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Malacca
MalaccaMalacca is the capital of the state of Malacca, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. There are some interesting legends surrounding the foundation and naming of Malacca (in Malay its spelt Melaka). According to the 16th century Malay Annals, the city was founded by Parameswara, a descendant of Alexander the Great. More likely, he was a Hindu prince and political fugitive from nearby Java. The legend goes that Parameswara was out on a hunt in the region and had stopped to refresh himself near what is now the 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 propitious sign of the weak overcoming the powerful and decided to build the capital of his new kingdom where he stood, naming it for the tree under which he had been resting. Another account says Malacca is derived from the Arabic word Malakat, meaning 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 Bharu saw the loss much of Malaccan 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 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, and other 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 Nyonyas 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.

The 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, 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!

Where to go and What to See?
  1. Stadthuys - completed in 1660. Nowadays, it houses the historical museum. This is one of the oldest Dutch buildings in the east.
  2. 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: Thursday - Tuesday.
  3. Red Square - beautiful Square around Christ Church and the Stadthuys. On this square you will find the Tang Beng Swee Clock Tower, it looks Dutch, but it is not. It was built in 1886.
  4. Porta de Santiago - You will find these 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Muzium Budaya - Below the hill you will find this museum (Melaka Cultural Museum). It is a reconstruction of the istana of the Sultan. It was built in 1985.
  7. Baba and Nyonya Peranakan Museum. 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 located on Heeren Street (now known as Tun Cheng Lock Street).
  8. 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.
  9. Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. Oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia and has an inscription dating 1685 commemorating the deeds of by Kapitan China Li Wei King.
  10. 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 Lisbon 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 Cristão (or Kristang), 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Hang Li Po's Well - Legends have it that Hang Li Po 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 100 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.
  13. Poh San Teng Temple - This temple is located at the foot of Bukit China and next to Hang Li Po'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.
  14. 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.
  15. Kampung Morten - a village of traditional houses, it is located on the west bank of the Malacca River.
Food for Thought
Besides the usual Malaysian fare, you'll be able to sample some rather peculiar Malaccan food. On top of the list is of course Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya food, which until recently was totally un-commercialised and confined to the kitchens of old grandmothers. Now, there are a string of restaurants claiming to serve Peranakan food, most unfortunately seem to be on the tour bus circuit. The dishes are slightly different from that of the Penang Peranakan. Usual ones include ayam pongteh (chicken in bean sauce, originally cooked with pork) and ayam buah keluak (chicken cooked with a bitter fruit) and a whole array of desserts. Another famous Malacca dish is what is commonly called "chicken rice ball".

Although it is called Hainanese chicken rice, it is not from Hainan, China, but invented by the Hainanese immigrants to Malaysia a long time ago. The chicken for this dish is very much the same as the boiled chicken offered throughout Malaysia; what is unique is the rice - it comes in ping-pong sized balls. Yet another Malaccan speciality is satay celup. It is like lok-lok found in other parts of the country but instead of dipping your skewered foodstuff (fishballs, crabsticks, meat, prawns and etc) into boiling water; you dip them into a boiling vat of satay sauce. The sight of boiling satay sauce may not appeal to you but the crowds at the satay celup outlets seem to suggest that many have overcome their phobias.

Of course, Malacca is where you'll find Portuguese-Eurasian food. The greatest concentration of outlets will be at the Portuguese Settlement. Seafood is popular, as is the fiery "devil curries".

The recent tourism boom has seen many new food and beverage outlets open in Malacca, and especially in the heritage area of Jonker and Heeren Street. However, competition is great and some outlets fail to survive. Places you discover on your first visit may not be around anymore on your second

Geographér Cafe is situated at Jonker Walk. The restaurant/bar occupied a renovated old Malacca shop house. This café is quite comfortable and lively/noisy restaurant/bar serving Malaccan standards with occasional live music.

Jalan Kee Ann Night Open Air Eating Stalls, Jalan Kee Ann. Open air eating stalls for locals and visitors. It is a good place to eat and see the world go by while eating in the open air. Local cuisines include won ton mee, popiah, yew keow, sugar cane water, sup kambing, satay, and a lot of other fares.

Tengkera Mee Soup, Located along Jalan Tengkera near the famous Tengkera Mosque. Noodles (many varieties) served Chinese style but by a Malay/Muslim vendor and are therefore Halal. Open from mid-afternoon until when the noodles are sold out.

Jonker Walk has many food and drinks outlets which serve Nyonya laksa (laksa with coconut milk) and desserts like cendol, including the sinful durian cendol.

Umbai is a town between Jasin-Central Melaka borders in Melaka. The famous Umbai's Medan Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) is located in Umbai Beach. Approx. 20-30 minutes drive from Malacca town. Come and savour varieties of seafood grilled on open fire and served piping hot. Have it with rice or just on its own with Assam dip.

The first fully air-conditioned 4 storeys shopping complex in Melaka Raya is the "Mahkota Parade". Built and opened in mid 1990's, this shopping complex is very popular with locals and visitors alike. There are abundant car parks and a major Departmental Store named "Parkson Grand" operates here. Within this shopping complex, there are numerous shopping outlets ranging from food outlets, photograph shops, book shops, souvenir shops, bowling alley named "Golden Bowl" & Cineplex’s. "Mahkota Parade" is, indeed, a one-stop family shopping & entertainment centre.

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