4 Historical Spots To Visit While In Melaka

Melaka is one of Southeast Asia’s most historically rich sites. Founded by a Javanese Hindu prince in the 1400s, it thrived as a port and welcomed traders from as far as China, Arab and India. It was then conquered by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English for hundreds of years. Naturally, old structures and the influence of various cultures remain, making Melaka a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For first-timers in the city, there’s no running away from visiting four important historical hotspots. They’re all within walking distance of each other, so getting to each is just a matter of legwork. Just ready the sunscreen, shades, an umbrella and lots of water – Melaka is scorching at most times of the year.

THE RUINS OF ST PAUL’S CHURCH @ ST PAUL’S HILL 

20191201_113220

The heart of Melaka is centred around a hill (now known as St Paul’s Hill), since the high vantage point affordsgood views of the coastline (ergo, important back then to see ships + invading forces).

Perched on top of this hill are the ruins of St Paul’s Church, a Roman Catholic church built in 1521 by the Portuguese nobleman Duarte Coelho. Originally called the Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of the Annunciation), it was dedicated to St Mary. The church was later deeded to a Jesuit missionary called Francis Xavier, who used it as a base for his missionary trips around Southeast Asia. After his death and ascension to sainthood, his body was interred for a while at the church, before it was sent to Goa. A burial vault was also opened in the 1590s, and many Portuguese nobles and people of distinction were buried here.

20191201_113250

After the Dutch invaded in 1641, the church was re-designated as St Paul’s Church under the Dutch Reformed denomination. For a while, the Dutch community in Melaka used it as their main church, but left it abandoned after the new Christ Church was completed in 1753. Parts of the building were also taken down to help fortify defense structures around Melaka. The church building fell further into disrepair during English occupation, when it was used as a gunpowder depot.

20191201_113426

View of the Straits of Melaka from St Paul’s Hill

20191201_113719

There was a church event going on at the ruins during our visit.

The building itself is just a shell of its former self – four walls, no roof and exposed red brick, lined with elaborately carved stone grave markers. One wonders how it must have been like in its heyday, when both the Portuguese and then later the Dutch came to pray and attend religious sermons and events.

20191201_113820

20191201_114113

The stage was set up for a play later in the evening, while the open grave where St Francis Xavier’s body was once interred was littered with flower petals.

PORTA DE SANTIAGO @ A FAMOSA 

20191201_115736

When the Portuguese invaded Melaka in 1511, they established their base at the hill (now St Paul’s Hill), built a fort around it, and called it “The Famous”. The Dutch continued to use it during their occupation, but when the British came, they destroyed almost all but this last gate called the Porta de Santiago. Visitors who visit the site today will find little more than a simple gate, its brick facade blackened and weathered. Over the archway is an inscription, Anno 1670, as well as the logo of the East India Company – both additions by the Dutch. While there isn’t much by way of sights, the historical significance itself makes this place worth a visit. It is, after all, the oldest surviving European remains in Southeast Asia.

MALACCA SULTANATE PALACE MUSEUM 

20191201_120746

Just steps away from the Porta de Santiago is the Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum, a reconstruction of the old palace based on written accounts in the Sejarah Melayu, or Malay Annals. The old palace was said to have sat on the hill where St Paul’s Church is now located, but it was destroyed when Portuguese forces invaded. This modern version tries to stay as true as possible to descriptions from the Malay Annals, and was built with timber wood without the use of nails.

20191201_121630

Inside, visitors will find various exhibits detailing the history of the sultanate, as well as cultural and historical artefacts. Only the main hall is air conditioned; it is very stuffy upstairs and at the outer verandah, so it’s best to visit at a cooler time of day.

20191201_121757

The story of Hang Tuah is told here through a series of paintings.

Hang Tuah is the OG of Malay warriors and features prominently throughout Malay legends and literature, although whether or not he truly existed remains highly debated. He was apparently highly skilled in the martial arts (silat) and was an extraordinary warrior, second to none.

One of the most famous tales is the one where some ministers of the court, jealous of Hang Tuah’s standing with the Sultan, spread slander and lies about him, to which the Sultan ordered him executed. The chief minister who was tasked with this knew that Hang Tuah was innocent and instead hid him in a cave. Hearing of unjust done to his childhood friend, Hang Jebat – who after Hang Tuah was the best fighter in the land – ran amok, seeking to avenge him.

20191201_121944

It was then that the Chief Minister revealed that Hang Tuah was in fact, alive – much to the relief of the Sultan. Jebat was happy that Hang Tuah was alive, but Hang Tuah berated his friend for rebelling against the Sultan. A fight ensued that lasted for seven days, and Tuah emerged the winner after killing his friend. He continued serving Melaka, going on numerous other adventures. Yes, a rather grim ending for Jebat who was only thinking of avenging a friend whom an unjust ruler wronged – but hey, loyalty to the Sultan was paramount to anything else back in the day, even childhood friends whom you grew up with.

20191201_122241

A diorama of the Balairong Seri, or the audience reception hall where the Sultan received political dignitaries, guests and his advisors.

20191201_122542

Costumes worn by the different classes in Malaccan society, including royalty, as well as accessories and jewellery such as hair pins, brooches, belts, etc.

20191201_122610

Another diorama, this one of the Sultan’s bedchamber.

The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum is open daily from 9AM to 5PM. Entrance is RM3 for Malaysians and RM5 for foreigners.

RED SQUARE / STADTHUYS/ CHRISTCHURCH 

20191201_112352

Last but not least, make your way to the Red Square, where you will find fire-red buildings which include a clocktower, the 18th century Dutch founded Christ Church, and the Stadthuys, which was once used as an administration building and residence for the Dutch Governor and now houses a museum of History and Ethnography. The square is a colourful place, filled with loud and gaudy-looking trishaws that blast techno music and are decorated with pop culture characters. Once the main mode of transportation around Melaka, you can now take a ride around town for a hefty RM25.

20191201_130031

If the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum detailed the history of the ancient Malay kingdom, the Stadthuys is more focused on the period between the landing of the Portuguese up until Japanese occupation in the days of World War II. Exhibits include a selection of weaponry, including swords, sabres, guns and armour, plus items from trade such as pottery, crystal glasses, silverware and the like.

20191201_130336

20191201_130532

20191201_131034

Melaka’s four conquering forces – the Portuguese (1511 – 1641), the Dutch (1641 – 1825), the British (1826 – 1942) and the Japanese (1942 – 1945).

20191201_132422

A diorama of Melaka during the Portuguese occupation. notice how the fort was still completely intact, surrounding the city.

20191201_133030

A painting depicting the captain of the Portuguese guard surrendering the keys to the city to the Dutch after the defeat of Portuguese forces.

20191201_135221

Aside from colonial history, the museum also houses exhibits on local culture and practices of the community. Pictured is a diorama of a traditional Malay-Melakan wedding. The bersanding ceremony, where the bride and groom sits on a raised dias, draws from Hindu cultural influences.

The Stadthuys is open from 9.30AM – 5.30PM daily. Entrance is RM5 for Malaysians and RM10 for foreigners.

If there’s one thing Melaka isn’t short of, it’s museums – although I can’t say they’re all impressive. If you like museum-hopping, also worth visiting is the Melaka Maritime Museum (housed in a replica of the Portuguese galleon Flor del Mar), the People’s Museum, the Stamp Museum and the Submarine Museum (housed in a decommissioned submarine by the coast), to name a few.

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Thanks for reading! I’m trying to grow my social media, so any likes and follows will be appreciated! You’ll also be updated on what I’m up to on a daily basis. 🙂

facebook.com/erisgoesto 

twitter.com/erisgoesto 

instagram.com/erisgoesto

Genting Strawberry Leisure Farm, Malaysia – Pluck Your Own Strawberries !

It has been a chill and relaxing weekend at Genting Highlands – time to head home! Our last stop was Strawberry Leisure Farm, located at Gohtong Jaya at the foot of the hills. The weather is not as cooling as up in the mountains, but flowers and strawberries still thrive in this spacious garden.

20160731_101430-tile

Entrance to the gardens is RM8 for adults.

20160731_101556-tile

We were greeted by rows upon rows of strawberry plants. Unlike the commercial farms in Cameron Highlands, which have been swarmed with tourists and plucked to death, the plants here are healthy with a good amount of juicy strawberries. Course, you have to pay extra to go in and pluck them. They did allow me to take some pictures from the side though.

20160731_101807-tile

Random: did you know that there are ‘Ichigo’ or white strawberries in Japan? They are completely white as they don’t get sunlight, and are said to be very sweet and juicy. One piece can cost over 1,000 Yen (USD10)  and upwards per piece! The priciest strawberry is the Bijen Hime (Beautiful Princess), costing a whopping 500USD and weighing up to 100gms.

20160731_101816-tile

20160731_101840-tile

20160731_102022-tile

20160731_102144-tile

If you’re not into pickin your own fruits, the place sells them nicely packaged in plastic boxes. They do look tantalizing..

20160731_102413-tile

Some parts of the garden are closed to the public, presumably to allow the strawberries time to grow / for their own harvesting purposes.

20160731_102213-tile

Strawberries aren’t the only thing you’ll find here – they also have flower gardens housing roses, lavenders, and many more. We head through a shady tunnel draped in tendrils and pretty shrubbery.

20160731_102515-tile

The upper deck was filled with these purple dandelion-like blooms. Unfortunately, there were no labels and being a city girl, I wasn’t familiar with many of these flowers lol. I’ll regale you with some pictures instead ! 🙂

20160731_102852-tile 20160731_102902-tile

Purple lavender patches

20160731_102913-tile  20160731_103214-tile 20160731_103250-tile 20160731_103254-tile

Nicely landscaped. The purple + white and green contrasted really nicely.

20160731_103304-tile 20160731_103424-tile 20160731_103501-tile

Roses. The weather was warm though so they looked kind of wilted.

20160731_103516-tile 20160731_103542-tile 20160731_103939-tile

We weren’t expecting the gardens to be so big. Spent an hour or more exploring the place. Lots of nice flowers everywhere – great for pictures!

20160731_105214-tile 20160731_105638-tile

A very odd piece of furniture, but I’d totally have this in my garden just for a laugh.

20160731_105756-tile 20160731_105841-tile

These orchids are called ‘dancing ladies’. Do you see the resemblance? Apparently they look like women in a dress with flaring sleeves, like a traditional Spanish flamenco costume.

20160731_105940-tile

Large white orchids. They looked healthy and well-cared for.

20160731_110100-tile

20160731_110043-tile

The Strawberry Farm is well-worth the RM8 we paid. From the outside it looks small but there is more than meets the eye. They also have souvenir shops, cafes where you can enjoy strawberry-based products such as tea/jam/ice-cream (albeit overpriced) and more.

GENTING STRAWBERRY FARM 

No. 1, Lot 3707, Jalan Jati 2, Bandar Gohtong Jaya,
Genting Highlands, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia
Business hours: 9AM – 6.30PM (Daily)

Travelogue Penang: Things To See In Georgetown

On our second day in Penang, we decided to go sightseeing in Georgetown, a busy part of the island and where many tourist attractions are located. My advice to travelers is to bring along sunscreen, a shady cap/hat and loose, cool clothing. Also lots and lots of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

Here are some of the places we went to:

1) OLD PROTESTANT CEMETERY

SAM_3263

A cemetery might seem like an unlikely place to visit, but the Old Protestant Cemetery along Northam Road (Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah) is worth a peek into. Established in 1789, it was a disused and neglected cemetery for over a century before restoration works began in 2012. There is pathway made with tiles, lined with old frangipani trees. The dark twisting branches reminded me of fairytales, dark woods and horror films. It was tranquil in the day, but it must be scary at night.

The founder of Penang, Sir Francis Light, was buried here, along with many early European merchants in Malaya. As it is further out from the other attractions, not many tourists seemed to flock here.

SAM_3266

Although there are more than 500 graves here, most are not tended to and look dilapidated. Which is sad, seeing how it has such a long and rich history. Some of the tombs are elaborately decorated, while inscriptions can still be seen even after two centuries.

SAM_3267

After much walking, we finally got to the city centre! Way back, there were lots of trishaws in Penang but they mostly went out of service. Now, the business has been revived, thanks to a tourist boom to the island.

SAM_3269

SAM_3271

SAM_3274

We were considering if we should get bicycles to get around, but decided against it because we weren’t sure of the places and had to keep refering to the map. Can’t be getting up and down the bikes so frequently.

2) CHEONG FATT SZE MANSION

SAM_3280

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a large blue building along Leith Street. It is further away from the cloister of attractions in the centre of town. Built in the 19th century by a wealthy Chinese merchant, which the mansion is named after, it has an impressive 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, and 7 staircases. The deep blue colour of the walls was a popular colour during that time among people living in British colonies. In 2000, it received a UNESCO Heritage award. It currently operates as a Bed and Breakfast, but is open to the public for viewing three times a day.

We didn’t go in because we just missed the 11am viewing. There are three times – 11am, 2pm and 5pm.

3) CHURCH OF ASSUMPTION

SAM_3287

Next on the list was Love Lane, where the old Church of the Assumption is.

SAM_3290

Founded in 1786, this Roman Catholic church was one of the first built after the British landed in Malaya. It was named the Church of Assumption as it coincided with Sir Francis Light’s arrival on the island during the feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Mary.

SAM_3291

SAM_3297

The church’s interior was not very large, but it was  clean and well-kept. The straight-lines on it’s exterior facade lends it a modern feel; you wouldn’t think it was a >200-year old church. Paintings that line the sides of the church tell a story. There was a confession booth where priests sat on one side and devotees on the other.

4) PENANG STATE MUSEUM

SAM_3302

Just next to the Church is the Penang State Museum. For just a low, low entry fee of RM1, visitors are taken on a journey of the culture and heritage of Penang. There are different sections dedicated to the three main races of Malaysia: Malay, Chinese and Indian; and how their culture in Pennag has evolved over the years.

There are many interesting things on display. We saw a pair of three-inch lotus flower feet shoes. Back in the days, Chinese ladies (especially those from privileged or wealthy families) had their feet bound tightly from birth, resulting in tiny, severely deformed feet. D: It sounds horrible now, but it was the trend back then. The smaller they are, the better. The goal was to get your feet into three inch shoes (look at your feet now and imagine. Now shudder.)

The ladies had it so bad they couldn’t walk, but that was the whole point because women from wealthy families didn’t have to work and would have servants to care for them.

SAM_3305

SAM_3322

There was a corner where visitors could play congkak !

The game involves getting the most marbles into your ‘house’ (the two larger holes) at each side. One player takes one house. Next, you have to take the marbles from any of the smaller holes on your side and move accordingly. When you pass by your ‘house’, you put one in.You cannot skip the smaller holes, but you can avoid the opponent’s house. It’s a fun game involving math and strategy, and a thing to keep young kids occupied back when computers weren’t available.

5) ST GEORGE’S CHURCH 

SAM_3324

Another similar looking white facade building next to the museum is St George’s church on Lebuh Farquhar. The oldest Anglican church in South East Asia, it was completed in 1818. There is a small gazebo directly in front of the church.

6) KWAN YIN TENG TEMPLE 

SAM_3336

Goddess of Mercy, or the Kuan Yin Teng Temple between China Street and Jalan Kapitan Keling, One of the oldest temples in Penang, it is packed during festivals. Many devotees were lighting incense sticks and prayer lights during our visit.

SAM_3340

SAM_3341

7) PENANG TOWN HALL

SAM_3345

Further down the road next to the sea is the Penang Town Hall. Officiated in 1880, it was once the epicentre of Penang’s elite and members of high society. Designed in the Victorian style, it currently has a grand ballroom for functions, and art/drama plays are regularly held there.

8) PENANG CITY HALL 

SAM_3351

Last but not least, the City Hall, which was, unfortunately, under construction at the time of visit. Built in 1903, it was erected for more space next to the Town Hall. Today, both buildings are located just opposite the field on Esplanade Road overlooking the sea. Pretty nice views!

That’s it for this part of Georgetown. Keep reading for more updates!