Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finding the Lost Venice of the East (1)

We’ve been doing a “heritage walk through” since early April and over the weekend we went a little further from Singapore.  This time around, we explored the historical Malacca or Melaka. The city which is one of the smallest states of Malaysia is just about 2-3 hours non-stop driving from Singapore. Since we travelled by luxury coach which is impossible not to stop along the way, our journey took about 4 hours.

While on the road, we’ve learned the history of Malacca in a nutshell. "Melaka, popularly believed to have been named from the Melaka tree was founded in 1396. Before the 15th Century, Melaka was just an ordinary fishing village", the tour guide shared. The city is located on both sides of the Malacca River near its mouth into the Strait of Malacca. Its river played a vital role in the history. The guide also said that Melaka was “once dubbed the Venice of the East, where the traders of East and West met, its river was the beginning point of the "Sultanate of Melaka" empire, attracting traders from all corners of the world.” But as time went by, due to some reasons (nature, conflicts, rapid development or any others), the city lost its fame.
Hotel Equatorial Melaka
Today, Melaka regained its glory, not as a world's major trading port but as a tourist destination. Myriads of tourist from across the globe visit this city every year. The city is without a doubt rich in history, culture, heritage and tradition that it made to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we approached to our hotel, we had a glimpse of the “old” and “new” Malacca. We saw both modern high-rise buildings and traditional style houses converted to commercial establishments. We checked in at Hotel Equatorial Melaka which is located in the heart of the city. We had a good experience at the hotel, checking in was very fast and requests were promptly attended. It was not my first time at the hotel; I’ve stayed there last year for a business trip. But during our weekend stay, I fully enjoyed the hotel amenities. The property is rather old compared to others hotels around the area. Nonetheless, it is nice and clean. Beds smell good and very comfy. It has nice selection of dining and cool outdoor swimming pool. The lobby is quite spacious as well. It’s just a short distance from the major places of interest in Melaka such as St Paul, Jonker St, Christ Church, Fort a Famosa and the river. Shopping malls are also close to the hotel. Having housed in a strategic hotel like this, we had many choices to do – shopping, sightseeing, swimming, dining or seeing a movie.

After our lunch at Papa John's Pizza, we refreshed a bit and decided to explore the “old” Melaka in a laid back manner – walking. Another option to experience the heritage trail in Melaka is by “trishaw” also known as rickshaw or pedicab. It is a tri-wheeled cycle decorated with colorful which can be hired in an hourly basis. In Melaka, trishaw owners even attached stereos on their cabs and play loud music while on the road.
Trishaw for hire
While we were heading towards our first stop, we got curious about an on-going event in an open field near the mall. There was a little crowd cheering, shouting and running. We decided to drop by and see what was going on. We learned after that it was the final day of the Malaysian National Paintball League 2013 which was held at Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall.
We continued our walking adventure and in just a few minute, we’ve reached the fa├žade of the Fort A Famosa. The structure is quite similar to that of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. According to written accounts, “the hallmark was built by the Portuguese in 1511 as a fortress and sustained severe structural damage during the Dutch invasion in the early 17th century. The British East India Company had then set to destroy the said fort but timely intervention by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 saved what remains of Porta De Santiago or commonly known A Famosa Fort.”
Ruins of Fort A Famosa
To be continued... Our next stops include St Paul, Jonker St, Christ Church and the Melaka River...