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Places In Malaysia: Melaka

Basic Information

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Narrative

There is quite possibly not another city in Malaysia that in one location shows the diversity of Malaysia’s past like Melaka. The city of Melaka was founded by Parameswara an exiled Malay prince who established his new kingdom at Melaka:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

In central Melaka there is a recreation of what the Sultan’s palace would have looked like:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The palace is called the Istana Kesultanan Melaka.  The palace was constructed as a cultural museum in 1984:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Inside the museum is various displays that depict what life would have been like during the time of the sultanate:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The sultans in Malaysia practiced Islam which remains the dominant religion in Malaysia.  All around Melaka beautiful mosques can be seen today such as the Kampung Kling Mosque that was originally built in 1748:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

By the early 1400’s the Chinese led by the great Admiral Zheng He began to have a huge influence on Melaka.  Zheng He between 1405 – 1433 made seven voyages across the Indian Ocean with five of them stopping at Melaka.  The Chinese trading activity at Melaka created the establishment of a great warehouse.  Today there is a museum that has been constructed to look like what the warehouse may have appeared all those years ago:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The museum is well worth visiting for anyone with an interest in the history of Melaka.  Inside the museum there are various displays and artifacts about the seven voyages that Zheng He made across the Indian Ocean:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here are examples of some of the artifacts on display:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here is a view from the museum from the second floor looking back at the street outside:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Zheng He’s seven voyages brought him in contact with Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, India, the Middle East and Africa:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Zheng He was not the first person to sail these trade routes.  In fact they were well known to traders.  What made Zheng He’s Chinese voyages different was their scale.  On his first voyage he led an armada of 317 ships with 28,000 men.  This was basically a sailing city:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here is a model of what one of his main sailing vessels would have looked like:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

There is a even a metal bust of what Zheng He may have looked like on display:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

After Zheng He’s last voyage in 1433 no more of the massive state sponsored voyages by the Chinese were attempted again due to a change in Imperial leadership.  Instead of being an outward looking country China was to be an inward looking country instead.  How much different would the world have been if China had continued its outward looking policies began by Zheng He?  Today Chinese culture remains a big part of the city of Melaka though it is largely because of the Chinese people the British brought in during their colonizing of the Malay peninsula:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The Chinese section of the town is a lot of fun to explore on foot:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Especially all the little shops selling various Chinese inspired products:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

There are also a number of Chinese temples that are very interesting to check out such as the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

This Taoist temple was built in 1673 and is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The various intricate sculptures that can be seen all around the temple are quite impressive:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

I also enjoyed checking out the traditional Chinese artwork:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here was a shrine of some sort located at the temple:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here is another shrine located in the temple:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

As I continued to walk around the neighborhood I happened upon another Chinese temple:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

I walked inside of the temple and found people praying to various figures on an altar:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

I also happened upon many smaller Chinese temples as well during my walk:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

After many hours of walking around the Chinese neighborhood my wife and I decided to get something to eat at one of the many Chinese restaurants.  The owners sat us over in our own section of the restaurant and we found the food to be quite good:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Following the Chinese, the first European power to colonize the Melaka area was the Portuguese when Afonso de Albuquerque captured the village in 1511.  Anticipating that the Malay sultans would attempt to recapture Melaka Albuquerque began to construct a fortress to defend the city.  Over the coming decades various sultans would attempt to crush the Portuguese and each time they failed.  This is largely because of the fortifications the Portuguese built to defend the city.  For example in the central area of Melaka the ruins of the “A Famosa” Portuguese fortress can still be seen:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Intricate artwork can still be seen to this day carved into the fort’s walls:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The walls of the fortress were very thick and stretch around the hill in the center of the fortification.  The fort was also defended with cannons which must have been an intimidating sight for anyone trying to attack the fort:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

After the British took over Malaysia they ordered the fort’s destruction in 1806 because they were tired of maintaining it.  However, they allowed the entrance gate to remain which is what can still be seen today:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

On top of the hill behind the fort’s entrance is St. Paul’s Church:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

St. Paul’s Church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1521.  Back then it was called Nosa Senhora which meant “Our Lady of the Hill’.  When the Dutch took control of Melaka they conducted further construction on the church and renamed it St. Paul’s Church in 1753.

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Outside of the church the old headstones of Portuguese and Dutch settlers can still be seen after all of these years.

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Inside of the church even more headstones can be seen:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Most of the headstones were Dutch.  Here is a closeup look at a couple of the Dutch headstones which appeared to hold multiple names:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here is a closeup look at the headstone of a British woman, Mrs. Jane Charlotte Westerhout who died at 34 years of age:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

At the back of the church a statue of the famous Spanish Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier can be seen adjacent to a lighthouse the British built on the hill:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

St. Francis Xavier regularly visited Melaka from 1545-1552 before passing away in Melaka.  He was buried at the church for a few months before his body was moved for final burial in Goa, India.

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Here is the view from the church looking back down on central Melaka:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The Dutch captured Melaka from the Portuguese after a fierce battle in 1641.  After its capture the Dutch began to systematically rebuild the town in their own image over the decades.  Today much of the classical Dutch architecture can still be seen in the Christ Church section of the city:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Christ Church was built by the Dutch back in 1753 and it is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.  Construction of the church began 100 years after the capture of the city from the Portuguese to replace St. Paul’s Church up on the nearby hill.  Of note is that Christ Church’s long ceiling beams are constructed with joints and the handmade pews are original and are over 200 years old.  Here is a really intricate fountain that was on display in front of Christchurch:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The prominent clock tower in front of Christ Church was in 1886.  It was built by an ethnic Chinese local Mr. Tan Jiak Kim to fulfill the promise he made to his father Tan Beng Swee to build the tower for the city:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Next to Christ Church the old Dutch mayor’s office called “Stadthuy” can be seen towering over the courtyard.  The building was first constructed in 1650 which makes it the oldest Dutch building still standing in the Orient:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

At the government office plaques showing soldiers killed in the line of duty were on display.  What I was most interested by was how few Dutch names were even on the plaques.  The vast majority of the soldiers appeared to be ethnic Chinese:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The courtyard even has a windmill to see:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Being in the courtyard at Christ Church it was almost hard to believe that I was still in Malaysia.  A great way to check out all that this neighborhood has to offer is by taking a bicycle rickshaw tour which my wife and I did and enjoyed:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The next place we checked out which is a short walk from Christ Church is the Maritime Museum:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The museum is modeled like a sailing ship and inside visitors can learn what life was like for the sailors who had to endure months of sea travel in these small vessels:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The next major power to control Malaysia after the Dutch was the British.  The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 ceded Melaka to the British.  The British inspired architecture can be seen all around the town:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The British architectural influence has been combined with the local architectural style to make many of the government buildings in Melaka to look quite impressive:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Another reminder of the British colonial period is the number of graves of deceased British soldiers that can be seen in Melaka:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Today modern Melaka has also adapted to western culture which a McDonald’s is the best example of:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Probably the most striking thing I saw that showed how the past has merged with the present was a Islamic Sharia law sign in front of a McDonald’s:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

In Malaysia Sharia law only applies to Muslims and it has jurisdiction in personal law matters, for example such as marriage, inheritance, and apostasy.  We had no issues with Sharia law while visiting Malaysia.  In fact the wife of my Malaysian friend went around with us without a headscarf and no one said a word to her.

Something else Melaka has is a number of large resort hotels:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

The resorts and the areas around them are quite nice.  However, not all of modern Melaka has been developed since it still has plenty of rundown and dirty areas:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

However, development in Melaka continues to march on and fix up various rundown areas of the city:

Picture from Melaka, Malaysia

Conclusion

Overall, my wife and I really enjoyed visiting Melaka.  We were able to rent a car and drive to our hotel in the city from the airport with no issues.  We also got around and saw various tourists sites with relative ease since so many people spoke English.  Linking up with our Malaysian friends though really helped us to further enjoy our visit.  For anyone looking for an a culturally rewarding experience in Southeast Asia I highly recommend considering a visit to Melaka.  There are few areas with such a diverse history and a continuing mix of cultures as those found in this great city.

Note: The below travel guide is what I used during my visit to Melaka; it served me well and should prove useful to anyone else looking to visit this great city.

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