Melaka Heritage Walk
Founded by Parameswara in 1396 who named his sultanate after the “Melaka” tree, Melaka has provided the stage on which the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English played their roles in shaping history.
Melaka’s appeal lies in its rich and colourful past. Its 600 years of history is reflected in its ancient buildings, streets, cuisine and unique cultural heritage.
In the 16th century, Melaka enjoyed a reputation as the foremost maritime trading center. Merchants came from Arabia, China, India and Europe to conduct trade in silk, spices, gold and porcelain. So coveted was Melaka by the European powers that is was ruled successively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British until the Federation of Malaya was formed on the 31st August 1957.
Where is Melaka?
Malaysia is situated one to seven degrees north of the equator. The State of Melaka, one of the fourteen states within Malaysia, is situated on the South-Western Coast of Peninsular Malaysia facing the Straits of Melaka and between the states of Negeri Sembilan and Johor. Modern Melaka set on a course of industrial development about 2 decades after independence and its vision to be fully industrialized state by the year 2010.
Brief History Of Melaka
Melaka was only a fishing village once but that all changed in 1400 when an exiled prince called Parameswara from Palembang, Indonesia landed on the shores of Melaka and saw a sign that made it clear to him that this was where he would begin his kingdom. What he saw was a meek, tiny mouse deer take on and beat his hunting dogs. He called his new kingdom Melaka after the tree that he was sitting under when this happened. Soon the tiny village began to flourish under his leadership and gave rise to the first line of Sultans in Melaka.
Melaka grew into one of the largest ports in Asia at the time, attracting trading ships from every part of the world. But this richness also made it a target because in 1511, the Portuguese conquered Melaka. The battle for control for Melaka went on for centuries and the kingdom fell in the hands of the Dutch in 1641 and then was ceded to the British in 1826.
Today, this colorful history can be seen in the ruins around the city which you can visit on your holiday in Melaka.
What Can You Do In Melaka As A Tourist?
Melaka, Malaysia is best known for its well preserved culture and heritage. This is why Melaka earned its place in the coveted UNESCO world heritage sites. Melaka or Malacca is Malaysia’s oldest historical city and one of the most popular tourists’ spots in the world today. This already is enough hint of the ton of things you can do as a tourist in Melaka.
The town of Melaka is small and compact. You can visit all of its interesting sites just by walking down the narrow streets lined with specialty shops and century-aged houses. With combined effort from the Melaka Tourist Information Center and American Express Foundation, they developed the Melaka Heritage Trail that will bring tourists to the right places just by following the map. Melaka Heritage Trail is like a walk back in time for tourists. This map is made simple with easy-to-follow diagram and descriptions of each suggested site.
When visiting Melaka, stop by at the Melaka Tourist Information Center first, to pick up your map and for best tips on how to maximize your visit to this ancient town. The center is located right at the heart of old Malacca. Your trail will start here and should end here as well. There are 10 major stops, not to mention your “side-stops” to interesting shops and spots along the trail. So, here it is, enjoy!
Your first stop is to the site where Melaka history started and took shape, the Malacca River. This river was once a busy, major port playing an important role in the spice trade but now it is only used for tourism purposes. Because of this port, Melaka had been colonized by foreign blood so many times. Melaka River Cruises are also offered in this area. At the eastern bank of this river, you can find 15th century Hindu Prince Parameswara’s palace.
Explore the world of Baba Nyonya heritage or Peranakan culture with your next stop. This culture began with inter-racial marriages between the Chinese settlers and native Malay women in Melaka. The Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock is the “rich people” lane where houses are designed exquisitely with blends of Dutch and Chinese influences. You can also find Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum in this side of the street where guided tours are held upon request. Check out the miniature shoes, intricately designed, in display. They were used by foot-bound female of Baba Nyonyans.
A short walk and you will find yourself face to face with Malaysian’s oldest Buddhist temple that is fully functional despite its age, the Cheng Hoon Teng or Green Cloud temple. Religiously activities are held here everyday. Further along is the oldest mosque in Malaysia, the Kampong Kling Mosque that was built with Sumatran influence in 1748. Kampong Kling Mosque still remains as the central of the Malay community.
Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia and one of the firsts. This temple is dedicated to Vinayagar, a deity who is known to remove obstacles. Now, when you see the famous bright red building, you will know you are still right on track. This old protestant church is called Christ Church and it is situated in Dutch Square. It is said that there are tombstones underneath the church. Masses are regularly conducted here in different dialects to cater to its multi-lingual congregation and one should not miss the clock tower that was built in 1886.
Going around, you will see the St. Paul’s Historical Complex which houses three of Melaka’s oldest buildings. At the foot of St. Paul’s Hill, you will find the former residence of Dutch governor built in 1650. This building is hard to miss since it was painted red. Right up the top of the hill is the St. Paul’s Church where you can also see the magnificent view of Malacca Strait. On the other side is the surviving gate of A Famosa called Porta de Santiago which was built in 1512.
Stumble upon Malacca Sultanate palace on your way back. This is a fairly new building if compared to those in site since it is a replica of the original palace. It is now home to Malacca Cultural Museum. Your last stop will be the Malacca Club or the Proclamation of Independence memorial. This trail will lead you back to Melaka Tourist Information Center, ending your journey through this fantastic and rich culture of Melaka. After visiting the important sites, feel free to roam around for some more places and things to explore such as the following:
The Hang Tuah Well
Hang Tuah was the leader of a band of five Malay warriors who were renowned as the protectors of the crown before the foreign occupation. Hang Tuah’s Well, located outside of town in Duyong was supposed to be a well that this legendary warrior dug centuries ago.
The icon of Melaka and probably its most well known structures, A Formosa is the remnants of a large fort that had once encompassed an integral part of St Paul’s Hill. The fort was largely destroyed by the later conquerors leaving the fort’s entrance behind.
The most unique treasure in Melaka, the Settlement is home to the descendants of the Portuguese conquerors. What is extremely unique about the settlement is that they have managed to maintain a language and culture that dates back to the 14th century which can no longer be found anywhere else in the world.
The red buildings close to the Melaka Clocktower were the administrative buildings of the Dutch conquerors. Today, the building houses the main museum of Melaka.
Just beside the Melaka Sultanate Palace, the graveyard has some of the oldest Dutch graveyards in the country.
When the British occupied Melaka, they largely took over most of the buildings that had already been built by the Portuguese and Dutch. They do however have a few structures that which they have built.
Standing just beside the Clocktower, the fountain was built in 1904 and is still in perfect working condition to this day.
6 Traditional Foods You Will Love in Melaka
Food is a part of the culture. Food is an identity. Food and its taste have the potential to rule the human tongues and hearts.
Each country has a set of food items and habits which has been framed and formulated centuries ago. People love their local food and try out some innovative recipes with the same base food. Like Chinese do with noodles, Italians with pasta and Indians with roti and rice.
Melaka is a decisive food spot in Malaysia where you can taste any traditional Malay food with a simple touch of innovation. One who comes to Melaka should definitely taste all the foodstuffs to delight your taste buds.
Below mentioned are some of the must eat traditional delicacies of Melaka.
Satay Celup is a skewered food. There are 80 plus types and flavors in satay. Taste a few varied flavors to feel the difference and the kick of the dish. This dish stands first in the queue of favorite foods not only for the locals but also for the tourists. Cooked or partially cooked meat is skewered and dipped into the bowl of boiling sauce. The stuff is allowed to remain for a while and served hot. Meat can be replaced by any seafood or vegetable.
Cincalok is yet another delicious food item in Melaka. The platter looks gorgeous with a rich blend of pink (shrimps) and white (rice). Cincalok is served with omelets and chickens. Locals prefer this as a side dish for breakfast and dinner. This is a fermented mixture of cooked rice, shrimps / krill and salt. Cincalok is normally sealed in bottles and sold in retail outlets.
Sioh is a typical Peranakan dish. Tamarind juice, coriander paste, salt, sugar, pepper and soy sauce are blended to form a paste. The ayam (chicken) or itik (duck) is marinated overnight with the paste and cooked to the consistency of gravy. This is a spicy dish which goes well with a bowl of rice. Most of the hotels in Melaka serve Ayam Sioh for lunch.
Chicken Rice Balls is an extraordinary delicious dish. The rice is cooked with the chicken stock and shaped into a perfect sphere with the help of the hands. The chicken rice ball is one of the signature dishes in Melaka. Normally rice balls are accompanied with chicken, red chili sauce or soy sauce.
Sambal Terung is one of the lip smacking delicacies in Melaka. Eggplant (also known as Aubergine or Brinjal) is sliced and fried on a pan with a few drops of oil and several pinches of salt. The cooked eggplants are topped with sambal and served. Sambal is a loose paste prepared out of dry shrimp and some spices ground together.
Chendol is a sweet dessert made out of coconut milk. Rice flour is mixed with certain ingredients to form a green jelly like thing. These jellies are grated and the shreds are dropped into the coconut milk. This chill dessert is complimented with crushed ice cubes and liquefied palm sugar.
Overall, there are many fascinating tourist spots and things to enjoy in Melaka, Malaysia aside from the above mentioned. Melaka is a compact town filled with many tourist holiday destinations and attractions which delight tourist all over the world. Going around town is made simple with Bas Panorama Melaka which operates all throughout Melaka, giving tourists the convenience of getting to one place and another.
Truly, a Melaka travel is like a walk back in time with its rich and preserved culture you will not find anywhere else in the world. It is truly amazing how the Melaka community cared for their heritage and managed to cater to its multicultural history.
Visit the Asia destinations category to learn more about other tourism opportunities available in Asia!