28. Malacca, Malaysia
A World Heritage site ramps up its tourism options.
With its lantern-lighted canals and silent, narrow streets lined with decades-old ornate temples and shop houses, few places in Southeast Asia conjure romantic images of the past as effectively as Malacca, Malaysia’s oldest city. A former Portuguese, Dutch and British colony, this Unesco World Heritage site is now attracting record numbers of tourists lured by its unusual architecture and cuisine, which reflect centuries of foreign influences.
More than seven million visitors are expected in 2011, so the town, about 90 miles southeast of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, is welcoming new hotels like the Casa del Rio, a Portuguese-inspired luxury boutique property with 66 rooms; and Courtyard@Heeren, a 100-year-old shop house converted into a 14-room hotel. When you’re not exploring places like the 17th-century former Dutch town hall or Jonker Street’s antiques shops, gorge on Malacca’s outstanding local specialties, like creamy, piquant nyonya laksa at the family-run Donald & Lily’s. NAOMI LINDT