Travels around Malaysia – Part 11: Malacca

This is the eleventh in a series of blogs that describes our continued travels on the Malaysia Peninsular and the Malaysian portion of Borneo.

Mad blue skyA two hour drive brought us to Malacca, where we stayed at The Majestic a picture of colonial elegance. Some of the original parts of the building date back to the 1920s and we found it a magnificent place to base ourselves to explore the city.

Malacca has been a UNESCO World Heritage City since 2008 and was originally founded in the 14th century by Parameswara, a fugitive Sumatran prince. The port’s prosperity and strategic location was soon coveted by major european powers and 1511 saw the start of almost 500 years of occupation when the Portuguese invaded. In 1641 the Dutch captured the city and it was ceded to the British in 1824. Which for us meant a rich and varied history to enjoy.

To supplement our guided tour we picked up a really good heritage trail map, packed with information, from the Tourist Information Office. It has the distinction of being the only TI office I’ve visited to ask me to take my shoes off before entering.

Cycle rickshawsWe started our meanderings at Porta De Santago, The Old Gateway. Originally built in 1512 as one of four main gates to the fortress.  Its 20 ft high and 8ft thick walls, supplemented by cannons out front, gives your imagination the food it needs to visualise what the outside of the fortified city looked like. Quite a steep climb up St Paul’s Hill reveals the Dutch graveyard (albeit only 5 of the graves are actually Dutch) and St Paul’s Church. The most remarkable thing about the remains of this church are the large granite tomb stones that stand around the wall interior, with their Dutch and Portuguese inscriptions. Outside we were rewarded for our climb with panoramic views of the Straits of Malacca and a fresh sea breeze to cool us down. Talking of churches, The Christ Church built in 1741 has a 40ft high ceiling spanned by 15m roof beams each carved from a single tree and sports a beautiful replica of the last supper in glazed tiles. There’s also The Church of St. Francis Xavier that has some fine statues outside and at dusk glows invitingly against the deep hues of the darkening sky.

Chinese TempleWhen I’m looking back at how I’d describe Malacca it’s the blending of cultures that intellectually comes to mind. The old supplied by the three major European powers that occupied its early history, the new supplied by the Malaysian, Chinese and Indian people that populate it today. At a sensory level though its not any of that, its the colours. It’s the colours of the pinky red dragon fruit on the market stall, and the bright yellow of the jack fruit that the trader so kindly offers us a slice of. It’s the gaily coloured Chinese lanterns that hang from the shops or at the Chinese Temple, where the dragons, candles and alters are a kaleidoscope of reds, golds, yellows and blues. It’s the brightly coloured paper models of cars, clothes and all manner of things, that hang in the shops around the temples, which are burnt to send the real items to the spirits of loved ones. It’s the beautifully decorated tea pot and cups that our lychee tea was severed in when we arrived at our hotel. It’s the multi coloured flowers and decorations that adorn the cycle rickshaws which explode into a discotheque like light show at night.  Its the brightly painted murals on the waterfront buildings that greet you as you enjoy your river cruise down the Melaka river. They combine with the carefully decorated bridges (one with a distinct nod to the Rialto in Venice) to show the paint palette has had a thorough workout in this area. The final delight of colour was supplied during our walk at dusk. Rex and Silver Travel bagThe mad artist let loose of the sky with just shades of blue to use, deserves the highest honour in the art world, magnificent.  Sound wasn’t to be outdone by sight though. The birds that mass in the trees and create an absolute cacophony of sound have to be heard to be believed. Turn the volume way up before you play the video below to get at least some feel for the noise level.

There is so much to see in Malacca, we explored the Maritime Museum which is housed in a 110ft long model of a Portuguese trading vessel, we watched a lady with no hands write beautiful Chinese scrolls. There is so much you have to visit.

Just a quick few words about language. When you see Balai Polis Bergerak on the side of a large white van, don’t expect to get a hug from your favourite Jersey detective, its just a mobile police unit.

The final image I’ll leave you with is of my friend Rex, showing off this year’s must have dinosaur accessory.

Next stop Langkawi.

For holidays to Asia, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Selective Asia.

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Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

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