Destination Melaka: basics there, what’s next

I recently made a trip down to Melaka as it was a public holiday in KL. I was really surprised how easy and fast it is to get there by car. It doesn’t even call for a pit stop. Sadly, because I love the ambiance of Malaysian R&R’s!

I thought I would share with you my initial impressions of the destination as I am trying to make up my mind on Malaysia as a destination and its sub-destinations. To make it brief, Melaka’s got a few things right! The basics of a successful destination are definitely there.

1. Food

Everyone I spoke to about going to Melaka for the day told me about its amazing food and which restaurant or stall I should go to for this or that amazing specialty. This won’t surprise anyone who’s lived in Asia for long like me! And sure enough, the first thing I saw after we parked our car next Jonker Street was the long queue of people outside the famous chicken rice ball coffee shop Chung Hwa.

My friend and I counted and we had 10 different dishes from 8 different places in one single day! Almost every tourist we cam across, whether Asia or not, was also walking around ticking the food boxes.

Nyonya Laksa

Nyonya Laksa and Cendol

Sting ray at Portuguese Settlement

Sting ray at Portuguese Settlement

2. Shopping

Being a tourist professional I am always curious to see what initiatives are worth benchmarking. What stroke me on Jonker Street – the tourist thoroughfare – is the number of shops carrying the Jonker Gallery brand. Obviously some smart tourism operator thought of consolidating retail on Jonker Street with a heritage-inspired brand applied to a large line of souvenirs. And it works! Shops are busy and tourists are happy. I thought I’d take a few snapshots for future reference.

Jonker Gallery

Jonker Gallery

Jonker Gallery

Jonker Gallery

3. Sense of place

Melaka is very charming and offers a great sense of place with a number of locations, view points, etc, which can immediately be recognizable and associated with the destination. From the heritage sites of St Paul’s Hill and Christ Church to the picturesque boat ride on the river, the over-the-top rickshaws, the trendy shop houses around Jonker Street or the beautiful night view from Taming Sari tower, there’s plenty of photo/selfie opportunity!

In January this year, Melaka added a night show – Melaka Alive – which should reinforce that sense of place providing a must-see historical show for tourists at night.

St Paul's Hill

St Paul’s Hill

Over-the-top rickshaw

Over-the-top rickshaw

photo6

Melaka Alive

With the 3 main basics of food, shopping and sense of place being very well addressed, I am wondering what could make the destination even more attractive. And this is probably a question for developers who are interested in building new attractions. There’s a project under construction of Ferris wheel (Eye on Malaysia) together with a chocolate factory in Pulau Melaka. That might not add too much product extension to the existing offering (also, the previous Ferris wheel was a flop!). Instead I would probably suggest exploring 2 other paths: high-energy and iconic. Interested to brainstorm further, let me know!

i-City, Malaysia: embarrassingly bad

Since I recently relocated to Kuala Lumpur working on the MAPS Perak project, I have been exploring a bit to check out the family entertainment scene in Malaysia.

The industry is one of the most developed in Asia with a myriad of water parks and small integrated resorts throughout the country. It all started with Genting Highlands 40 years ago, which turned a small mountain resort 45min from Kuala Lumpur into a 30-million annual visitor destination featuring 3 casinos, 5 hotels, a giant convention center and a 20th Century Fox theme park under construction.

Now back to my exploration and the main reason for this post. I went to i-City in Shah Alam (suburban KL) over the weekend. They have been in the news recently for the opening of a wax museum, snow world, space attraction, horror house, trick art museum and South East Asia’s 1st tornado water slide. I was expecting a nice integrated entertainment city with retail, attractions, restaurants, etc. Instead I found a bunch of old and cheap looking rides and attractions housed in shop-houses and surrounded by half-finished residential towers.

I felt really embarrassed. I was totally mislead by this developer who had no intention of building a true sustainable family entertainment destination (as portrayed in the media) but only did so to get some sort of grant or tax incentive from the government. Now I understand why they keep flashing the Visit Malaysia logo, trying to ‘buy’ a legitimacy they do not deserve. More than embarrassed actually I felt upset because that’s not where I’d like to see the industry go in Malaysia. This country needs more quality attraction developed by genuine people who care. Now, I’ve said it!

Let me show you in images the difference between what i-City claims it is and what it really looks like.

Snow Walk as shown on the i-City website

Snow Walk as shown on the i-City website

Snow Walk building in real

Snow Walk building in real

Carnival rides on i-City website

Carnival rides on the i-City website

Ferris Wheel for real

Ferris Wheel in real

Water Park on the i-City website

Water Park on the i-City website

Water Park in real

Water Park in real

More embarrassing pictures.

Half-finished residential towers

Half-finished residential towers

Red Carpet, a pale copy of Madame Tussauds

Red Carpet, a pale copy of Madame Tussauds

Horror House in a shop-house!

House of HorrorĀ  in a shop-house!

Space Mission in a shop-house!

Space Mission in a shop-house!

Trick Art Museum in a shop-house!

Trick Art Museum in a shop-house!

Looks familiar? Not sure they have the rights for that IP!

Looks familiar? Not sure they have the rights for that IP!