Posts Tagged With: Melaka

Cheng Ho Hotel, Melaka: I Like This Place

Stay or Not Stay: Stay!

Not to be confused with Cheng Hoe Hotel a few steps down in Jalan Tungkul Emas, this little hotel is near the Kampung Kling Mosque.  After spending a night at the overprice and certainly not good value Chong Hoe Hotel, I trooped to this place which had a sign at its front door that announced rooms at RM35.  There was no one in the reception area so I went to the back where a woman was taking some laundry out.

Someone had just a vacated a room earlier and I was invited to check it out.  I went up the wooden steps to the second floor and the nice lady opened the spacious room. There was a large bed across which was a table with an old television set.  On the corner near the window (yup! even if they just opened to the airy reading area, there were still windows) was a small sink with towel hooks on the wall.  Without hesitation, I left my backpack, locked the room, and promptly paid.

The hotel is small but clean.  During my 2d/1n stay there, I only came across 1-2 other tourists but I did hear some Japanese girls talking down the corridor.  It was mostly quiet and there was no one at the common areas on both the ground and second floors.  The common toilet and shower was just a few steps  from my room.

The reading area at the second floor

A small sign at the front read, “Go to the back for inquiries” as there was never anyone there at the reception.  It was great that I was given a key to the front door so I need not knock and bother anyone to open-up in case I stayed beyond midnight.

The forever empty reception

There was a conscious effort to keep the place clean and pretty and people seemed to like it as evidenced by tacked notes on the bulletin board by the staircase commending bother place and staff.  The table also held some tourist brochures and other types of publication. Most helpful was a booklet on Melaka’s famous cuisine including the recommended places to eat the specialties.

I would stay here again.

What I Like:

  • Spacious room with its own sink
  • Airy courtyard
  • Friendly staff
  • Clean facilities
  • Very good location
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Not Worth Your Money: Chong Hoe Hotel, Melaka

Stay or Not Stay: Not Stay!

I was supposed to stay two nights at my friend’s unused condo just outside the city but it seemed so empty as it hasn’t even been furnished yet.  There were just a few mattresses. It would have saved me a some ringgit but I was afraid of the emptiness and feared I wouldn’t be getting any sleep at all. I had joked about ghosts earlier but my friend said I shouldn’t talk about stupid things.  I couldn’t shake-off the feeling in spite of the assurance that others had stayed there before. Knowing that the last one was almost a year ago seemed to magnify its un-lived and abandoned  state.  I quickly packed my stuff and convinced my friend to go back to Chinatown. It was nearing midnight so we sped back to look for a place to sleep.

While walking earlier in the evening, I had seen a row of small hotels at Jalan Tukang Emas in Chinatown.  “Vacant Rooms” a small sign read at the front window.  At more than RM100 it was waaaayy beyond my budget.  They better have really nice rooms a dna good breakfast as it was too steep and the hotel from the outside nor from the lobby didn’t seem much.  The Chong Hoe which  had a sign at the door that announced rooms at RM 35 but it was dark and closed.  I knocked a couple of times but nobody was answering.  The only one open was the Chong Hoe which seemed it was about to lock shop too.

Yes, there was a room available at RM60 (RM55 on weekdays) but I had to decide now as she was about to look up, the Indian women who was about 50-plus years old informed me.  Apparently, hotels in Melaka, at least in Chinatown I think, close at midnight. You would have to inform them if you’re staying beyond that so they can wait for you. It was a choice between a sleepless fearful night or a restful one.  The price was really steep and for a moment I was tempted to just go back to the condo.  The dorm  (Rm 15/bed) was full.  I gulped, brought out my wallet, and paid for the room.  Maybe I was trying to justify my actions but while filling-up the registration form, I told her the story of how afraid I was sleeping in the condo, that there might be ghosts, blah blah blah.

About a half an hour after I had settled in my room, I heard her say to someone in her sing-song Indian accent, “You have to decide if you will take it now because I am closing already.”  Perhaps she was up a little late knowing that somewhere out there, while all the other hotels and guesthouses in Chinatown have long locked-up for the night, a weary traveler would be in search for a room at the inn. Her spiel quickly makes you take the first room offered you.

I was shown to a really really small room with a large bed and a small table.  It was clean but it smelled kinda dank.  The a/c was strong and cold though. My RM 40 room at the Transit Point in KL was so much better.  Down the hallway was the common bathrooms and a row of sinks.  There didn’t seem to be a lot of people staying which was understandable as it was definitely not good value considering the options available around town.  Unfortunately, at midnight, there was no other option available to me.

I was given a breakfast voucher to be redeemed at the Chong Hoe Cafe in the next street.  Breakfast was served from 9am until 6pm! I think that was the only good thing about it.  Entrance to the Admiral Cheng Hoe Museum was at ten percent off the RM20 regular price.  There are a couple of computers at the lobby but you had to pay to use it.

The next morning, I packed my stuff, checked out and promptly checked in at Chong Ho a few steps down which was open and had a vacant room for RM 35.

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Rice Balls at Restaurant Famosa

Eat or Not Eat: EAT!

I’ve been to Melaka twice and both times I have  failed to get in.  I have not heard of Restaurant Famosa along Jonker Street but the long lines, strategic corner location, and tantalizing picture menus out front somehow meant that it was one of the best places to eat in Melaka. In a place famous for its cuisine, being one of the IT places to eat means something really good is cooking inside.

If salt had a flavor other than salty this would be it. Flavorful saltiness, perhaps?

On my third trip to last January I was determined to finally eat here and this time I had a winning chance.  Staying in Melaka for three days which meant being able to beat the lunchtime crowd.  Fortunately, Restaurant Famosa opens at 9:3o in the morning.  At 10:30, there was hardly anyone there but the two people in the roast counter were busy packing roast duck meals in styoropore lunch kits. The middle-aged guy in a white boat-hat and apron was busy carving-up the duck while the other packed it with a large cup of steamed fragrant rice.  There must have been about a hundred orders as rows and rows of neatly packed lunch kits placed in large plastic bags lined the tables behind them.

I’m not a fan of chicken rice as the white chicken flesh makes it look so raw.  I settled for the roast pork with 5 pcs of their famous rice balls and a bowl of fish ball soup.

While waiting and since there weren’t much people, I went on a mini tour of the spacious restaurant which was a converted shophouse.  Marble-topped tables and chairs were neatly placed in the common area while an enclosed space with carved windows was reserved for private dining.  At the far corner near the restroom was a row of Chinese royal costumes for rent for a photo-op at a made-up imperial throne and background.

I liked thesquare marble-top tables with wooden legs. They look like the ones in traditional Chinese tea houses.

I should have stayed here so people wouldn't see how much food I was eating.

It didn’t long for my food to arrive.  The rice balls weren’t just any ordinary steamed rice formed into compact balls.  The rice was a little sticky and very fragrant and tasty.  It perfectly complemented the roast pork.

The pork was sliced thinly and had really crispy skin I  could feel it crackling between my teeth while I relished the tender pork meat. It had a salty bite to it that was very flavorsome. If salt had a taste other than salty, that would have been it.  I had yet to finish my entire serving and yet I was already making plans of coming back the next day for more while all the while contemplating of having an additional order of  barbecued pork.

It was too late when I realized the fish balls in the soup were just the ordinary fish balls  and not something more exciting.  The soup was good anyway and came in steaming hot in a large white bowl.  I should have taken the suggestion of the order-taker to try the wanton soup.  The picture of the fish balls made me think it was something akin to a wanton.

My favorite topping is the green one.

And in Melaka, what perfect way to end a meal than with a bowl of cold cendol.  Unlike the watered-down version available in some stalls, this one was quite thick with coconut cream and was heaping with condiments.

I had a really really good meal and thoroughly enjoyed it so much that I went on my last morning in Melaka for brunch before heading to the bus station for the trip back to KL.  Never mind that I’ve already had a Nonya rice dumpling and a popiah at Poh Piah Lwee. I just had to tuck into my taste memory the flavorful saltiness of the roast pork, the fragrance of the rice ball, and discover the barbecued pork.

I went to the much smaller restaurant just beside the larger one.  It was almost 11 so there were more people.  A group of women who seemed to have come from Singapore occupied the next table. While a Malaysian Chinese couple sat across me. I threw all embarrassment to the wind and ordered a plate of roast pork and a plate of barbecued pork. Halfway through the meal, I ordered an additional two rice balls as I was about to finish the five I had ordered. Of course, a cendol ended the meal.

Burp!

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Melaka

From Putrajaya’s gleamingly-new architecture, it was time to head to tiny Melaka for something much much older.  I managed to get some shut-eye on the two hour drive.  We left Putrajaya around 10 after dropping-off Geoff at the immigration office so there was a bit of traffic at the highway already.  Past the Melaka Zoo, Tony asked me where we were headed.  I had assumed he knew the way to Melaka City, the capital of Melaka State (confused?).  Turns out it was his first-time!  Fortunately, he found his way around and soon we were driving past familiar sites.

Thankfully, the crowd jostling for space in the narrow streets of Chinatown wasn’t as large as I remember when I first visited in December a couple of years ago.  It was a  Saturday, but we managed to find parking near the A’ Famosa which seemed to have undergone a facelift plus the addition of walls.

It was noon and the  sun was unbearably hot as we walked down Jl Tan Cheng Lock in search of the Lonely Planet-recommended Restoran Peranakan.   The three girls seemed about ready to faint from both heat and hunger.  Yna was pointing out restaurants but I egged them to move further on.  Near the end of the street we finally sighted it and entered its gorgeous lobby of tiled floors and ornate furniture.

Melaka is one of two places in Malaysia (the other being Penang) that is home to the Straits-born Chinese called the Peranakan. They are descendants of the inter-marriage of the Chinese and Malay with their own interesting culture resulting from this blend.  The men are called “baba” and the women “nonya.”  I’ve never tried Peranakan food in Melaka before as due to the huge crowds cramming the restaurants the last time I was there, I had to settle for Chinese food instead.  This trip, I promised myself that no matter what, I am having my Peranakan food fix.

The huge place was a cool respite from the heat.  A former residence, the restaurant was charming with its period furniture and gorgeous interiors.  Less charming were the staff who seemed not too delighted to be taking our orders despite not having many people around.

The food didn’t take too long in coming which was good as we were really famished.  It was delicious to say the least. I particularly liked the chicken with its dark and flavorful sauce like a tastier version of the Pinoy adobo.  Never mind that it was a little oily.  I just had to scoop some of its sauce and pour it on my steamed rice.  Eaten with kangkong belacang, it was perfect!

Dessert was of course, cendol and ais kacang Cendol is a cold sweet soup of coconut milk with some colorful tidbits made from rice flour and flavored with gula melaka, that ubiquitous palm sugar.  Ais kacang has more ingredients like beans and has shaved ice.  I can’t really decide which I like more.

The downside to Restoran Peranakan is that the men’s comfort room which is located at a pretty sunlit courtyard does not have a toilet!  Since I needed to sh*#@t, I had to ask one of the staff if I could use one of two toilets in the female restroom. Fortunately, each toilet had its own door and was accessed separately from each other.

Stomach full and happy, we headed to Jonker St to browse at its many shops.  I snagged a small colorful lute from Sarawak at one of the many curio shops.  It was a steal at RM60!

Melaka’s good eats extend beyond meals to baked goodies, with its famous buttery pineapple tarts.    A box of fresh from the oven tarts were at RM20.   Yna couldn’t resist opening her box and sampling her tarts.  I was saving my two boxes for a Melaka pineapple tart moment when I get back home to Manila.

At the same shop was a counter with the brand Taste Better selling freshly-made cream puffs with durian filling.  Very creamy and very durian.  Yummy!  Unfortunately, taking home some puffs for pasalubong were out of the question as they wouldn’t last without refrigeration.

Melakka soda. My favorite is the one on the extreme right-- ais kreme!

It was bad timing visiting Baba Nonya Heritage House as aside from the throngs of tourists visiting this popular site, there was school trip.  We waded through the crowd of school children and into the small lobby where we were greeted by  a perspiring  harried lady prettily dressed in pink nonya wear.  We opted out of a tour and decided to just go around on our own as the house was  filling-up with people quickly and we didn’t have the time to wait for other people for the guided tour to commence.

It was my second time to visit and the furniture, especially the beds, still fascinate me with their rich ornamentation. Items are all neatly labeled and contain a wealth of information.  I learned for example that the blue and white chinaware were used for rituals and altar while the fancier more garish-colored ones (which were my favorite) were used on special occasions.   The huge kitchen at the back of the house with its antique refrigerator and stove and cooking vessels were really interesting especially for someone like me who loves to cook and eat.

From Chinatown, we headed to the main street to pretty in red-pink Christ Church and the fountain inscribed with Victoria Regina.  Up the Stadthuys and on to the ruins of St. Paul Church where a pictorial of a couple of models, one of whom was made-up to look like a vampire in a white gown, was taking place.  As always, the place was full of people and vendors.

I think, Melaka is best enjoyed on a weekday when there are no crowds.  Better yet is to  stay for a night so you can savor its charm slowly and even take a sunset cruise at the river.

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