Melaka is among some of the best places in Malaysia to visit but don’t be surprised if you come away thinking that it could be better.
As a Unesco World Heritage Site it attracts a lot of tourists; 16.7 million in 2017 according to press reports, with Chinese tourists taking the top spot.
They are not evenly distributed. On any day you can see coach loads of Chinese tourists milling around “Dutch Square”, taking selfies next to the Stadthuys, Christ Church, clock tower and the Hello Kitty trishaws.
Then they are taken to selected souvenir and food shops in nearby Jonker Street, probably owned by associates of the tour operators, to buy chicken rice balls, durian products and pineapple tarts, before being bussed back to a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
You have to wonder whether the ordinary small business owners in Melaka see much benefit from the daily invasion of tourists.
By the time the sun sets, most shops in downtown Melaka are firmly shuttered and soon the streets take on a deserted look apart from a few eateries in Jalan Hang Jebat and side streets but even here they struggle to find customers on weekday nights.
Melaka’s tourism chiefs and real estate developers have plans to vastly expand the state’s attractions with ambitious developments under way on land recently reclaimed from the Straits of Malacca.
These projects were agreed prior to the Malaysian General Election and it remains to be seen whether they will all be completed given the new government’s emphasis on saving money.
Even fewer tourists venture beyond Melaka City to visit other places in Melaka State.
At Kampung Duyong just outside the city is a large tourism complex, built at considerable expense, celebrating Malaysia’s famous hero Hang Tuah.
This is Malaysia’s version of Dark Hedges, a street near Kampung Duyong, Melaka. It looks much more impressive than the real Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, a tree-lined street which was apparently featured in Game of Thrones.
Perhaps Melaka needs to become the setting for a popular series like Game of Thrones with filming locations spread around the state in order to share the benefits to tourism more widely
This article first appeared on thriftytraveller.wordpress.com