Melaka was founded by an exiled prince from Sumatra, Parameswara in the 1400s. it had thrived as a port of call to many ships from around the region, China and India. It had also changed hands a number of times – first falling to the Portuguese in 1511 and then the Dutch in 1641. It was then administered by the British in 1826 with Singapore and Penang as the Straits Settlements. What followed on after that was the Japanese during World War II before finally Malaysia proclaimed its independence. With such a rich history of over 500 years, it is no wonder that Melaka was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO on 7 July 2008.
PassportChop.com had the opportunity to check out the rich heritage of Melaka with Tourism Malaysia and experience the celebrations of the 4th Malacca UNESCO World Heritage City Anniversary Celebration at Bandar Hilir Melaka. Equipped with our Nokia 808 PureView, we were able to document our trip in Melaka with great pictures and videos using its 41 megapixel camera. Read on as we provide you with a visual tour of Melaka’s heritage sites and some interesting anecdotes of Melaka’s history …
One of the most recognizable landmarks of Melaka had to be the red buildings. This area – also known as the Dutch Square – was the hub of the town due to its proximity of the river mouth. The composition of buildings with a town hall, church, market square and a school reflects the character of the townscape much like the ancient European towns.
During the Dutch rule of Malacca, the church, like many other Dutch buildings in South East Asia were painted white. However, in 1911 the Christ Church and the Stadthuys Complex were painted red by the British. No one knows the exact reason for this change in color scheme but there are some interesting speculations – it was suggested that the red discharge from chewing sireh (betel) was constantly spat onto the white walls of the buildings by the locals in venting their hatred and contempt for the Dutch. Later, the British simply decided to cover it up with red paint.
A more plausible reason given was maybe due to the lack of maintenance, the red laterite stone used to build the Stadthuys showed through the whitewashed plastering. Also, perhaps heavy tropical rain often splashed the red soil up the white walls. So, the British decided to paint it all red to save maintenance costs.
Just across the river from the red buildings lies Jonker Street. Jonker Street turns into a busy flea market every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6pm til midnight.
The Melaka River Cruise is another experience not to be missed – for just RM20 (RM10 for locals), you will go on a 40-minute boat ride along the river which provides you with sights of Kampung Morten, Jonker Street and Buildings and Cafes with its painted walls depicting the culture and history of Melaka. The night cruise is even more beautiful with more lighted buildings along the river banks. Do note that as the river is quite shallow – so expect some splashes along the journey. Check out the video below for a preview of the sights you can expect on the cruise:
Located at the foot of St Paul’s Hills, Porta De Santiago – the Old Gateway – was built by the Portuguese in 1512 and was one of 4 main gates to the Portuguese fortress. The fort was demolished by the British and thanks to Sir Stamford Raffles, this gate escaped total demolition.
The ruins of St Paul’s Church on the summit of St Paul’s Hills was originally a chapel called Nossa Senhorada Annunciada (Our Lady of Annuciation) built by a Portuguese sea captain Duarte Coelho in gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life at sea. The Dutch renamed it St Paul’s Church.
What’s most amazing about this place is the story of Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier who preached in this church from 1545 to 1552. His body was interred here for 9 months before being exhumed and taken to his final resting place in India. In 1614, his right forearm which he used to bless and baptise people was detached and surprisingly, still with blood dripping form the wound. His forearm was sent to the Pope in Rome for his canonization.
What’s really amazing was that in 1953, when a statue of St Francis Xavier was put in front of the church – a large casuarina tree fell on the statue and broke its right arm! To this day, the statue of the Saint has a missing right arm! see picture below!
One of the many tombstones in the ruins of St Paul’s Church.
The Dutch converted St Paul’s church into a burial ground upon the completion of the Dutch Reformed Church now known as the Christ Church. Old tombstones inside the ruins of the church bears silent testimony to the final resting place of these Europeans.
For an insight into the rich and colourful Peranakan lifestyle, visit Nos 48 – 50 The Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. The admission is RM10 and is very worth it – you must visit this place and take one of its regular guided tour. The guide will provide you with interesting stories about the Peranakan culture – ask about the Peranakan house “CCTV” if the guide has not told you about it!
No pictures and videos allowed inside the museum. But nothing’s stopping you from taking pictures of the architecture and design of the house from the outside!
To visit Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum (峇峇娘惹博物馆), cross the bridge from the Dutch Square into Jonker Street. Walk straight and turn left at Second Cross Street and at Heeren Street (or Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) turn right at walk along the street til you reach House No. 48.
According to the Malay Annals, Bukit Cina was a marriage gift from Sultan Mansur Syah (ruler of the Malacca Sultanate) to Princess Hang Li Poh from China. After Princess Hang Li Poh had converted to Islam, Sultan Mansur Syah married her and ordered a palace to be built at Bukit Cina for his wife and her entourage that followed her from China. They stayed in this Chinese settlement until the Portuguese invaded in 1511. There are two main attractions at the foot of the hill, Princess Hang Li Poh’s Well and Sam Po Keng Temple.
Built in 1795 by Kapitan Chua Su Cheong, Sam Po Keng Temple was constructed to ensure that the prayers for those buried in Bukit China would not be interrupted by the regular strong winds and rainfalls.
As you can see above, Melaka is full of rich heritage of different cultures – Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese influences are in various attractions. This year, to celebrate the 4th Malacca UNESCO World Heritage City, a night-long celebration was arranged on 7 July 2012 with a colourful display of the city’s unique culture and heritage and the finale fireworks.
Besides the captivating dances by cultural troupes from the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, spectators and special guests were also treated to cultural performances by Malacca’s unique communities such as the Baba-Nyonyas, Portuguese, Chittys and Orang Asli.
The brightest highlight of the night was a dazzling firework display at the end of the three-hour performances that was capped off by street dancing among performers and members of the public. Locals and tourists are welcomed to join the celebration. So do join the festivities during the next Malacca UNESCO World Heritage City celebrations.
To cap off, enjoy this grand fireworks performance during the finale of the 2012 celebrations:
Getting to Melaka
There are a number of bus operators offering daily trips between Singapore and Melaka Sentral. Do check with your bus operator if they arrive at the heart of the Melaka city centre e.g. around the Dutch Square as the Melaka Sentral is quite far away from the city centre and requires another transfer. Bus operators e.g. 707 Express, Delima Express and Starmart operates buses from Singapore to Melaka and the journey takes about 4 hours one way.
All pictures and videos in this blog post were taken with Nokia 808 PureView. Nokia PureView 808 has a 41-megapixel camera sensor with Nokia PureView imaging technology and Carl Zeiss optics.
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