Although we landed at the LCCT airport in Kuala Lumpur, we chose to bypass the city based on our previous difficulty in finding good inexpensive accommodation there. On our last visit, we paid $33 USD/per night for a room in Chinatown, which was the cheapest part of town. The room was clean but nothing spectacular although the price we paid was actually about average for the area. So we had hoped that Melaka would be different, but we were wrong. We discovered that rooms on the budget end in a guest house, would cost about RM48-75 per night, which is about $16-25 USD, and that's with a shared bathroom and towels were extra! If you wanted your own 'attached' bathroom, it would be upwards of RM90/$30USD. To make matters worse, we arrived on a Friday night, when the city was already flooding with tourists from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and also with Sikhs from all over SEA here for a special pilgrimage. We found many places were either 1) surcharging for the weekend by up to 50% of the normal rate, 2) already full, or 3) did not allow children under 12yrs. By 9:30pm, we finally negotiated a cozy room with a view of the river, but it was the size of a shoebox and the girls had barely enough room to sleep on the floor. We had to use the shared bathroom which was down 1 steep flight of stairs. Initially they wanted RM75/$25 USD per night but we ended up paying RM120 for 3 nights ($13.35 USD per night).
|Our 'cozy' room|
|The river behind our guest house|
Melaka itself is very charming, particularly Chinatown, which was designated an UNESCO World Heritage city in 2009. Some of its buildings date back to the mid-1800s and are very 'Chinese' in character. At night, spotlights illuminate their facades to accentuate their beauty in light and shadow. Behind where we stayed was the newly refurbished river boardwalk--boats of tourists were ferried up and down the river especially at night. The streets in Chinatown were all very narrow and mostly one-way. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, its main street, Jonker Street (aka Junk Street), was closed to traffic and hosted a night market filled with local wares, tacky tourist fare, and lots of yummy street food.
In fact besides its architecture, Melaka is also known for its culinary offerings. They specialize in their own interpretation of traditional Malaysian food, most notably Melakan Laksa and Cendol, which is a delicious dessert made with shaved ice, palm sugar, coconut milk, red bean and the cendol, which is a jelly-like noodle. You can also find Chinese-style dishes like dim-sum, congee, and wonton soup. And the best part was that food and in particular drinks, were very inexpensive. 'Bubble tea' and iced coffee could be had for around RM2/0.75 cents USD and fresh mango, coconut or orange juice for RM3/$1.00 USD.
|Dinner at Jonker Street Night Market|
We spent 3 days in Melaka, taking in the sights as well as doing a bit of camera shopping. As we had an early morning flight to the Philippines, we decided to spend our last night at the Tune Hotel located across the carpark from the airport. Tune Hotels are structured like a low-cost airline--you pay a base rate, in this case RM149/$47 USD and you get 1 double bed and a bathroom. You then pay for extras like AC (+RM15/$3), towel and toiletries (RM14), wifi and tv. With the first 2 extras, we ended up paying $63USD for a night in a matchbox. It was so ridiculously tiny, we had to put Maddy in bed with us while Yasmine barely squeezed in on the floor after we moved the bed aside. We wouldn't have been able to fit both kids on the floor and have room for our 2 backpacks and still be able to open the door in case of emergency. As it was, we had to put our daybags in the bathroom! The sad part was that it still was the best option considering our early morning flight and given the cost of the room in KL, plus another $30USD for a taxi (with the early morning surcharge and no buses run at that time either), and also we saved time for extra sleep (theoretically) as the airport is 1hr from KL city centre. The girls ended up having a pretty good night sleep; unfortunately Jim and I did not as Maddy is a bed hog!
|Our matchbox room--this is really all there was to it!|
While we found Melaka's friendliness, orderliness and cleanliness very freshing, after 4 months of travel through Bali, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam we'd been spoiled with low cost, high quality budget accommodation. The most we've ever had to spend was $30USD and that was only once or twice; usually we only had to pay $15-20USD per night. In Cambodia and Vietnam in particular, we usually got a newish hotel with 2 beds, good European fittings and fixtures, and tv, AC, and wifi mostly standard, and often we even got a pool. We knew KL was expensive for accommodation but we'd hoped that Melaka would be different--we were wrong. For now, we've got 3 weeks in the Philippines, then another 2.5 weeks in Malaysia. Hopefully we will find better accommodation choices then.
|On the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia|
|That's a Melaka tree in the foreground|
|The 'Amazing Tea House Show'|