Monday, September 12, 2016

[MALACCA] Don't Mess with Melaka

I always thought that Melaka was Portuguese. Well, it was, but not always. It was also Dutch. British. And now, Malaysian. Perhaps such fate is inevitable when you are a city lying on the strategic crossroads of the Strait of Malacca. Everyone just wants a piece of you. I guess this is why I was wondering why it didn’t appear like Macau in photos. I mean, they were both Portuguese harbors once, right? Melaka’s main attraction right now, in fact, is the Stadthuys left by the Dutch. The Portuguese got shortchanged yet again.

I just feel like that Treaty of Tordesillas thingy was unfair to Portugal. When they divided the globe with the Spaniards, they were supposed to be getting a lot of land, the Philippines included. Who knew what happened as to why their Iberian neighbor got way more. In the end, Portugal did not really conquer a nation in Asia which went on to become its own independent state, with the clear exception of East Timor which took forever to do so. But still, there’s Goa in India. Macau in China. And Melaka in Malaysia.

But yeah, don’t expect a lot of Portuguese influence. It seems as though it all ends with the A Famosa Fort. Unlike Macau’s Senado Square, for example, which is so very Portuguese, azulejos and all, Melaka feels more Dutch. The main tourist area is called Dutch Square where you will find red buildings which consist of the Stadthuys itself, the church, the clock tower, and some others of the same color facing the ever tranquil river the locals refer to as Sungai Melaka. Go uphill and you’ll end up at the Portuguese fort.

As for me, Melaka has always been a plan but never a reality. Whenever I land in either KL or Singapore, there is always this subconscious thought of taking off from the other airport, with a day trip to Malacca squeezed in between. Coming from Singapore, the trip took around five hours including the one hour we spent at Singaporean immigration at the border. It was a busy morning! Leaving at 10 AM, we reached Melaka Central at around 3 PM. The backpackers’ area is another 20 minutes away via the 17 bus.

With only an hour or two left before sunset when I finally reached my Airbnb place, I decided to take a nap and just get out again when the sun has mellowed down, but not after taking a shower. The combined heat and humidity make a hellish combination, and a cold shower is your best bet at comfort before locking yourself in your air-conditioned room. The decision proved to be a good one when I got out of the house and took a stroll by the riverside. Now that’s what I call chilling.

You might want to get on a boat and try the river cruise. It seems fun, although I think just relaxing by the riverbank is not a bad idea either, not to mention it’s free. I think I even saw benches there. With the sun down, it’s a good activity of choice. Dutch Square always has tourists running around with their selfie sticks. I don’t know if it’s the same case along the river. It was not that congested when I was there, which is probably why I enjoyed it. The quest for the Stadthuys selfie was not as enjoyable because of the crowd.

Go uphill for the Famosa Fort. I didn’t. I was looking for KFC because I needed a Cheesy Wedges break. I ended up at one of the malls close to that tower thingy that looks like a theme park ride, that one with the rotating glass chamber that brings you all the way to the top. I didn’t ask how much it was but it shouldn’t be that expensive. I bet the view is not bad either given its proximity to the river and central location at the old town. This is a UNESCO world heritage site, lest you forget.

It was already dark when I got out of KFC but the center has a lot of those rickshaws brightly decorated with colorful lights. They roam the streets looking for passengers, and looking at them is a good distraction in itself. Walking back home, I passed by the river again, this time illuminated by the the restaurants lining up its banks. Hard Rock appears to be open until late in the evening if you suddenly feel like having some liquor. Or maybe you just want to socialize. There is no shortage of foreigners here.

I passed along Jonker Walk the next afternoon to catch the bus back to Melaka Central. Keep in mind that the 17 bus runs a circular route, and the old town is within the first and last fifteen minutes of the trip. This means that it will take you more than an hour to get there if you hop on in front of the Stadthuys. What you can do is follow Jonker Walk until you reach the Tamil Methodist Church. Turn left and you will see a bus stop there. The fare back to Melaka Central is MYR 1.20 (~PHP 14.50). The trip is 20 minutes, more or less.

[MALACCA] Don't Mess with Melaka

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