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Malacca is the capital of the state of Malacca, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia it is a historical city founded in the 16th centurey and later was craddle of the portugese. today Malacca is a vibrant old city that rejoices its wealth of history. Visiting Malacca is a unique experience; its rich historical background. Malacca has been awarded World Heritage Site designation in July 2008 by UNESCO.
History of Malacca
According to the 16th century Malay Annals, the city was founded by Parameswara. He was probably a Hindu prince and political fugitive from nearby Java. According to the legend Parameswara was hunting in the region and had stopped to refresh himself near Malacca River. Standing near a melaka (Indian gooseberry) tree he was surprised to witness one of his hunting dogs so startled by a mouse deer that it fell into the river.
Parameswara took this as a sign of the weak overcoming the powerful and to symbolize it decided to build the capital of his new kingdom where he stood, naming it for the tree under which he had been resting.
Another legend says Malacca is derived from the Arabic word Malakat, which means market. Malacca had a navigable harbor sheltered by nearby Sumatra across the narrow straits, ample supply of fresh water, enjoyed a prime location relative to the shifting monsoon winds, and had a central location in regional trade patterns, all of which soon made it a prosperous trading town. Its fortunes increased with its official adoption of Islam in the 14th century. The Sultans of Malacca were soon attracting Arab traders from far afield. However, Malacca continued to trade with merchants of all races and religions.
After the visit of the Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho in the mid-15th century, contact between China and Malacca intensified. In exchange for protection against Siam, Malacca became a vassal state to Ming China. To ensure Malacca's safety, a new powerful kingdom was founded by the Sultan of Samudra-Pasai.
The power of the Malays began to rise through the 15th century. In the Malay Annals,the sultan Mansur Shah was mentioned as having 6 wives and the fifth was stated to be a daughter of the Ming Emperor. However, in the Chinese chronicles, no such event was recorded.
Things started to change with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1509. They were at first welcomed, but Indian traders soon turned the sultan against the Portuguese and they had to flee. In 1511 the Portuguese returned, and at their second attempt seized the city. This marked the start of the formation of a large Eurasian community. The Portuguese turned the city into a massive walled fortress complete with a tower bristling with cannon. It was believed that such fortifications could withstand the encroachments of other European powers eager for a slice of the Asian luxury goods trade.
An alliance between the Dutch and the Sultanate of Johor Bahru saw the loss much of Malacca's power. In 1641 the Dutch navy put a blockade on Malacca and they seized the city after six months. During the siege much of the Portuguese city was destroyed.
Only after 150 years did the Dutch lose their hold on Malacca. In 1795 The Netherlands was conquered by the French, and the British were keen to take over the Dutch holdings in Malacca. By that time, Malacca had lost most of its former importance although it remained an important part of Asian trade routes.
The A Famosa gate is all that remains of the old Portuguese and Dutch forts. As the Napoleonic Wars wound down the British knew Malacca would be returned to Dutch control. In order to make the city indefensible the city walls were blown down. A last minute intervention by a British officer, the young Sir Stamford Raffles (founder of British Singapore) saved the gate. Shortly after its return to Dutch rule, the Dutch and British governments swapped colonies - British Bencoolen in Sumatra for Dutch Malacca.
Malacca is a center of Peranakan culture. When Chinese settlers originally came to Malacca as miners, traders and coolies, they took local brides (of Javanese, Batak, Achenese, etc descent) and adopted many local customs. The result of this is an interesting mix of local and Chinese cultures. The men are addressed as Babas and the women Nonyas by their servants meaning Master and Mistress.
A small group of Eurasians of Portuguese descent continue to speak their unique creole, known as Cristão or Kristang.
Places to See in Malacca
The Stadhuys and clock tower at the heart of the historic quarter of Malacca
River at Sunset
The Baba Nyonya Museum in Malacca which is in a typical Peranakan houseThe older part of the city proper has, in addition to the old palace and the large buildings left by the Europeans, many private houses and shops from nearly a century or more ago, put up by Chinese traders. Many of these have beautiful details such as moulded porcelain tiles and painted plaster reliefs on the front. Unfortunately, they tend to be not well preserved and the city government decided to paint all the buildings in the historical district a bright brick red some years ago, as the constant spitting by passers-by was proving a nuisance, which detracts from their aesthetic value.
Note that on Tuesdays, many museums, shops, restaurant are closed, especially in the Jonker Street area. If you have only one day to spend in Malacca, do not go on Tuesday!
Stadthuys - completed in 1660. Nowadays, it houses the historical museum. This is one of the oldest Dutch buildings in the east.
Christ Church - this church was built between 1741 and 1753. It replaced a Portuguese church, which was shattered. Bricks were shipped from Zeeland in the Netherlands. On the floor of the church you will find Dutch tombstones. It is the oldest protestant church in Malaysia. On the altar you will see sacramental silverware, still bearing the Dutch coat of arms. Open: 0830-1700 Mon-Sat, free admission; photography is forbidden
Dutch Square - Beautiful square around Christ Church and the Stadhuys. On
this square you will find the Tang Beng Swee Clock Tower, it looks Dutch, but it
is not. It was built in 1886.
Porta de Santiago - You will find this remains of the old Portuguese fort A Famosa on Jalan Kota, around St Paul's Hill. What you can see nowadays is a mostly Dutch reconstruction, bearing the VOC coat of arms.
St Paul's Church - take a path up the hill and it will lead you to this church. It was originally built in 1521, by the Portuguese. It became a fortress in 1567, until 1596. After the Dutch siege it became St Paul's, before it was known as Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of Annunciation). It has been used as a burial ground for the Dutch. You can still see the tombstones, along the walls of ruins of the church.
Muzium Budaya/Sultanate Palace - Below the hill you will find this museum (Melaka Cultural Museum). It is a reconstruction of the istana of the sultan Mansur Shah. It was built in 1985. It is open daily from 9AM to 6PM except on Tuesdays, and on Fridays from 1215-1445. Entrance fee: RM 2
UMNO Museum, Jalan Kota (between the Islamic Museum and the Muzium Rakyat) - museum about the United Malays National Organisation.
Malay and Islamic World Museum, Jalan Kota (beside the Porta de Santiago) -
it also currently houses a Museum of Torture (European medieval period) for a
limited duration on the ground floor.
Stamp Museum, Jalan Kota (sandwiched between the Muzium Rakyat and the Malay and Islamic World Museum)
Youth Museum/Melaka Art Gallery, Jalan Laksamana, beisde the Christ Church. The Youth Museum is on the ground floor, the Art Gallery on the second level. You can have a bird's eye view of Dutch Square from a window on the second level. Open Wed to Sun 9 am - 5.30 pm; combined admission for adults - 2RM
Malaysian Navy Museum, across the road from the Maritime Museum
Baba and Nyonya Peranakan Museum. Tel: +60-6-2831233. Opening hours: 10:00-12:30, 14:30-16:30. Closed on Tuesdays - Step back in time with a visit to this museum which is an actual Peranakan heritage town house and is a great example of Peranakan culture. It is on Heeren Street (now known as Tun Cheng Lock Street). The entry fee is RM8 per person and everyone has to follow a guide-led group. Photography is forbidden. Open Wed to Mon 1000-1230 1400-1630
Jonker, Heeren and adjacent streets - This is the residential heart of Old Malacca just west of the Malacca River, with its narrow winding streets, beautifully decorated houses, tiny shops, temples and mosques. The whole area is undergoing a renaissance with new shops, restaurants and hotels catering to tourists mushrooming everywhere. However, the area still has a lot of atmosphere and is worth having a look around. One of the streets in this area is Harmony Street (officially Temple street or Jalan Tokong), so called because it contains the prayer houses of Malaysia's three main faiths - the Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple, the Sri Poyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Hindu Temple, and the Kampung Kling Mosque.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. 25, Jalan Tokong. Tel: +60-6-2829343. Opening hours: Morning to 7PM - Oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia and has an inscription dating 1685 commemorating the deeds of by Kapitan China Li Wei King.
Masjid Kampung Hulu - built in 1728, it's one of the oldest functioning mosques in Melaka together with Masjid Kampung Kling and Masjid Tengkera (Tranquerah), Jln Tengkera see the mixed architecture of Chinese, Javanese and Arab on the minarets and the roofs.
Yeetea house - 22 Jalan Laksamana, Famous Local tea shop selling a range of tea from China and Taiwan as well as offering tea ceremony classes.
Portuguese Settlement - Here is where the descendants of the Portuguese who conquered Malacca in 1511 live today. The settlement, located just southeast of the city centre, consists of tidy rows of mostly wooden houses leading up to the Portuguese Square (Malay Medan Portugis) and Hotel Lisboa (sorry, unlike its Macau namesake, there is no casino here) on the waterfront. The people here may look Malay but peer into their houses and you'll see the characteristic altar with status of Jesus and Mary perched high on their walls. Quite a few still speak Cristao (or Cristang), a Portuguese patois. There are also many restaurants for you to sample Portuguese fare. The most interesting times to visit is during Intrudu - usually in February - when the you'll get a Songkran-like drenching with buckets of water thrown at you; Festa San Pedro to commemorate the Feast of Saint Peter in June, where there are processions, cultural shows and general merry-making; and Christmas when the whole settlement is decked in decorative lights. Getting there/away: Malacca Town Bus (green) No. 17 (destination "Ujong Pasir and Bandar Hilir") from Melaka Sentral will bring you right into the Settlement.
St John's Hill and Fort. Malacca's other fortress located on top of St John's Hill in Bandar Hilir, south of the city. Pretty views of the surroundings from the top. Malacca Town Bus (green) No. 17 passes by this fort.
King's Well - Legends have it that Hang Liu was a Chinese princess from the
Ming dynasty who was sent to Malacca to wed Sultan Mansor Shah in the 15th
century when the Malacca Sultanate was at its zenith. She had 500 followers who
were all settled on Bukit China, which means Chinese Hill, and this well, at the
foot of the hill, was where they got their water.
Poh San Teng Temple - This temple is located at the foot of Bukit China and next to the King's Well, was founded in 1795 by Kapitan China Chua Su Cheong as a graveyard temple. The main deity is Fu-te Zhen Shen. the temple was built to allow the descendants of those buried on Bukit China to conduct prayers to their ancestors away from the heavy rain and strong winds.
Bukit China - Bukit China is the one of the largest Chinese cemetery outside of mainland China. Graves can be found here that go back to the late Ming dynasty (mid 17th century). The earliest grave found so far dates to 1622, but unfortunately many graves were exhumed during the British occupation of Malaysia. Bukit China is a famous jogging spot for the locals and jogging tracks are available all over the hill. When you climb on top of the hill, you will have a nice view of the town.
Excursion from Malacca
Geok Hu Keng Temple - Located at the junction of Klebang and Jalan Pokok Mangga, about 3km from town centre. This temple has a history of 130 years. Managed by local communities, the temple was incorporated under the management of Cheng Hoon Teng in 2000. Major celebrations - 3rd day of Chinese New Year, Hien Tian Siong Teh's birthday on 3rd day of 3rd lunar month and the birthday of Geok Hu Tai Chong on 29th day of 6th Lunar Month. To get to the temple, you may hop in any of the Patt Hup Buses and stop slightly opposite the temple or you may take Town Bus No 18 which stop beside the temple.
Kampung Morten - a village of traditional houses, it is on the west bank of the Malacca River.
Recreational Forest Ayer Keroh - The 359 ha (887 acre) Ayer Keroh Recreational Forest was opened on April 17, 1984 and offers visitors peace and tranquility within its cool green surroundings.
Melaka Zoo - Located in Ayer Keroh, along the main road from the Ayer Keroh toll plaza to Melaka town. The second biggest, one of the best, if not the best, zoo in Malaysia. Even better than the National Zoo. The zoo is in a reserved forest where the animal enclosures more resemble the animals' natural habitat. The trees within the zoo compound provide ample shades for visitors during hot and sunny days. There is a lake in the zoo. Admission for adults RM 7 (daytime 9am - 6pm), RM 10 (nighttime 8pm - 11pm)
Taman Mini Malaysia and Mini ASEAN - Located in Ayer Keroh, along the main road from the Ayer Keroh toll plaza to Melaka town, about 1 km from Melaka Zoo between the Zoo and toll plaza. It has full-size reconstructions of typical houses from all 13 Malaysian states and all the members of ASEAN. There are daily cultural shows at 11 am and 2 pm. Admission for adults - RM 12, open daily 9am to 6 pm.
Padang Kemunting Sea-Turtle Sanctuary - Located in Pantai Padang Kemunting beach, about 28 km from Melaka Sentral. You can see the most beautiful sea-turtle in the world, The HAWKSBILL TURTLE. Relax to the sound of the Straits of Malacca as the are lots of kampong type of resorts (budget) for you to choose. Admission for adults - FREE, open daily 10am to 4pm. Close on Monday and Malaysia Public Holidays.