Best Places to Visit for Street Art

Seeing masterpieces by Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso et al can be a once in a lifetime experience for many. But going to museums usually take a big chunk off a traveler’s budget.

Today, art is no longer confined in the four corners of a building. More and more formal and freestyle artists take their art to the streets so that more people can appreciate them.

With the help of my friends, I compiled a list of best places to visit for street art.

Penang, Malaysia

wrought iron art penang

This UNESCO World Heritage town have quirky yet functional wrought iron street markers. If you take the time to read the text on the caricatures, you’ll find that they’re both informative and entertaining.

Next, head on to Armenian Street to check out murals by Ernest Zacharevic. He often marries his murals with real-life objects, and the results are larger than life.

penang street art
“Litte Girl in Blue”

Photo credit: Echoserang Lakwatsera.

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5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

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Eat, Pray, Shop: Malaysia – Malacca/Melaka

Malacca (Melaka in Malay) is such a compact but vibrant city. I love how everything is just walking distance.
After leaving our things in the room, we freshened up a bit then headed to Jonker Street for lunch. We only had a few Ringgits left, and conveniently, a money changer is situated in the corner of the street. And just across it was Restoran A Famosa where we had lunch.
Restoran A Famosa is quite uhm…famous as evidenced by the queue. We had to wait a while to get a table. I’m guessing both locals and tourists flock here for their specialty: chicken rice balls. As soon as we got a table, one of the waitstaff handed us the menu. I think we ordered half roast chicken, a cup of rice each, and some rice balls just to see what the fuss was about. Sadly, the rice balls were nothing to write home about. Our very own puto is even better. It was filling nonetheless.  

After filling our tummies, we wasted no time and started checking out the stores. Just across Restoran A Famosa is Jonker Gallery. This store is such a wasteland. I plunked down RM30.00 for souvenirs only to find more Jonker Gallery every 20 meters or so.
wasteland (n.) shop/store full of cool and cute stuff you have no use for but end up buying anyway, thus, wasting money.

I also find it amusing that some of these shops are renovated shophouses where you can enter from Jonker Street and exit on the other side of the block (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock based on Google Maps).

Dutch Square or Red Square

Anyway, we finally dragged ourselves out of Jonker Street into The Dutch Square or more popularly known as the Red Square (for obvious reasons). Situated in the heart of Malacca/Melaka are: (clockwise) The Stadthuys or the Museum of History and Ethnography which is said to be the oldest remaining Dutch colonial building in Southeast Asia; Christ Church (arguably the most photographed); and the clock tower.

We immediately moved on to St. Paul’s Hill. For some reason, going up was reminiscent of Mt. Tapyas in Coron…only the steps are tiled. Nothing much to see here except the ruins of St. Paul’s Church with Dutch and Portuguese tombstones inside, and the statue of St. Francis Xavier outside.
Why must a church ruin be always named after St. Paul? If you’ve been to Macau, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Google ‘St. Paul’s ruins’ and you’ll find that there’s also a monastery ruin in the United Kingdom. Clearly, someone’s got issues with structures named after the saint.
‘This church was originally a small chapel built by a Portuguese Captain called Duarto Coelho in 1521 A.D. and called “Nosa Senhora – Our Lady of the Hill”.
When the Dutch took over Melaka from the Portuguese, they changed its name to St. Paul’s Church and used it for 112 years until the Christ Church was completed in 1753.
Old tombstones found inside the ruins bear silent testimony to the final resting place of several Dutch and Portuguese nationals.’ – some excerpts from the stone marker outside the ruins.
Menara Taming Sari (revolving observation deck)


From St. Paul’s Hill, I could see the revolving observation deck and the galleon or the Maritime Museum (Muzium Sumadera; not in the picture). It looks kinda close but I figured it was quite a walk, so we went back to The Stadthuys and thought maybe we should hire a trishaw instead.

 Colorful trishaws
Frustrated sagalas :p
For a five-minute ride, the RM10.00 per head is unreasonable. But hey, it’s not every day you get a chance to ride a colorful trishaw with Ricky Martin songs blasting on the speakers.
Replica of Portuguese ship: Flor De La Mar
Maritime Museum (Muzium Samudera)
For a minimum admission fee, you could go inside the museum but we’re happy just taking its picture from outside. Our original agenda, anyway, is the Melaka River Cruise. The jetty (Muara Jetty) is just a few steps away from the Maritime Museum.

TIP: There’s an arcade (Medan Samudera) just across the museum which sell cheaper souvenir items than the ones in The Stadthuys. Malaysian snacks can be bought for 3 packs at RM10.00. Kids’ shirts are at RM10.00 a piece and of very good quality.

Melaka River Cruise at RM15.00

For me, the highlight of our Melaka tour was the Melaka River Cruise. The cruise starts either at Muara Jetty with a view of the posh Casa del Rio hotel on the other side of the river bank or from Taman Rempah Jetty (other end of the river).
Jambatan Old Bus Station
The round trip cruise takes 45 minutes. As you go along, you get to listen to a recorded narration explaining the significance of each section of the river in Melaka’s history.
You’ll also pass by a modest amusement park aptly named Pirate Park.
The park consists of a Ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, flying fox, rock climbing wall and trampoline.

   Near the end of the river (if coming from Muara Jetty) is Kampung Morten which is a traditional Malay village and living museum (Villa Sentosa). Most of these houses are already hundreds of years old.
My favorite has got to be the murals along Melaka River
Melaka River Cruise at night as seen from our window
I would suggest doing the river cruise at night when the structures along the river (especially Pirate Park) are illuminated with colorful lights. Then the next morning, walk along the riverbanks so you can appreciate the murals up close like what we did.

Oriental Residence Riverside Guesthouse Melaka (Review)

It was drizzling when we arrived at Melaka Sentral Bus Station from Penang. As much as we wanted to head straight to our guesthouse, I was informed by the owner ahead of time that they normally open after 9:00 am. Well, given that it has been more than 12 hours since we had a decent meal, we decided to have breakfast first. Disappointingly, McDonald’s was the lone establishment open at 6:00 am, so I leisurely ate my overpriced breakfast to while time away. 

If I sound grumpy, it’s because for the second time, we got bumped off the bus the night before. Read about our KL-Penang bus experience here. We were in the middle of nowhere at midnight and it was raining when the bus driver conveniently decided to offload us and a couple other passengers, and transfer us to another bus. All this without voluntarily helping us to unload our bags from the trunk. I was already livid at this point that I told my friend if it happens again, Tourism Malaysia will never hear the end of it. It may sound exaggerated, but I was dead serious. So for the duration of the trip, I was half awake worrying about that or that somebody will get off somewhere and take our luggage with him/her. Yes, paranoia was sinking in.             

Moving on… We hailed a cab from Melaka Sentral to our guesthouse. It was still an hour or so before 9:00 am when we arrived so we had to wait outside. My friend managed to take a nap while I marveled at the shophouses; most of which open late.

When in Melaka, I would recommend staying at one of the guesthouses along Melaka River. And while there are many to choose from, I booked a night at Oriental Residence Riverside Guesthouse based from its stellar reviews both on TripAdvisor (and a 2012 Certificate of Excellence Winner at that!) & Hostelworld as proudly posted on their door. The guesthouse is run by husband and wife, Asri and Ling Ling.

When Ling Ling finally opened the door, I handed over a printed copy of our Agoda reservation. She was apologetic that our room was still occupied which was understandable given the time of day. Asri soon welcomed us too and even offered coffee and some biscuits.
Homey receiving area

As soon as some guests checked out, Ling Ling brought out fresh linens and pillow cases stored in one of the cabinets in the receiving area. Actually, two rooms became available that they let us choose where we wanted to stay. One room was bigger and had a bigger bed, but it was facing the street. The other one, while smaller, faces the Melaka River. We chose the latter.
Melaka River as seen from our room

The room is pretty simple with just a double bed, side table, coat hanger, air conditioning unit and ceiling fan but pretty spotless. 
Since this is just a small guesthouse with only six rooms, do not expect en suite toilet or a common bathroom (with cubicles of toilet and shower). What they do have, though, are two common toilet and bath both on the second floor with hot and cold water, and liquid soap.
Charming Melaka River
Oriental Riverside Guesthouse’s side facing the river
I regret I didn’t spend time here with a cup of coffee/tea in the morning to soak up the sun. Must’ve been nice.

Because of Melaka’s proximity to Singapore, people often flock to this UNESCO World Heritage Site on weekends specifically for Jonker Street which they close down at night for a bazaar. When you have a chance, try to stay here on a weekend just for the experience.

The guesthouse doesn’t seem like it has much to offer. Actually, what you see is what you get. But what it lacks in facilities and amenities, it more than makes up for the accommodating husband and wife. Asri will even give you a map marking places of interest, where to eat, and which delicacies to try.


Oriental Residence Riverside Guesthouse

78 Jalan Kampong Pantai
Jonker Street, Melaka Malaysia