Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Malacca

Malacca, or Melaka in Malay, is called The Historical State by many and I wouldn’t disagree. It was a sudden plan made by my parents, my sister and me to visit Malacca while we were in Kuala Lumpur for a vacation. It’s a usual thing for travellers going to Malaysia to visit Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands, but not Penang, Langkawi and Malacca that often. I am not sure about the rest of the world, but in India my sentence holds good. This is primarily because of the tour packages that are available in India. However, these days I hear many people talking about Langkawi to be a part of their itinerary; unfortunately, Malacca is still skipped.

The day we reached Kuala Lumpur we heard from some people who were gathered at the lobby of our hotel discussing their trip to Malacca the next morning. The four of us were so intrigued with the descriptions we heard about Malacca, that we instantly called the manager to check if he could help us get there. Fortunately, the hotel had a tie-up with a city tour company and we were booked for our trip to Malacca the day after.

We travelled on a luxury bus and we were about 20 to 25 people from different parts of the world travelling together. Of all the people I met, I particularly remember a Japanese lady. She became pals with my parents and clicked many photographs with us. Since she was travelling alone I guess she felt at ease with fellow Asians.

Malacca is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula. It took us about two hours to get there. We had an English speaking guide who was giving us important information as we drove along. Malacca is known for its diverse cultural heritage, and has a population comprising of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kristang, people with partial Portuguese ancestry, and Dutch Eurasians. Quite a diverse mix to say the least!

We stopped at the Dutch Square in the heart of the City, and walked around The Stadthuys, Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower, Queen Victoria Fountain and the famous Christ Church. We clicked many photographs as we had two cameras with us, and picked up some souvenirs as well. Across the Malacca River from the Dutch Square, are the long houses of Heeren Street and the antique shops at Jonker Street. We heard of the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum but we couldn’t make it there.






After walking to the end of Heeren/Jonker Streets, we reached Harmony Street of Malacca to visit the oldest Chinese Temple in Malacca called Cheng Hoon Teng or Green Clouds Temple. This is Malaysia’s oldest traditional Chinese temple and is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. A unique and visually attractive sight is the manner in which the incense sticks are ‘waved’ during traditional Chinese rites. I guess a better word for describing the movement of the incense sticks would be ‘shaken’; quick and abrupt spurts of hand movement rather than the slow and circular movement that we Indians do.



Further down were the Kampong Kling Mosque and the Sri Vinayagar Temple all along the same street, but we were too tired to visit them. We then went to the St. Paul’s Hill Complex to view the Independence Memorial, Porta de Santiago commonly called A Famosa, the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, where Malacca's Saint Francis Xavier was once buried. The guide told us that Saint Francis Xavier’s body is presently placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.

Later we visited the Portuguese settlement where the descendents of the Portuguese still live. My folks bought souvenirs from there too. It was late afternoon and time to have lunch. We had an option to try the spicy hot Devil’s Curry and other famous Portuguese cuisine at the Portuguese Square but we didn’t opt for it as we normally choose not to experiment with food. Instead we had the lunch that the tour operator organised for us; chicken fried rice, chilly pork, stir fried chicken with roasted cashews, all in a very Malay style! In fact, I found most of our co-passengers opted for this food. We were seated in a big round table and were served food by local Malay girls. The surprise element was that we were served chilled beer… complimentary and unlimited!

We spent the whole day in Malacca and visited as many places as we could. It was as if we were in a different world altogether and we didn’t feel like coming back. But we had to move on and we returned to Kuala Lumpur with a lot of memories. We left Malaysia after two days and came back to Mumbai.
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