18 February 2016

Melaka's Chinatown

After exploring the Colonial District of Melaka we enjoyed a day pottering around Chinatown situated just across the Melaka river.

Jonker Walk Melaka
Jonker Walk has a very different feel to the colonial district just
across the river.
The Chinese and Peranakan (Chinese/Malay also called Baba Nyonya) communities established a rubber trade out of Melaka in the 19th Century, settling on the other side of the river to the Colonial centre.  Chinatown quickly grew into a maze of streets.  It makes for a fascinating place to wander round and explore.

Melaka Shophouse
Many buildings are beautifully decorated and
are worth taking time to look at.
As you cross the bridge you get to the start of the famous Jonker Walk, while the shophouses here are very similar to those found in various states of decay all over Malaysia, these have been beautifully maintained and renovated and the road is a feast for the eyes.  Most of the shops sell fairly standard tourist tat but one or two of the antique shops are worth exploring.  They are for the most part filled with rubbish and reproduction goods but there are some gems if you look carefully.  The owners are always willing to have a chat with you and advise on what to look for and what not in a piece even if you are not intending to buy that day.  One shop had some particularly stunning old ceremonial Kriss knives.  Sadly the ones worth getting are beyond our budget and something to save up for.

Antique shops about but not everything is worth buying.
A shout out for the Geographer - my favourite restaurant in Melaka
When we are just the two of us we will rarely stop but the children need to take breaks during the day, particularly in the heat so we find ourselves popping into restaurants for a sit down and bottle of water or glass of fruit juice and sometimes even a bite to eat.  We were very impressed with the Geographer Café, beautifully restored with friendly staff and a decent menu at reasonable prices this is one restaurant we would happily go back to again and again for the cosy ambience alone.  They are a live music venue so we were pleased that we were able to enjoy the restaurant on a day when there were no shows (I have problems with my ears and find live music is often very painful and too loud to enjoy).

Shops sell all sorts of tat but it is beautifully presented tat!

Kampung Kling Mosque Melaka
Kampung Kling Mosque is both unusual and beautiful
Kampung Kling Mosque
The glazed tiles are English and Portuguese and
the ablution pool, open to the sky is an unusual design.
We did not visit the Baba-Nyonya museum as I had taken the children to a similar one in Penang a few weeks beforehand.  Other interesting sites include the Kampung Kling Mosque which is beautifully designed, as an unusual, square shaped Minaret and a unique and beautiful pool for washing before prayers and the Hindu (Poyyatha Vinayagar Temple) and Chinese(Cheng Hoon Teng) temples close by. 
Melaka is a warren full of beautiful surprises
Something different around every street corner
We also particularly enjoyed drinking in the ambience at the tea house attached to the Zheng He museum (dedicated to the famous admiral of that name who was responsible for opening up trade between China and Malaysia).  We but had a very friendly chat with the Auntie and her husband who run the restaurant and a quick wander around the traditional Baba/Nyonya house it is set in.  She was a mine of information about Zheng He and also very kindly took the time to help Master and Miss EE search for Chinese characters they were familiar with on the inscriptions in the wall and showed them how to write some they had not yet learned at school.  She was also absolutely unflappably helpful when our youngest who was, unfortunately a little unwell for the duration of the trip, decided to projectile vomit, luckily all over me (and the gutter outside after we ran out) and not the restaurant floor. (I dream of looking cool and sophisticated but the reality never really quite matches.) She helped me sponge down my dress and allowed my husband to clean the baby up in her own bathroom while I ran off to find some replacement baby clothes.  I could not quite bring myself to buy the adult size tie-dye dresses or harem trousers on offer in the shops so had to resign myself to smelling rather unpleasantly of curdled milk for the rest of the day.

Zheng He Cheng Ho Museum tea house
Zheng He Museum Tea House
There are plenty of other sites to enjoy in Chinatown including a walk down the white alleys that snake along to the rear of the buildings and a search for some of the spectacular wall art that adorns the city, we could easily have spent two days pottering around.

 China Town Melaka

Melaka River At Night

We finished off our visit with an evening stroll along the river.  Melaka is a city I could come back to again and again.  

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Ersatz Expat

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