I don’t even know where to begin to explain all the weirdness and craziness that happened in Melaka. Not a single day passed by without some insane, weirdo stuff happening! I should have known better… How can you expect people to act/be normal in a town that has 2 freaking names, Melaka and Malacca!?! Mission impossible!! People are already confused before even stepping foot in the town, right?
Although, I must admit my first impressions were really positive! “What a cute, charming little town! What a fascinating mix of building architecture! I Love it!”. In fact, it is a very nice old city, and it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (like George Town)”.
As soon as I arrived here, I dropped my backpack at the hostel and went for a walk around the city to have a first feeling… The more I visited historical sites, the more I was intrigued by the story behind this fishing village invaded several times over the centuries.
Because of its strategic location (the Malacca Straits are the passage connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea, and eastern Asia), it had been the battle grounds of various imperialist nations. Portuguese (in 1511), Dutch (in 1641), English (in 1795), Japanese (1942 till 1945), … All wanted to control this very lucrative trade route!
The Portuguese conquered Melaka, and immediately built a fort! Don’t ask me why a fort…I have no idea!?!
But, their intentions were to gain exclusive control of this trade route. So, all ships stopping in Melaka’s port were required to pay a tax, and those that didn’t were sunk or their cargoes confiscated! These Portuguese sure knew how to handle business!!
Then the Dutch took over the town, developed it into a prosperous port but then it all went downhill for them! They feared so much Napoleon (the French nation), that they decided to temporarily hand-over Melaka to the British!?! Not a very wise decision as the English men changed in the phrase the word “temporarily” to “permanently”.
As they settled in their new “home sweet home”, the British governor ordered to paint in RED all Dutch buildings, Stadthuis and Christ Church (used to be painted in white), in order to save on maintenance costs!
And, the craziest thing is that all buildings were originally painted with the juice of betel nuts! Betel nuts are the seeds of the betel palm, a certain species of palm tree native to the region. These British sure knew how to save pennies!
By the time the Japanese occupied the region, the port had already declined in favor of more lucrative trading ports in the region (St. George and Singapore). The Japanese stayed there till their surrender in 1945.
And in 1956, Malaysia finally became an independent nation! What a history!
Nowadays, the Dutch Square with its famous red buildings facing the Melaka River, is a popular touristic site. The Dutch square is the starting point to walk along the Melaka river, take a boat tour or to ride in one of these colourful rickshaws!
Malays pimped their rickshaws with large bugs or flowers decorations, high-powered stereo systems, electronic horns, or any sound system that will make you deaf the whole time you’re being pedaled around the old town!!
But don’t get fooled by all of this interesting cultural heritage, Melaka is actually a synonym for Madness!