I’m sure for many people who take History in middle school, they must have learnt about the history of colonial Malacca. Due to its unique geographical location, it was once one of the most important ports for international trade such as the spice trade between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Because of the frequent trading activities, especially among countries such as China and India, many traders settled down in Malacca. Historically, Malacca was governed by Malay sultanates. Subsequently, it was conquered and possessed by three European countries: Portugal, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The trace of history best explained everything you see in today’s Malacca.
Many years ago, Portugal captured several port cities in Asia. Malacca was one of them. In 1511, the Portuguese fleet came and seized Malacca from Malay sultanates and built a fortress, A Famosa. In 1641, the Dutch defeated Portuguese and renovated the fort. However, later when the Napoleonic Wars took place, the Dutch transferred the overseas colonial administration to the United Kingdom. During the British administration, the fortress was demolished and the only part remained was the Porta de Santiago.
The remains of the St Paul’s church built by Portuguese is situated at the St Paul’s hill. At the top of the hill, you can also see the beautiful view of the Malacca city and the sea.
The most iconic site must be the Dutch Square where the buildings were all painted in terracotta-red. Interestingly, our tour guide told us the buildings were actually white in the beginning but later painted in red. The church is the most prominent and oldest surviving Dutch church outside of the Netherlands. Next to the church is the Stadthuys which used to be the residence of the Dutch officials, and Town Hall during the British administration. Now it converted into a collection of museums that showcase the relics from different colonial eras, antiques and arts from the locals.
Malacca Sultanate Palace was Sultan Mansur Shah’s royal palace in the 15th century. This elegant building is a rebuilt wooden architecture, and the whole structure is solely supported by the pillars without the use of any nails. Inside the building, you will find out the stories of Malacca Sultanate.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting a mosque. Malacca Straits Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malacca. The mesmerizing view is particularly astonishing during sunset. This mosque is also known as the floating mosque. This is because it looks as if it is floating in the sea when the sea level rises. Visiting the mosque formed part of my learning experience to know a bit more about another religion and culture. It was enlightening to learn about the mosque etiquette.
Riding a cruise along the river or walking around the city, you will see many cultural murals. At Jonker Street, you will find the Baba & Nyonya Museum, which showcases the cultural heritage of the local Chinese-Malay. Between 15th century and 17th century, the Chinese immigrants from Southern China arrived in Malacca and adapted to the local culture. They intermarried with the locals, and their descendants were referred to as Peranakan Chinese. The male and female Peranakan Chinese were referred to as Baba and Nyonya, respectively. The museum was closed on the day we visited. Luckily, we had a chance to visit another similar museum called Malaq House to learn about the daily life of the Peranakan Chinese.
On our way to Malacca, we made a quick stop by at Putrajaya. It is one of the three federal territories of Malaysia and is also the country’s administrative centre. Our tour guide took us to the most well known pink-domed mosque (Masjid Putra) in the city. Because of its rose-tinted colour, it is also called the rose mosque. We arrived at the mosque very early in the morning to avoid the crowd of tourists. However, we were not able to go in because we were informed that a government official was praying inside. However, the magnificent exterior is already pretty impressive.
Next to the pink mosque, you will find another stately structure. This delicately designed building is the Perdana Putra, which is the office of the Prime Minister. The building blended in both Asian and European architectural styles.
When you read a textbook, history may seem pale. However, when you actually visit the place, it becomes vividly and as if it happened yesterday. This day trip really helped me recap what I have learnt in class but also expanded my knowledge on things I didn’t know before. I guess that’s the meaning of travelling.
Till next time!