Melaka has the layout typical of a maritime coastal city that grew from a humble river, a good harbour and large volumes of cargo and travelers passing through its port. As the centuries passed, layers of development grew around the aged and enthralling core. Thus, the gems of historical Melaka, by and large, have come to lie within a mile's radius of the town square, while latter-day additions (such as leisure and entertainment parks, golf courses and shopping malls) are located farther away.
Bandar Hilir (Melaka Town)
History is the soul of Melaka and the portal to its timeless, exotic beauty. The Town Square is easy to find, but just in case the taxi driver does not know where it is, try asking for Dutch Square, the Tan Kim Seng Clock Tower, Queen Victoria's Fountain or the Stadthuys – because all are within eye shot of each other. Even harder to miss is the gradient of colours-all a similar tint of red – which makes the whole scene look like an unfinished oil painting. Close by, the revitalised European architecture of Christ Church and the Malaysia Youth Museum cry for attention through tactical use of fresh colour. Together they form an unwitting homage to the pomp of ancient empires.
The ruins of St Paul's Church lie up a flight o f stairs behind the Stadthuys. St Francis Xavier was ennobled and enshrined here, while the Dutch made it a graveyard for their compatriots. Today, saints, martyrs, and St Francis Xavier's Statue all share boundless views from the top of St Paul's Hill, gazing out across the Straits of Melaka.
At the foot of the hill, the famed A'Famosa fortress lingers as a reminder of its former greatness, while, next door, Melaka's Sultanate Palace resurrects through wooden replicas and neon halos the glory and splendour of the ancient Malay kingdom. The nightly staging of the Light and Sound spectacle is both great entertainment and an excellent insight into local history and culture. Conversely, the Maritime Museum across the road adds a European slant to Melaka's history by showcasing an early Portuguese sailing ship.
Along both banks of the Melaka River, small, handmade huts on stilts can be seen as an example of a traditional fishing village. The area and its livelihoods seem untouched since the 15th century. For views of the famous delta, head for the Iguana Riverfront, Restoran Mahligai, or No. 2 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, where a cold beer complements a day of sightseeing perfectly.
Old Town & Bukit Cina
A busy bridge back in the town square ushers visitors into the old city centre of Melaka. The streets where the Dutch rulers once lived have been renamed to honour a Malay hero (Jalan Hang Jebat) and a Baba capitalist (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock). The old town has some of the best preserved relics of Straits architecture, such as the Hotel Puri, the Baba House, the Coconut House Studio, Hokkien Huay Kuan, Eng Yong Tong and the grand dame, Baba and Nonya Heritage Museum.
From a religious viewpoint, the city has much to offer. Just take your pick from the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampong Kling Mosque and the Melaka Sikh Temple. Melaka's many faiths provide a big attraction for tourists who want to experience this unique diversity for themselves.
The peaks of Bukit Cina offer breathtaking views of Melaka's geography. Thankfully these sacred grounds have been preserved over the years and make a splendid venue for jogging, mountain bike riding, or quiet reflection. Ming-style resting places, which showcase the intricacy of Chinese grave design and ornamentation, are found along the crests of the rolling hills. Or perhaps you want to toss a coin and make a wish at Hang Li Poh's Well at the foot of the hill, or head for the sacred effigy of Admiral Zheng He waiting next door in the Sam Poh Kong Temple. Seeing all of these places is possible within a relatively small area.
Taman Melaka Raya
Within walking distance of the sprawling Mahkota Parade Shopping Mall, shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities service a swelling local and tourist market of modern tastes. Anchored by the heavyweight Hotel Seri Costa and the colourful Hotel Portugis, there are rows upon rows of restaurants. Try, for example, the Ole Sayang Restaurant or Lagoon Seafood Restaurant. You will also find speciality shops, such as the Chan Organic Centre. Pubs and discos include Ginza Karaoke, the Chelsea Pub and Sparks.
45 minutes by car from the Town Square, in the direction of the North-South Highway, green is the theme and variety the creed. You can soothe your overworked nerves and enjoy wholesome entertainment courtesy of Mother Nature. Check out such family attractions as the Recreational Forest, Butterfly Farm, Crocodile Farm, Melaka Zoo, Mini Malaysia, Mini ASEAN, Aborigines Museum and Ayer Keroh Lake.
Lying within the Keroh woodlands and lakes, on the grounds of the Melaka Sultanate, is a variety of excellent golf courses. Tee off at the Tiara Melaka Golf and Country Club, the Orna Golf and Country Club, or the Golden Valley Golf & Country Club. Once strictly an imperial taste, golf in Melaka has now become widespread and widely loved.