March 2, 2015 – March 5, 2015
Our final stop in Malaysia was the historically significant city of Malacca. Because of the city’s long and varied past, there are as many different ways to spell Malacca, you will see most commonly Malacca and Melaka. It has been a strategic trading post for the incredibly profitable spice trade for nearly a thousand years, and hotly contested, changing hands many times throughout history. It is how the straight of Malacca got its name and a significant part of the reason why Malaysia has such ethnic diversity, as traders and laborers and soldiers have flooded in through this important city from all over the world.
Despite its age and history the city has a remarkable and refreshing small town feel. The old city is clustered along either side of a river, the mouth of which served as a deep water port for sailing ships for a thousand years. Changing hands from various local tribes, sultanates and Chinese explorers, the city was once host to China’s famous treasure ships, as well as catching the eye of early European explorers it went from Portuguese control to Dutch and eventually the British. Its varied and sometimes turbulent past has left it a myriad of various colonial buildings, fortresses, churches and mosques. All of which are now host to a large Chinatown, many museums and hundreds of shops and restaurants. And if you’re looking for something a bit more modern or just want to escape the heat for a bit, there are at least four huge malls within walking distance.
We stayed in Chinatown at one of the many guesthouses along the river. Despite being in Chinatown you will notice right away a definite European feel, with walkways along the river dotted with cafes and old Dutch and British colonial buildings everywhere, there’s even a Dutch windmill and water wheel.
On a hill above the city, are a collection of ruins of the city’s fortress. At various times it was one of the most valuable and strategic fortresses in the world. There is not much left however as it has changed management frequently over the years and was periodically remodeled by attacking cannonballs. There is still enough left to stroll through and snap some pictures and get a view of the surrounding city from the hilltop. Despite its relatively small size the city was vastly important, fortunes and kingdoms were won by whomever controlled the flow of nutmeg and black pepper through the Straight of Malacca.
Most of the old city is easily walkable, but if you’re going far or its just too hot there are many ‘Basikals’ for rent, which as far as we could tell are nearly identical to bicycles.
The Straits Mosque, often known as the Floating Mosque, a couple kilometers from the old town on an island just offshore is a good place to try out your basikal.
After a few days in small town Malacca we boarded our last bus in Malaysia and headed even further south to our next country and next destination, the city nation of Singapore.