MELAKA: A HERITAGE TRAIL

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IT WAS A SATURDAY morning and I was five minutes late when I reached the Melaka Tourism Information Centre at Jalan Kota. The instruction I received two days ago was to be at the front of the centre at exactly 9.30 am for me to participate in the Heritage Tour that day.

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Cautiously, I pushed the glass door and head straight to the counter. Inside there were a few international tourists looking at the brochures. Some were sitting and chatting among themselves and others were filling in some forms.

When I inquired about the walk, the staff at the counter told me to just approach the ‘uncle’ in a purple t-shirt who was busy counting the forms he was holding.

The ‘uncle’ was Desmond Lau the guide for the Heritage Tour organised by the Melaka Tourism Office and the tourists who were waiting at the centre were going to be my tour-mates for two and a half hours and like the rest of the participants, I too must fill in a special form for record and safety purposes.

We started our walk at the riverbank, a spot behind the centre where Desmond told us the history of the opening of Melaka and how over the years, the port became so prosperous where traders from all over the world came to trade, and it became the melting pot of its era in the Malay Archipelago.

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While Desmond was talking, I was trying my best to remember the history lesson I learned since primary school when a prince from Palembang, Parameswara, who was resting under a tree near the mouth of Bertam River (former name of the Melaka River), witnessed a mouse deer outwitting his dog.

Taking it as a good omen, he decided to build a kingdom called Melaka and which he made all facilities for Melaka to become international port for trading.

Melaka flourished as a popular port because of its strategic location and Parameswara who took the name Sultan Iskandar Shah forged good relationship with China and the bond later strengthened when China sent a princess Hang Li Po to marry Sultan Mansur (1456-1477) and brought with her some 500 youths from noble families.

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Desmond later explained that the descendants of Hang Li Po’s entourage who married the local women, is now known as Chinese Peranakan or Baba Nyonya. Although they may retain their religion, most of their lifestyles including cuisines are a mixed of Chinese and Malay.

From the riverbank, we later walked to the Dutch Square where the history lesson continued with the sieged of Portuguese armada led by Alfonso de Alburquerque, and finally conquered the port in 1511. However as explained by Desmond, the downfall of Melaka sultanate was due to its poor administration and economics problem.

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Then in 1606, came the Dutch where they launched several attacks on the Portuguese colony and during the Dutch colonisation, they introduced their own architecture such as the still standing Stadhuys Building and the Christ’s Church.

Later, in 1824, Melaka was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, where Melaka was under the rule of British East India Company and then as a Crown Colony.
Now, why would the Dutch painted their buildings red? Originally the buildings surrounding the Stadhuys including the church, was painted white but in the early 1900, the British administration decided to paint the building salmon red for easy maintenance purpose.

This actually puzzled me. I think white is easily maintained rather than salmon red or the bright red colour they are famous for, until Desmond explained that in the olden days, the Malays loved to chew betel leaves and would spit on the walls.

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“Either it was because of bad habits or just a show of contempt towards the British, it caused headache to the administrator to clean the red spatters and repaint the walls. Problem solved when they painted the building red. What’s the fun in spitting the red betel juice on a red wall?”

Right!

It was fun walk around this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not just we enjoyed Desmond occasional anecdotes, we also enjoyed the scenery especially when we are on top of St Paul’s Hill where the St Paul’s church walls still stands.

Coming down from the hill, we walked back to Jalan Kota, strolled along the river bank to Jonker Street, once the rich man’s street. Not just it showcases beautiful buildings with elaborate carvings on their pillars and walls, the street is also famous for local antique shops, restaurants and modern shopping boutiques.

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The tour ended at two religious building, the Kampung Keling Mosque, one of the oldest in the country (built in the 17th Century) with a blend of Sumatran and Western architecture and Cheng Hoon Teng temple, constructed in 1645 and believed to be the oldest Chinese temple in the country.

Those who are interested to book a free guided heritage tour can contact the Melaka Tourism Information Centre at 606-281 4803. The centre is located at Jalan Kota (near the Tan Kim Seng Bridge that connects Jalan Laksamana and Lorong Hang Jebat).
#travel #malaysia #melaka #malacca #hangtuah #historiccity #historicalcity #mymelaka #mymalacca #malaysia #hangtuah #hangjebat #history #historicaltrail

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