Saturday, July 13, 2013

Photos from the Historic and Charming Little Town of Malacca in Malaysia

I like Malacca. Let me rephrase that. I love Malacca. This UNESCO World Heritage Site forms part of Southeast Asia's historic Strait Settlements along with Penang and Singapore. Despite being very touristy, Malacca still manages to successfully retain what in my book makes for a great travel destination—a colorful history, a rich diversity in cultures (and thus, food), and a slow pace of life. More often than not, the same elements make for great photographs, which I love, so I love Malacca.

Malacca is just a couple of hours south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. However, it is a very unique place in Malaysia because of its history. Strategically located in front of a body of water—the Malacca Strait—which connects the Indian Ocean to the entire Far East, Malacca became a prosperous trading port. The Malays, the Chinese, the Indians, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, they were all here. Walking around this old town, I saw remnants of each of those cultures. Here are photos of the things I saw.

Malacca, Malacca
The Malacca Sultanate Watermill was built to commemorate the first civilization that saw the potential of Malacca as a trading port—the Malacca Sultanate. The sultanate ruled much of Peninsular Malaysia as well as a considerable chunk of Sumatra Island, on the other side of the Malacca Strait, during the 1400s.

Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
Snaking through many parts of town, the Malacca River served as the primary thoroughfare which connected inner Malacca to the port. Today, cruising the Malacca River is one of the main tourist activities of the city.

Kampung Kling Mosque, Harmony Street, Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
The Kampung Kling Mosque is one of the three religious structures along Jalan Tokong, or Temple Street. The mosque was unlike anything I had ever seen. It features architectural styles that can only be found here—a combination of Sumatran, Malaccan, Chinese, and even Indian.

Kampung Kling Mosque, Harmony Street, Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
The minaret of the Kampung Kling Mosque has the aesthetics of a pagoda, clearly a Chinese influence on the Muslim architecture of the Strait Settlements.

Sri Poyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Hindu Temple, Harmony Street, Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
Next to the Kampung Kling Mosque is the Sri Poyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple. Constructed the late 1700s, it is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia. It is a place of worship for the Chitty people, the Tamil Indians who came to the Strait Settlements and married the local Malays. They are, if you will, the "Indian Peranakans."

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Harmony Street, Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
Also found along Temple Street is the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, which according to its own website, is the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia. It is good to note that Temple Street is also called Harmony Street as along it stand three temples from three different religions.

Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
The row of heritage buildings along Heeren and Jonker Streets in the old town of Malacca largely belong to the Peranakans. The Peranakans, otherwise known as the Baba Nyonya, are the descendants of the Chinese migrants who married the local Malays, making for a blend of cultures unique to the Strait Settlements.

Ruins of the Porta de Santiago, Malacca, Malaysia
The ruins of the Porta de Santiago is the only structure left from the Portuguese fortress of A Famosa. Fully aware of Malacca's fantastic location along the Malacca Strait, the Portuguese sailed from Goa to conquer Malacca during the early 1500s.

St. Paul's Hill, Malacca, Malaysia
Above the Porta de Santiago is a path up towards St. Paul's Hill. The natural mound of earth stands high above Malacca with clear views of the Malacca Strait. On and around the hill are several historic structures of the city.

Ruins of St. Paul's Church, Malacca, Malaysia
At the top of St. Paul's Hill is, well, St. Paul's Church. Now in ruins, the church was originally built by the Portuguese as a small chapel called Our Lady of Grace.

Ruins of St. Paul's Church, Malacca, Malaysia
Our Lady of Grace underwent many changes through the years. When the Dutch acquired Malacca, the church came under the Dutch Reformed Church and was renamed St. Paul's Church.

Ruins of St. Paul's Church, Malacca, Malaysia
Tombstones were uncovered in the hidden vaults of St. Paul's Church. The same tombstones now line the ruined walls of the church.

Christ Church and Red Square, Malacca, Malaysia
The main landmark of Malacca is, of course, Christ Church. It was built in the 1700s by the Dutch to replace the old St. Paul's Church as their primary place of worship. When Malacca came under the British, Christ Church naturally transferred under the Anglican Church.

Stadhuys and Red Square, Malacca, Malaysia
Christ Church is one of the structures which surround the Dutch Square, also called Red Square for obvious reasons. Around this main plaza are equally historic structures—the Stadthuys, or the Dutch town hall, and the Tang Beng Swee Clock Tower. Originally white, the buildings were painted red simply to prevent it from showing dirt and wear.

Colorful Sidecars, Malacca, Malaysia
One of the more popular tourist activities in Malacca, as with any historic town in Southeast Asia I noticed, is taking a ride through loud and gaudy rickshaws like these I saw on Dutch Square. At night, these things light up and play music. I'm serious.

Colorful Sidecars, Malacca, Malaysia
I rest my case.

Maritime Museum, Malacca, Malaysia
Malacca being a historic city means it has a number of museums. A few meters from the Dutch Square is the Malacca Maritime Museum and its large replica of a colonial-era trading ship.

Malacca Cultural Museum, Malacca, Malaysia
Another worthwhile museum to visit in Malacca is the Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum. Its architecture is based on the palace of the sultans. It houses interesting displays on the Malay civilization and other historical artifacts.

Red Square, Malacca, Malaysia
Souvenir shopping stalls surround the Dutch Square. I was actually able to buy good, cheap sunglasses here for 15 MYR, around 5 USD.

Although the historic parts of Malacca are very touristy, I did not find them too crowded or stressful. There weren't any touts and pesky vendors. The rickshaw drivers won't sell to you unless you approach them. It is quite unusual for a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the most part, Malacca remained low-key, quiet, and laidback. I kind of like it that way. It makes me want to return and see what other things are in store for travelers in this historic and charming corner of Malaysia.

Which historic UNESCO World Heritage Site did you find a pleasure to visit? Where is it?

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