|MELAKA (MALACCA), MAYLASIA|
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|A SHORT HISTORY||BRIEF CITY DESCRIPTION|
Melaka (the preferred Malay spelling) is frequently spelled Malacca by Westerners.
Melaka,strategically located on the Straits of Melaka (Malacca), is the oldest city in Malaysia and once its capital. It was founded, 1403, by Parameswara, a Sumatran prince, as a small fishing village and became the seat of his Sultanate. Trading ships passing through this narrow strait were forced to stop. This contributed to Melaka's growth. Within 100 years it became the most important center for sea commerce East of India. Traders from as far West as Arabia and as far East as China came to its shores to exchange goods. Each gradually left an imprint on the development of the city. The lucrative spice trade attracted Europeans, and in 1511 the Portuguese conquered Melaka. In 1641 it came under Dutch rule, and then under British rule in the late 1700s.
A major change in the city's demographics and commerce took place when the Dutch left. Chinese traders grew more powerful in Melaka and assumed an important role. Melaka was the most significant port of the South-west coast for the Chinese to export their gold, silk, tea, opium, and tobacco.
The Chinese married with the local people creating a unique society which by the 19th century reached notable heights. This "new" group, called Peranakan, became prosperous and developed a sophisticated life style. As this new culture matured, so did the city which continued to grow in importance with other Straits cities, especially Singapore. Gradually, though, Melaka's strategic location became less significant as Singapore's grew. (Want more history? click here)
Much of the center of today's Melaka was built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This central area was declared a World Heritage Site in 2008.
Tourists enjoy a much slower paced city than most other tourist cities of Southeast Asia. Almost everything one should see is located within easy walking distance from one sight to another. There are still some structures from the Portuguese period and several from the Dutch period. The center is divided by the Melaka River. On one side are the historical shop houses and mansions of the Peranakan businesses, while on the other is the original Dutch city center square with Dutch government buildings around it. And, in this area are the few remaining Portuguese structures.
Melaka is a pretty city with fine restaurants and excellent shopping. It is pedestrian friendly which makes it easy to walk to the many and interesting sights. There are some good museums, including a typical wealthy Peranakan's home - the Baba Nyonya Heritage - which is very much worth a visit. The family still owns this large house (actually two joined together) but no longer occupies it. The home is filled with imported antiques that the family brought to it over the years from China and other parts of the world. Pagodas, mosques, and Christain churches all exist within this area.
Many of the Dutch government buildings have been converted to museums, each specializing in a broad subject. The former Dutch governor's home has been restored and contains period pieces.
(On this trip we also visited: Java, Candis Prambanan & Borobudur, Bali, Komodo National Park, and Singapore)
|Malaysia: Melaka (Malacca) is in South-west area. Singapore is on the South most point of the Malaysian Peninsula.||