Walking Tour through Historical Melaka

  • 01 of 09

    Walking Tour through Historical Melaka

    Dutch Square
    Image by Rudolph Furtado, released into public domain.

    This walking tour will plunge you deep into Melaka's history, beginning with the Chinese-Malay hybrid culture of the Peranakan along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Jonkers Street, and the heart of Melaka's Chinatown, proceeding to the colonial experience in Dutch Square via Christ Church, Stadthuys, and the St. Paul historical complex, finally concluding at the Independence Memorial where the Malaysian Prime Minister declared "Merdeka" from British rule.

    This walking tour takes between 3-4 hours, depending on how long you tarry at each stop. Try to undertake this in the mid-afternoon to avoid the searing noontime heat. Dress in light cotton clothing, and bring water, comfortable shoes, and a hat to ward off the worst of the humid climate.

    Start your journey at the Melaka Tourist Information Center between Dutch Square and the Melaka River - here, you can get free maps of the area and other notable parts of the city.

    • Address: Jalan Kota (near the Tan Kim Seng bridge that connects Jalan Laksamana and Lorong Hang Jebat)
    • Operating Hours: M-F 9am-5pm, Sa-Su 9am-4:30pm. Closed on public holidays.
    • Phone: +60 281 4803

    From the Tourist Center, cross over into Chinatown over the Tan Kim Seng Bridge, over the river that was the historical lifeline of Melaka. In its heyday, Melaka was a busy colonial trading port, filled with ships and other watercraft doing the business of several consecutive empires.

    Instead of going straight up Jalan Hang Jebat, turn left immediately upon crossing the bridge, walk about 200 feet west down Lorong Hang Jebat, then turn right at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, the street formerly known as Heeren Street in the Dutch colonial era. Walk about 450 feet up the narrow street until you reach the Baba Nyonya Heritage Center.

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  • 02 of 09

    First Stop: Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Formerly Heeren Street)

    Interior of Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum
    Image © Tourism Malaysia

    The narrow street known as Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock may seem a little run down now, but in colonial times "Heeren" (as it was known then) was home to Melaka's richest Chinese merchants.

    First up on your right, you'll see 8 Heeren Street, a restored two-storey shophouse/residence from the mid-1700s. The original builders of 8 Heeren adopted the construction methods of the Dutch, eschewing timber and thatch in favor of bricks and clay roof tiles.

    • Operating Hours: 11:00am to 4:00pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
    • Entrance fee: free

    On number 117, you'll see a pale green stucco house with a golden dome: the Chee Ancestral House, which once belonged to one of the wealthiest families in colonial Malacca.

    About 400 feet from the corner, you'll see the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum on 48 and 50 Jl Tun Tan Cheng Lock. The museum presents Peranakan (assimilated Chinese) life during colonial times, showcasing the gewgaws and the little touches that distinguish the Peranakan lifestyle of its time.

    The staircase, for example, is built with no nails (these are bad luck in Chinese culture) and a locking lid at the top (to deter burglars). There's also a peephole in the master bedroom that looks down on the first floor visitors.

    Like many rich merchant households at the time, the house is crammed with stuff appropriate to the affluence of the family living within: wood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, intricately carved lacquer screens, and chandeliers imported from Victorian England. A guided tour is available to help you make sense of the place.

    • Address: 48, 50 J. Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka
    • Operating Hours: 10am-12.30pm, 2pm-4.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday
    • Phone: Tel: +60 6 283 1273
    • Entrance fee: RM8.00 for adults, and RM4.00 for children (5-12 years old)
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  • 03 of 09

    Next Stop: Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

    Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
    Image © Andrew Tse/Creative Commons

    The stroll to Cheng Hoon Teng Temple takes you straight through Melaka's Chinatown. Walk 400 feet west down Jl Tun Tan Cheng Lock, turn right at Jl Hng Lekir, go straight until you reach Jl Hang Jebat, the famous Jonker Street.

    You'll find a number of interesting curio and antique shops as you walk down Jonker Street. Wah Aik Shoe Maker still sells shoes for bound feet - one of the last shoemakers in the world to make these.

    Walk 330 feet down Jonker street before turning left through Jl Hang Lekiu, then turn left in Jl Tokong (Temple Street), notable for its many houses of worship. At the end of Jl Tokong, you'll find Cheng Hoon Teng (Temple of Clear Clouds), one of the oldest and finest temples in Malaysia.

    The Temple was founded in the mid-1600s by the kapitan, or headman, of the Chinese community at the time, Tay Kie Ki. Tay Kie Ki hired craftsmen from Fujian and Guangdong to build a graceful temple that also served as an administrative center for the local Chinese community.

    The building was restored in 2005, and stands today as a magnificent example of South China architecture, with its curved roof and fascinating gable design. UNESCO honored Cheng Hoon Teng with an Award of Merit for outstanding Culture Heritage Conservation.

    The Temple's central altar is dedicated to the Chinese goddess of mercy Kuan Yin. Around the entrance, colorful stalls sell joss paper, candles, and joss sticks for the devotees. Adherents to the Buddhist faith perform ancient prayer rites at the Temple, their modern outfits clashing with the simple robes of the caretaker monks.

    • Operating Hours: 7:00am - 7:00pm all week
    • Address: 25 Jalan Tokong, 75200 Melaka
    • Phone: +606-283 2127 Fax: +606-286 1889
    • Website: www.chenghoonteng.org.my
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  • 04 of 09

    Next Stop: Temple Street

    Exterior of Kampung Kling Mosque
    Image © V. Menkov/Creative Commons

    From Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, walk south in the direction of the river. Along the way, you'll discover two other notable houses of worship on Temple Street.

    Kampung Kling Mosque stands on the corner of Jalan Tokong and Jalan Hang Lekiu, a remnant from the early settlement of South Indian Muslims (Kling) who once lived here.

    Kampong Kling's unique triple-tiered hipped roof and towering minaret are made of different materials - timber for the roof, and masonry for the minaret. The latter's pagoda-like form is typical of the architectural syncretism so beloved by the Melakans.

    Further down Temple Street, you'll find Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Temple, an ancient Hindu temple (the oldest in Melaka) catering to the city's South Indian Hindus. The temple was first constructed in the late 1700s in honor of the elephant-headed god Ganesh, or Vinayagar, the Hindu remover of obstacles.

    The temple's back room features a sculpture of Ganesh, and an altar dedicated to his younger brother Lord Muraga. The roof is decorated with statues of Indian deities and mythological figures, along with statuettes of cows, a sacred animal in Hindu mythology.

    On the way back to Dutch Square, you might want make a side trip through Jalan Hang Kasturi to see the traditional tinsmiths and bamboo craftsmen practicing their trades.

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  • 05 of 09

    Next Stop: Dutch Square

    Dutch Square
    Image © Andrew Tse/Creative Commons

    Cross the river again, and step onto Dutch Square to see what the colonizing Dutch left behind: namely Christ Church and the Stadthuys (State House). The buildings in the square are all a rich maroon color, but this was not always so.

    When they were originally built, the Dutch Square walls were all exposed brick; later authorities plastered them and painted them white. In the 1920s, the British painted the walls salmon red. Only recently were the buildings painted the maroon color they have today.

    The biggest building in the Square is the Stadhuys, which served as Malacca's center of government from the Dutch era all the way to post-independence 1979, when the government quit using the Stadthuys as the State Governing Center and converted it into an Ethnography Museum.

    To the Stadthuys' left, you'll see Christ Church: built in 1753, it's the oldest Protestant Church in Malaysia. The church's bricks were brought in all the way from Holland. The pews in the Church are about 200 years old, and must have been there at the very beginning.

    Look above, and you'll see ceiling beams without joints, all carved from a single massive tree trunk. Look below, and you'll see old tombstones, some of them transplanted from other parts of Melaka. Look ahead, and you'll see an altar decorated with a depiction of the Last Supper, created out of glazed tiles.

    The Church is still a consecrated place of worship, but today answers to the Anglicans instead of the original Dutch Reform congregation. Services are conducted in three different languages (English, Mandarin, and Tamil) for the benefit of the multiracial Anglican community in Melaka.

    Other landmarks in the Dutch Square include the Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower, the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Fountain, and the old General Post Office (converted into a Youth Museum).

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  • 06 of 09

    Next Stop: St. Paul's Church

    St. Paul's Hill (formerly Malacca Hill) behind the Stadthuys is home to one of the last remaining Portuguese structures on Melaka: St. Paul's Church. This church is only a ruin, constructed in the 1520s as an act of gratitude by a merchant who had survived an ocean storm.

    The church changed hands several times over the centuries - first to the Jesuits in 1548 (St. Francis Xavier himself received the title deeds), then to the Dutch in 1641, then to the British in 824. By the time the British took charge, St. Paul's had long been abandoned, and the British used the ruins to store their gunpowder.

    Today, the Church's walls house an open tomb, where St. Francis Xavier's body was interred before it was moved to its present location in Goa, India. The church also houses cannons left over from the Dutch.

    In 1952, on the 400th anniversary of Xavier's death, a memorial statue was constructed in front of the church. The saint's last miracle was said to have been performed here - when they disinterred him for transport to Goa, the saint's body was found to be incorrupt.

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  • 07 of 09

    Next Stop: Porta de Santiago

    Porta de Santiago, the last remnants of A Famosa.
    Image © Tourism Malaysia

    Walk down the hill to Jl Kota, where the last remnants of the Portuguese occupation can be found.

    The street of Jl Kota traces out where the walls of the Portuguese fort A Famosa used to be; all that remains of the walls is a single gate, what we now know as Porta de Santiago.

    A Famosa was built by the occupying Portuguese forces in 1512. The Portuguese employed hundreds of slaves to build the fortress walls, and scavenged stone from nearby palaces, cemeteries, and mosques to complete the structure. Later, the fort was expanded to enclose nearby European settlements, transforming A Famosa into a fully functional European Christian city.

    When the Dutch took over, they added the date of their conquest ("Anno 1670") and the crest of the Dutch East India Company above the gate. The fortress was handed over to the British in the early 19th century, to protect the city from the depredations of Napoleonic France.

    The British decided to demolish the fort - they argued that the fort would be a dangerous place for the British if it were to fall into enemy hands. They would have completely succeeded had Sir Stanford Raffles not decided to stop the destruction. While he has too late to prevent the destruction of the majority of the walls, he did manage to save Porta Santiago from obliteration.

    These days, Chinese couples pose for their wedding photos in front of Porta de Santiago, supposedly to ensure that their marriages will last as long as the gate.

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  • 08 of 09

    Next Stop: Malacca Sultanate Palace

    Facade of the Malacca Sultanate Palace.
    Image © Tourism Malaysia

    On your way from Porta de Santiago, you'll pass by a gravesite for Dutch colonists before arriving at the Istana Melaka, or the Malacca Sultanate Palace.

    The Palace is a replica of the structure built by the extinct sultanate of Malacca, the rulers of the city before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500s. The plans were derived from the Malay Annals' account of Sultan Mansur Shah's palace, which housed the nobleman who ruled Melaka from 1456 to 1477.

    Today, the Palace houses the Muzium Kebudayaan (Cultural Museum), which celebrates the Malay side of Melaka's history. The museum safeguards more than 1,300 items from Melaka's past: photographs, drawings, weaponry, gifts from foreign emissaries, and musical instruments, divided between eight chambers and three galleries on three floors.

    • Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays)
    • Admission: Adults: RM2; Children/Students: RM0.50
    • Phone: +60 6-282 6526, +60 6-281 1289
    • Website: www.virtualmuseummelaka.com
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  • 09 of 09

    Last Stop: Proclamation of Independence Memorial

    Exterior of Proclamation of Independence Memorial
    Image © Andrew Tse/Creative Commons

    Walk in the direction of the Sultanate Palace's gardens, and you'll come across the last stop of the walking tour: the Proclamation of Independence Memorial.

    Before independence, this building was known as the Melaka Club, a British building constructed in 1912. Today, this building stands as a silent witness to Malaysia's history. The building now commemorates the moment when, just across the road, Malaysia's first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed the country's independence to thousands of cheering Malaysians at Warriors' Field (Padang Pahlawan) in 1957.

    The Independence Obelisk now stands on the field in memory of this event, marking the spot where the last British governor of Malacca handed over his offices to the new Malaysian Governor of Malacca on August 31, 1957.

    Today, the building houses freedom memorabilia from multiple eras of Malaysia's history, the earliest dating back to the first sultanates in the area. Independence (or in Malay, "Merdeka") is the history exhibit's overarching theme, showing the long struggle for independence waged against the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonizers.