Malacca, Capital of the Straits

Last week Pei Pei and I made an overnight trip down to Malacca (or Melaka in Malay), one of the most historic cities in Malaysia. The origins of the port city are fascinating, and I was impressed to find that since my first visit several years ago Malacca has been granted World Heritage status and the government has put a lot of effort into providing facilities for learning about the city’s history. We checked into Hotel Puri, an old estate house that has been converted to a beautiful hotel, preserving the internal garden and atrium while providing a surprising number of comfortable rooms. I really like the smaller hotels in Asia, with their wooden floors, outdoor dining areas and casual feel – much nicer than the larger hotels that just reproduce the western style. Several of the photos at the end of this set are details of decorations in the lobby of Hotel Puri.

My goal for the short trip was to bring back a few nice photos, so what I was look forward to the most was climbing up to the ruins of St John’s Church that sit atop the hill that was the centre of the Portugese fortress known as A Famosa. I was hoping that the dusk light would create an excellent environment for photography, but my hopes were dashed by a pile of green leaves that someone was inexplicably burning right in front of the hill, creating huge plumes of smoke that smothered whole site in a ruinous fog; so much for clear photographs! You can see the effect in the first two photographs. Fortunately an old government building on the other side of the hill was nicely shielded from the smoke, although I never found out why the old car has been preserved.

As the sun set I wandered back down to the roundabout that probably sees more tourists than locals and discovered that the famous trishaws, known for their gaudy decorations, have a even brighter nocturnal side; the three that I found were particularly luminous. Apparently there are plans to add solar-powered motors to these currently pedal-powered vehicles, but I don’t think even a whole day of the intense Malaysian sun could provide enough energy to light these beauties!

After dinner we walked out around the old town, including famous Jalan Hang Jebat, or Jonker’s Walk. Hang Jebat was a Malay warrior in the 15th century, the accounts of whose exploits range from legendary to incredible. As it was nearly midnight, we didn’t encounter any of the usual crowds – in fact, the streets were eerily quiet. Some of the houses and shops were still hanging red lanterns from Chinese New Year, and we came across a temple with some alarmingly fierce guardian figurines. When the enthusiastic street cleaners began hosing everything in sight, we opted to call it a night before they decided to treat us to a cooling shower right there on the footpath.

2 responses to “Malacca, Capital of the Straits”

  1. Alangana

    “although I never found out why the old car has been preserved.””

    That car was when Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia’s father of independence ( rode in into Melaka, I presumed) declared independence from the colonoal masters of the land, Malaya as it was known back in 1957. cheers mate

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