Malacca’s long colonial and trading history has left a rich legacy for the visitor, truly muliti-cultural. From the 14th century Sultanate, soon converted to Islam through the colonisation by the Portugese in 1511, the Dutch in 1641 and the British in 1798, there is a huge influence on the city. Indigenous culture with strong Chinese, Indian and European components generate a built environment that is full of variety and interest. The drive to preserve the historical legacy as part of developing a tourist identity has helped in this.
Our hotel is ideally situated at the edge of the old part of Malacca which is focused on the Melacca River. A short walk along streets crammed with Chinese style housing now converted to retail and gustatory opportunities brought us to the Melacca river, plyed by tourist boats. Crossing the river we entered the town square dominated by the Dutch built public buildings, including the Stadhuys and Christchurch, which we visited. These are all painted a very distinctive red and form an impressive array around the Victoria fountain. Further along the street we found the Roman Catholic St Francis Xavier Church and the archaeological remains of part of the Portuguese fort on the river bank.
The local information centre introduced us to what would be a very popular activity for the remainder of the day, as the building contained a prayer room we were required to remove our footwear. Eric has now come to appreciate the true value of Velcro on sandals. The purpose of our visit was to find out about the ‘son et lumiere’ performances, which unfortunately were no longer running.
Searching for entry to the museums we found the ticket booth behind the Stadhuys and bought a ticket for entry to 6 museums, it was just unfortunate that the two more interesting ones were closed. However the ticket gave us the chance to visit some interesting buildings so we headed for the Governor museum neat the top of the hill and enjoyed a barefoot stroll around the first floor gallery. From here it was an easy walk to the ruins of St Paul’s church, built of laterite, on the hill top, with its accompanying lighthouse. Excellent views over the port and the Indian Ocean were our reward.
Retracing our steps we found the Museum of Literature and Education, where we snatched a quick picnic on a bench. The Museum of Democratic Government, in the original State Parliament building built after Independence ended our learning experience.
We climbed back to St Paul’s and descended the far side the A’Formosa gate, another standing part of the original Portuguese fort. Nearby was the Sultanate Palace, a reconstruction made entirely of wood and without nails and containing some fascinating displays and dioramas. The garden made a pleasant place to rest in the now baking heat. Feeling that we needed even more respite than the shade of a Jacaranda tree we went across the road to another palace, that of retailing. The Malaka Megamall provided instant relief in the form of air conditioning and refreshment in the form of jelly drinks, mango for Joyce, honey and lemon for Eric.
This seemed a good place to end the day’s tour, so we decided to head for the hotel. Only stopping to admire the facades of three further key buildings. However the best laid plans…. Very soon we came upon a copy of a water wheel, more remains of the Portugese fort walls and a Dutch Bastion. Pressing on we found a multitude of Chinese Temples, including the Cheng Hoong Teng Temple (the oldest Guan Yin temple in Malacca), the Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple (the oldest Hindu temple in Malacca) and the Kampung Kling Mosque, a traditional Malay mosque from 1748.
Feeling that we had done old Malacca justice we retired to the hotel for a snooze and then out to eat. As this is a working day Jonkers street was open to traffic and therefore lacked the festival atmosphere of the previous night. We explored the gastronomic possibilities on offer but our choice had to be the Geographer café. Having eaten we repaired to the Baba House for the night.