Deformation of the Indian Ocean tsunami moving into the shallow Strait of Malacca and formation of undular bores and solitary waves in the strait are simulated in a model study using the fully nonlinear dispersive method (FNDM) and the Korteweg-deVries (KdV) equation. Two different versions of the incoming wave are studied where the waveshape is the same but the amplitude is varied: full amplitude and half amplitude. While moving across three shallow bottom ridges, the back face of the leading depression wave steepens until the wave slope reaches a level of 0.0036–0.0038, when short waves form, resembling an undular bore for both full and half amplitude. The group of short waves has very small amplitude in the beginning, behaving like a linear dispersive wave train, the front moving with the shallow water speed and the tail moving with the linear group velocity. Energy transfer from long to short modes is similar for the two input waves, indicating the fundamental role of the bottom topography to the formation of short waves. The dominant period becomes about 20 s in both cases. The train of short waves, emerging earlier for the larger input wave than for the smaller one, eventually develops into a sequence of rank-ordered solitary waves moving faster than the leading depression wave and resembles a fission of the mother wave. The KdV equation has limited capacity in resolving dispersion compared to FNDM.