Renowned as a historical city, Malacca is recognized as the smallest state in Malaysia. According to history, Malacca was founded by Parameswara who was a Srivijaya nobleman from Palembang who ruled Malacca between 1400 and 1424. Legend wants Malacca to be named after the fruit-bearing Malacca tree (in Malay, Pokok Melaka) under which Parameswara took shelter during an unusual incident: his hunting dog was kicked into the water and he was so impressed by the event that he decided to name the place after the tree. Today, the mouse deer is part of modern Malacca’s coat of arms.
Parameswara’s kingdom lasted for 110 years before falling, in 1511, to the Portuguese under the leadership of Alfonso de Albuquerque. Malacca was a strategic base under the Portuguese for 130 years before falling into the hands of The Netherlands in 1641. However, the Dutch government in Malacca did not last long as they were more interested in Indonesia, and due to this, they handed over Malacca to the British through the British-Dutch alliance in 1824.
Between 1826 and 1867, Malacca was ruled by the British East India Company before became a British Colony. Afterwards, in 1946, it became one of Straits settlement, together with Singapore and Penang. After all, following the dissolution of the colony, Malacca became part of a Malaya Union before it became Malaysia in 1963 with the entry of Borneo’s Sabah and Sarawak. Thanks to its long history, Malacca was declared a historic city in 1989 by Malaysia‘s fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad.
With this interesting history, Malacca should be placed as one of the must visit destinations in your list, and this is because Malacca is not only rich in historical values, and especially the historical buildings left by each kingdom that ruled the state, but also rich in traditions, culture and food.
Believe it or not, visiting Malacca is like travelling back to the past and have a glimpse at the city’s golden age. Today, when we talk about Malacca, we list plenty of places to visit, places that will feed your travel hunger and your historical instincts.
Let me recommend a few Malacca attractions to those who are keen to visit this amazing city.
A visit to Malacca must include A Famosa, known as Porta de Santiago. This is a Portuguese fortress that was built in 1511 and it is one of the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Asia. It is located in the middle of Malacca, downhill of St. Paul’s Church, which is now only a crumbling whitewashed gatehouse. At the beginning, the Portuguese built the fortress to defend the city against foreign invasion. It is believed that Alfonso used 1,500 slaves to construct it.
Apart from A Famosa, you can also visit Christ Church. The building is easy to access and easy to spot thanks to its pinkish color. The building was made out of red-brick in 1753 to celebrate a century of Dutch occupation. Also located in the middle of town, Christ Church is indeed a very popular destinations in Malacca. This area is where the extensively decorated trishaw park offering their fares. Try them if you want to have the real Malacca feel.
Along the way, you will also encounter St. Paul Hill, also known as Malacca Hill. This hill connects you to the summit of St. Paul’s Church through the stairs provided. Originally, this church was built by Portuguese nobleman Captain Duarte Coelho to express his gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life during a storm at sea. It is for this that that the original structure was called Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of the Grace). Even though some of it has been in ruins due to time decay, it is still standing proudly on the hill. Inside the ruins of St. Paul Church is a decaying stone interior, tombstones belonging to Dutch nobility including that of Pedro Martins, and tombstones of five members of the Velge family who died within 20 days of each other during the diphtheria epidemic of 1756. Right opposite the church is a marble statue of St. Francis Xavier, built in 1953, and from the church you can have a great view of Malacca. Walking downhills, you will find plenty of souvenir stalls.
Not far from St. Paul Church is the Malacca Maritime Museum Complex, a replica of the Flor de la Mar, a Portuguese ship that sank off the coast of Malacca on its way back to Portugal. This complex consists of a sailing vessel, a museum of the maritime history of Malacca and a museum of Malaysia‘s post-independence naval forces. Opened to public since 1994, this museum can be visited from 9:00 am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 9:00pm during weekends.
Taming Sari Tower, known as Menara Taming Sari, is the first and only gyro tower in Malaysia. This tower has started its operations in April 2008. With its height of 110 meters, this tower is capable to offer a 360-degree panoramic view of Malacca town and beyond. The tower was named after the mythical weapon Keris Taming Sari, said to possess mystical powers by Malay legendary warrior Hang Tuah. It is for this reason that the tower structure’s design follows the shape of the keris, with the peak of the tower resembling its hilt. I was amongst the 80 passengers that were taken in the tower for about 7 minutes and I can say it was the best experience ever. I love the scenery the Taming Sari Tower offers. For those who will try this attraction, do not forget to take your camera along.
Have you ever wondered how it feels to be on an Italian gondola? The Malacca River Cruise along the Malacca Strait sails for 45-minutes and gives you just that. The river cruise took us to Kampung Morten, past Malacca town and the many settlements and bridges along the riverbanks.
I also had the chance to walk along Jonker Street to witness myself the beauty of the architectural heritage of the various kingdoms who have ruled Malacca. Amongst the relics that caught my eyes was Baba and Nyonya heritage. In the past, Jonker Street was recognized as the antiques centre street of Chinatown. As time has passed by, it has turned into an area for clothing and crafts outlets as well as restaurants. However, the best part of it for me was the night market, which operates every Friday and Saturday night.
Located not far from Taming Sari Tower there is a park where a collection of old means of transport no longer in use, from bullock carts to trains and airplanes, are exposed. If you admire means of transport from different eras, this is the place you must visit.
A few steps away from St. Paul Church is the Dutch Governor’s Museum – Muzium Yang Di-Pertua Negeri – which was formerly the house of the Dutch Governor of Melaka, built somewhere in 1641. This museum displays various artifacts, personal items, portraits, costumes and other official regalia of the Melakan Governors from the Dutch times to present. The building opens to public daily except Monday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. Admission fee for this museum is 5 Malaysian Ringgit for adults and 2 Malaysian Ringgit for children.
Visiting Malacca’s amazing tourist attractions will not be enough. I encourage you to indulge on local delicacies like chicken meat balls on rice, a delicious dish with an amazing taste. Walk along Jonker Street and you will find it in plenty of eateries. And for those keen to try Portuguese signature dishes, don’t hesitate to visit the Portuguese Settlement, located a couple of kilometers outside of Malacca city centre, in an area known as Ujong Pasir. It is home to a small community of around 1,000 people who descend from early Portuguese settlers. The famous food there is seafood, I had the devil curry, which I found mesmerizing.
This is all I can share about Malacca for now. Enjoy your trip to this amazing town!