“In the 80s and 90s, if you wanted to go shopping, the first place you’d think of was Bunga Raya, with its cinemas, Madam King and textiles and clothes shops. Before Jonker Street this was the liveliest street” Alex Khoo, 42 22 February 2020
Once home to Melaka’s best hotels and entertainment venues, as well as more clandestine activities (Antara Lido dan Capitol), today a main attraction of Bunga Raya is the delicious food, from recipes handed down over generations. In its “Longkang Siham” business, started by his grandmother in the 1960s, Alex Khoo’s family serves “half-cooked” cockles and clams and grilled cuttlefish in an alleyway lined by drains. Although the days of Heng Hua women picking oysters off rocks are past, Or Chien (oyster omelette) is always in demand (Bunga Raya Oyster Cult), as is Hungry Lane’s Char Siew Pung (pork rice) with barbequed pork, kangkong, omelette and curry, which Ho Ah Ngan makes following his grandfather’s recipe from a century ago (Pork Street Boys). A stall set up in 1962 (Teh Arang) offers smoky tasting tea and coffees, with water boiled using charcoal, and Hainanese kopitiam with marble tabletops serve kopi-O and kaya to lorry drivers (Kopi O Norr!).
Before the big department stores came to town, Bunga Raya was Melaka’s most vibrant shopping area, where one could get cheap fabrics, household goods and affordable gold jewellery. Old businesses which remain from that time include An Yang, selling arts and crafts and decorative items (The Lantern Counter), Kong Wah, an old watch and optical shop (Watch & Optic), a Chinese medicine shop (Sinseh), tailors and pillowmakers (The Pillowmaker) and a hairdresser (Pendandan Rambut). Ho Chin Yong has been selling clothes since 1975 (Bergaya Bersama Chardon Wear). Jonathan Tay of Rattan Bamboo Handicraft Gallery is the third generation in his family selling bamboo and rattan products (Rattan and Bamboo),working with orang asli in Rompin and Muar to find the rattan. Five gold merchants in Bunga Raya described their work and challenges. And after years at the local sundry shop, Patmavathy Krishnan has seen it all (Kedai Runcit).