  Set up by the same folk behind the Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Penang, the museum features a typical Baba-Nonya home downstairs, with the jewellery displays on the second floor. 

Exhibit - Necklace studded with intan
My favourite section of the jewellery display was the  bridal jewellery.  Indeed, this was the occasion when the nonya displays all her bling-bling to showcase her family's wealth and prosperity (and to ensure that she would have some form of insurance if life went wrong).  I really liked the beautiful head-dress, with the delicate streamers hanging down from the front.   Of course, some times this ostentatious display of wealth can go a bit too far - the golden Chinese spoons used by the wedding couple being a prime example.  In general, however, the beautiful, delicate golden pieces - intricately patterned, studded with intan diamonds - take my breath away.

Another room features the jeweller's equipment.  Now, everyone who knows antique jewellery in Malacca knows Ban Onn, the goldsmith shop on Jonker Street.  This is a family-run business, now moving into its third generation.  Check out the corporate video here.  It's my first stop every visit to Malacca, and I often succumb to temptation - so it is a good thing that I've not been to Malacca for a few years!  Anyway, it was no surprise to see uncle's photo (big-big) on the wall of the museum!  I suppose it is reciprocal since there is a large poster of the museum in front of their shop as well.

Josephine Wee's bedroom
The next room was a bit of a surprise.  Everyone in Katong knows Katong Antique House - and its owner, Baba Peter Wee.  Well, some of Peter Wee's mother's old furniture and clothing can be seen here, in this little display of a typical nonya's bedchamber!  I asked our guide who indicated that her boss and Baba Peter Wee are old friends.  Hence he donated these items to the Museum.

In short, this little museum may be much smaller than the palatial Mansion over in Penang but it is literally a little gem.  So do visit!

The museum also has a very good book for those who want to know more.  But there's a useful and informative write-up here.

More photos of the jewellery museum here


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