As we found during our year living in India, living and working in a new country is a great way to travel more. This month’s interview comes from a British family who emigrated to Kuala Lumpur last year and is taking advantage of all the Asian travel possible on their doorstep. But their favourite destination is just a two hour journey from their new home. I’ll let Kirsty from worldforagirl.com tell you more about visiting Melaka with kids.
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves. Where are you from and how often do you travel as a family? How old are your children?
Hello! We’re a family of four originally from the UK and now living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We have a 5 year old son and a 3 year old daughter and we travel as much as we can, wherever we can! So far the kids have been to around 30 countries and the number continues climbing!
2. How many times have you travelled to Asia and why do you love travelling there?
Before we settled down in Malaysia last year, we spent almost 3 months on the road exploring Asia as a family. We spent time in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and South Korea. Recently, we returned from an excellent holiday over Christmas 2018 to Myanmar.
For us, Asia is all about the diversity of the cultures and the landscapes. There are so many different cultures living side by side (especially in Malaysia!) and because of this, there is an amazing variety of delicious food, interesting history and fascinating religious sights to explore. Right now, we’re having a great time discovering hidden gems in Malaysia including some national parks right on KL’s doorstep.
3. Why is Melaka your favourite destination?
Melaka is only a 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, our home and Malaysia’s capital city but is a world apart in culture and atmosphere. Modern high-rises are instead replaced by traditional Chinese-style shophouses with ornate and beautiful architecture. The Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial heritages, mixed with the modern day Malay, Chinese (Perankan) and Indian cultures make for a unique and vibrant city.
The main sights are dotted along a meandering river with restaurants, bars and historic buildings everywhere. Although Melaka was made a World-Heritage City in 2008, there is an element of decay amid the rampant gentrification that gives Melaka a unique feel. Our children enjoyed visiting the mosque, temples and churches all side by side.
4. What were your top 3 things to do Melaka for kids?
Number one was our meandering riverside walks. The paved riverside walkways offer the perfect view for spotting giant monitor lizards, clambering over narrow bridges and looking out for colourful murals on the bordering buildings. Of course, there were plenty of places to stop for ice-creams and smoothies when their legs got tired.
Number two is the Maritime Museum in Melaka. Whilst the children walked around the main museum pretty quickly, they really enjoyed exploring the Flor de la Mar, a replica of a traditional Portuguese sailing ship. The perfect museum for pirate-obsessed children!
For number three, the area in and around the Stadthuys, the Dutch colonial town hall was brilliant. Inside the Ethnology museum were lots of life-size scenes of people which fascinated them, as did the climb to the remains of St. Paul’s Church on the top of the hill with lots of doorways to run through and hide. Finally, there’s the Porta de Santiago at the bottom with cannons to pose on (for awesome pirate photos) and a rather rusty playground to let off some energy in.
5. Can you recommend a child friendly hotel in Melaka?
We stayed in a 3-bedroom apartment that we’d found on Booking.com at The Shore shopping/residential centre, just a 15 minute walk from the centre of Melaka. Yes, we would totally recommend it. It was incredibly convenient to have shopping, an aquarium and toy museum right downstairs in the mall. There are also lots of local cafes – for cheap Malay food – just outside and a huge splash park for children staying there.
This is where they stayed: Schrodinger Heritage Rustic Balinese
6. What did the kids eat?
Melaka is known throughout Malaysia for its food so we ate really well. However, we didn’t take the opportunity to eat at the famous Jonker Street night market with the kids (it was a public holiday and uncomfortably busy).
For breakfasts, they ate roti pisang (like a banana pancake). Generally, they ate chicken, rice and stir-fried vegetables whilst us adults gorged on delicious Nyonya cuisine (a unique Malaysian-Chinese fusion). The children also tried a famous local dessert called cendol but weren’t very impressed.
7. How did you get around?
We walked everywhere – which is a novel experience in Malaysia where cars rule the roads. Paved walkways run along the riverbanks which are decorated with flower pots and maps are provided regularly. It’s really lovely at dusk or early in the morning when it’s a little cooler. Just make sure your hold hands as there’s no fence to stop little runaways falling in. Also on one occasion we took a Grab car when the kids were really tired after a morning’s sightseeing. Of course, we were tempted by the crazy flashing Hello Kitty rickshaws but somehow ran out of time.
8. What is your top tip for a Melaka family trip?
Our top tip for Melaka must be to use Tripadvisor or Google to find good places to eat. Melaka is so touristy that if you go to somewhere in your guidebook chances are you won’t get in. Online you can find more highly rated places to eat – some of them brand-new – and more chance of getting a table.
9. What item could you not have done without at Melaka?
Definitely, our battered old stroller was the one thing we could not have done without. Whilst our 5 year old son could manage the 15 minute walk into town, our 3 year old daughter really struggled. The stroller made our days so much more pleasant – except in the crowds near Jonker Street. If you’re travelling with a baby, a sling is the way forward.
10. Where are you off to next?
This year, we’re going to be spending a lot of time exploring our new home, Malaysia. Next, we’re flying up to Penang for some beach time and heritage as well as planning some weekends away near Kuala Lumpur. Later in the year, we might take our first trip to Taiwan and possibly some beach-time in Vietnam or Indonesia too.
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