Malacca’s mystery escapes us

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Lonely planet describes Malacca as ‘one of Malaysia’s most eagerly sought after destinations’. The city is a world heritage site, it has multiple direct buses from Singapore, major hotel chains, and an impressive online popularity. Why? We don’t entirely know. We’ve been here four days, and are still a bit surprised. We must be missing something. It’s a mystery.

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Our Sunday night arrival allowed us to catch the last night of the weekend night market. The city shuts down the streets in Chinatown and people come from seemingly everywhere to taste the street food, shop at the many carts, see the bicycle taxis lit up with flashing Christmas lights, and to hear karaoke music performed on the main stage. It was a great evening, and we were very happy to make it in time. But we felt there was still so much to see- a world heritage site is a big deal, isn’t it?

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In short, Malacca has suffered from a growth spurt gone awry. A succession of bad architecture that wraps around the historic center like a mismatched scarf. The efforts to capitalize off the heritage label- museums with fabricated recreations in diorama form- have all but stolen the very experience that made this place so famous to begin with. So it is with a bit of pain that we write this post, and leave this place that has charmed so many in our past.

Inspire of this, we still come away with some highlights of our time here. We will remember Malacca for possibly the best guesthouses experience to date- a comfortable home atop a line of restaurants, with a warm family and plenty of space. And for the monitor lizard crossing the street on our walk home from the waterfront. There is still some charm left in this place, and we were lucky to find it, albeit in a an entirely different way than we thought.

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