The historic town of Melaka is located along the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia facing the Straits of Melaka. It is the capital of the state of Melaka.
Melaka was founded in the 14th century by Parameswara, a Hindu prince from a little kingdom in southern Sumatra. Due to its strategic position on the Straits of Meleka, an important trade route, the town quickly gained economic importance as a trading post between China, India, Indonesia and the Middle East.
In 1511, it was captured by the Portuguese under Alfonso de Albuquerque and the sultan subsequently fled to Johor. An alliance between the Dutch and the sultanate of Johor wrested control of the city in 1641. Administration was then formally passed to the Great Britain in 1824 and the city became part of modern Malaysia after WW2.
The city lost its viability as a trading post in the 17th century after the founding of Singapore further south along the peninsula, one of the three British colonies that make up the Straits Settlement.
In 7th July 2008, the city is inaugurated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO for its concentration of historical Dutch buildings and Peranakan heritage. With the adoption of its new status, the government has renewed efforts to promote tourism in the area.
Sights & Activities
Stay at Hotel Puri: An authentic Peranakan house belonging to the late Tan Kim Seng converted into a boutique hotel. The hotel is conveniently situated in Chinatown on Jalan Tan Cheng Lock aka Heeren Street.
Walk down Jonker Street: Immerse yourself in the Peranakan heritage. Many of the houses retain its facade and structure but have been converted into souvenir shops and eating establishments. Come back at night and the streets come alive with a night market aka pasar malam on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.
Visit the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum: For only RM8, you are taken on a 30 minutes guided tour around the traditional Peranakan house. Learn about the beliefs and culture of the people.
Enjoy local Peranakan cuisine: One fine establishment is Nancy’s Cafe where you can try the local cuisine, a blend of Chinese and Malay tastes, at affordable prices. The popiah and pie ti topped with a special chilli mixture is a must-try.
Shop at Tan Kim Hock: Located on the outskirts of the city, the store offers a wide selection of in-house local produce – chilli padi, coffee powder, honey lime. Due to some family disputes, you can now also buy local produce from San Sook Gong found at the entrance of Jonker Street.
Stroll along Melaka River: Once the landing area for the great trading vessels, the quayside is undergoing development and is landmarked by the replica of the 13m Melaka Malay Sultanate Water Wheel.
Get onboard a Portuguese Nau: Part of the maritime museum celebrating the city’s past prominence in sea trade is found onboard a restored Portuguese Nau. For RM3, you can visit the ship and explore its lower decks.
Take a trishaw ride: From the Stadthuys (the distinctively red building which used to serve as town hall under Dutch rule), hitch a 10 minutes trishaw ride for RM10 to the ruins of A’Famosa and St Paul’s Church. All that remains is the white washed walls of the once mighty fort that withheld the advances of the Malaccan Sultanate. You can get a good glimpse of the town from up here.
By car, Melaka (199 km from Johor Bahru) can be reached in 2.5 hours using the North-South Highway. Toll charges from Tuas Second Link to Ayer Keroh exit amount to RM39. You will have to drive through town for another 30 minutes before arriving in the heart of Melaka.
The historic town centre is small and all the major attractions can be easily visited on foot.