It was of course another early start but thankfully we had sensibly packed everything up the night before so it was simply a case of dressing and getting a cab to Woodlands MRT station (taking the metro would have been cheaper but with lots of luggage it makes things tricky) where we were meeting our travelling companion Halle! I had previously travelled to India with Halle and she is fantastic, a ball of energy and enthusiasm – exactly what you need on a 2 day food-eating extravaganza. Our destination – my favourite country in the world ….. Malaysia! I have been to Malaysia a few times and love the cheap food and laidback atmosphere as well as the melting pot of mixed cultures and fantastic sites. This trip we were focussed on Malacca – a town in the south of Peninsular Malaysia and close to Singapore. We hopped on a bus at Woodlands which took us right to the border. We then had to walk quite a long way to be stamped out of Singapore and into Malaysia, take another bus between no-mans-land before being stamped into Malaysa and wallah – we had made it to Johor Bahru. Many Singaporeans visit Malaysia often just to do shopping and to eat – the Malaysian Ringgit makes everything a lot cheaper than the Singapore dollar so the border can often get really busy, especially during holiday weekends. Luckily we had timed it well and didn’t have to wait too long in queues. We entered Malaysia through the third floor of shopping mall Johor Bahru City Square and made our way straight to the sweet stand at the border bridge exit. The stall was covered in a variety of brightly coloured wonders. I let Halle do the picking before heading outside to take an uber to pick up our rental car. The lovely driver was extremely accommodating at fitting all of our luggage and 3 people into his tiny car all for the measly sum of less than £2.
One might ask – why didn’t you hire a car in Singapore? Firstly, this is pricey in comparison to cheap Malaysia and secondly taking rental cars across a border can be tricky. We got a fantastic deal on a car in JB and after checking it out and filling in the paper work we were off. It is a 2 hour and 40 minute journey to Malacca pretty much following a highway all the way and we enjoyed our nasi lemak, curry puffs, ondeh ondeh and a clear prawn dumpling. We got caught out by not having a payment card for the tolls so had to double back to a gas station to pick one up but arrived in bustling Malacca after around 3 hours. The next puzzle was our hotel. We had booked an apartment through booking.com called Ohana House @ 7011. The pictures looked great so we typed it into the GPS and it took us to a random hotel. It was clear that it wasn’t part of Ohana House and so when we arrived we nipped into another lovely hotel to ask their thoughts. They were so friendly and managed to arrange for us to call the company who said we should drive to a hotel complex on the other side of town and someone would be there to meet us. All a bit strange. We headed over to a very fancy if slightly dated resort complex – with like 3 pools and met a lone lady who showed us to our apartment. It was nice and once we got the wifi working and explained she would have to come back later if she wanted the payment in cash we headed out to explore Malacca and begin our food eating mission.
Malacca is a beautiful old colonial style city and the architecture is gorgeous so it makes for a pretty lovely place to wander around in the sunshine anyway. Couple that with amazing Malaysian food and really you have the perfect trip there in one. I had complied a list of 26 eateries I wanted to visit in the 24 hours we had in the city and so headed first to San Shu Gong a huge department store which houses Lao Qian Ice Café – and the most delicious iced coffees and teas you could imagine. The perfect cool beverage for exploring the sunny city. From here we wandered along Jonker Street – the heart of Malacca to Jonker 88. We were here, along-with everyone else for their famous laksa and cendol. The Nyonya laksa here is supposed to be one of the best so Carolyn opted for that and I enjoyed the mix between Baba laksa (coconut spicy) and Nyonya laksa (sour spicy) which I have to say was incredible and perhaps one of the best laksas I have ever eaten. Halle indulged in a veggie variety which wasn’t up to the same standard and then treated herself to the famous cendol. I am not personally a fan of these slimy green worms but she said it was pretty good and so worth trying, particularly if you haven’t had the joy of sampling cendol before.
Our next stop slightly further down jonker street was the Taste Better durian puffs. These are pastry like balls filled with a durian (smelly fruit) liquid and another Malacca institution. I ordered one, despite not particularly loving durian and stupidly did not follow the ‘in one bite’ instructions. This led to durian liquid dripping down my face, not an attractive look. They were creamy and sweet but given I am not a durian fan not really for me. Our next stop was to sample another local specialty – the chicken rice ball. Usually chicken rice is served with a simple plate of rice but here they make rice balls with chicken stock for extra flavour to add to the eating experience. We had wanted to sample Chop Chung Wah’s ones but sadly for us the shop was closed when we passed by and so had to settle for the Restoran Famosa ones. The chicken came bones and all – as is the style in Malaysia with small round rice balls. It certainly wasn’t as easy to eat as your regular chicken rice, particularly given the chicken has to be cut-up but the novelty was there and the restaurant was nice – less of a hole in the wall and more of a fancy sit-down affair. It would certainly recommend it to try for those visiting Malacca.
After exploring busy Jonker St we headed away from the hustle and bustle and pretty much as soon as we went one block over the crowds disappeared. Our next stop was a less traditional café called Bikini Toppings specialising in coconut shakes and ice-cream. I have to say both the shake and the ice-cream were absolutely delicious and the vibe of the place was really laidback and cool, with lots of ocean and surf art. We sat back enjoying the refreshing coolness of the icy coconut and felt a million miles away from city life. It was great – a must visit. Our next stop, just up the street a little, was called East & West Rendezvous. The triangle rice parcels – or zongzi – were small and tasty and perfectly formed. The locals sitting in the small shop seemed perplexed we had come all that way to just order one each (the name of the game in food tours is pacing) but we sat and enjoyed it before heading out back towards our apartment. What a fantastic lunch tour! Other than eating there is a lot to see and do in Malacca. I am probably not the one to ask about those things but the city is so vibrant and busy. There is a river which runs through the centre which is lovely to follow and has some gorgeous colonial architecture with huge churches that sit right next to local haphazard buildings. Also popular is themed tricycle rides from hello kitty to frozen that blare out the songs for all to hear (maybe one for the kids). There was really only one thing to do after all that eating – head to the pool! We sat and chilled and did some swimming (obviously we had to have a go on the kids chutes) as we watched the sun set in the distance.
After our chill out time we were ready for a dinner never to be forgotten. We started out at Restoran Tong Sheng – a recommendation of Halle’s. We waited for a good 30 minutes in the queue before being shown to a seat right out front. The specialty here is cheese prawn mee hoon (utterly epic) and we ordered this with a side of sea cucumber, a particular favourite of mine. It was definitely a highlight meal of the trip. The cheesy creamy noodles went perfectly with the sweet prawns, which peeled effortlessly away from the juicy meat. The sea cucumber was stir fried in a soy sauce with French beans and was salty and squidgy and the perfect accompaniment to the creamy noodles. It was heaven. We then headed along the street to Nedeje – for mille crepe cakes. These light layers of sweet goodness were again absolutely fantastic. I opeted for the tiramisu – staying original while the others had mango yoghut and double chocolate. They were really excellent and again, I would recommend to others, particularly given their close location to Tong Seng. We headed back to Jonker Street for the night market but it was mostly selling toys and clothes rather than food. We did see some food options but since we were quite late the best of the lot had already departed. We wandered around some really cool shops – Malacca is a pretty hipster city and given how cheap it is definitely a good place to pick up some bargains. It was busy and so after doing to laps we headed back to sleep off all that food in preparation for tomorrow.