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Malacca: Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, and English history

Moving along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, our next destination is Malacca. This city was once ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English. So again, there is a mix of cultures in this city, adding the remains of those colonial powers to the Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture.

Maritime Museum Malacca in a Portuguese colonial ship

Getting there

In the crowded main bus terminal of Kuala Lumpur, the bus to Malacca is easily found. Different companies have air-conditioned buses leaving every half hour. After a 2,5 hour journey we are dropped off in the heat at the express bus terminal of Mallacca. The local buses are a building away, but we can only get there after waiving 4 touts of different guesthouses.

After finding local bus number 17, we squeeze ourselves on the back seat and try to recognize the route. Without much success until we suddenly see a large windmill and on the other side the Stadthuys. This is Holland in Malaysia, in other words Malacca. A little later the large mall appears, so we know we have to get out on the next stop.

More Adventure travel tales in Malaysia:
Taman Negara
Kuala Lumpur
Jungle Camp Sabah
Belaga, Sarawak
Georgetown, Penang
Southeast Asian Tales:
Sapa, Vietnam
Angkor Wat Temples
River Kwai, Thailand
Tana Toraja, Indonesia
Luang Prabang, Laos

Stadthuys and Windmill in Malacca

Traveller's Lodge

Our chosen guesthouse is also easily found and we take our time to install ourselves. The owner is very friendly and helps us to find out where the former English base Chaah must have located, where Sabine's dad stayed back in 1946. Unfortunately, the base is completely gone and cannot easily be found, so we decide not to visit there.


MudskippersIn the afternoon we explore the surroundings. We are in the outskirts of Mallacca, a part that has been gained from the sea (how very Dutch!!). We take a look at the sea, where it currently is low tide. The part between the quay and a new island gained from the sea, is almost completely muddy. An enormous amount of mudskippers and crabs are active on it. Mudskippers are fish adapted for living on the mud for short periods of time. They move on their fins from pool to pool. And they are defending their territory fiercely. We enjoy the sight of that scene for a while until we move back.

The Tourist route through Malacca

The next day we decide to follow the tourist route through Mallacca. First we head for the Stadthuys, which is Dutch for city hall. The appearance is not really Dutch, in contrast to the windmill opposite to it. The red color is added by the English, maybe that's why. The Christ Church, despite its name built by the Dutch, at least has a Dutch bell shaped fa�ade. In the church, there are some Dutch gravestones, although most of them are English.

After shooting some pictures, we head for the maritime museum. It is partly located in a rebuilt Portuguese ship. The exhibition shows the history of Malacca. We learn that it already was a flourishing Malay harbour when the Portuguese conquered it.

The Portuguese tried to monopolise the trade, causing the Malay and other traders to move to other places. The Dutch didn't like it either, so they defeat the Portuguese, only to apply the same policy, this time allowing only Dutch trade.

But since most of the Dutch trade was concentrated around Batavia (current day Jakarta in Indonesia), Malacca became more and more decayed. Because of the occupation of Holland by the French, the English took over, but since they had Singapore and Georgetown as their main harbors, Malacca never flourished again.

After lunch we continue our walk uphill, to St. Paul church on Bukit (hill) St. Paul. This church was built by the Portuguese, but most of the tombstones are Dutch. It is impressive to read them, since most of them died young, as victims of malaria or other tropical diseases.

A Famosa

Portuguese fort A Famosa in MalaccaDescending the hill, we arrive at the remains of the once mighty Portuguese fort A Famosa. The fort was almost completely destroyed by the English when they thought they had to return Malacca to the Dutch after the French occupation of Holland. What remains is one of the gates, in which the Dutch embedded the symbol of the VOC (the United East Indian Company).

Under the gate, we meet some locals. They tell us that tourism has declined here since September 11. They cannot understand, since Malaysia and the muslim Malay people have nothing against the western world. We agree, we didn't find any sign of hate against western people during our stay in Malaysia.


Last item on our route is the independence museum. Here, Malaysia's road to independence is shown. After retreat of the Japanese in the second world war, the English came back. They only resistance to that came from the communists, also the strongest group of resistance against the Japanese. The rest of the Malay people, however, fought with the English, since there already was an agreement about the gradual retreat of the English, and Malaysian independence.

But that road to independence wasn't very simple, judged by the retreat of Brunei and Singapore from the Malaysian federation, and the odd status of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. But he emphasis of the museum is on the triumph tour of the Malay delegacy, that made the independent agreements in London. And, of course, the declaration of independence itself, with the ceremonial raising of the flag on Merdeka (freedom) square in Kuala Lumpur.

At night we watch the sound and light show, also showing the history of Malacca, and the independence. But it is not very spectacular.

Shopping and temple watching in Chinatown

The next day we visit Jonker street, with its many antique shops. We see old record players and sowing machines, amongst other stuff. Also many souvenir shops of course, with especially many miniature colonial ships. We resist the temptation, we remember from China how difficult it is to get these home in one piece.

From Jonker street we move on into Chinatown. Again, many Chinese temples here, and we take a look inside at one of them. Again, multiple altars, where offers are brought. But they also predict the future here. For a payment people get a kind of dice and/or a box of sticks. The box is ritually shaken, until a few sticks fall out, and the dice are thrown. The results are brought to the desk, where, depending on the score, a note is given with a prediction or fate on it. Strange people, those Chinese�

We also visit a Hindu temple and a mosque, both in the same street in Chinatown. The fact that those are in the same street is an indication of the peaceful mix of the different religions and people in Malaysia. The people are proud of that, too, and leave no opportunity to mention it. In other places in the world, however, there is enough proof that certain conditions can easily change the attitude to once peaceful neighbors. But we keep those thoughts to ourselves.

Cutting palm oil fruits, Malaysia

Taking the bike

As an alternative for sightseeing, we decided to be active for a change. So we decided to book a cycling tour around Malacca. With five other people, we cycled along rubber and palm oil plantations. We see the locals tapping rubber and cutting the fruit from 15 meter high palm oil trees. Our guide also shows us many spices growing near the roads. It was actually more a spice tour than a cycling tour, but quite interesting.

Besides the many sights and the rich history in Malacca, for us it is also a place to relax. It is nice and quiet here, and our guesthouse has the right feel to it. At night, we enjoy a movie, or the company of other travellers. We even join a drinking game with some youngsters, but we stop in time and from the their looks the next morning, that was a wise decision.

Follow our World Journey!! Next Stop: Mersing

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