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Tourism Malaysia

Museum: Historical and Ethnography Museum

The Historical and Ethnography Museum is located at the
Stadhuys at the junction of Jalan Kota and Jalan Gereja, Melaka. In front of
the building, in an area known as Dutch Square, is the Victoria Water Fountain
and the Tan Beng Seng Clock Tower built in the year 1886. The Historical and
Ethnography Museum is on the second floor of the Stadhuys building.

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Cuisine in Melaka

MALACCA STRIVES ON HER HISTORY

Originally published Monday, March 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Malaysia’s Malacca thrives with history
The hub of Malacca’s civic colonial sites is Dutch Square — also called Red Square because of the color of its buildings.

By NAOMI LINDT The New York Times

On the tranquil grounds of the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Malaysia’s oldest Taoist house of worship, late afternoon visitors bowed and offered burning wands of incense to a gilded statue of the Goddess of Mercy, the deity for whom the temple was founded in the 1600s. Tourists quietly watched or focused cameras on the structure’s ornate, figurine-covered roof.

The placidity was interrupted by the muezzin’s call from the nearby Kampung Kling Mosque, an amalgam of Corinthian columns, Portuguese tiles and Hindu carvings, built by Indian Muslims in 1748. And down the street at the 230-year-old Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple, the country’s oldest Hindu temple, bare-chested and barefoot men in pastel-hued sarongs and garlands made of yellow blooms gathered to pray.

It was another seemingly sleepy afternoon in Malacca, Malaysia’s oldest city, just two hours south of Kuala Lumpur and about four hours northwest of Singapore. But underneath that sleepiness, its foundation of vibrant multiculturalism, which dates back centuries, is very much alive and increasingly accessible, as it welcomes a handful of hotels and millions of international visitors a year.

“I just love Malacca — its laid-back, slow pace of life and the history in the buildings, the people, the culture,” said a local resident, Colin Goh, 66, at Cheng Hoon, surrounded by a pair of red-and-gold sedan chairs and black-and-white photos that chronicled decades of the temple’s religious festivals. “Everything you touch that is not new is old.”

With his mix of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and “God only knows what else” heritage, Goh, a retired civil servant who now manages 8 Heeren Street, a restored 18th-century Dutch shophouse, embodies the city’s colonial past. Founded around 1400 by a Malay-Hindu prince, Malacca, within a century, became Southeast Asia’s most important trading port, luring an international cast of colonialists and merchants seeking a piece of the region’s lucrative spice trade.

The hub of Malacca’s civic colonial sites is Dutch Square — also called Red Square because of the color of its buildings — where tourists pose in front of the century-old Queen Victoria Fountain and trishaws festooned with plastic flowers gather. Nearby are the ruins of the A’Famosa fort, one of Asia’s oldest European-built structures, erected by the Portuguese 500 years ago, and the imposing Stadthuys, or town hall, built by the Dutch in 1650 and later painted salmon red by the British, Malacca’s last foreign rulers, whose reign lasted until 1957.

On the west side of the Malacca River, which flanks the square, along the old center’s narrow, atmospheric streets, are hundreds of lantern-hung shophouses, some distinctly Chinese in style, others bearing geometric Art Deco trademarks, and grand residences with ornately tiled stoops built by wealthy families of the past. For centuries, these streets served as the town’s commercial and residential center.

Malacca’s eclectic charm, with some help from a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 2008 and its reputation as one of Malaysia’s most exciting culinary destinations, has resulted in a steady growth in tourism. Last year 12 million visitors came, an increase of over 17 percent from 2010, according to a state tourism committee.

While some heritage buildings are still occupied by generations-old family businesses — silversmiths, watchmakers, dim sum purveyors — others have newer identities. At Temple Street, a shop run by a local artist, watercolors and hand-painted tiles depict idyllic street scenes. In another building, Nancy’s Kitchen, a no-frills restaurant known for its local Nyonya cuisine, sells addictive delicacies like buttery pineapple tarts and onde-onde, glutinous rice balls filled with Malacca’s famous palm sugar, known as gula Melaka, and covered in fresh coconut.

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The Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, in a grand, preserved residence on Heeren Street (officially known as Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock), pays tribute to Peranakans, a group of wealthy, sophisticated families that arose from the intermarrying of Babas, or Chinese traders, and Nyonyas, or local residents.

The Peranakans forged a distinct East-meets-West culture that represents much of what makes Malacca so fascinating: A racial and religious multiculturalism that’s been cultivated and honored for centuries.This rich cultural heritage is also being celebrated in new lodging options. In 2009, a 100-year-old residential property down the street was converted into the 14-room Courtyard (AT) Heeren hotel, which blends era-appropriate furnishings with modern amenities. At the Snail House nearby, a charming French-Malaccan couple, Serge and K.C. Jardin, rent rooms in their carefully restored century-old home, with an open courtyard, a grand spiral staircase and high ceilings, offering travelers the chance to appreciate the nuances of Peranakan architecture.

“When you’re inside, you feel as if you’re in the presence of a wealthy Baba,” Jardin said. “And though you’re in the city center, it’s so quiet you forget where you are.”

Josephine Chua, a self-described “busybody housewife,” history buff and proponent of Malacca’s historic preservation, agreed.

“This place has been built on harmony since the 15th century,” she said.

Chua, 55, traces her local roots back nine generations, to 1765, when one of her paternal ancestors migrated from Fujian, China.

“The religions have coexisted side by side for centuries — that’s what makes us so unique and the town so great to live in,” she said. This is a particularly telling statement in modern-day Malaysia, whose Muslim, Malay-majority government has been criticized for exploiting ethnic divisions for the sake of political gain. “We don’t ask each other about one’s race and religion, but what we do always ask each other is,’Have you eaten?”‘

Where one has dined is not a question to be taken lightly in a city of restaurants serving home-cooked dishes, many of which have been passed down through generations. At Aunty Lee, a grandmotherly spot with lace curtains and pastel walls just a short drive from the historic center, septuagenarian chefs cook mouthwatering renditions of classic Nyonya dishes — chicken stewed with earthy, smoky keluak nuts; a fluffy omelet flavored with dried shrimp and chili; and cendol, a shaved ice dessert topped with coconut milk and gula Melaka.

Though authentic culture is easy to find in the city, residents like Chua and Goh worry about its future. The old center is now home to a recently opened Hard Rock Cafe, and many historic buildings have fallen into disrepair or been transformed into conventional souvenir shops and hostels, with no government financing to protect them.

Perhaps the most glaring example is Jonker Street, officially called Jalan Hang Jebat. Once known for its antiques shops, the strip now draws tour groups trawling stores stocked with Birkenstock knockoffs, batik linens and cheeky T-shirts with sayings like, “If YouTube MySpace, I’ll Google Your Yahoo.” It’s particularly raucous on weekends, when a food and retail night market takes over.

Still, what captivated explorers and entrepreneurs centuries ago never seems far away, whether it’s during a contemplative moment in a crumbling church or a stroll along the old town’s back streets and its fragrant Chinese medicine shops. Or while you are sipping a steaming cup of tea during a downpour at Zheng He Tea House, a hidden spot two blocks from Jonker Street. “Once you step into Malacca, you can feel the positive energy,” said Pak Siew Yong, the teahouse’s friendly owner. “Foreigners, once they come here, they don’t want to go home.”

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World Heritage Melaka Trail

1. MALACCA TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
Your journey, very appropriately begins here. Centrally located in Old Malacca, the Malacca Tourist Centre lies between Chinatown and Dutch Square. From here your first destination is a bridge across the Malacca River.

2. MALACCA RIVER

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As you cross the bridge, look to tour left. In the distance is the rivermouth which once welcomed vessels of all shapes and sizes. Imagine, it was then a busy,noisy loading dock, crowded with mercahnts and their merchandise.

Turning into Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, formely known as Heeren Street, the first thing you will notice is how narrow the street is. There is a standing joke that dogs have to wag their tails from side to side. Like all other streets in Chinatown it was originally built to accommodate oxcarts and rickshaws.


3. BABA NYONYA HERITAGE
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Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock was Malacca’s “Millionaire Row”. Here you will find some of the most equisite example of Baba Nyonya houses. Most of these houses display an interesting blend of Dutch and Chinese influences. One house definitely worth stopping at is No 117 with its Dutch architecture, courtyard and silver-painted dome. Of course, you must not miss the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, No 48 and 50, for an insight into a way of life that lasted unchanged pretty much until World War II. You will be amazed to discover how the narrow facade belies the airy spaciousness.


4. CHENG HOON TENG TEMPLE
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On Jalan Hng Lekir, you can see craftsmen constructing traditional Chinese coffins. You migh even be able to witness a typical Chinese funeral parlour. Only in Malacca is the ornate teakwood coffin covered with a gaily coloured canopy before it is conveyed to the cemetery. Turn right into Jalan Hang Jebat or Jonker Street, which known for its many antique and curio shops. You will notice that a number of the shops selling antique furniture belong ti members of the Kutty family.

In other shops you will find all types of antiques- from fragile porcelain and intricate jewellery o Chinese rosewood furniture. There are few shops selling curios, and one, Wah Aik Shoe Maker, still makes and sells little embroidered satin shoes for bound feet.While on this street look out for the oldest building in Malacca, a Dutch trading house built in 1610. Opposite it you will find a house with a very low roof- it is so low, you can touch the tiled roof with no effort at all. In this coffeeshop there is “wantan mee” stall run by two “amah cher”. Distinguished by their single pigtails and their black and white “samfoo”, these “amah’s” had come from China to work as domestics.

As you walk down any street in Chinatown, particularly along Jalan Hang Jebat, you will see itinerant hawkers calling out their wares. This used to be a common sight in any town in Malaysia,but it is not so anymore. Cut through Jalan Hang Lekiu and turn left into Jaln Tokong, or Temple Street, this street has been dubbed the “Street of Harmony” because the houses of prayer of three different religions lie on same side of the street in close proximity, coexisting in harmony for over three centuries.At the end of the street is the Cheng hoon Teng, or the Green Clouds TempleThe colourful stalls clustered around the entrance of the temple sell candles, joss paper and aromatic joss-stick required by devotees.

In the temple you will see devotees performing prayer rites that have been handed down from generation to generation, since the Chinese first settled in Malacca. Their modern dress makes a sharp contrast to the traditional robes worn by the Buddhist monk and nuns who serve the temple.


5. KAMPONG KLING MOSQUE
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Adjacent to the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the newest addition to the street, the buddhist temple of Siang Lin which boasts the large statue of Buddha made of carraras marble in the country.

Opposite Cheng Hoon Teng are shops selling more paraphernalia required for Taoist and Buddhist prayers. At no 11, you will see papier mache dollmakers at work. These papier mache dolls and items represent servants and luxuries, and they are burnt at funerals to ensure the recently departed a good start in the Underworld.

On the other side of Jalan Hang Lekiu is Jalan Tukang Emas, or Goldsmith Street. Here stands the Kampong Kling Mosque. Non-muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque proper but even the courtyard you will be able to appreciate the marvellous architectural touches that make this mosque so unique.

The Kampong Kling Mosque remains central to Malay community life. Centuries of prayer and contemplation have imbued the mosque with a tranquillity and intimacy that is absent from the more modern houses of prayer.

6. SRI POYYATHA VINAYAGAR TEMPLE

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This ancient Hindu temple is noteworthy for its traditional hallmarks like the minaret, which is decorate with little statue of deities and other mythological figures. Note the striking red figureines of cowns, the sacred animal of Hindus, along the eaves.

The temple is dedicated to the deity Vinayagar who is the favourite among the Hindus because it is believed that he is a remover of obstacles. He is also revered for his filial piety.

As you walk down Jalan Tukang Besi or Blacksmith Street, you can still see blacksmiths moulding their products over charcoal braziers. These skills have remained in the same families for over 300 years. The artisans cling to the belief that their luck resides in the wooden counters in their shops. Thus, although these counters are decades old and quite decrepit, their owners will not have them replaced for fear of losing their luck.

If you have the time, take a side trip along Jalan Hang Kasturi to see the tinsmiths and the bamboo craftsmen. Like the blacksmiths, these are traditional craftsmen. The tinsmith are kept busy producing lanterns, portable altars and other household items, while the bamboo craftsmen still practise the art of making intricate birdcages.

Turning back into Jalan Hang Jebat keep a watch out for Nattukottai moneylenders. These business are still run in the traditional fashion with the moneylenders sitting on the floor behind small tables.

7. CHRIST CHUCRH

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Back accros the river, you will find yourself on Jalan Kota, or Fort Terrace, which circles Dutch Square and St Paul’s Hill. Your first stop in Dutch Square should be Christ Chuch, the oldest functioning protestant church in the country.

Originally a Dutch Reform Church, it was later consecrated as an Anglican Church. Visitors of the Anglican faith will find it qiute interesting to attend Mass at Christ Church as it is conducted in English,Mandarin and Tamil to cater to the multi-ethnic congregation.

Next to the church is the General Post Office, another example of Dutch architecture. Opposite the post office, along the bank of Malacca River, you will notice a number of public scribes sitting with portable typewriters under shady trees. Once these men were indispensable, helping the illiterate conduct their official and personal business, but now they are a dying breed.

8. ST PAUL’S HISTORICAL COMPLEX

Three of the oldest building in Malacca are located in the vicinity of St Paul’s Hill. At the foot of the hill you will find the Stadhuys, on the other side, Porta de Santiago and at the peak, St Paul’s Church.

STADHUYS

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Walking along Jalan Kota you will arrive at the Stadhuys, once the residence of the Dutch Governor of Malacca and his officers. Built around 1650, it is a testimony to the solidity of Dutch masonry and woodwork, as well as their ingenuity in adopting their native architecture to the humid climate of Malacca, with the inclusion of large windows and wide verandah. Today, the Stadthuys houses the Malacca Ethnographical and Historical Museum.

At the base of the Stadthuys, you will find a plaque with a roll of honor commemorating the members of the Malacca Volunteer Corps who fell during World War II. In front of the Stadthuys in Dutch Square is the Queen Victoria Fountain, erected by the citizen of Malacca to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. The Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower was erected in 1886 but it is obvious an attempt had been made to blend it in with the older Dutch buildings around it.


ST PAUL’S CHURCH
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A short climb up St Paul’s Hill will bring you to the ruins of St Paul’s Church. Just imagine, this same path was taken by a saint in the olden days! The church was built by the Portugese in 1521 and St Francis Xavier first preached here in 1545. Aside from his efforts to spread Christianity in the Far East, St Francis was associated with a number of miracles.

Inside the church there is an open, empty tomb where his “incorrupt” body was temporarily placed before it was moved to Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India. The marble statue of St Francis in front of the church was erected to commemorate the fourth centenary of his temporary burial in the church. You will come across an unusual sight of ruins of battlements and cannons in the church. This is a remnant of the Dutch era when the church was converted into an extension of A Famosa. The Dutch had even turned the altar into a cannon embrasure.

As u leave the church, take a moment to look out over the straits of Malacca in the distance. Where once, centuries ago, you would have had a commanding view of junks and galleys jostling for space, now you may see a solitary oil tanker anchored far off in the distance.

PORTA DE SANTIAGO

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At the foot of St Paul’s Hill is Porta de Santiago, all that remains of A Famosa. Every Malaysian schoolchild will be able to tell you the story of how the fort was built by the portugese in 1512 under the command of Alfonso d’Albuquerque. The date “Anno 1607” inscribed over the portal marks the overthrow of the Portugese by the Ducth. For good measure, the Dutch conquerors also included the crest of the United Dutch East India Company above the date.

In the early 19th century, the British East India Company decided to demolish the fort. Fortunately, Sir Stamford Raffles realised the historical significance of the fort and his timely intervention “saved” Porta de Santiago for posterity.

For many centuries, A Famosa sstood as a symbol of Malacca’s importance as a trading centre between East and West. Today, its ruins remains as a timeless evocation of Malacca’s history-and more.

On Sundays and auspicious days, you can see a parade of Chinese bridal couples happily posing for photographs on Warriors Field in front of Porta de Santiago. They believe that by doing so their marriages will be as enduring as the fort.

9. MALACCA SULTANATE PALACE

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Proceeding from Porta de Santiago, you will come across another Christian cemetery. Here there are few unoccupied grave-side, which had been dug in the 17th century for Ducth subjects.
To the left of the cemetery is the Malacca Sultanate Palace. This replica of the original 15th century palace of Malacca extinct sultanate is based on sketches found in the ancient Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). It houses the Malacca Cultural Museum.

Opposite the palace is the Historic City Memorial Garden. There is a strong Islamic influence permeating the garden, in the manner the structures are built and decorate. The focus of this garden is the monument to be quite intriguing as it is topped with a replica of a malay royal headdress, a symbol of the Malaysian citizen’s allegiance to the throne.


10. PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL
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Next to the Historic City Memorial Garden is the Proclamation of Independence Memorial. Malaccans still tend to refer to this quaint old building by its original name, the Malacca Club. Its new name is appropriate as the proclamation of Malaya’s independence was made by Malaysia’s first Prome Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, at Padang Pahlawan or Warriors Field just across the road.

On his field, you will find the Independence Obelisk. This modest monument marks the spot where the last British Residence of Malacca handed the instrument of independent to the first local Governor of Malacca on August 31,1957. The “M” on all four sides stands for “MERDEKA”, the Malay word for independence,

After this you will head back towards the Tourist Information Centre, from where you started this Heritage Trail into the heart of Old Malacca. This trail has been made possible by a generous grant from the American Express Foundation