WHERE to go, what to do and what will I experience?
They are the first questions every traveller asks themselves when they look to their next adventure.
Research, a newspaper article and a friendly experienced travel agent can supply the answers, but when you have an expert on hand it’s crazy not to use them.
My expert for a planned two-week tour through Malaysia was Mary Morton a woman who loves the country and now works in Australia as a public relations consultant for Tourism Malaysia.
When I told her that I wanted to revisit a country I have come to love her first question was if I wanted to discover Malacca. It’s a province situated around four hour’s drive from Singapore and about two hours from Kuala Lumpur.
She may have heard the hesitation in my voice, but after a little coaxing I took her sage advice and locked Malacca in for a few days at the start of my trip through Malaysia.
Her push for me to experience Malacca was based on the district’s emergence over the past 10 years as a hot spot for visitors wanting to experience its history and its foods, particularly its famous chicken rice, laksa and spicy nonya creations.
On her advice I booked in to the Majestic Hotel a former Malacca mansion built at the turn of the 19th century. Just over a decade ago the original home was completely renovated to become the hotel’s reception, welcoming lounge, bar and restaurant.
At the rear a 10-storey hotel was built in the traditional style of the old mansion. In essence it a fusion of Malacca history with modern elegance.
The Majestic like most modern hotels throughout Malaysia features a first class spa that uses traditional natural ingredients to help rejuvenate tired travellers.
A three hour Peranakan Signature experience in which your body is coated in such things as yoghurt and sliced star fruit has you ready and relaxed to explore the fascinating streets of Malacca and the myriad of traders who ply their wares.
This is not another Bali where you are accosted by money hungry stall owners wanting to you to buy imitation junk. Far from it, the people are warm and friendly, in many cases shy and unassuming.
The Majestic Hotel offers many services for its guests, but its big winner is a historic walk undertaken each day by knowledgeable guide Rahayu Kamal.
As you walk the narrow streets she takes you on a journey back to the 14th century when Malacca was first discovered by a Hindu Prince from Sumatra who was charmed by the wildlife that abounded.
The Malacca River runs through the centre of town and it’s at one of the small foot crossings that Rahayu pauses to tell me why this overpass has been named the Ghost Bridge.
It was here, she says, that invading Japanese troops in 1941 executed 500 villagers and hung their heads from the bridge as a warning to others that they must be obeyed.
Most visitors come to Malacca for the weekend and public holiday street markets, but more and more are discovering the district which wasn’t even a mark on Asia’s tourism map before the last decade.
Now crowds walk the narrow streets, or take a ride in brightly adorned rickshaws that blare out modern music leaving children singing along and some tourists covering their ears.
Prices are good, accommodation is first class, and you feel safe and comfortable discovering this Malaysian delight.
Once again my good friend Mary was right on the money, if you visit Malaysia mark down Malacca as a place to visit.
MALACCA: UNESCO HERITAGE CITY
Malacca is the historical state of Malaysia, rich with heritage buildings, ancient landmarks and colonial structures. It was here that colonial forces first made contact with Malaysia.
Today, in Malacca, you can still see the imprints of British, Dutch and Portuguese forces left behind in forts, museums, churches and towers.
Booming tourism economy with 15.7million tourist arrivals in 2015 a 210% increase since 2008.
GETTING THERE: Malaysia Airlines flies twice a day to Kuala Lumpur from Sydney. Flight takes around eight hours. Your can book car or bus from KL. The trip will take two hours or you can hire a car. The roads and traffic are easy to handle.
STAY: The Majestic Malacca is located in the heart of the city and offers a guided historic walk every day.
The writer was guest of the Majestic Malacca
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