Malaysia: Smells Like Hell and Tastes Like Heaven

In the heart of Malacca, the Tan Beng Swee Clocktower is located at Dutch Square

It’s been a while since I have the luxury to experience what a true vacation is.  At times, when we spend so much time with our work, even if it’s a business-related trip, we often feel like an ostrich-figure that attempts to bury our head on the ground, get too focused with our work, and never get the chance for R&R and appreciate the place we are in. During the past years, I visited Malaysia a couple of times. The latest was last year. I noticed that in all of these visits, I have always planned to touch base with a close friend, but to no surprise, things didn’t work out the way it should. I was so glad that during this visit, I was able to finally fulfill that wish.

It was a lovely Sunday when the plane touched down safely at Kuala Lumpur Airport.  At the airport I was welcomed by Sasit, and was transferred via a private car to the Thistle Port Dickson Resort, located in Port Dickson.  The resort, located in a spectacular beachside, is an hour drive away from Kuala Lumpur and is rated number one in the region.

Upon arrival at the resort, Oliver, the Hotel Operations Manager, warmly welcomed me. The relaxed ambience of the resort made me feel at home right away.  The last time I had seen Oliver was 14 years ago in Beijing.  I have always regarded him as a very good friend, akin to an older brother.  I made sure that during this visit I would make up for that time lost.

After a brief catch up with Oliver at Steps, the resort’s lobby lounge, I proceeded to my room and was pleased to see thewelcome bowl of fresh fruits beautifully presented on the in-room table.

I was assigned to a room that was overlooking the breathtaking view of Straits of Malacca and the resort’s massive swimming pool. The room was relatively spacious with a private balcony and fitted with an oversized window seat, which was big enough to lay comfortably for an afternoon nap.  A few minutes later, my room service arrived with a selection of vegetarian snacks.

My first dining experience was at Glass, the resort’s Italian fine dining restaurant. It was simply an awesome experience. Glassoffers indoor and outdoor dining overlooking the pool.  Don’t forget to order the green mixed salad – it was absolutely divine! I also had the chance to meet and dine with the lovely Robine, Oliver’s better-half.  Having known Oliver for a long time, he also knows what pleases my palate.  And with his past profession as a Chef, it came naturally easy what to serve on the table.  After dinner, we spent the night chilling at the Cumulus Bar, located in an open-air beachside/pool, to enjoy the lovely ditties being played by a live band. There was lots of laughter, silliness and stories shared over cocktails.

There are a variety of recreational activities available at the resort, which makes it a popular destination for families, couples, singles and a favorite choice of venue amongst conference and event organizers.  It’s the resort’s Kid’s Wet Play Zone and media room that definitely make it a children’s paradise. The resort is normally packed during weekends.

During my stay I also had the chance to try for the first time jet skiing in the waters of Port Dickson.  The moment I was able to build up my confidence, and had a good grip and control of the ski, I totally loved the sensation of utter speed as I whizzed over the water. And soon, I noticed that I was doing sliding turns and cutting lines around buoys like there was no tomorrow!

On Sunday, I was given a traditional lunch hospitality treat at a local Chinese restaurant by Oliver and Robine along with their friend Michael, the resort Recreation Manager. I joined in the crowd for a taste of a ‘Bak Kut Teh,’ a Chinese delicacy popularly served in Malaysia.  It is a beef stew-based dish cooked for hours with a mixture of herbs, spices, mushrooms, dried tofu, greens, pork meat and intestines.  It was absolutely mouth-watering (less the intestines)!  I could not resist but to turn back to being non-vegetarian.

My first few days of stay in Thistle were a delight having received remarkable services from the staff. Their passion towards their work shined through at all times.  The staff was all by means friendly and attentive to my daily needs.

After a 2-week trip to explore the beauty and sights of Malaysia, I returned back to Thistle and was graciously welcomed once again by Oliver and Robine, with a traditional ‘Steam Boat’ dinner at their humble abode in the company of their friends, Michael, Rachel and Ariel.  Wow!  I truly enjoyed this style of food – it was the sort of food that you could eat more than usual and not get too full as everything is cooked by you, to your liking and in a healthy light style. I absolutely enjoyed the dinner and the good company.  After dinner, we went for a sweet treat to a nearby street fruit stall for a bite of some ‘in season’ fresh durian.  Yes, the fruit with the most distinctly pervasive smell.  To some people they say that it smells like hell and tastes like heaven.  You either love it or hate it.  I personally could only have a few bites. It’s definitely worth a try.

Although I was away for 2 weeks, the staff remembered my usual tea and fruit drink, as well as my knife and fork when lunching at Chinoise, the resort’s Chinese Restaurant.  I admired the attention to details by the service staff.   A simple touch means a lot to a customer, and in the world of customer service it is absolutely priceless.

I came back to Malaysia with the intent to exclude visiting Kuala Lumpur, because of the belief that Malaysia prides other more interesting sights than what the capital city offers.

Malacca (or Melaka) is one of the most desired destinations that tourists visit because of its multicultural heritage and as well as its distinctive culinary offerings. I was lucky to know that the place is only a two-hour drive from Port Dickson.  Robine graciously offered to accompany me for a 3-night weekend trip to the historical city of Malacca.

Without any pre-arranged hotel bookings, we left on Saturday and took a private car transfer, which gave us the opportunity to stop along the way to check out a local market for some fruits and snacks.  I bought 10 kgs of mangosteen, a local yummy fruit, for 3MYR – an absolute bargain!

Upon arrival at Malacca, we attempted to check for available rooms at the Hotel Puri Malacca. Unfortunately all rooms were booked out but for the last 2 nights, which we swiftly booked and confirmed on the spot.  That still brings us homeless for the night.  We continued looking for a place to stay for that evening and came across Baba House. It must have been our lucky day, as the reception staff checked the reservation system and found a twin-bedded room for us.  We can’t be any much luckier as both hotels are located in the heart of historic Malacca and both are opposite to each other.

The Baba House is a boutique hotel authentically designed with influence of Baba-Nyonya culture. The pieces of furniture and the large antique clock displayed on the lobby provide that traditional charm.  Sati, the driver then took us to the heart of the city to help us find the talk about cake. It was indeed popular. Long queues, mostly locals ordering a take away or eat-in treats, were apparent outside the store. The cake was delicious and creamy.  It was made up of thin layers of crepes filled with cream in between layers.

After the yummy treat, we took the extensively and beautifully decorated trishaw, the town’s traditional mode of transportation. The tri-shaw has a built in sound system blasting funky music. We drove to Jonker Walk, the weekend night market.  To fully enjoy the night market, it is highly recommended to do a full weekend, beginning Friday, and ending on Sunday night.  The market opens from 6 pm to 12 midnight.  This is the busiest yet well organized, and most vibrant street market I have ever been into.  You will see an array of stalls selling almost anything interesting from souvenirs, arts and crafts to t-shirts, jewelry, etc.  When you get hungry, there are food stalls and restaurants along the way combined with the market entertainment.  It was absolutely bustling with people during the weekend, with Saturday night as the busiest.  We decided to have dinner at Restoran Famosa, where we tried one of the town’s delicacies, the chicken rice ball.

On Sunday, after breakfast, we moved across to Hotel Puri for the remainder of our stay.  We were pleased to hear that our room was available the moment we got there.  Hotel Puri is also a historical boutique hotel with a nicer and more spacious lobby area and friendlier staff.  I definitely would recommend this hotel over Baba House. A wide variety of breakfast selections is served at the hotel’s back courtyard.

A walk on Jonker Street in daylight was totally a different experience.  It was definitely more relaxed and less busy. We also visited the nearby department store, and for dinner we explored the street stalls along the Hainan Food Street.  Needless to say my dinner (fish ball, tofu, and vegetable skewers) was the cheapest so far at MYR2.80 (under $1A).

On Monday we decided to return to Port Dickson, which was a day earlier as originally planned.  Robine and I decided to spend our last day exploring the riverside of the town and found a little charming restaurant by the water called Riverine. A few steps across the river is the Church Street located at Dutch Square.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at Geographer Café (the same place where we had a delicious lunch a day prior) for a late afternoon drink and cake.

At 5 pm we were on our way back to Thistle Port Dickson Resort to spend my last day before I head to my next destination, the jungle.  Join me in my next adventure with the playful orangutans in Sabah Borneo.


© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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