Historic Town Centre
This area has a ridiculous number of museums clustered along Jin Kota. A few such as the Islamic Museum (admission RM2; S 9am-5.30pm Tue-Sun), the Architecture Museum (admission RM2; S 9.30am-5pm Tue-Sun), which focuses on local housing design, and the Muzium Rakyat (People's Museum; adult RM2; O 9am-6pm Wed-Mon), which covers everything from gasing uri (top-spinning) to mutilation for beauty, are worth visiting if you have time on your hands. Most of the others use a bland diorama format where visitors walk through a maze of wordy displays.
Melaka's most unmistakable landmark and favourite trishaw pick-up spot is the Stadthuys (Town Square; 282 6526; adult/child RM5/2; £) 9am-5.30pm Sat-Thu, 9am-12.15pm & 2.45-5.30pm Fri), the imposing salmon-pink town hall and governor's residence. It's believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, built shortly after Melaka was captured by the Dutch in 1641. The vivid colour theme extends to the other buildings around the Town Square and the old clock tower.
To explore inside the Stadthuys you'll need to visit the extensive History & Ethnography Museum (0 guided tours 10.30am & 2.30pm Sat & Sun), which has a number of historical re-creations as well as displays of Chinese and Malay art, weapons and ceramics. Up the hill is the mildly interesting Literature Museum, focusing on Malaysian writers. Admission to the above museums (and the Governor's House and the Democratic Government Museum) is included in the admission price to Stadthuys.
PORTA DE SANTIAGO (A'FAMOSA)
A quick photo stop but a must for anyone visiting Melaka, Porta de Santiago was built by the Portuguese as a fortress in 1511. The Dutch were busy destroying the majority of the fort when Sir Stamford Raffles came by in 1810 and saved what remains today. Look for the 'VOC' inscription of the Dutch East India Company on the arch.In 2006 work on the Menara Taming Sari revolving tower uncovered another part of the famous wall. The revolving tower was relocated further inland, and the remains of the fortress walls were reconstructed and are now home to the 13m-high Melaka Malay Sultanate Water Wheel replica. The original wheel would have been used to channel the river waters for the large number of traders swarming Melaka during the 15th and 16th centuries.
ST PAUL'S CHURCH
St Paul's Church is a breezy sanctuary reached after a steep flight of stairs. Originally built by a Portuguese captain in 1521, the church offers views over Melaka from the summit of Bukit St Paul. Inside the decaying stone interior are intricately engraved tombstones of the Dutch nobility that are buried here. The church was regularly visited by St Francis Xavier, and following his death in China the saint's body was temporarily interred here for nine months before being transferred to Goa, where it rmains today. Visitors can look into his ancient tomb (surrounded by a wire fence) in the centre of the church and a marble statue of the saint gazes wistfully over the city.
When the Dutch completed their own Christ Church in 1590 at the base of the hill, St Paul fell into disuse. Under the British a lighthouse was built and the church eventually ended up as a storehouse for gunpowder. The church has been in ruins for more than 150 years.
Housing a cultural museum, this wooden replica of a Melaka sultan's palace (Jin Kota; admission RM2; S3 9am-5.30pm Wed-Mon) is based on descriptions, from the Malay Annals, of the original 15th-century palace, built entirely without nails.
MARITIME MUSEUM & NAVAL MUSEUM
Housed in a huge re-creation of the Flora de la Mar, a Portuguese ship that sank off the coast of Melaka, the Maritime Museum (admission RM2; E9am-5.30pm) merits a visit. Clamber up for a detailed examination of Melaka's history via faded and dated props. The museum continues in the building next door with more absorbing exhibits featuring local vessels plus an assortment of nautical devices.
Chinatown is the heart of Melaka and is by far the most interesting area to wander around. Stroll along Jin Tun Tan Cheng Lock, formerly called Heeren St, which was the preferred address for wealthy Baba (Straits-born Chinese) traders who were most active during the short-lived rubber boom of the early 20th century. The centre street of Chinatown is Jin Hang Jebat, formerly known as Jonker St (or Junk St Melaka), that was once famed for its antique shops but is now more of a collection of clothing and crafts outlets and restaurants. On Friday and Saturday nights, the street is transformed into the Jonker Walk Night Market, a lively market of food and trinket stalls. Finally, the northern section of JlnTokong (also known as Harmony St) has a handful of authentic Chinese shops selling red and gold lanterns, paper money and funerary preparations.
The following sights are listed in geographi-cal order and could be used as a walking tour: start going northwest on Jin Tun Tan Cheng Lock, follow the map to head southeast down Jin Tokong, then finish by heading northwest again up Jin Hang Jebat.
8 HEREEN STREET
Run by the Heritage Trust of Malaysia, this 18th-century Dutch period residential house (admission free; (Sl1am-4pnnTue-Sat) was restored as a model conservation project. The friendly . host will show you around and describe what era each style of the building came from (some as far back as the Portuguese occupation) and what life would have been like inside its walls over the centuries. The project was partially chronicled by Lim Huck Chin and Fernando Jorge in their beautifully designed coffee-table book Voices from the Street, which is for sale at the house along with other titles on historical Melaka. You can also pick up an Endangered Trades: A Walking Tour of Malacca's Living Heritage (RMS) booklet and map for an excellent self-guided tour of the city centre.
BABA-NONYA HERITAGE MUSEUM
Touring this traditional Peranakan town-house takes you back to a time when women hid behind elaborate partitions when guests dropped by, and every social situation had its specific location within the house. The captivating museum ( 283 1273; 48-50 Jin Tun Tan Cheng Lock; adult/child RM8/4, incl tour if enough people; HlOam-12.30pm & 2-4.30pm Wed-Mon) is arranged to look like a typical 19th-century Baba-Nonya residence. Furniture consists of Chinese hardwoods fashioned in a mixture of Chinese, Victorian and Dutch designs with mother-of-pearl inlay. The highlight is the tour guides who tell tales of the past with a distinctly Peranakan sense of humour.
CHENG HOON TENG TEMPLE
Malaysia's oldest traditional Chinese temple (dating from 1646) remains a central place of worship for the Buddhist community in Melaka. Notable for its carved woodwork, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (Qing Yun Ting, Green Clouds Temple; 25 Jin Tokong; (3 7am-7pm) is dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. All building materials for the temple were imported from China, along with the artisans involved in its construction. A robed effigy of Guanyin can be found within the main temple hall, itself an explosion of black, gold and red. Across the street from the main temple is a traditional opera theatre.
Opposite is the more recently constructed Xianglin (Fragrant Forest Temple), which en-deavours to follow the layout of a traditional Chinese Buddhist temple.
MASJID KAMPUNG HULU
The oldest functioning mosque (Jin Kampung Hulu) ins Malaysia, it was commissioned by the Dutch in 1728. The Portuguese had destroyed all non-Christian establishments during their occupation, but the Dutch had different colonisation tactics and decided to help the locals rebuild their places of worship instead. The resulting mosque is made up of predominantly Javanese architecture with a multitiered roof; at the time of construction, domes and minarets had not yet come into fashion.
KAMPUNG KLING MOSQUE
This hoary mosque (Jin Tokong) has a multitiered meru roof (a stacked form similar to that seen in Balinese Hindu architecture), which owes its inspiration to Hindu temples, and a Moorish watchtower minaret typical of early mosques in Sumatra.
SRI POYYATHA VINAYAGAR MOORTHI TEMPLE
One of the first Hindu temples built in the country, this temple (Jin Tokong) was built in 1781 on the plot donated by the religiously tolerant Dutch and dedicated to the Hindu deity Vinayagar.
CHENG HO CULTURAL MUSEUM
A lengthy paean to Ming Admiral Cheng Ho (Zhenghe), this extensive museum (283 1135; 51 Lg Hang Jebat; adult/child RM20/10; S 9am-6pm Mon-Thu & 9am-7pm Fri-Sun) charts the tremendous voyages of the intrepid eunuch Muslim Chinese seafarer. As a favourite servant of the Chinese emperor's fourth son, Prince Zhu Di, Cheng Ho later became an army officer and ultimately the admiral of China's 'Treasure Fleet', a convoy that solidified China's control over most of Asia during the 15th century. It's a great stop for history buffs, although there's too much information here for anyone expecting a casual visit. The ticket price includes a 15-minute film presentation on Cheng Ho.
Around the City Centre
While not an official museum, the 1920s Malay kampung house Villa Sentosa (Peaceful Villa; faj 282 3988; www.travel.to/villasentosa; admission by donation; S 9am-1pm & 2-5pm Sat-Thu, 2.45-5pm Fri), on the Melaka River in Kampung Morten, is well worth a visit. A member of the family will show you around the house. There's a varied collection of objects, including Ming dynasty ceramics and a 100-year-old copy of the Quran, but most of all it's an opportunity to wander through a genuine kampung house.
ST PETER'S CHURCH
The oldest functioning Catholic church in Malaysia, St Peter's Church (Jin Bendahara) was built in 1710 by descendants of early Portuguese settlers. On Good Friday the church comes alive when the Melakans flock here, many of them making it the occasion for a trip home from far-flung parts of the country.
Besides being the largest Chinese cemetery outside of China, Bukit China is also Melaka's best jogging track. Over 12,500 graves, including approximately 20 Muslim tombs, cover the 25 grassy hectares.
In the middle of the 15th century the sultan of Melaka imported the Ming emperor's daughter from China as his bride to seal rela-tions between the two countries. She brought with her a vast retinue, including 500 hand-maidens, and the area has been Chinese ever since, the two adjoining hills becoming the burial ground for Chinese traders. At the foot of Bukit China, Poh San Teng Temple was built in 1795 and contains images of the Taoist entity Dabo Gong and Guanyin. To the right of the temple is the Sultan's Well, a 15th-century well built by Sultan Mansor Shah. It was an important source of water for Melaka and a prime target for opposition forces seeking to take the city.
Melaka also has a small community of Chitty, or Straits-born Indians, who are the offspring of Indian traders and Malay women. Having arrived in the 1400s, the Gutties are regarded to be older than the Chinese-Malay Peranakan community. Their area of town, known as Kampung Chitty, lies west of Jin Gajah Berang, about a kilometre northwest of Chinatown; look for the archway with elephant sculptures beside the Mutamariman Temple. It's a pretty district in which to wander and see traditional Malay-style houses.
Across the river from Chinatown is Melaka's surprisingly plain Little India. This busy area along Jin Bendahara and Jin Temenggong is a worthwhile place for soaking in some Indian influence and grabbing an excellent banana leaf meal. During Deepavali, a section of Jalan Temenggong closes to traffic to make way for Indian cultural performances and street-side food vendors.
Roughly 4km east of the city centre on the coast is the Medan Portugis (Portuguese Square). The small kampung centred on the square is the heart of Melaka's Eurasian com-munity, who are descended from marriages between the colonial Portuguese and Malays 400 years ago. Many of them speak Kristang, a Creole language that mixes Malay with archaic Portuguese. The square, styled after a typical Portuguese mercado, wasn't completed until the late 1980s.
The kampung is unexceptional and the square is often empty, except on Saturday evenings when cultural events are staged. But the sea breeze is lovely while enjoying a relaxing meal at the many restaurants in and around the square.
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