REUNION IN MALACCA

As a former Malaysian who grew up and was educated there, I have never missed the country ever since I migrated to Singapore and subsequently became a Singaporean. Many Singaporeans frequent Malaysia during weekends or holidays.  I do agree that there are indeed some nice attractions in Malaysia, not only for the fact that food and shopping are cheaper there.  However, DS and I have very little interest in touring Malaysia apart from our trip back to visit our parents twice or the most thrice a year. In the past 20 years, we had only been to Penang, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur.

There is one particular place in Malaysia that I had been wanting to visit again especially in recent years.  It is a place that I used to visit as a young kid, so much so that I sometimes regarded it as my second hometown because my god mum lives there. It is a place where some of the happy moments of my childhood were found.  It is the well-known historic town of Malacca!  Having said this, I must also admit that much of my memories about this place have faded away with time, having not been back there for more than 20 years!

Arriving into Malacca from KLIA (KL International Airport). I flew from Singapore to KL, and then travelled down to Malacca in my friend’s car.

It was a free-and-easy 3D2N trip (6-8 Sep) with two dear friends from my childhood days – one who is still based in our hometown Batu Pahat, and the other who has already long settled down in Selangor.  What a nice place to converge!

Obviously, much have changed in Malacca over the years.  I would be surprised if it hasn’t!  One thing for sure though, its charm as a historic town of Malaysia especially after being listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2008, has attracted many tourists worldwide, such as British, Indians, Chinese, Hong Kongers and Japanese, just to name a few that I came across during this trip.

Downtown views from hotel room…..neat rows of shop-houses plus orderly parked cars

On the left is the Eye On Malaysia observatory wheel which was moved from KL, and on the right (the tall pole) is a revolving observatory tower just like the Carlsberg Tower on Sentosa Island.  I also noticed that like Singapore, Duck Tours are also available in Malacca.

Malacca Strait Mosque on Pulau Melaka (island of Malacca).  Pulau Melaka is an island formed through land reclamation mainly for housing purposes.

I was most impressed by the cleanliness and neatness of the town.  I would say it is even cleaner than Singapore!  Even the back lanes downtown were so clean that not a piece of rubbish was spotted.  I don’t remember it was that clean and orderly the last time I was there.  It seems to me that the traffic conditions are not bad either, as I didn’t see any traffic congestion even during peak hours.

Equatorial Hotel where we put up for two nights, seems like a popular hotel amongst the Singaporeans as I spotted many Singapore registered cars in its car-park.  It is very centrally located, and many of the downtown attractions are within walking distance from the hotel. I was also very impressed by the good service and excellent command of English of the hotel staff.  We had definitely made a good choice to stay there.

Equatorial Hotel, view from the huge open space next to this shopping mall called Dataran Pahlawan

A nice fountain with a unique flavour of Malaysia in Dataran Pahlawan shopping mall

On the second day, we spent 3-4 hours in the afternoon exploring the historical attractions downtown by foot.  It was nice but the walk would have been a lot more pleasant if not for the hot scorching sun.  During this outing, I was surprised to discover that there were actually many museums in Malacca!

The renown Porta de Santiago, remains of the old Portuguese fort A Famosa which was built in 1511.

The ruins of St. Paul’s Church on St. Paul’s Hill.  This church was built by the Portuguese in 1521.

Ruins of St Paul Church with the statue of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) a pioneering Roman Catholic Missionary who had led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Asian Portuguese Empire of the time.  His body was buried here temporarily in 1553 before it was taken to Goa, India.

Stadhuys House (Dutch Administrative Building) at Dutch Square.  Completed in 1660, this is one of the oldest Dutch buildings in the East.  It is now home to History, Ethnography and Literature Museum.  Buildings at Dutch Square are all painted red, making this part of Malacca town rather unique.

Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower at Dutch Square.  This was built in 1886.

Another historical building that was built by the Dutch in 1753 to commemorate the centenary of their occupation of Malacca.  This church took 12 years to complete.  Originally a Dutch Reform Church, it was later consecrated as an Anglican church.

Lots of beautifully decorated sightseeing trishaws at Dutch Square.  One of the riders asked for RM15 for a ride.  Though I didn’t ask for the details of the route, I think it was not expensive considering the hard work under the hot sun, but we did not go for it.  These remind me of my childhood days when trishaws were still a mean of transportation.

Very elaborate decoration!

Remains of Malacca Fort which was built in the 15th century.  This was a prominent landmark during the time of the Malay Sultanate.  This was where the administrative and royal residences were located.

Malacca River.  Clean!  River Cruise is available here.

Samudera Museum (aka Maritime Museum).  This is the only museum we went in.  It is quite a small one but not bad.  All visitors entering into this museum are required to take off their shoes! 

At the recommendation of a Malaccan, we came to this coffee shop for Sate Celup, a local food not to be missed when visiting Malacca.  We heard that this is the best in Malacca.  The crowds explain it all.  When I was young, Sate Celup was available from the hawker stalls by the roadside. 

The prices were reasonable – RM0.50 for a normal stick and RM0.60 for sticks marked with red paint.

Just like eating steamboat, this is how we cooked the food before eating it.  I was not having a very good appetite during the trip or I would have loved to eat more.  The dinner for 6 pax costs RM43+.  I think it is good value for money.

On the last day, before leaving Malacca in late afternoon, we spent a few hours strolling down Jonker Street and its vicinity leisurely, with another childhood friend of ours (now residing in Malacca and vice principal of a Chinese primary school), joining and guiding us along.  I had not seen this friend for almost two decades!  What a pleasant, rare opportunity to meet up and it is also very heart-warming that despite our long separation, this friend of ours is still as sincere and friendly as before and we were still able to chat like those good old days in school!  Friends are indeed a treasure in life!

Jonker street was once renowned for its antique shops but has turned to clothing and crafts outlets as well as restaurants over the years. As it was a weekday afternoon when we visited, the place was rather quiet.  I heard that it is full of buzz on Fridays and Saturdays when the night market is on. 

Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple at Harmony Street (aka Jalan Tokong or Temple Street).  Built in 1673, this is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia.  Along Harmony Street, there are prayer houses of Malaysia’s three main faiths –  Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple, Sri Poyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Hindu Temple, and Kampung Kling Mosque.

Kampong Kling Mosque with its pagoda-like minaret.  This mosque was built by Indian Muslim traders in the 18th century.

Sri Poyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Indian Temple

It’s so clean and neat!

Puppet show available from this Chinese tea house – Cheng Ho Tea House

Hang Jebat’s Mausoleum.  Hang Jebat was a warrior labelled as a traitor, all for the love of a friend.

This handicraft place made me feel like I was in China!

Eng Choon Association with its very beautifully carved walls and pillars.  I belong to this dialect group!

Didn’t have enough time to check out this Nyonya Shoe shop.

Many of the old and dying trades can be found on Jonker Street too. Just like those olden days, the tasks are still carried out manually.  Don’t think we can see these in Singapore anymore.

Chicken rice balls are another well-known local food.   Hope to get a chance to eat it if I ever visit Malacca again.  Will I?

On our way back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, we had a quick stop at this shop to buy some dodols.  This shop is famous for dodols and have been around for a long time since I was a kid.  Today, they have diversified and a large variety of food stuffs can be found here.

Goodbye Malacca!  Hope to visit again someday….

It was a short trip but what actually made it special was the reunion of good old friends.  It was a rare opportunity to travel and spend time with them in such a manner, especially for the fact that we are all residing in different countries and locations.  I am truly thankful to my friends who have joined me and made the trip very enjoyable and memorable for me. I trust that they have also enjoyed themselves. This was also a trip to mark our 40 years of friendship.  It is hard to believe that we have actually known each other for this long (since the day we started school).  I am not sure if we will still be around in another 40 years (most probably not) but I certainly feel very blessed that our friendship has not only withstood the trial of time and distance, but still remains close in our heart all these years.  What a great blessing and I thank God for wonderful friends that make a difference in my life.

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