Destination: Discovering Melaka
Malaysia’s Historical City
Melaka — the oldest state along the Straits of Melaka earned its famed spot in Asia and the world for being a successful entrepôt during the reign of the Melaka sultanate. This city is shrouded in rich history, culture and a melange of places of interest as well as food. Merely a one and half hour drive away from Kuala Lumpur, this UNESCO Heritage Site has so much to offer and awaits your discovery.
Saunter Around Stadthuys
Easily identifiable through its terracotta-red hue and clocktower, the Stadthuys is a well-maintained historical building built by the Dutch in 1650 during their reign. It’s perceived to be the oldest surviving Dutch building in the East and evidence of Melaka’s rich history. It’s architecturally mesmerising, displaying typical features of Dutch colonial architecture with massive walls, louvred windows and chunky doors with wrought-iron hinges. The Stadthuys was converted into a museum in 1982, showcasing the Melakan customs and traditions and rich history, spanning the Malay Sultanate, to the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupancy.
Visit the Harmony Street
Harmony Street is so dubbed because it’s a reflection of harmony, having a number of places of worship belonging to the major religions in Malaysia, along the same street. They are the Kampung Kling Mosque, Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple and Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.
Walk Along the Melaka River
Now cleaned, well lit and its surrounding buildings embellished in vibrant murals, evenings call for a walk by the river, taking in it beauty and the ripples made by the passing boats, the birds clamouring and the distant flurry of activity at Jonker Street. You can also sit by one of the cafes set up along the river for dinner or simply to bask in the ambience.
Indulge in Traditional Peranakan Dishes
The impact of Melaka being an entrepôt back in its heydays resulted in the birth of many cultures, one of them being Peranakan or Baba Nyonya. This is essentially characterised by the hybridisation of ancient Chinese culture with the local cultures of the Nusantara region, the result of a centuries-long history of transculturation and interracial marriage. One might say that their cuisine is as distinct as its culture, blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. Manis J and Peranakan Place are great places to allow your palate on a gastronomic voyage with dishes such as the Pie Tee, Ayam Buah Keluak, Nyonya Laksa and Cendol to name a few.
Take Pictures at the Derelicts of A Famosa Fort and St. Paul’s Church
Walk off the delicious Peranakan food by taking a stroll up St. Paul’s Hill where a former Portuguese church turned lighthouse stands — the St. Paul’s Church. Built in 1521 by a Portuguese nobleman, Duarte Coelho as an act of gratitude following his escape from a storm in the South China Sea, the St. Paul’s Church is considered to be the oldest church building in Southeast Asia and a great remnant of the colonial era. Whip out your phones for pictures and proceed downwards to the what’s left of the A Famosa fort. Built in 1511, the settlement used to sprawl across a whole hillside, housing an entire Portuguese administration including hospital, churches, stockades and towers. However, due to neglect, now only a lone gate (Porta de Santiago) remains. It’s worth more than a picture because it’s one of the oldest surviving European architectural remaining in Asia.
Discover the History of Melaka at the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum
The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum is a vision of Malay architecture, a modern reimagination of Sultan Mansur Shah’s Istana (royal palace), a structure built in 1465 and destroyed in 1511 by attacking Portuguese forces. The vast complex houses approximately 1,350 artefacts, prints, photographs and drawings detailing the history of the Malaccan Malay Sultanate’ and cultural heritage. An educational visit that every Malaysia should take, this three-storey museum is divided into eight chambers where you can witness a variety of weaponry, decorative arts, traditional costumes, brassware, jewellery and more. In addition, there are three galleries depicting famous legends through dioramas, including the famous clash between legendary Melakan warriors Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat.