(The Christ Church is said to be originally painted white. However, this and the neighbouring Stadthuys building was painted red in 1911 and this distinctive colour scheme has remained the hallmark of Malacca’s Dutch-era buildings. It is the oldest surviving Dutch church building found outside the Netherlands.)
Where to find one of those graciously decorated bicycle rickshaws in the world? In Malacca. The moment I saw this corner, I told myself that this third smallest state in Malaysia definitely deserves a re-visit.
Even without the very detailed checking of history, the architecture within Malacca can tell you about its yesteryears. Take for example its town hall, popularly known as Stadthuys or Red Square. It mirrors the Dutch invasion for almost 183 years. In reference to the above photo, the structure to your right is said to be the oldest remaining Dutch historical building which now serves as the Museum of History and Ethnography.
As colorful as the bicycle rickshaws, there goes the legend on how this beautiful state got its name. (It is much different from how Philippines was named after King Philip II of Spain.) There is a meaningful story associated with Malay-Hindu Prince Parameswara who founded Malacca Sultanate in 1402. He ruled Singapore in 1390s.
Parameswara was resting under a gray tree near a river while hunting, when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by the courage of the deer, and taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful, Parameswara decided on the spot to found an empire on the very place that he was sitting. He named it ‘Melaka’ after the tree under which he had taken shelter.
I regret that we did not have enough time to check the Maritime Museum. The thought of going in the replica of Frol de la mar is more than encouraging. The ship supported the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese in 1511. It is noteworthy that Malacca has at least 13 museums to date. You may check them through this virtual museum site.
In time for lunch, we walked to old city Chinatown in Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok. An authentic nyonya (Peranakan) cuisine is not to be missed. We noticed the Chinese inspired architecture alongside which is not surprising. The current population of Malacca is comprised of a great percentage of Chinese, second to Malays.
We dined in Restoran Peranakan. It has a very cozy environment. In a way, it felt like being invited to peek into a house with exotic mix of Malay and Chinese feel. Just like the dishes they serve. The food was reasonably priced. However, I forgot to take photos of the food as I was so hungry.
It was only after our visit that I have read about Chung Wah Coffee Shop. It is claimed to be a must-visit for the Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball.
On our way to the mosque, Chinese and Hindu temples, we saw old and/or colorful houses like those in Macau. But what caught my attention more was this kind of stall.
All the major faiths in Malaysia are covered in the Temple Street (Jalan Tokong). In a way, it is like the Kaniza area in Abu Dhabi wherein Christian/Catholic churches and mosques are steps away from each other. At the corner of Jalan Hang Lekiu and Jalan Tokong you will find Masjid Kampung Kling.
(Masjid Kampung Kling has a fusion of multiple styles which is very different from the mosques in the UAE.)
Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia. It was built in the 1780s by the Hindu community of Malacca, and dedicated to Vinayagar or Ganesh, the Elephant deity. In the back room is a sculpture of the deity with the head of an elephant and the body of a man with four hands. There is another altar dedicated to Lord Muraga, the younger brother of Lord Vinayagar.
The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest and one of the grandest Chinese temples in Malaysia. The temple, with its curved roof ridge, cut-and-paste chien nien decoration, and gable design, reflects the architectural style of South China, of craftsmen from Fujian and Guangdong. It has recently been restored, and in the process garnered a prestigious Unesco award for outstanding architectural restoration.
The walls of the temples are said to be all painted with limewash. In the olden days, lime was used instead of cement. Everything was derived from natural sources. The lime comes from the oyster shells and soot from charcoal.
It must be noted that there are no Catholic churches in this same area. As we went on, we saw the churches of Saint Peter, Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Paul (which turned out to be the most tiring to reach and most fascinating, you need to climb a hill near to Porta de Santiago). It absolutely deserves a separate post.
Malacca is 148 km south of Kuala Lumpur (1.5 to 2 hours drive) and 245 km north of Singapore. I seriously wish to re-visit, with at least two days dedicated for it.