This one blew right by us! We shot this feature for Budget Travel in the May issue. It's a wonderful journey up the Malay peninsula from Melaka (Malacca) to Kuala Lumpur up to Penang.
DONALD & LILIE'S: This wonderful family of three takes Nonya cuisine to a whole new level. They operate a small unassuming cafe out of the back of their Peranakan home on the main drag of Melaka's historic district. It was after tasting their Laksa that James decided it to be his favorite Southeast Asian dish -- followed closely by Roti canai! This shoot, for us, was an opportunity to try all the different sorts of Laksa they make in Malaysia -- Assam, Nonya, etc.
Because Melaka is so small it feels very classic. Some of the best places in town are tucked into 100+ year-old shophouses, and the vibe is lively on weekends as people pour in from nearby Singapore for a taste. Here, the Peranakan tradition seems very strong, at least at the tourist level.
KUALA LUMPUR: The contrast between little historic Melaka and bustling modern Kuala Lumpur is stark. We were in the Jalan Alor area, where the street food is gritty and hot! The vibe seems like a blur between classic Malay culture and architecture mixed with a street vibe that I imagine might resemble New York in the 1970's. We introduced ourselves to barbecue stingray, which tasted like something between crab meat and moist grilled cod, and loving the tangy and spicy rub.
We hear rumors that this old and cherished establishment might be pushed out by city development in the area. We sincerely hope not!
Next stop, OLD-TOWN PENANG: We've walked the streets within this historic, unesco-heritage town several times now! It's old, it's hot, rough-and-tumble, and completely charming. In Georgetown, you can find old popiah sheet-makers (below, right) - think pizza tossers mixed with crepe street-venders.
Hotels like the Straights Collection that let you roam through vintage architecture and straits-style furnishings. It's no-doubt our favorite place to stay when in Malaysia (aside from its other location on the island of Langkawi!)