Malacca/Melaka Stories and Tips


Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Photo, Malacca/Melaka, Malaysia

Malacca Town and Penang's George Town were formally inscribed as UNESCO Heritage Sites in 2008.

Malacca is rich in culture and it bears several places of historical interests. Tourism is an important industry in Malacca. "Visiting Malacca Means Visiting Malaysia" is a slogan adopted by Malacca because it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, and it was the birthplace of the Baba Nyonya heritage.

I took a day trip to Malacca with some friends. Jessica, our tour guide and driver, drove us from Kuala Lumpur. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to reach Malacca Town. Jonker Street is the main street in the town. Well-preserved prewar buildings turned into shops selling souvenirs, antiques, and local designs. On Fridays and Saturdays, the street turns into a night market where tasty treats and delicious knick knacks are sold at dirt cheap prices. A handful of bars turn the street into a mini street party with tables oozing beyond the sidewalks and a mix of live music beating throughout the area.

Traffic was pretty slow here. Jessica showed us the oldest and grandest temple in Malacca, Cheng Hoon Teng. It is located along Jalan Tokong (formerly Temple Street) in the core area of the Malacca Heritage Site. Dating back from 1646, the temple continues to serve the Buddhist community in Malacca. The temple is dedicated to Kwan Yin, is noteworthy due to its craftsmanship and preservation. A robed effigy of the Goddess of Mercy can be found within the main hall and remains the focal point for the entire shrine.

Malacca is well-known for its food. Its Baba Nyonya cuisine is a fusion of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, British and Malay cooking with most dishes being spicy in nature. We had 'Chicken Rice Ball' for lunch. It's basically chicken rice with the rice comes in the size of a ping-pong ball. Other famous local fares in Malacca are 'Nyonya Laksa' (a Peranakan cuisine, which is a fusion of Malay and Chinese cooking) 'Itek Tim' (a sour duck soup with salted vegetables), and 'Ayam Pong The' (miso soy braised chicken).

Malacca has a laid back atmosphere. Between the scattered historic spots are Chinese prewar shop fronts and traditional Malay houses. Time stands still as we head to the Main Square, where Stadthuys and Christ Church are located. Stadhuys, a salmon-pink town hall and the governor's residence, is believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, houses several museums. Christ Church is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. Built in 1753 to commemorate a century of Dutch rule in Malacca, it is one of the most recognizable buildings in the country. The square is never short of activities: trishaws adorned with plastic flowers (lots of them) and Malaysian flags to attract tourists, man with a white 'motionless' python that you pay a fee to pose with it, and street vendors selling souvenirs and tidbits.

Porta De Santiago (A'Famosa) is a must for anyone planning to visit Malacca. Constructed by the Portugese in 1511 as a fortress, it suffered severed structural damage during the Dutch invasion. What is remained today was saved by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 when the British planned to destroy the structure was aborted.

Malacca is a city mix of the old and new, historical sites and prewar shophouses stand close to modern shopping centers and offices. Here you will find old folks relaxing in their houses and young adults enjoying the life texting with their iphones. Malacca once a sleepy town, is slowly becoming a major tourist destination in Malaysia. And, before we drove back to Kuala Lumpur, we had Malacca famous satay celup, it's skewered raw fish or meat cooked in peanut sauce!

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