Historic Malacca, Malaysia

Malacca, Malaysia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with importance to Malays and foreigners because of the early and continuing European influence.

Decoration for Chinese New Year in Malacca

The primary industry in Malacca is tourism according to Richard, our guide from Zul’s Travel and Leisure for one half day. If so, one would guess there must not be much of a tax on tourism as the small city (780,000 according to Richard) is in disrepair.

There is nowhere to walk; what few sidewalks are available have holes, discontinuations and are dirty. The streets are congested with cars. This brings up the question, “what does the government do with any tourism tax money it collects since historic Malacca is so run down?”

The Chinese temple is busy during Chinese New Year in Malacca

According to a different guide on a walking tour in Malacca, the officials put it into their own pockets. This is Malaysia.

The Historic City

The Malacca Tourist Police station is closed during Chinese New Year

However, Malacca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is important in this way to foreigners as well as Malaysians because of the early and continuing European influence.

First, the Portuguese, then the Dutch and, lastly, the English all sequentially captured the strategically located trading port on the Straits of Malacca. Sites relating to this are preserved to some degree. The city does receive funds from UNESCO for this purpose.

The historic area of Malacca with the modern city beyond

The exploratory Portuguese saw Malacca’s value as an outpost for their expanding empire in the early 16th century. The military took Malacca from the Malays in 1511 and held it until the Dutch managed to out-maneuver them in 1641. Finally, the British took over in 1795 and ruled until Malaysia became an independent country separate from Britain without bloodshed in 1957. (There was a short occupation by the Japanese during WWII).

Below are some of the sites that remain.

Porta de Santiago Gate

The remaining parts of A' Formosa

This vestige is what remains of the Portuguese Fort, A’Formosa, today. It was badly damaged during the battle with the Dutch and would have been destroyed altogether by the British were it not for the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 (after whom Raffles Hotel in Singapore is named).

St Paul’s Church

A chapel was originally built on this site by the Portuguese. When the Dutch took over they made it their place of worship and added their cemetery. However, today, it is in ruins.

The Stadthuys

This was the residence of Dutch officers built in 1650. It still stands today in its remarkable completeness and is an excellent example of Dutch architecture. It serves as the historical and ethnography Museum.

Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum

Chinese Porcelain shards in the street of Malacca near the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum

This opulent home of a Peranakan family dates from the late 19th century. Our tour guide was “Shirley,” a Malaccan Chinese woman and she was excellent. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed.

Accommodations in Malacca and sites near the Majestic Hotel

Since hotels in the city may not be up to everyone’s standards, the best approach from my point of view is to take a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, only two or so hours away. But, if you do chose to stay overnight in Malacca, there are several recommendations in D&K, the travel guide.

We stayed in the Majestic (not recommended by D&K), and I cannot endorse it. The hotel is near a construction site. Abandoned buildings are even closer and a hospital is just next door. The noise is abundant from these close intrusions, but unwelcome sounds from the rooms to either side are even worse due to lack of insulation.

In addition, charges for anything but the most basic service are high — think New York City prices.

The Majestic Hotel is near two tourist sites, however. St. Peter’s Church is right around the corner to the right of the hotel’s entrance (after Hospital Putra). It was built in 1710 for the Portuguese Catholics in Malacca, some of whom still attend services there today. They are descendants of the 600 men that the Portuguese adventurer, Alfonso d’ Albuquerque, brought ashore when he took Malacca. Today, it is the oldest Catholic Church in Malaysia. The bell of the church dates from 1608 and was made in Goa; it was recovered from an older Dutch church that was demolished by fire.

From Travel Advisor, Villa Sentosa Malacca

Villa Sentosa is right across the street from the Majestic. The private owner of one of the villas will show guests around his traditional Malay home; donations are welcome at the end. His villa and surrounding houses were built in the first quarter of the 20th century and represent period Malay architecture. The tour is “homey” and anything but opulent, but if you stay at the Majestic it is an easy diversion.

Summary

For those who seek out history and especially are drawn to UNESCO Heritage sites, Malacca is an excellent choice. However, if I were to do it again, for my time, comfort and money I would take a day trip from Kuala Lumpur. This is because I could see the same attractions in a more organized way and stay in a better hotel in Kuala Lumpur.