6 November 2009
Located somewhere in the middle of the orderly chaos that is Jonker Walk is Number Twenty, a mid-range guesthouse that puts much emphasis on the words comfort and style.
This place is a renovated 17th century Dutch mansion that was modified in such a way in order to accommodate as much as 20 guests in either of their double or twin room. All of which comes fully air-conditioned and decorated in a neat minimalist style.
Number Twenty is situated within a short walking distance from the old historic Chinese quarters. The historical sights painted in red is just a mere stone throw away, all you have to do is to just cross the bridge. Food is not a problem as there are numerous bars and restaurants within a few minutes away from the hostel doorstep.
Despite being located in a very busy location, this guesthouse still managed to make itself a relaxing place by means of the spacious lounge that is located in the 2nd floor of the building. A large floor to ceiling balcony windows opens out to Jonker Walk. I particularly like the very inviting sofa in which you are free to lie down and choose from the following choices: (a) watch TV in their plasma screen, (b) read a book from their travel library, or (c) surf the net by utilizing the in-house WiFi.
I have stayed here previously for a night in 2008; it was still brand new then and very clean. A few weeks ago, I was able to visit this place again and I was very surprise that the place is as beautiful and as clean as it was a year ago. Unfortunately though we were not able to get a room then, as they were fully booked during the Deepavali holiday weekend.
The only thing lacking here is a private toilet for the rooms. Yep, all guests will have to share a common toilet. They make up for it though by cleaning it every now and then just to ensure that it is very clean.
The rate per night for this hostel is pegged at 95 MYR per night (105 MYR for Fridays and Saturdays); I would say that it is not too bad at all considering all the facilities you enjoy. Apart from this, they thrown in a complimentary continental breakfast for two.
After having said everything, I do strongly recommend Number Twenty Hostel. Stay here if you want to have a comfortable home away from home in Malacca. Do not forget to book in advance as room supply is quite limited which makes a successful walk-in on a weekend technically impossible.
Number Twenty Guesthouse
20 Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Walk)
Malacca, Malaysia 75200
Tele: +60 62 819761
Fax: +60 62 819761
Mobile : Mr.Zul +60 172137972
5 November 2009
It was almost seven when we got back to the main part of town. We headed once more to Jonker Walk to witness the night market.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening between 6PM until midnight, the street is closed and is transformed into this lively bazaar. Traders would line up along the street and set-up stalls to sell and display products of all sorts, ranging from antique copper coins to wooden clogs. Oh yeah, there are all sorts of food being peddled there as well. We did manage to taste some of the food being sold in the sidewalk.
Apart from the business activities, there are some of Chinese clans that organize activities in their respective buildings for visitors. As in the time we were there, there was a dance class being conducted in one of the clan houses. There was also a stage set-up for local talents to showcase their respective ability in front of tourist and locals alike.
The human traffic was getting more and more congested in Jonker Walk so we decided to make our exit. There were some firecrackers being lighted up on the streets courtesy of the Indians who were celebrating Deepavali, a rare sight, as small firecrackers are illegal in Singapore.
On our way to our hostel, we managed to pass by again this establishment called Capitol Satay. Earlier in the afternoon, this establishment had caught my eye, as there was a really long queue just outside the open-air restaurant. Living for the past one year in Singapore made me remember the saying that “if the queue is long, then it must be really good”. I later learned that this establishment is a very famous in the region for the satay celup (the Melaka adaptation of satay steamboat) they serve. As we were still a bit hungry during that time, we didn’t hesitate to try out the place.
The wait was long, definitely much longer than what I endured when I tried eating Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and IKEA Meatballs. I was getting a bit impatient but I could not bear leaving the line when we were already waiting for a good 20 minutes.
Finally, after around half an hour of waiting, we were finally ushered into a table. I was at first disappointed with what I saw because it was very dirty inside the restaurant. The floor was somehow wet and dirty with lots of used tissue papers scattered around. People who were done eating were smoking, added to the fact that it was hot and noisy inside. Needless to say, I try not to let it bother me.
In all fairness to Capitol Satay though, I have really noticed in my travels that in Malaysia (as well as Indonesia and Vietnam), food hygiene is not so much a big deal as compared to Singapore or probably even the Philippines.
Inside, there were several steel circular tables packed in the open fronted restaurant. Each of these tables has a hole in the middle where a pot of gravy base is heated above a flaming gas ring. A waiter came along and started mixing some spices to add flavor to the gravy.
There was an open-fronted chill cabinet in one side of the restaurant. This was packed with practically everything that can be placed in a skewer – prawns, squid, fish balls, and some other edible stuff. Apart from these, there are vegetables as well for the vegetarians.
After picking out the items that fancied our stomach, we went back to our table to start cooking the skewers in the bucket – it was usually a minute for the pre-cooked stuff (sausages and fish balls) while it was at least 3 minutes for the larger uncooked stuff. Every 10 minutes or so, the waitress would pop in our table to stir the gravy. This was probably done in order to prevent the gravy from burning.
At the end of our meal, we asked the waitress for our bill. Another girl came into our table with a worn out calculator to see how much we owe for the food. What she did was basically multiplying the number of empty skewer by the price per piece (which was around 70 cents).
Upon paying, we slowly heading back to our hotel very full and satisfied. Despite the long wait and the not so clean condition of the place, we were happy with our decision to try this one out. Apart from the historical sights in Malacca and Jonker Walk, I would say that experiencing Capital Satay should be included in any itinerary if ever you would suddenly find yourself in Malacca.
Capitol Satay Celup Restaurant
41 Lorong Bukit Cina,
Tel: +60-6-2835508, +60-12-2295505
Operating hours: Daily from 5:00 pm (Closed on Monday)
25 October 2009
It was pretty much a very smooth bus ride to Malacca. It was so smooth that I was able to sleep for the whole duration of the two-hour trip. When I woke up at quarter past two in the afternoon, the bus was already parking in its assigned platform in Melaka Sentral.
First agenda upon disembarking was to get return tickets back to Singapore for the following day. Initially we were looking for a bus that will take us directly back to Singapore, however most of the tickets were either sold out or the only available seats are the morning trips. Definitely, we don’t want to take an early morning trip back to Singapore as we’ve done it last year and we almost missed the ride. In the end, we settled for a bus back to Johor Bahru that leaves Malacca at 4PM the following day.
It was a very hot afternoon when we arrived; we decided to take an air conditioned taxi to the central part of town instead of the cheaper bus ride. The fare to our destination costs 12 MYR; not your good taxi with very cold aircon but it is better than sweating it out in the heat.
Traffic was horrible that afternoon; the driver explained that it was because of the Deepavali holiday. I would surmise though that given that Malacca is a very popular end of week destination from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore plus the narrow one-way streets, it would really be jam-packed with cars during the weekends.
Malacca is a vibrant old city that is very much wealthy in terms of history. The rich historical background of this lovely place earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation together with Penang in July 2008. Some would say that this designation really helped increase the tourist influx.
The taxi driver dropped us off around 15 minutes later in Jonker Walk, the short stretch in the heart of the city that is home to many stores selling all kinds of stuffs mostly to tourists. It was chaotic when we arrived there; the sidewalk of the narrow street was filled with people while the street itself was filled with cars.
As this was an impulse trip to Malacca, we wasted no time in finding our accommodation for that night. We inquired first in Twenty Hostel as it was just along Jonker Walk; as we have stayed here last year, we know that this is a very good place to spend the night. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies (as I initially expected). Hopping on from one accommodation to another to inquire, the place was just either full or was just not to our liking.
Half an hour later, we decided to check the other side of town to check on some more hostels. Along the way, we passed by the Heritage Area. It is very distinct because of the bright brick red color; I just learned that several years back, the government decided to paint the area with such color as the constant spitting by passers-by was proving a nuisance to aesthetic value of the historical attractions.
We managed to get a decent accommodation a few hundred meters away from the Heritage Area. A small affordable room with aircon and private toilet pretty much was enough for us; quite affordable as well at 70 MYR but definitely there are much better accommodation elsewhere. As it was still very hot outside, I took a nap for an hour.
The temperature outside was already bearable when we went out. We took a quick stroll and found ourselves in the foot of Bukit China. Poh San Teng Temple was built at the foot of the hill in 1795 as a graveyard temple. The well of Hang Li Po stood beside the temple; it was built in the 14th century and has served throughout the early years as a main source of water in the area.
We made our way up Bukit China; a hill that was used as a graveyard by the early Chinese settlers in Malacca. It was said that it was the biggest Chinese cemetery outside China and has several graves dating back to the Ming dynasty. Today though, it serves as a jogging track for the locals. The hill also offers an excellent view of the city.
As it was already sunset when we reached the top of Bukit China, we slowly made out way down not long afterwards. Definitely no one would want to get caught in the dark in a cemetery.
To be continued…
19 October 2009
I woke up at five in the morning last Saturday; hurriedly packing my backpack for a quick weekend getaway out of Singapore. The destination was Tioman Island in Malaysia.
It has already been a while when I started dreaming of spending a weekend under the sun in this island. It was just this time that we decided to give it a go. Armed with my backpack and a 200 SGD budget for two persons, we headed out of my apartment at around 6:30 AM; it was still a bit dark then.
We boarded one of the earliest trips out of the Orchard MRT station; inclusive of walking and the waiting time, it took us approximately an hour to reach the Kranji MRT Station. From there, we waited a bit for the SBS Bus # 170 to take us from there to the Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
The SBS Bus # 170 is the cheapest way to get to Malaysia from Singapore. The ride from the Kranji Station will drop us to the Woodlands Checkpoint to clear past Singapore immigration. Bad news early on as there was a very heavy traffic going to the immigration building in Woodlands; it was so bad that it took us more than 40 minutes for a ride that would normally takes less than 5 minutes.
Inside the Woodlands Checkpoint was not good either as it took us more than 15 minutes to clear past the supposedly ultra efficient Singapore immigration.
We boarded the next SBS Bus # 170 that was available and from there we headed out of Singapore Island via the Johor-Singapore Causeway, the next stop being the Sultan Iskandar Complex. Another traffic jam clogged the Causeway, which took us at least 30 minutes to reach the Malaysian side of immigration.
The Sultan Iskandar Immigration Complex is very clean and very huge; I was in fact more impressed by it than the checkpoint in Singapore. I was bummed out however by the sea of people who were there to clear past immigration as well. Picture taking is prohibited in most immigration facilities in the places I’ve been to however I managed to snap the below image during the 20 minutes I waited.
Another SBS Bus # 170 waited for us upon clearing past Malaysian Immigration, thankfully the traffic was no longer that heavy on our way to the Larkin Bus Terminal, The ride took less than 10 minutes. It was 9:45 AM when we finally reached our destination albeit more than two hours late.
Wasting no time, we started looking for the bus to Mersing. The next trip is not going to leave until 11:30 AM, from there it will be more than a 2 hour ride before we reach the jetty port in Mersing. It would take at least another half hour waiting time for the ferry to Tioman plus another two hours for the ferry ride, we expect to reach our destination at 4 PM the earliest. It was here that we decided to cancel out our trip to Tioman Island as time simply was not enough for us to enjoy and relax considering that we need to be back the following day.
Definitely we do not want to go back to Singapore; it was then I suggested on visiting again Malacca, a place where I have been to twice already in the past. Since the next bus leaves at 11 AM, I wasted no time and got us tickets. Much to my surprise, I was very glad to find out that the tickets here cost way cheaper than in Singapore. The ticket cost us just 19 MYR (roughly 8 SGD) versus the Singapore – Malacca bus that would cost around 25 SGD on the average. True that it was not that convenient as compared to getting a direct trip from Singapore but if you were on a tight budget, it would make sense to take this route.
The bus arrived on time and we were already onboard ten minutes before departure. Although we postponed our trip to Tioman Island indefinitely, I was more than happy to visit Malacca again than go back to Singapore…
2 August 2009
A good 7 months ago, my itchy feet have brought me to this beautiful place in Malaysia called Cameron Highlands. This happened just exactly a week into 2009, so this makes it practically my very first travel for the year.
Cameron Highlands is the smallest district in the Malaysian state of Pahang. The place is located in the northernmost tip of the state and is considered as one of the wonders of Malaysia.
The trip started at the Golden Mile Complex somewhere along Beach Road here in Singapore. This is usually where most buses going to Malaysia departs. Since the bus leaves at 10 PM, I just took a leave from work that Friday. I left the apartment at around 8:30 PM and half an hour later we had our boarding pass with an hour to spare before departure time. I figured we could use that time to get ourselves something to eat since I did not have dinner that night; unfortunately all the surrounding eateries were already closed for the day. No choice but to get artificial food (i.e. convenience store food).
The bus of 5 Star Travel was more than I expected. It was a double decker bus that was only half-filled and it has a huge seat that can recline to almost flat. It really looked like it was a business class seat of an airplane. There was also individual video screen, which plays various movies; the entertainment was not SQ quality, but it should suffice. Around 2 hours after we cleared past immigration of both Singapore and Malaysia, I was already in slumber land.
It was around 7:30 in the morning when we reached our destination, Brinchang. This is one of the 8 towns in Cameron Highlands. It was very cold that morning when we stepped out of the bus and it was only then that I realized that I did not bring any long pants at all. Cold and hungry, we immediately went around to look for a place to get a hot meal and a hot cup of coffee as it was uncomfortably cold that morning (I was told later on that it was one of the coldest morning they had in recent weeks with a temperature of 12 degrees centigrade).
After a simple yet filling breakfast of hot noodles coupled with hot coffee, we immediately bought ourselves a half-day guided tour around Cameron Highlands. The temperature was already bearable so we walked around for a few minutes, nothing much to see though as the shops were still closed.
The tour started at around 9 AM, we were first brought to one of the many tea plantations in the area; it was a marvelous sight, just as it was when I first saw it in the photos several years ago. As far as your eyes can see, it was all green. Our Indian guide, Kumar, gave us a detailed lecture of how the tea plantation came into existence as well as the various processes on how tea is made.
The next stop was Gunung Brinchang; at 2,032 meters high, it is the 2nd tallest peak in Cameron Highlands. There is a tower on top, which allows people to climb up and have a glimpse the area from a bird’s eye perspective. Adventurous as we are, we climbed all the way up. It was a pleasant sight and the air was very fresh. We climbed down after a few snaps from the camera.
The mossy forest was the next destination, aptly called as such because of the tremendous amount of moss and lichen enveloping the entire area. Another tour guide gave us a short lecture about the mossy forest and led us into a brief but educational hike. The grounds beneath your feet do not feel hard when traverse the mossy forest rather it feels as if you are walking in hard foam similar to those found in children’s playground.
The last stop for the tour was the Sungei Palas Visitor Center of Boh Tea. There was another guided tour where you can really observe as to how the tea leaves are actually processed. As with every good tour, it always ends in a souvenir shop. We bought bags of tea, lots of them for friends and family. There was also a café where one can order hot drinks and dessert. The view from the café was great as it was overlooking the tea plantation, truly a great place to hang-out.
We asked to be dropped off in a nearby town called Tanah Rata as this the place that we wanted to stay for the night. Immediately we started to look for an accommodation; luckily we immediately found a room with private toilet in a hostel called Twin Pines.
The rest of the day was spent hiking around town and in nearby forest trails, we did not head out very far as we were not in proper hiking gears then. A brief stop in a Starbucks outlet and instantly, a collection was started. I bought 2 sets of mini city mugs, which was on sale at that time. Finally we went into the tourism office and bought ourselves a tour to watch the sunrise, pick-up time for this activity was 4:30 in the morning.
On that night, we had a hearty meal at T Café. A cup of hot coffee was also ordered to warm us in that chilly January night. We had the opportunity that night to meet the owner Therese, such a warm and friendly woman. After paying, we headed back into our hostel and called it an early night.
A few hours later, the alarm went off and we got up to prepare ourselves for the sunrise tour. We took our bags with us as the bus that will take us back to Singapore will leave at 9 AM.
We headed up into the mountains and with a cup of hot drinks in our hands, we tried to position ourselves comfortably while waiting for the sun to come up. It turned out that the sun was uncooperative that morning, sadly we were not able to witness a good sunrise. All was not lost though, on our way down we were able to witness fogs rolling down the tea plantation; such a awesome sight.
This trip ended at exactly 9 AM that particular Sunday, 1 full day is definitely not enough to enjoy all that Cameron Highland has to offer but it was all we have to spare at that time. I will definitely be back, hopefully at around the same time in 2010.