Melaka located 2 hours, south of Kuala Lumpur earned world heritage in 2008, however you would not be able to tell from Melaka Sentral bus station. It looked like a typical Malay city the real gem is the old town, 4 kilometres away. Melaka has a rich history with many historical buildings and culture still intact. It is well worth the day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
You instantly know you’re in the old town, the salmon pink buildings of the old Christ Church and the Stadthuys, the former administrative office of the Dutch Governor forms a charming square. Trishaws line the front, ornately decorated with plastic flowers, loud pop music blares, fans whirl while the drivers wait for customers.
Malaka had been a simple fishing village until the arrival of the first sultan. It flourished into a port town before being ruled by the Portuguese from 1511, and then conquered by the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch held the city for 150 years then being passed onto the British before being once again handed back to the Dutch.
When they conquered they built, the Portuguese built a fortress, A Formosa to defend themselves only to have it suffer severe destruction during the Dutch invasion only for the Dutch to rebuild it. The British destroyed it once again, before handing Melaka back to the Dutch. All that remains today is the gate.
The Portuguese church was shattered only to be replaced by the Christ Church and the Stradthuys administrative center mentioned earlier in the blog. Christ Church is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. On top of St Paul’s Hill are the ruins of St Paul’s church, once the Portuguese Catholic church, then turned into a burial ground for the noble dead lead by the Dutch.
Walking down Jonker street and the surrounding streets changes from the historical European quarter to Chinatown. Jonker Street and the surrounding area were full of souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes serving local Nyonya food, temples, shrines and mosques filled the streets.
Melaka had been a quiet fishing village before the first sultan Parameswara arrived. Its fortunes increased once its official adaption of Islam in the 14th century. After the visit of Chinese Muslim Cheng Ho in the mid 15thCentury, contact between China and Melaka intensified. In exchange for protection against Siam (Thailand) Melaka became a vassal state for Ming, China.
The Chinese came and merged with the Malakkan people, marrying, mixing cultures together forming what is known today as Peranakan, the women known as Nyonya and the men as Baba. While in Melaka make sure you experience Peranakan cuisine which combines Chinese, Malay and other influences in a unique blend. The food is tangy, spicy, aromatic and herbal. I sampled the shrimp sambal and it was devine.
To fully understand the way Peranakan people lived. It is well worth visiting Baba and Nyonya Peranakan museum for 10RM a guide will explain how they lived and show you around their house.
The day was extremely hot with a scorching sun we needed to wind down by relaxing on the river cruise. The boat floated down Melaka River which the town was originally built around in its golden era. The boardwalk follows the river, many people were taking a leisurely stroll, people were sitting at outdoor cafes, murals were painted along the walls. The boat glided along the water just beyond Kampung Morten, a group of traditional houses opened to the public. The boat circled around before heading back the way we came.
Melaka though with all its good things has also made some horrible decisions. They moved the central bus station out of town and replaced it with a ferris wheel which they call the Melaka eye, they built the old style pirate ship that swings back and forth that was popular in amusement parks thirty years ago and they have a trampoline bungee all taking up prime land along the river.
They have a defunct monorail system that doesn’t work and may never have been in operation and they have built a hideous, pointless revolving tower taking people for a seven minute ride 1 minute to ascend, 5 minutes to take in the scenery and 1 minute to descend.
Whether you go to Melaka for a day or stay overnight there is something for someone to enjoy and with the European history and the foreign tourists that visit this one time I think it adds to the town.