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! 

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