Malaysia


Malaysia destinations

about Dynamic cities, fabulous food, beautiful beaches, idyllic islands and national parks with wildlife-packed rainforests – all of this can be found in Malaysia.

Cultural Diversity

The catchy tourism slogan ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ continues to ring true as this country really is a potpourri of Asian cultures. Muslim Malays, religiously diverse Chinese, and Hindu and Muslim Indians all muddle along with aboriginal groups (the Orang Asli) on Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo’s indigenous people, scores of tribes known collectively as Dayaks. Each ethnic group has its own language and cultural practices which you can best appreciate through a packed calendar of festivals and a delicious variety of cuisines.

Ancient Rainforests

For many visitors Malaysia is defined by its equatorial rainforest. Significant chunks of primary jungle – among the most ancient ecosystems on earth – remain intact, protected by national parks and conservation projects. Seemingly impenetrable foliage and muddy, snaking rivers conjure up the ‘heart of darkness’ – but join a ranger-led nature walk, for example, and you’ll be alerted to the mind-boggling biodiversity all around, from the pitcher plants, lianas and orchids of the humid lowlands, to the conifers and rhododendrons of high-altitude forests.

Urban Adventures

Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a place where gleaming 21st-century towers stand cheek-by-jowl with colonial shophouses and pockets of lush greenery, while shoppers shuttle from traditional wet markets to air-conditioned mega malls. Unesco World Heritage–listed, Melaka and George Town (Penang) have uniquely distinctive architectural and cultural townscapes, developed over a half a millennium of Southeast Asian cultural and trade exchange. Over in the eastern Malaysian states, both Kuching and Kota Kinabalu offer fascinating introductions to contemporary and tribal life on Borneo.

Watching Wildlife

The icing on Malaysia's verdant cake is the chance to encounter wildlife in its natural habitat. The most common sightings will be a host of insects or colourful birdlife, but you could get lucky and spot a foraging tapir, a silvered leaf monkey, or an orangutan swinging through the jungle canopy. The oceans are just as bountiful: snorkel or dive among shoals of tropical fish, paint-box dipped corals, turtles, sharks and dolphins. Even if you don’t venture outside the urban centres, there are excellent opportunities for wildlife watching at places such as the KL Bird Park or Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

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A skyline punctuated by minarets, Mogul-style domes and skyscrapers; colourful, food-stall-lined streets shaded by a leafy canopy of banyan trees – this is Kuala Lumpur.

Multicultural Modernity

Malaysia’s sultry capital is a feast for all the senses. Here you'll find historic monuments, steel-clad skyscrapers, lush parks, megasized shopping malls, bustling street markets and lively nightspots.Essential parts of the vibrant mix are the incense-wreathed, colourfully adorned mosques and temples of the country’s Malay, Chinese and Indian communities. A reverence for these ancient cultures is balanced with a drive to be plugged into the modern world, a desire that's reflected in a creative contemporary-art and design scene, an ambitious riverbank-regeneration project and dynamic architecture: the new Exchange 106 tower is taller than the iconic Petronas Towers.

Historical Canvas

Today's KL-ites are separated by barely a handful of generations from the tenacious Chinese and Malay tin prospectors who founded the city, carving it out of virgin jungle. By the time the British made it the capital of Peninsular Malaysia in the late 19th century, erecting grand colonial buildings, KL had only been in existence for a couple of decades.Since then, KL has been centre stage on Malaysian history. Stadium Merdeka was where, in 1957, the country’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, declared independence. The city also celebrated as a new national government came to power in 2018.

Shopping

To fully connect with locals, join them in two of their favourite pastimes: shopping and eating. Malaysian consumer culture achieves its zenith in KL, where you could spend all day browsing glitzy air-conditioned malls such as Pavilion KL, Suria KLCC and Mid Valley Megamall in search of designer fashion and bargains. Bangsar and Publika are the places to go for local labels and the work of offbeat independent designers. Alternatively, explore Central Market for locally made souvenirs and handicrafts; and hunt out the few remaining artisans and antiques dealers still keeping shop in and around Chinatown.

Street Feast

Despite the heat, this is a city best explored on foot. Walk and you can catch all the action and save yourself the frustration of becoming entangled in one of KL's all-too-frequent traffic jams. Walking, you'll discover parts of KL retain the laid-back ambience and jungle lushness of the kampung (village) it once was. What's more, you'll be sure to come across some of the city's best dining spots: the hawker stalls and traditional neighbourhood kopitiam (coffee shops) that beckon you over with the aroma of freshly cooked food and the promise of refreshment with tropical juices and cooling drinks.

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Sleeping

KLites' love of brands is reflected in the city's many international hotel chains. You can often grab great online deals for top-end accommodation, and there are also some excellent new boutique-style midrange options. Budget sleeps are plentiful, too, but the best places fill up quickly, so book ahead – especially over public holidays.

Eating

KL is a nonstop feast. You can dine at elegant white-tablecloth restaurants or mingle with locals at street stalls, taking your pick from a global array of cuisines. Ingredients are fresh, cooking is high quality and hygiene standards are excellent. Most vendors speak English, and the final bill is seldom heavy on the pocket.

Drinking & Nightlife

Bubble tea, iced kopi-o, a frosty beer or a martini with a twist – KL’s cafes, teahouses and bars offer a multitude of ways to wet your whistle. Muslim mores push coffee and tea culture to the fore, but there's no shortage of honest pubs, sophisticated speakeasies and other alcohol-fuelled venues where you can party the night away with abandon.

Entertainment

KL has plenty of entertainment options, but you have to keep your ear to the ground to discover the best of what's going on. Conservative tastes and censorship mean that quite a lot of what is on offer can be bland and inoffensive, but occasionally controversial and boundary-pushing performances and events are staged.

Shopping

Kuala Lumpur is a prizefighter on the Asian shopping parade, a serious rival to retail heavyweights Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. On offer are appealing handicrafts, major international brands (both legit and fake versions), masses of malls and decent sale prices. The city's traditional markets are hugely enjoyable and atmospheric experiences, regardless of whether you have a purchase in mind.

Activities

There is plenty to keep you active in KL. At Titiwangsa Lake Gardens you can go for a jog or cycle or take a helicopter ride, while the KL Forest Eco Park with its canopy walkway and Taman Tugu with its jungle trails, are great places to experience nature first hand. If relaxing is more your thing, KL's spas will leave you spoilt for choice.

Travel with Children

KL has a lot going for it as a family-holiday destination. Its textbook Southeast Asian cultural mix offers chances to watch temple ceremonies and sample an amazing range of food. Nature is also close at hand, along with clean accommodation, modern malls and fun amusement parks.

LGBT Travellers

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and the level of tolerance for homosexuality is vastly different from those of its neighbours. Sex between men is illegal at any age and sharia laws (which apply only to Muslims) forbid sodomy and cross-dressing. Outright persecution of gays and lesbians is rare.

Nonetheless, LGBT+ travellers should avoid behaviour that attracts unwanted attention. Malaysians are conservative about displays of public affection regardless of sexual orientation. Although same-sex hand-holding is quite common for men and women, this is rarely an indication of sexuality; an overtly gay couple doing the same would attract attention, though there is little risk of vocal or aggressive homophobia.

There’s actually a fairly active gay scene in KL. The lesbian scene is more discreet, but it exists for those willing to seek it out. Start looking for information on www.utopia-asia.com, which provides good coverage of gay and lesbian events and activities across Asia.

The PT Foundation (http://ptfmalaysia.org/v2) is a voluntary nonprofit organisation providing education on HIV/AIDS and sexuality, and care and support programs for marginalised communities in Malaysia.

Rainbow Rojak (www.facebook.com/RainbowRojak) organise occasional LGBT friendly dance parties.

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Combine three distinct and ancient cultures with indigenous and colonial architecture, shake for a few centuries, and garnish with some of the best food in Southeast Asia, and you've got the irresistible urban cocktail that is George Town. The timeworn shophouses of the Unesco World Heritage zone will likely spark a desire in some visitors to move straight to Pulau Pinang's most attractive city. Even more impressive is the movie-set-like mishmash of Chinese temples in Little India, mosques in Chinatown, and Western-style skyscrapers and shopping complexes gleaming high above British Raj–era architecture.

The eclectic jumble makes this a city that rewards explorers. Get lost in the maze of chaotic streets and narrow lanes, passing shrines decorated with strings of paper lanterns and fragrant shops selling Indian spices; or enjoy George Town's burgeoning street-art scene, its modern cafes and fun bars.

Sights

Unesco & George Town

In 2008, the historic centre of George Town was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site for having ‘a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia’. A 'core' area comprising 1700 buildings and a 'buffer', which together span inland from the waterfront as far west as Jln Transfer and Jln Dr Lim Chwee Leong, were drawn up, and the structures within these areas have been thoroughly catalogued and are protected by strict zoning laws.

The general consensus is that the Unesco listing has been a good thing for George Town, having helped the city safeguard its age-old feel while also reaping the benefits of a facelift. The designation seems to have sparked an interest in local culture among residents, and some claim that it has also had the effect of drawing younger locals back to the city, which suffered from a debilitating 'brain drain' during the 1980s and 1990s.

However, there's no arguing that the listing has been a double-edged sword. Many once-abandoned buildings have been snatched up by developers hoping to cash in, and property values have skyrocketed. Today, some shophouses can easily sell for more than US$1 million, and 'heritage' hotels and cutesy cafes can be found on just about every street in George Town. Not all of them have been renovated according to strict heritage rules. Uncontrolled rents haven't helped either, with some landlords hiking rates to over RM10,000 a month. The consequence is that the traditional shops and trades that gave the area much of its unique flavour are being forced to close down or move out to less pricey areas of the city.

George Town's Street Art

The current craze for street art in George Town shows no sign of abating. It's a trend that goes back to 2010, when Penang’s state government commissioned the studio Sculpture At Work (http://sculptureatwork.com) to do a series of cartoon steel art pieces across town. Affixed to George Town street walls, these 3D artworks detail local customs and heritage with humour, while also providing a quirky counterpoint to the natural urban beauty of the historic core.

It was in 2012, however, when George Town's street-art scene really took off. For that year's George Town Festival, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic (www.ernestzacharevic.com) was commissioned to do a series of public paintings in the city centre, some of which he chose to combine with objects such as bicycles, motorcycles and architectural features. The art has been a smash hit, with his Kids on a Bicycle piece having become a major tourist attraction, complete with long lines and souvenir stalls.

Zacharevic's success led to the '101 Lost Kittens' series of murals commissioned for the 2013 George Town Festival, with the intent of bringing attention to the issue of stray animals, as well as many examples of privately funded public art. Other major street artists' works to look out for include Russian artist Julia Volchkova's striking pieces (you'll see one on an alley off Lg Stewart) and UK artist Thomas Powell (www.thomaspowellartist.com), whose works are at the Hin Bus Depot art centre.

Marking George Town, a free map showing the location of pieces by Ernest Zacharevic and some of the other artists mentioned above, is available at Penang Global Tourism.

George Town's Clanhouses

Between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s, Penang welcomed a huge influx of Chinese immigrants, primarily from China’s Fujian province. To help introduce uncles, aunties, cousins, 10th cousins, old neighbourhood buddies and so on to their new home, the Chinese formed clan associations and built Clanhouses, known locally as kongsi, to create a sense of community, provide lodging and help find employment for newcomers. In addition to functioning as ‘embassies’ of sorts, Clanhouses also served as a deeper social, even spiritual, link between an extended clan, its ancestors and its social obligations.

As time went on, many clan associations became extremely prosperous and their buildings became more ornate. Clans – called ‘secret societies’ by the British – began to compete with each other over the decadence and number of their temples. Due to this rivalry, today Penang has one of the densest concentrations of clan architecture found outside China.

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Sleeping

George Town's accommodation options range from the grungiest hostels to the swankiest hotels. In particular, there are some charming boutique places converted from former shophouses in the heritage zone, although not everything advertised as a 'heritage hotel' truly fits that description.

In general, hotel prices increase on weekends and holidays. Most places fill up quickly, so book ahead – especially if a holiday, such as Chinese New Year, is approaching.

Eating

You'll soon realise why locals are so passionate about the food here. The diversity of George Town's dining scene is breathtaking, taking in Chinese dim sum (sweet and savoury mini-dishes served at breakfast and lunch), Indian banana-leaf meals, Malaysian curries, sourdough bakeries and paleo (grain-free) cakes. Whether you choose hawker stalls or the finest white-tablecloth restaurants, you're sure to find quality food.

Drinking & Nightlife

A lively budget-oriented nightlife area is the conglomeration of backpacker pubs near the intersection of Lr Chulia and Love Lane. Artsier bars that draw locals can be found near the Hin Bus Depot art centre, and recent years have seen an explosion of in-the-know-only speakeasies in George Town.

Entertainment

George Town has the best range of entertainment options in Penang state, including live music, plays, dance shows and movies at multiplex cinemas. For something more local, you may be fortunate enough to have your visit coincide with performances of Chinese opera or puppetry – such shows generally happen during major festivals.

Shopping

George Town is a fun and fascinating place to shop, with plenty of outlets for local crafts, retro and antique goods as well as fashion and local culinary delicacies. There are both traditional outdoor markets and contemporary air-conditioned malls packed with international brands at reasonable – but not cheap – prices.

Travel with Children

Central George Town's busy streets and lack of broad pavements don't make it the greatest place to stroll with kids, but Penang has plenty of diversions to entertain. Trishaw rides are always fun, while the city's Padang park and adjoining Fort Cornwallis are both relaxing places with lots of open space and food courts nearby with kid-friendly options. Museums such as Teochew Puppet & Opera House and Komik Asia may interest children, and the indoor amusements at the Top at KOMTAR should prove popular with toddlers and teens alike.

There are decent beaches at Batu Ferringhi, while further afield at Teluk Bahang there's Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm. For more thrills in the rainforest, a hike through the Habitat on Penang Hill is sure to be a hit with its treetop walkways and giant swings.

LGBT Travellers

There are no specific LGBT+ bars or clubs in George Town. GTHH (www.georgetownheritage.com) boutique hotels are LGBT-friendly.

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It's easy to see why Raja Brooke chose this spot for his capital. Hugging the curves of the languid Sungai Sarawak, Kuching was an ideal trading post between other Asian sea ports and Borneo's interior. It's still a gateway to both jungle and sea, and Kuching’s proximity to national parks makes it the ideal base for day trips to wild coastal and rainforest destinations.

Sarawak's sophisticated capital also merges cultures, crafts and cuisines, and the city's energetic collage of bustling streets and narrow alleys lined with carpenter shops, cafes and bars is best explored on foot. Attractions include time-capsule museums, Chinese temples decorated with dragons, a weekend market, heritage shophouses, and a riverfront esplanade that's perfect for a warm-evening stroll and a delicious meal. For history buffs, galleries, museums and walking tours present the thrilling stories of the Brooke family, white rajas of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946.

Sights

Waterfront Promenade

The south bank of Sungai Sarawak has been turned into a promenade with paved walkways, grass and trees, and food stalls. It's a fine place for a stroll any time a cool breeze blows off the river, especially at sunset. In the evening the waterfront is ablaze with colourful fairy lights and full of couples and families eating snacks as tambang (small passenger ferries) glide past with their glowing lanterns. The water level is kept constant by a downstream barrage.

Museum Precinct

The museums in the area just south of Padang Merdeka (Independence Sq) contain a first-rate collection of cultural artefacts that no one interested in Borneo's peoples and habitats should miss. At research time, construction was under way on a new five-storey museum on the western side of Jln Tun Abang Haji Openg that was due to be completed in 2020. The new modern building will bring the city's archaeology, ethnology, zoology and history collections under one roof, and include state-of-the art interactive displays.

North Bank of the River

To get to Sungai Sarawak’s northern bank, take a tambang (river ferry; RM1) from one of the docks along the Waterfront Promenade. An alternative is to use the Darul Hana pedestrian bridge (opened in 2018), which crosses the river to near the Sarawak State Assembly.

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Sleeping

Kuching’s accommodation options range from international-standard suites with high-rise views to windowless, musty cells deep inside converted Chinese shophouses. The majority of guesthouse rooms under RM50 have shared bathrooms; prices almost always include a very simple breakfast of the toast-and-jam variety. Rates at some guesthouses rise in July, especially during the Rainforest World Music Festival.

Eating

Kuching is the ideal place to explore the entire range of Sarawak-style cooking. You can pick and choose from a variety of Chinese and Malay hawker stalls, while Jln Padungan is home to some of the city’s best noodle houses. There's also an expanding range of stylish and cosmopolitan Western eateries.

Laksa Luck

Borneo’s luckiest visitors start the day with a breakfast of Sarawak laksa, a tangy noodle soup made with coconut milk, lemon grass, sour tamarind and fiery sambal belacan (shrimp-paste sauce), with fresh calamansi lime juice squeezed on top. Unbelievably lazat (‘delicious’ in Bahasa Malaysia).

Kek Lapis: Colourful Layer Cakes

The people of Kuching – from all communities – love to add a dash of colour to festivities, so it comes as no surprise to see stalls selling kek lapis (striped layer cakes) sprouting up around town (especially along Main Bazaar and the Waterfront Promenade) during festivals, including Hari Raya.

Kek lapis is made with wheat flour, egg, prodigious quantities of either butter or margarine, and flavourings such as melon, blueberry or – a local favourite – pandan leaves. Since kek lapis are prepared one layer at a time and each layer – there can be 30 or more – takes five or six minutes to bake, a single cake can take up to five hours from start to finish.

Over 40 flavours of kek lapis are available year-round – to satisfy demand from Peninsular Malaysians – at Maria Kek Lapis. Free tastes are on offer. Cakes stay fresh for one or two weeks at room temperature and up to a month in the fridge.

Drinking & Nightlife

Kuching's bars are generally relaxed, casual affairs, often mixing restaurant-quality food with bar offerings. There are also some rowdy karaoke bars in town. Popular bars can be found in Old Chinatown and along Jln Carpenter, and trendy restaurant-bars on Jln Tabuan and Jln Padungan.

Shopping

Kuching has the best shopping on the island for collectors and cultural enthusiasts. Don’t expect many bargains, but don’t be afraid to negotiate either. Quality varies as much as price, and dubiously ‘aged’ items are common, so be sure to spend some time browsing to familiarise yourself with what's on offer.

Most of Kuching’s shops are closed on Sunday.

Getting Around

Bicycle

On Jln Carpenter, basic bicycle shops can be found at Nos 83, 88 and 96. Borneo Experiences can rent out bicycles for RM50 per day including helmet and lock.

Boat

Bow-steered wooden boats known as tambang, powered by an outboard motor, shuttle passengers back and forth across Sungai Sarawak, linking jetties along the Waterfront Promenade with destinations such as Kampung Boyan (for Fort Margherita) and the Astana. The fare for Sarawak’s cheapest cruise is RM1 (more from 10pm to 6am); pay as you disembark. If a tambang isn’t tied up when you arrive at a dock, just wait and one will usually materialise fairly soon.

Bus

Handling local and short-haul routes, Saujana Bus Station is situated in the city centre on the dead-end street that links Jln Market with the Kuching Mosque. Three companies use the bus station, including City Public Link and the Sarawak Transport Company.

Travel with Children

Travelling with the kids in Malaysia is generally a breeze. For the most part, parents needn’t be overly concerned, but it pays to lay down a few ground rules – such as regular hand-washing – to head off potential problems. Children should especially be warned not to play with animals, as rabies occurs in Malaysia.

LGBT Travellers

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and the level of tolerance for homosexuality is vastly different from its neighbours. It’s illegal for men of any age to have sex with other men. In addition, the Islamic sharia laws (which apply only to Muslims) forbid sodomy and cross-dressing. Outright persecution of gays and lesbians is rare.

Nonetheless, LGBT+ travellers should avoid behaviour that attracts unwanted attention. Malaysians are conservative about all displays of public affection regardless of sexual orientation. Although same-sex hand-holding is fairly common for men and women, this is rarely an indication of sexuality; an overtly gay couple doing the same would attract attention, though there is little risk of vocal or aggressive homophobia.

There’s actually a fairly active LGBT+ scene in KL and a slightly more discreet one in George Town. Start looking for information on www.utopia-asia.com, which provides good coverage of LGBT+ events and activities across Asia.

What to do in Kuching

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The peacock of Malaysian cities, Melaka City preens with its wealth of colourful trishaws, home-grown galleries and crimson colonial buildings. The city’s historic centre achieved Unesco World Heritage status in 2008 and since then Melaka City’s tourism industry has developed at breakneck pace. Old shophouses and mansions have enjoyed makeovers as galleries and hotels and Melaka City’s kaleidoscope of architectural styles – spanning Peranakan, Portuguese, Dutch and British elements – is well preserved. Tourism has boomed, particularly on weekends when the vibrant Jonker Walk Night Market provides music, shopping and street-food galore, but you’ll share the experience elbow-to-elbow with other travellers.

Inevitably, a strong whiff of commercialism has accompanied this success. However, it's easy to feel the town's old magic (and get a seat at popular restaurants) on quiet weekdays. Melaka City, as it has for centuries, continues to exude tolerance and welcomes cultural exchange.

Sights

Historic Town Centre

Striking crimson-painted buildings and a multitude of museums dominate the historic centre. Many of the museums are small, with a niche focus and an uninspiring diorama format. Start with more developed attractions like Stadthuys and the Maritime Museum complex.

'Chinatown'

The so-called 'Chinatown' is Melaka City's most interesting area, though the name is a recent, colloquial invention. Jln Tun Tan Cheng Lock, formerly called Heeren St, was the preferred address for wealthy Peranakan (also known as Straits Chinese) traders. Jln Hang Jebat, formerly known as Jonker St, is dominated by souvenir shops and restaurants; every weekend it hosts the Jonker Walk Night Market. Jln Tokong, which changes name to Jln Tukang Emas and Jln Tukang Besi as you head from north to south, is home to several Chinese temples, a mosque and an Indian temple – the reason it is also known as Harmony St.

Kampung Chetti

As well as the Peranakan community, Melaka City also has a small contingent of Chetti – Straits-born Indians, offspring of the Indian traders who intermarried with Malay women. Arriving in the 1400s, the Chetties are regarded as older than the Chinese-Malay Peranakan community.

Their traditional village, Kampung Chetti, lies west of Jln Gajah Berang, about 1km northwest of Chinatown; look for the archway with elephant sculptures opposite where Jln Gajah Berang meets Jln Kampong Empat. The best time to visit this colourful neighbourhood is during Hindu festivals such as the Mariamman Festival (Pesta Datuk Charchar) in late April or early May.

Little India

East of Chinatown on the opposite side of the river is the surprisingly plain Little India. While it's not nearly as charming as the historic centre or Chinatown, this busy area along Jln Bendahara and Jln Temenggong is a worthwhile place to soak up some Indian sensations and grab a banana-leaf meal.

Sungai Melaka & Chinatown Street Art

Some efforts have been made by the Melaka authorities to create pleasant walkways alongside Sungai Melaka (Melaka River) between Chinatown and Kampung Morten. Along the route you'll pass many colourful and creative murals on building walls. Images include those of Melaka's founder Parameswara and Ming dynasty princess Hang Li Po. The alley leading to the river at the end of Jln Tukang Besi in Chinatown looks like a child's picture book come to life, while on the corner of Jln Hang Kasturi and Jln Kampung Pantai you'll find horses galloping up the street in the style of classical Chinese painting. For some real wildlife, look out for the huge monitor lizards seeking shade under the boardwalk!

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Sleeping

The accommodation scene here is ever-changing, with new places popping up as frequently as others wind down. The quality is the best it's been in years; as well as hotels and hostels across different price ranges, there's a good range of rental properties in characterful heritage buildings. Chinatown is the best area to be based in or near, although it can get busy and noisy, particularly at weekends. From hostels to top-end hotels, rates rise at weekends.

Eating

Peranakan cuisine is Melaka City's most famous type of cooking. It's also known as Nonya (or Nyonya), an affectionate term for a Peranakan wife (often the family chef). You'll also find Portuguese Eurasian food, Indian, Chinese and more. All budgets are catered for: cheap Chinese and Indian canteens abound, you can graze for a handful of ringgit at the night market, or spend a little more at exceptional Peranakan, Portuguese or Spanish restaurants. There's a good choice of vegetarian restaurants in town, so non-meat eaters are fully catered for.

Drinking & Nightlife

Unlike much of Malaysia, there is no shortage of spots to cool down with a beer in Melaka City. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Jonker Walk Night Market in Chinatown closes Jln Hang Jebat to traffic and the bars along the lane become a mini street party with live music and tables spilling beyond the sidewalks. Karaoke enthusiasts take over the stage at the apex of Jln Hang Jebat and Jln Tokong. For a riverside atmosphere and to escape the Hello Kitty rickshaws, head along the boardwalk (beneath which huge monitor lizards lurk) along the Melaka River from Hard Rock Cafe. There's a host of bars along here, looking out over the water.

Entertainment

Jonker Walk Night Market can be relied on to bring out buskers and wannabe karaoke pop idols. Live music can be enjoyed at Hard Rock Cafe, Me & Mrs Jones and Geographér Cafe. Movie fans can head to the Golden Screen Cinema multiplex at Dataran Pahlawan. For the full-on, big theatrical experience, check out Encore Melaka. To entertain kids at night, take them out for a spin in one of the colourful rickshaws that can be found at the centre of town.

Shopping

Chinatown’s shopping spans antiques and contemporary art through to elaborate Chinese papercuts, novelty flip-flops (thongs) and key-rings. Best buys include Peranakan beaded shoes and clogs, Southeast Asian and Indian clothing, Chinese cheongsam (qipao), handmade tiles and ink stamps, woodblock-printed T-shirts and jewellery. Many shops double as art-and-craft studios where you can glimpse a painter or silversmith busy at work.

Travel with Children

With its appealing range of museums, vibrant street life and compact layout that's suited for walking or cycling, Melaka City is a good destination to bring the kids. Rides in highly illuminated, music-blaring trishaws decorated with popular cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, Spiderman and Despicable Me Minions are always a hit with tots and kidults, while Jonker Walk Night Market is also very family friendly.

Many child-friendly activities are located just out of town at Ayer Keroh. Here you'll find a zoo and bird park, as well as activities such as gentle hikes and cycling amid the towering trees of Melaka Botanical Garden, the adrenaline-pumping adventure course of Skytrex Melaka and the fun water park Melaka Wonderland. There's another big water park further afield at the A'Famosa resort in Alor Gajah.

LGBT Travellers

Melaka City's LGBT scene flies under the radar, and there are no specific gay bars, hangouts or organisations in town.

What to do in Melaka City

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