On my four-month world trip I did very little solo travel. Which frankly was fine- after two months of traveling solo in Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, I was burnt out on being alone.
So I felt torn when my travel buddy, Dylan, wanted to go to Singapore when I was dead-set on Melaka. I was concerned about both traveling alone and traveling alone as a woman in a Muslim country.
But despite my doubts I booked my bus trip to Melaka and vowed to meet up with Dylan in Hanoi.
It turned out my worries were for nothing- traveling solo to Melaka worked out perfectly and I came to adore the historic and food-obsessed city. Melaka was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British- how could I not find it interesting?
Here's a little recap on the my favorite experiences in Melaka.
Eating Everything the Jonker Walk Night Market
In typical backpacker style I spent my first day in Melaka combing the streets in search of a hostel with a thirty-pound backpack. Always a good time.
So by the time I'd found a room, I was ravenous- hence why I ate all of the following at the Melaka Night Market.
The best thing I ate was this little barbecue pork bun. So tiny but so tasty.
I'd highly recommend visiting the Melaka night market- I loved not only the food but also the bustling energy and ample photo opportunities.
Strolling the Magical Riverfront
The riverfront in Melaka was oh-so-romantic, dotted with old-fashioned street lamps and shuttered, red-roofed buildings.
While romantic riverfronts are uh, less enticing when you're on your own, I still enjoyed snapping photos at sunset and savoring the cool river breeze, always a welcome feeling in crazy-humid Malaysia.
Meeting a Local Girl and All Her Friends
As you guys may have noticed, what interests me most about travel is local culture, something that can be hard to experience in Southeast Asia. So I was thrilled when Grace, a Melaka-native, reached out to me via Instagram and offered to meet me for coffee.
At coffee we clicked instantly, and soon I met all of her sweet and welcoming friends. Why can't that happen in every city that you visit solo?
Trying Satay Celup for the First Time
On my second day in Melaka I told my host that I wanted to try satay celup, and suggested we go to Capitol Satay, a local satay joint I had read about.
“Uh no, that's just for tourists. No one from Melaka goes there.”
So instead we headed to Ban Li Xiang, a restaurant on the outskirts of town. Ban Li Xiang, 万里香, which apparently translates to, “food so good you can smell it a thousand miles away.”
Here are the steps of eating satay celup, the perfect food for all of my fellow peanut sauce addicts:
1. Walk over to refrigerator filled with various foods on a stick: quail eggs, eggs, liver, prawns, beef, chicken, etc.
2. Wait for the large vat of peanut sauce in the middle of your table to heat up.
3. Plop sticks into the peanut sauce, and wait for them to fully cook.
4. Devour sticks, dripping in peanut sauce.
5. Have waiter come over and count the sticks, and pay based on how many sticks you ate.
Having Indian Brunch
One morning the girls insisted we go out for Indian brunch. While I had just spend six weeks in India and even the idea of dahl made me feel nauseated, I reluctantly agreed.
But I'm glad I did- this brunch was bomb.
I loved the food- both the chai and roti prata were on point.
Like the satay celup restaurant this brunch-place at Limonbongan cafeteria was on the outskirts of Melaka, as all the good food spots are. Hard-core foodies- definitely rent a car when in Melaka!
Worshipping a Buddhist Temple
While I'm not religious, worshipping a Chinese Buddhist temple was fascinating. The girls taught me how to pray there step-by-step, something I never would've known on my own.
First you touch the balls inside the dragon's mouth for good luck.
Then you take a container filled with sticks and shake them a bit, and pull out the longest one. Each stick coordinates to a fortune which you then look up in a book.
My fortune was the questionably translated fortune below:
Business just kept to what it is to be, not to go too far
Work harder for your merit and future undertaking
Be sincere in your household affairs
Marriage afraid of being cheated
Do not interfering other people's affairs when you are out
Be cautious when you are driving
Illness, seek doctor treatment quickly
Health will be at risk during old age
And after you read your fortune, you burn it. I wasn't entirely sure of the reason why, but I followed suit anyway. When in Melaka.
Despite my apprehensions I truly had an amazing experience in Melaka- I adored the architecture, food, and of course the people. Thanks to Grace and her group of friends for showing me around- it made my visit to Melaka that much better!
As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe in Melaka. Although Malaysia is a Muslim country, I didn't feel pressured to cover up and wore tank tops and shorts every day.
It's very easy to travel by bus in Malaysia. Melaka is about two hours away from Kuala Lumpur and four hours from Penang.
Make sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Malaysia. I've used World Nomads for years and highly recommend it.