A day is not enough to go around Malacca. There’s just so much to see so we decided to stay for another day. I’ve already scouted the area for economy hotel deals weeks before, so, I have some idea how much a night would cost. Our bus driver from Singapore advised us to “stay more than one day” when we told him that we’ll be seeing Malacca for the first time. He was right on the money.
The smallest Malaysian state has the highest number of museum in one area that I have ever seen. Only goes to show how they continue to value their historical identity.
While we haven’t visited all of the Malacca museums, I would recommend to a first time visitor to visit all of them.
The two we visited are the:
Flor de la Mar
Flower of the sea, a replica of the Portueguese “nau” similar to our Galleons. Built in 1502 it actively supported the Portuguese in their conquest of Malacca. The mythical ship is said to have been loaded with treasures when it was lost in the sumatran seas (it sank in 1511). To this day it has not been located.
The controversial wreckage is said to have caused some issue as its location is determined to be close to Indonesian sea territory. While treasure hunters that were permitted to look for it do so under the Malaysians.
But what I find interesting is that the time the ship (and all the other Portuguese vessels in Asia) were trying to acquire territories for their king – somewhere in the seas, Magellan, a Portuguese, was trying to find his own fortune. But his mission was funded not by his people but by the Spanish king.
Malacca Sultanate Palace
A beautiful reconstruction of what was once the seat of one of the most powerful Sultanate in the world.
We dropped by the palace the following morning and was amazed how intricate and detailed the building was considering that its reconstruction was solely based on historical accounts. It reminded me of the Rizal home in Calamba which was reconstructed from the Rizal sisters memory of it.
The oldest Colonial fortress in Asia. It predates our Intramuros. There are similarities between the two which could be attributed to the builders being both from Iberian peninsula.
It was an enormous undertaking, building the wall, it provided the Portuguese control over the significant trading routes. The only standing portion of the once vast wall is a “gate”. It resembles that of Fort Santiago. New excavation around the area has revealed more evidence of the complexity of the defense wall. Who knows what secrets new discoveries would unravel in the coming years.
Recent construction project accidentally revealed the lost dutch fortress. The Portuguese, upon defeating the local sultanate, built the fortress to ensure the area would stay Portuguese but the rising Dutch took it from them in the 17th century and later, the English, who eventually destroyed much of the fortress.
If it were not for the visionary man, Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, the demolition would have been completed. Raffles, himself a lover of history, argued for the gates (Porta de Santiago) to be spared.
Seeing A Famosa reminded me how fortunate we are that we still have Intramuros. While many argue that Intramuros is a shadow of what it was once, at least we still have some of the original portions of the walls standing, add to this, the gem that is San Agustin church. Speaking of San Agustin, it was said that when the British took over Manila, they desecrated the church. Looting it and almost destroying the crypt where Legazpi was buried. The English was said to have destroyed the Portuguese fortress “A Famosa”. This made me think, if they had stayed longer in our country, I’m certain that aside from implanting their culture, they would attempt to erase traces of the previous occupier. Intramuros would have been long gone.
The Dutch town hall was built in mid 1600’s. It is the most popular symbol of colonial Malacca. The local government has made Stadthuy the symbol of its tourism program. They’re reaping the benefits of it being popular among tourist.
The British, the last colonizer of the port town, used the Dutch Stadthuy for a variety of reasons. They had made it their own church at some point. A beautiful English founatin, right infront of Stadthuy, dedicated to Queen Victoria isa great place where people have their pics taken. Not for is the tower with a clock – the clock is working. From what I read it was donated by a Japanese clockmaker. The original clock had long been lost.
The Stadthuy and the surrounding structures are great example of tourist driven efforts funded by the local government. The local keeps it clean. This beautiful heritage square was the former seat of colonial administration of the Dutch and the Brits but Malaccan locals, mostly Chinese and Malay, treats all of these building with respect. Not one single building have any sign of vandalism on it. Amazing.
The Stadthuy was actually built on the site of the Portuguese governors home. All Dutch Stadthuy are painted white – it was the British who painted the town center “salmon red”. Its unclear why the British did this. There are locals whose ancestors are Dutch married to locals that incredibly retained some of the old traditions brought in by the Dutch.
The Malaccan state have taken great care not to let any of the existing buildings fall into ruin. In fact, they have been known to suspend modern building construction when it would alter or destroy ancient structures. They have suspended the creation of a building recently because excavation has revealed the lost Dutch fortress.
We are behind in recognizing our historical relics. I just hope that it would not be too late before we realize what we back home have lost. Sabi nga e nasa huli ang pagsisisi. For the leaders of our tourism agency – visit Malacca and get inspired!