Standing excitedly in front of Porta De Santiago, Timothy Woo snapped away with his camera.
He and three of his friends, from the United States, went on a one-day trip to Melaka recently.
“We were asking around for a destination that we could go on a day-trip from Kuala Lumpur, and everyone suggested Melaka,” said Timothy Woo, of Boston, Massachusetts.
Steeped in tradition and cultures, Melaka is situated about an hour and a half-away from Kuala Lumpur. They were joined by a local guide, Siva, who described the history of Melaka.
Melaka soon grew to become a port of trade between the East and West, and traders from India, Arab, China and other parts of the world brought in goods such as tea, cotton, silk, silver, porcelain, ivory, Persian carpets, brassware, perfumes, incense and opium. The Chinese Emperor also sent emissaries to Melaka to establish ties with the small, but important city.
Others would come to Melaka 60 years later, especially the Portuguese led by Alfonso de Albuquerque, arrived first, conquering Melaka in 1511. Then, in 1641 the Dutch wrested Melaka from the Portuguese, rebuilt the city and controlled the important waterways of the Straits of Melaka.
During their visit to Melaka, Timothy and his friends visited several places including: The Dutch Square (St. Peter’s Church, St. Paul’s Hill (A’ Famosa), The Stadthuys), Jonker Walk, Kampung Hulu’s Mosque, Taman Mini Malaysia, and went on the Melaka River Cruise.
“I really like Harmony Street where there were three different places of worship for three different religions side by side,” said Timothy, adding that this made Melaka, and especially Malaysia, unique. (Harmony Street also known as Jalan Tokong Besi, was given the name because of the location of the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampong Kling Mosque and Sri Vinayagar Temple situated peacefully along the same street).
“I’ve been to Macau before so the European influence mixed with Asian architecture always amazes me and Melaka reminded me of that,” he said.
“I think this really personifies what is interesting about Malaysia, where so many different people or different cultures and religions can live side by side in harmony,” he added.
“Malaysia is a beautiful country with the landscape mixture of mountains and water. Malaysians have really gone out of their way to ensure that my trip has been fun. I find Malaysian food to be very distinct,” he said.
“Coming from the US, I have never been to an authentic Malaysian restaurant so I had never tried the food before. After coming here though, I have to say that it is great. I find it distinct because I can tell it is an influence of many flavours such as Chinese and Indian,” he added.
Christine Chiou, from California, who also went along on the trip added that Melaka seems to be a sleepy little town, rich with history. Christine was especially intrigued by A’ Famosa.
Porta in Portuguese refers to portal, which means gateway and true enough Porta De Santiago was indeed one of four main gateways into the Portuguese fortress of A’ Famosa. The leader of the Portuguese army that conquered Melaka in 1511, Alfonso de Albuquerque started the construction of A’ Famosa in 1512 from which they fended off attacks by the armies of the Sultan of Melaka and Acheh for well over a century.
Christine had a great time taking pictures of the fort, especially with its rich history. They also saw unique Dutch headstones as well as an old well, strewn with coins and bank notes from all over the world at the fort.
Stacy Shi, of Boston agrees that Melaka is a very pretty and historical town.
“The architecture which combines multiple cultural influences is beautiful, and the temples and mosques are very intriguing as well,” she said.
“The park we visited at first with different types of houses (Taman Mini Asean) from South-East Asia was a lot of fun. I liked seeing the different types of homes and seeing what it is like inside,” she added.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Fung from California agreed that though Melaka was a hot and humid place, but was delighted with its rich history.
“It’s lucky that our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. There are definitely a lot of interesting and diverse places within the city as well,” he said.
He however suggested a few changes could be done to better the tourism infrastructure in Melaka.
“I wasn’t able to find any easy tips or guides on where to go for short day-trips such as Melaka from Kuala Lumpur. This information could be compiled for tourists that are staying in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.
Their excursion brought them to Jonker Street, a Chinatown renowned for its antique shops, clothing and craft outlets.
“There were some articles online that I looked up and it seemed that a lot of people recommended various snacks such as pineapple tarts that Melaka is famous for,” he said, searching for the nyonya pineapple tarts at Jonker Street.
Their final tour of Melaka ended with a delightful cruise of the Melaka River, enabling them to see up close the multi-cultural aspects of the city. The cruise passed by several historical sights including Kampung Morten, the oldest Malay village in the city. There is even a glimpse of the Melaka tree, where Parameswara was said to have rested upon and was inspired to name the city, Melaka.
The boats are available daily at every thirty minute interval between the following times: 9.30am to 5pm and 6pm to 12 midnight. The cruise starts from the Quayside Heritage Centre up to Taman Rempah, Pangkalan Rama.
A must-see on the cruise is Kampung Morten, a living museum showcasing a village that's been around for hundreds of years. There are private museums here where one can get a deeper understanding of the local Malay culture including their costumes and crafts like embroidery work.
Tourism Malaysia Melaka, Lot 02, Ground Floor, Lembaga Tabung Haji Building, Jalan Banda Kaba, 75000, Melaka
Phone: +606-288 3304 / 1549 / 3785
Fax: +606-286 9804