About Traveling in Malacca
Malacca is rich in history and has a glorious past. With its culturally rich and diversified heritage, Malacca is one of the top tourist attractions in Malaysia. Malacca was once a famous trading nation in the world in the 15th century. The Portuguese chronicle once said “Whoever holds Malacca has Venice by the throat”. Malacca by that time was an important port for the east and the west. But its golden age lasted a mere 100 years before it was colonized by the west.
How Malacca Got Its Name
The history of Malacca started in the late 1300s when it was still a small settlement. During that time, fishermen and farmers were mostly its inhabitants. Then Parameswara arrived. He was a Malay prince fleeing from his own invaded domain of Palembang, Sumatra. During a hunting session, he encountered a tiny kancil (mouse deer) which managed to intimate his dogs. He saw that as a sign that this should be the site of his new capital. He founded Malacca then and named it after a local Malacca tree.
Brief History About Malacca
Under the administration of Parameswara, Malacca grew quickly and became an important trading port for the east and west. End of 15th century, Malacca had become centre of a great trading empire and held undisputed claims over the southern Malay Peninsula and East Sumatra. Merchants that came from the far west are Persians, Arabs, Tamils and Bengalis. While the Javanese, Sundanese and Sulus came from the archipelago. The Chinese, Thais, Burmese and Khmers came from the east. All were in search of profit through trade, piracy and plunder. Each in turn left something of their culture behind.
How Peranakan Started in Malacca
The Chinese merchants stayed behind to found the Peranakan community, one of the most striking and colorful Chinese fraternities in Malaysia. The Baba men and Nyonya women (or Straights-born Chinese) are descendants of the Chinese pioneers who accepted the practical realities of living in a Malay community but upheld the social and religions norms of their forefathers in Fujian.
Through Malacca the Islamic faith spread to Malaysia when rich Moorsh merchants from Pasai in Sumatra settled in Malacca. Since then the Malays have been Muslim in the early 15th century. From Malacca, Islam spread throughout the peninsula.
The Fall of Malacca
Malacca had become a famous trading port due to the fact that it is situated in a strategic area linking the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea. It was also here that the monsoon winds met which brings in merchants from China, Japan, Indian and Middle Eastern. Malacca was then the most famous and lucrative trading nation in the world.
It grew quickly in the 15th century and it became one of the richest trading empires in the East, Taking note of this, the west decided that they should assume control of this lucrative trading operation. Malacca golden age came to an end when it fell in 1511 to the Portuguese. The Portuguese kept Malacca for more than 100 years before they were ousted by the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch in turn ceded the land to the British in 1795.
Why You Must Visit Malacca
The influences of all the city’s rulers can still be seen in its historic core around St. Paul’s Hill. The city is known for its multicultural population, including Portuguese Eurasians and most notably the Baba-Nyonyas who are descendants of early merchants from China who intermarried with local Malay women.
Getting to Malacca
From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, visitors can travel to Malacca with taxis or air-conditioned buses. The journey to Malacca from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru takes only about 2 hours. Malacca is also a famous destination for cruise ships and ferries. Visitors from Indonesia can ride ferry all the way from Dumai, Sumatra to reach Malacca. The other alternative is to fly directly from Indonesia to reach the Batu Berendam Airport in Malacca.
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Get off the beaten track next time you’re traveling because you never know what you’ll stumble upon, especially in a country like Malaysia where superstition is alive and flourishing.
Recommended Hotels in Malacca
The Majestic Malacca is a boutique hotel where modern comforts and the charms of Malacca’s bygone era come together beautifully. If buildings could talk, YTL Hotels’ The Majestic Malacca (TMM) would surely have a few stories to tell.
Places of Interest in Malacca
Built in 1650 as the official residence of Dutch Governors and their officers, the edifice is an example of Dutch architecture. Preserved in its original structure and form, it now houses the History Museum and Ethnography Museum. On display daily are traditional bridal costumes and relics from Melaka glorious past.
The hallmark of Malacca and perhaps the most photographed subject next to the Stadhuys. Built by the Portuguese in 1511 as a fortress, it sustained severe structural damage during the Dutch invasion. The Dutch had set to destroy it but timely intervention by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 saved what remains of A’Famosa today.
St. Francis Xavier’s Church
Built in 1849 by Reverend Farve, a Frenchman, the Gothic-towered church is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. Known as the ‘Apostle to the East’, St. Francis Xavier is well-remembered for the missionary work spreading Catholicism to Southeast Asia in the 16th Century.
Standing exactly as it has always been since 1753, the church is testimony to Dutch architecture ingenuity. Take note of the church’s handmade pews, ceiling beams constructed without joints, Brass Bible, tombstone written in Armenian and ‘Last Supper’ in glazed tiles.
St. Paul Church
It was a church built by a Portuguese captain by the name of Duarte Coelho. The chapel was turned by the Dutch into a burial ground for their noble death and renamed ‘St. Paul’s Church’ from the Portuguese’s ‘Our Lady of The Hill’.
St. John Fort
The fort was rebuilt by the Dutch during the third quarter of the 18th century. The fort was once a private Portuguese chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The interesting feature of the fort is the cannons embrasures which face inland instead of towards the sea as during that time, enemies’ attacks on Melaka mainly came from mainland.
As the name implies, ‘Chinese Hill’ was the official settlement of the Chinese entourage arrived with Princess Hang Li Poh. She was sent to Melaka by the Emperor to marry the Sultan to mark the advent of diplomatic relationship between Melaka and China. The entourage stayed in this settlement until Portuguese occupation in 1511. Today Bukit China is the largest Chinese cemetery outside China with many of the tombs dating back to Ming Dynasty.
Hang Li Poh’s Well
The well was built in 1459 by the followers of Hang Li Poh. Hang Li Poh was the Chinese princess who married to the Sultan of Melaka. The well never dries up in the old days and was the only source of water supply when drought hit the town. The Dutch enclosed it with stout walls in 1677 to maintain their right to the well. The well has not been turned into a wishing well and it is believed that those who throw coins into it will return to Melaka again and again.
Hang Tuah’s Mausoleum
This famous Malay Warrior who served as an admiral of Melaka’s naval forces had defended successfully countless attacks against Melaka. The outstanding military exploits of Hang Tuah and his four comrades (Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu, Hang Lekir and Hang Kasturi) has made him a legendary figure in the history of Malacca.
Hang Tuah’s bravery was discovered during his adolescence when he single-handedly arrested a man who had run amok. His valor caught the Sultan’s attention and he was conferred a knighthood, the youngest ever to be honored during that time.
The Baba and Nyonya Heritage
‘Straits Chinese’ or the Baba and Nyonya, are Chinese who have adopted much of the Malay culture. The public can now view the unique heritage at the private museum run by the Baba and Nyonya of Melaka.
The museum is named after ‘Flor De La Mar’ which is the name of a galleon. The Portuguese galleon sank in the Straits of Melaka on its way to Portugal. With her hull laden with invaluable treasures seized from Melaka, the galleon was doomed from existence had it not for the efforts to revive its symbolic significance to Melaka’s heritage.
At the museum, visitors can get a closer look at Melaka from the famed Malay Sultanate of the 14th Century to the Portuguese era, the Dutch era and the British era. There are exhibits of foreign ships models that had once called at the port of Melaka during the height of its maritime hegemony.
Melaka Sultanate Palace
Built based on the description and reference to the palace in ‘Sejarah Melayu’ (the Malay Annals), this wooden replica houses the Cultural Museum of Melaka. Situated at the foot of St. Paul’s Hill, it is the only Malay palace from Melaka’s glorious past built with such detail and refinement.
Perhaps the right phrase to infer strong affinity to Portugal would be ‘Mini Lisbon’. Located within the Portuguese Settlement, the square is the culmination of Portuguese culture in its full splendor and colors.
A’Famosa Water World
Your world of never ending fun and excitement for everyone. Get ready for thrilling hours of fun and exciting fantasies with A’Famosa Water World. It is fully equipped with water theme park facilities.
A’Famosa Animal World Safari
Spread over 150 acres of lush greenery, it is home to some of the world’s most exotic animals. With animal rides and shows, guided tours, a high-tech farmhouse hatchery, the A’Famosa World Safari is truly the place to go for animal’s lovers.
A stupendous theme complex to enable visitors to view the traditional house of the 13 states of Malaysia on a single visit. The complex displays life-size authentic houses of Malaysia crafted by master builders. Each house has been furnished with corresponding elements, adding ambience of originality that capture the houses in their traditional setting.
The Melaka Zoo is home to more than 200 species of animals found in Southeast Asia and Africa. Rated the best zoo in the country, the Melaka Zoo is an exciting place to discover the animal world at your own pace.
A haven for holiday makers seeking sandy beaches, clear blue waters, the sun and sea-front chalets on stilts. The island is an excellent resort for swimming, fishing, picnicking and snorkeling.
Hawksbill Turtle (Pulau Upeh)
One of the Earth’s rare spces, the Hawksbill turtle is a medium-sized marine turtle with a hawk-like beak and a thorny shell. Brown and lightly striped, these turtles find their ideal resting ground on the island of Upeh. The egg-laying season is from March to June but visitors can expect to catch sight of at least a few turtles every night throughout the year.
Seri Tanjung Homestay, Masjid Tanah.
Experience the real kampong way of life at Seri Tanjung Village. Twice winner of the National Beautiful Village competition, Seri Tanjung offers accommodation for visitors under the Homestay concept. The village is in Alor Gajah Dstrict, approximately 24km away from Melaka Historic City. Visitors will stay with host families, the villagers of Seri Tanjung. As such, visitors will experience the essence of village life in Seri Tanjung which is becoming a rarity nowadays.
The best way to enjoy Melaka in a slow and laid-back manner is to take a trishaw ride. The journey will take you through streets and corners of Melaka that you could easily miss out if you decide to venture on your own. The trishaw can be rented on hourly or distance covered basis at The Stadthuys.