Day 72: Melaka, Malaysia. We woke to a hot sunny day, and headed out to explore the old streets and buildings of Melaka. As we walked through the guesthouse, down the multiple flights of bright blue stairs, and through the mini-museum in what used to be the front reception area, we snapped a few more pics of this sensational old building and memorabilia.
We set off on the Melaka heritage walk, dodging cars and bikes as we crossed the busy streets – and dodging a guy on the pavement with a parrot on his shoulder. A little random.
Melaka has a big and colourful history. Having been established in 1396 by a Sumatran prince, the Portuguese arrived in 1511; the Dutch took over in 1641; the British ruled from 1795; it was then back to the Dutch in 1818, and the British in 1824; the Japanese took occupation in 1942-45; then it was handed back to the British; and finally independence was granted in 1957.
Our first stop was St Peter’s Church, which was built in 1710 by the Portuguese and is the oldest church in the country. A lovely old guy who was the church attendant chatted us through some of the history, though he had a very strong accent and we both heard slightly different things. Lil thought he said you can find ‘peace and quiet’ in the annex; Jim thought he said you can find ‘a poltergeist’ in the annex. Who knows, perhaps you get both.
Next we walked up Bukit China (China Hill), through the cemetery, and over to the Sam Poh Kong temple which is dedicated to China’s Admiral Cheng Ho.
The temple houses the personal well of a Chinese princess, Hang Li Po, who married a local sultan in 1459. The water was used for their daily needs, and apparently never dried up. Legend says that anyone who drinks from the well, will return to Melaka. It was poisoned twice over time to kill invaders.
We had a quick trip to the Malaysia Independence Museum – two floors packed with information about Malaysia’s past and its strive for independence, which was granted in 1957. The volume of information and the layout and design was a little overwhelming, so we skimmed some of the key information panels and photos, and headed back out to into the daylight.
Then we had a look at Porta de Santiago, the only remaining piece of A Famosa, the name given to the fort that the Portuguese built to defend Melaka. The rest of the fort was demolished by the British in 1795, the strategic intention being to move everything and everyone to Penang, and leave Melaka indefensible.
Next we walked up a steep set of steps to look at St Paul’s Hill Church, which was originally built in 1521. It’s the burial ground of many Dutch noblemen.
Our last historical site visit for the day was to Christ Church, built in 1753. The pews inside are 200 years old, and the bell dates back to 1608 – unfortunately we couldn’t go inside today as the church was closed to visitors, hopefully another day.
We headed out of the town centre and walked across to Melaka Island, a reclaimed piece of land by the waterfront. Along the way we spotted a guy walking along with his cat on his head – surprisingly the cat seemed quite happy. Not sure if the cat was responsible for the piece missing from the brim of the guy’s hat or not.
The Melaka Straits Mosque is perched on the edge of the island. We both had to borrow gowns before we were allowed to walk in and take a look around. It’s a fabulous building, and was pretty busy – we were fortunate to be able to take a look at the praying room while a prayer session was underway.
Side note: in a blog post a couple of days ago, we mentioned green arrows on the ceilings of guesthouses we’d stayed in, assuming they were directions to fire escapes. One of our friends pointed out that they are in fact indicators of Mecca, so muslims know which direction they need to pray. Oops – just as well there weren’t any fire alarms while we were there.
Then it was back to the town, and time for a cold beer on the rooftop at the guesthouse, watching the sun set. It’s a lovely and very peaceful little space.
This evening we wandered about some more laneways and along the river, and into (very) Little India, where we had some sensational food for dinner, including mutton masala, chennai chicken, and a monster crispy dosai.
Then a late evening wander through another street market, and it was time for a final beer in a very cute side street, before heading back to our guesthouse.
Tomorrow we’ll continue to explore the town and surrounds, walk a lot, and doubtless pack in some more great food.