It is with regret that Malaysia remains one of the countries in Asia that I have explored the least. Nevertheless, I did manage to get to Melaka on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur during my time in the country. This 2 hour road trip is well worth taking.
I noticed it in Georgetown, and I noticed it in Melaka, too: the very steps you walk here are history lessons. There is so much history here from the colonial times right through to the Peranakan era, and this was a great subject on which to collect most of my photographs. I enjoyed the trip immensely, and some of the encounters I endured were among the most memorable in my entire travels around Asia, from a simple smile from a street artist, to a helpful piece of advice from a market trader. It confirmed everything I thought I knew from Kuala Lumpur: that Malaysians are a very friendly race.
Located around 90 miles south east of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Melaka (or Malacca) is known for its Portuguese colonial history, and as such you will see many churches of Christian faith sharing the land along with the Buddhist and Hindu temples that scatter Melaka as a whole (not to mention the omnipresent mosques). As the tourism slogans will tell you: “Melawat Melaka Bererti Melawati Malaysia!”, which literally means that visiting Melaka means visiting Malaysia! Perhaps there really is no need to see other areas of Peninsula Malaysia, as it is all encapsulated within Melaka, from the architecture, the religion, the food, the people, and some interesting paid tourist attractions – it’s all here! The only thing Melaka lacks really is some wildlife, and a large national park like you can see over in Sabah or Sarawak.
Just as in Penang, Melaka is rich in culinary cuisine, as well as colonial history. Wherever you walk there will be little restaurants and cafés selling anything from pastries and kueh cake to roast goose! It was here in Melaka that reminded me most of Singapore’s Chinatown. Now that may be a weird thing to say, but as a “foreigner” who spends so much time in Singapore, I find that Chinatown is actually the only true reflection of Singapore’s history left in that country now – and some might argue that even that is a bit too touristy nowadays. But here in Melaka, it felt like I was enjoying a similar kind of culture in a homely village somewhere, and yet the culture was definitely genuine and came without the touristy reputation that some other countries/cities in the region have become. Much of my history lesson in Melaka involved Fort A Formosa, a fort built by the Portuguese and then partially destroyed by the Dutch. It was going to be destroyed completely by the British in the days of British Malaya, but Sir Stamford Raffles decided against this. It was this kind of simple textbook history that enlightened me on my trip to Melaka, as I was not – and still am not – very clued up on the Portuguese/Spanish colonial histories in the ASEAN region (which also includes the Philippines, obviously).
My time in Melaka was all too short. I found it to be one of the most interesting places I visited on the South East Asian peninsula, and perhaps even more so than Kuala Lumpur. Despite being here for merely 8 hours or so before heading back to the capital, I nevertheless had a good time exploring the various avenues and the associated waterways in the city by way of the entertaining river cruise, which is a must-do when in the area!