About 90 miles southeast of Kuala Lumpur, Melaka has a creation myth according to which, Parameswara founded an empire here in 1400 CE after witnessing a mouse deer successfully defend itself from attack by a dog. He was in retreat from Singapura, of which he was the last Raja following an enemy invasion. Actually, there was already a thriving fishing village here populated by Orang Laut (sea people). The port is at the narrowest point in the strategically important Malacca Straits and for centuries therefore it was a booming centre of trade and political power. The Peranakan or Baba Nyonya culture began here with the intermarriage of Hang li Po, daughter of the Chinese Emperor to Sultan Manshur Shah in the 1450s.
There is no longer a Sultan of Melaka because the invading Portuguese abolished the sultanate. The head of the State of Malacca is now a governor but it remains a fascinating town with a rich cultural heritage and is another UNESCO world heritage site.
After strolling around the main square with Dutch Cathedral and down the river walk, we stumbled across the old palace surrounded by the gorgeous Forbidden Garden, which provided a short respite from the heat and was an interesting way to pass an hour or so. The roof of the palace is in typical Melakan style. Adjacent, for no particular reason that we could discern was displayed a 1957 Chevrolet that had belonged to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of independent Malayia. Just around the corner, we came across an extraordinary, Scottish built Twin Pioneer Mark 1 aircraft, the first aircraft owned by the Royal Malaysian Airforce. Along the riverside, we saw a giant water wheel adjacent to a colonial era river fort, complete with canon. Altogether quite a potpourri of attractions.
Although there were a lot of tourists in the town, we were glad to have visited and seen such interesting sights - Melaka is a melting pot of European and Asian design.
This visit to Melaka was part of the d2t Kuala Lumpur/Siem Reap trip and so we were in a private group of about 10 people. Around a 2.5 hour easy drive from KL, the trip is well worth making if you're looking for something different to do whilst visiting or laying over.
One of the first things you notice in Melaka is the abundance of rickshaws, mostly decked out in the tackiest brightly coloured decor you can imagine. Many of these also play loud western pop music, which creates a strange atmosphere of cultural contrasts in this bustling provincial capital and historic little tourist town. It makes for a vibrant and colourful street scene as these flower bedecked carriages scuttle back and forth past the tiny stores selling all manner of fruits, including the dreaded stinky durian, as well as all the silks and richly ornamented housewares.
There are numerous local cafés and there's also a Hardrock Café for those of you who crave ice cold drinks and western style ice-cream sundaes.