Sunday 26 June 2016

Malaysia: Top Things to Do and See in Melaka - With Some Historical Fun Facts

Melaka, a state in the Peninsular Malaysia, lies less than 150 km south of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Its location, together with easy access via highway and public transportation (express bus service plies the route frequently throughout the day), makes it an easy day trip from Kuala Lumpur. While many usually opt for a day trip, I personally would recommend at least an overnight stay in this UNESCO World Heritage city to do it any justice. For this instalment of “Top Things to Do and See in…” with a local perspective, Ramble and Wander has invited Kathleen (or Kat) of Kat Pegi Mana (Where is Kat Going), a Malaysian travel blogger who's born and bred in Melaka, to share her list of things to do and see when visiting her hometown.

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I have always loved history and excelled in history lessons in school. Therefore historical dates come easily to me. I still remember 15 April 1989. That was the date when my hometown, Melaka (or Malacca) was declared a Historical City. 

Born and bred in Melaka, my hometown had always been known as a sleepy town. Steeped in history and rich in cultures blending Peranakan, Portuguese, Dutch and British elements, it was no surprise that Melaka was accorded the historical city status. Since that declaration, tourist footfalls increased; the city council gave more focus and attention to tourism in the state, thus not surprising and deservedly, Melaka was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. 

Now Melaka is so well-known that almost every Malaysian has visited my hometown. Although we, as locals, sometimes grumble that the throngs of tourists cause massive traffic jams particularly in areas of one-way street (I know, Melaka has too many one-way streets!), we are very proud of our city and invariably, feel chuffed to hear that our city is adored by fellow Malaysians and foreigners too :-)

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Tourists have visited the Stadthuys, Clock Tower and Jonker Walk areas, taken a trishaw ride around the historical parts of the city, and eaten many chicken rice balls (FYI, locals don't see what's the fascination with these balls!), but I wonder, how many are aware of the interesting stories behind these historical sites? 

If you haven't been to Melaka yet or wish to explore the city again, I thought I’d share with you some fun facts that are not shared in our history books.

A'Famosa Fort

No, I’m not referring to the A’Famosa Resort theme park but the Portuguese fortress located right in the city centre. The A’Famosa Fort, or rather the surviving gate of the fort, Porta de Santiago, is one of the oldest European architectural remains in South East Asia.

The Portuguese attacked and defeated the armies of the Malacca Sultanate in 1511, and under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque, the fortress was built on a hill near the sea (much of the buildings that you see now are actually constructed on reclaimed land, the sea is pushed further away). Albuquerque believed that Malacca would be an important port linking Portugal to the Spice Route outposts such as Goa, Macau and China.

Historical Fun Fact: A’Famosa Fort was not solely occupied by the Portuguese but was taken over by the Dutch in 1641 and was later handed over to the British in the 18th century. To prevent the fort from potential occupation by France (Napoleon's expansionist policies), the British ordered for the fort to be completely destroyed. The fort was almost razed to the ground until Sir Stamford Raffles intervened which resulted in saving the gate of Porta de Santiago. And the reason was? Because Raffles had passion for history :-)

St. Paul's Hill

At the rear of A'Famosa Fort is St. Paul's Hill where there is a flight of stairs leading up the hill. On top of the hill are the remains of St. Paul's Church and the statue of St. Francis Xavier with a missing right arm.

Historical Fun Fact (about the missing right arm): In 1614, 60 years after St. Francis' death, the Jesuit priest was canonised by the Vatican who demanded to have his right arm. When the arm was cut off, blood appeared to drip. In 1952, a marble statue of St Francis Xavier was erected on St. Paul's Hill to commemorate his 400 years of missionary work. The morning after the statue was placed on the hill, a large casuarina tree fell on the statue, severing the right arm. Is that a coincidence or what? :-)

Tips: Do climb up St Paul's Hill during the late afternoon as that's the best time to have a view of Melaka city and its coastline.

Stadthuys, Christ Church & Queen Victoria Fountain 

Just a short walk from St. Paul's Hill is the Stadthuys, a former administrative centre when the Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1824. Coming down the steps of the Stadthuys is the colourful, often garish-looking, trishaw pick-up spot, and close to the clocktower is the Queen Victoria Fountain, which was erected in 1901 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of her reign over the British Empire.

Photo © www.katpegimana.com

The terracotta-red exterior of the Stadthuys, Christ Church (18th century Anglican Church) and the Clock Tower, and the Queen Victoria Fountain are the common landmarks of Melaka, often seen in photos and postcards. 

Historical Fun Fact: Did you know that the Stadthuys and Christ Church were originally painted white? The buildings were painted red in 1911, and since then the red colour has remained as the trademark of Malacca-Dutch-era buildings.

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Have you been to Melaka? Did you know about these historical fun facts that Kat shared? What did you like most about the city? What are your top things to do and see there?

If you are going there, do check out these hotels in Melaka. You can also check my review of The Explorer Hotel, Melaka or this list of 5 Best Heritage Hotels in Melaka.

Are you on Pinterest? If you are, use this photo to bookmark and/or share this blog post ;)

Kat blogs at ‘Kat Pegi Mana: Where is Kat Going?’, and that is the question her friends always ask her, whenever they meet. They see the wanderlust in her. Through her blog and writings, she aims to inspire people to appreciate and connect with the various cultures and heritage around the world, as the world is ever more connected. You can follow her travels on her blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For other travel blog series on "Top Things to Do and See in...", click here.

For other blog entries on Malaysia, click here.


Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. I haven't been to Melaka but the history is fascinating. I love that Sir Raffles was a history-lover. The Dutch architecture is so interesting to see, as NYC was also originally settled by the Dutch. It looks like Melaka has, at least visually, held on to more of that early history.

  2. I had no idea that the Dutch and Portuguese were ever in Malaysia. Most likely the Vatican asked for the Jesuit priest's arm because they thought it may perform miracles. As for those churches being painted white at first, I'm sure they look better today. Red stands out better.

  3. This post makes me want to do a refresher visit to Melaka again! I'm really excited to check out the recently discovered foundations of the old fort.

  4. I've been to Malaysia, but not to Melaka - I guess I would have loved it there, love sightseeing such places.
    The place would have looked totally different if it was still painted white, not red :)

  5. I love how colorful Melaka is! And the Dutch/Portuguese history is fascinating. I've read a lot about the street art scene here and would love to visit to see for myself!

  6. It is a beautiful and interesting city. Not surprising that there are so visitors. Great to see that so much of the history has been preserved.

  7. Melaka looks stunning. I'll be in Kuala Lumpur for the first time in November. I may have to make a side trip and see Melaka for myself.

  8. I do not know much about Malaysia but Melaka sounds like a place I would enjoy visiting. The historical buildings and forts would surely be interesting to explore.

  9. Your hometown has a fascinating history. A UNESCO World Heritage status is well-deserved. I'm with you, though, with regards to the tourists, they can seriously mess up traffic especially during the peak seasons.

  10. I have never really thought of Malaysia as a place to visit for its history. I am going to have to rethink whats on my list of things to do in that country.

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