Malacca is a tiny seaside town in Malaysia that was a simple fishing village before it was converted to a port due to its accessibility from the Straits of Malacca. This was in the 1400s. Along came the Portuguese in 1509, having set sail from Goa, to stamp their dominance on the Asian trade route by conquering Malacca. That however, didn’t last for long because the Dutch forged an alliance with a Malay Sultanate and ousted the Portuguese after a long 6-month siege. 150 years passed before the Dutch eventually handed over this colony to the British. Malaysia (along with Malacca) finally declared independence from the British in 1957.
Mainly due to this colonial juggling, Malacca is distinctly different from the rest of Malaysia. To this very day, the Dutch, Portuguese, British, Chinese and Malay cultures are visible in splashes all across this unique city. No wonder that Malacca has been added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
If you ever find yourself in this part of the woods, here’s what would be worth your time in Malacca..
This monstrosity can only be described as an architectural brain-fart, since it was constructed bang in the middle of the old town. But maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. If you can get past that, a trip on this revolving tower gives you a good idea of how big Malacca actually is. It’s easy to spot the old city gradually giving way to the new with the age-old Malacca River meandering through the town.
Old Malacca is tiny and has tiny roads with beautiful old colonial houses on either side and with the scorching sun above, the best way to explore the old city would be on a tri-rickshaw. Of course, if you’ve never ridden a tri-rickshaw before, just the sheer novelty of the experience is reason enough.
Historically situated at the City Centre, Stadthuys translates to Town Hall in Dutch. This is also deemed to be the oldest surviving Dutch building in the East. It is now a Museum of History and Ethnography. Christ Church is the oldest Protestant Church in Malaysia and is over 250 years old.
One of the few Portuguese structures that survived the Dutch, St. Pauls Church is famous for having housed the tomb of St. Francis Xavier before his body was transferred to Goa, where it still remains, put on display every 10 years. After the Dutch conquest, it was used as a burial ground. Tombstones are scattered all across this monument.
Brown by day and black by night, this isn’t a typical postcard river. The dirty brown colour comes from the sediment carried by the Malacca River, being deposited in the sea. A peaceful river cruise is an option, but sitting by the side of this river at night is just as beautiful.
Driving around Old Malacca, it’s impossible to missing this old galleon stranded on dry land. The Maritime museum is housed within this ship and beautifully illustrates the history of one of the most important Asian ports in the Colonial era.
Once the evening kicks in, Chinatown is at the centre of all activity. It plays host to the daily Pasar Malam or night market. You’ll find crowds of locals and tourists wandering aimlessly though with all sorts of knick-knacks on display. Also on offer is an amazing range of Malay and Chinese street food. The food here is another reason why Malacca is so different from the rest of Malaysia. Be sure to try out some mouth watering Peranakan food and if you’ve got the stomach, some Portuguese-Eurasian devil curry.