Visiting Malacca or Melaka

I recently took what might be my last trip to Malacca. I’ve visited there eight times (I think), and I’ve enjoyed it each time. It’s a great place to take in some history, learn about the Portuguese, Dutch, British and how they elbowed their way into the spice trade. They’ve done a fantastic job developing the river area in the old section, plus you get to visit the vibrant and fun Jonker Street. Here’s a few shots from my trip. Yes, I bought some gula Melaka.

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Malacca River. Great for night time walks or a river cruise.
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Dutch built church in Dutch square. You can attend a service on Sunday morning.
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Here’s my crazy students touring the replica Portuguese ship.
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Up close.
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The tomb of famous Malay folk legend Hang Jebat.
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A typical Malacca building.
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From the rooftop of Hangout Hotel. Jonker Street in full mode.
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St. Paul’s church, built by the Portuguese in 1511. This is a statue of St. Francis Xavier, who was interred her for a time.
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Inside St. Paul’s.
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Malacca city from St. Paul’s hill. The lone standing gate of the old fort, Afamosa, is in the foreground.

Back to Malacca or Melaka

I recently returned from my annual  road trip to Malacca to take in the sites. I suppose each year it brings about another post on the blog with similar photos and such. But, oh well, it’s just a cool place to visit, and the transformation that has taken place along the river is quite remarkable.

(Of course, rumors have it that the Malaysian government development funds from Penang to Malacca because the opposition won the elections in Penang, but I can’t speak to that.)

Whatever the case, Malacca (English spelling) or Melaka (Malaysian spelling) is a charming step back into time with the enchanting old Chinese quarter centered around Jonker Street and the preserved architecture from the time of the Portuguese (16th century), Dutch (17th-18th centuries), and British (19th & 20th centuries).

Malacca River at Night
Malacca River at Night

2015-03-19 19.46.59Malacca was an ideal site for traders throughout the 16-19th centuries because of its location hidden within the Strait of Malacca. It was well protected from typhoons and traders could settle down for months at a time waiting for the trade winds to move so they could travel home.

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The saying goes like this: “Whoever controls Malacca, has its foot on the throat of Venice.” A clear reference to Malacca’s importance as a trading port – everyone wanted to control Malacca, and over the years almost everyone did.

Dutch influence, perhaps?
Dutch influence, perhaps?
Chinatown
Chinatown
Newly developed river walk. Some great little cafes along the river.
Newly developed river walk. Some great little cafes along the river.
My crew in front of Christ Church.
My crew in front of Christ Church.

If you ever get a chance to come to Malaysia, Malacca or Melaka is a must visit.

 

 

I almost broke my neck by doing something nice

Clearly being thoughtful and nice is over-rated.

Here’s proof.

I secretly went to get two sketches of the city of Malacca framed for my wife. We bought the beautiful sketches more than a year and a half ago and both had forgot about them. I found them last week and thought it would be a nice gesture to have them framed for her. So I did it.

I surprised her with them on Saturday afternoon, and they were beautifully framed. What a good deed I had done. She was happy. I was happy. But happiness doesn’t last long. Only about 5 minutes, actually.

As I sat across from my glowing wife who was admiring one of the frames, I took off the outer plastic of the other frame and threw it on the ground. As I admired the frame, held it up for my wife, and basked in the glory of the trivial things in life which make us happy, I decided I wanted to show off my thoughtful gesture to my daughter who was in her bedroom behind me. I had this smug look on my face as if to say, “See, you want to find a man someday like me.”

As my face was giving off prideful vibes, I stood to take the frame to my daughter’s room when my first step hit that little plastic covering which I had thrown on the ground. Remember that?

It didn’t seem important at the time. But we have hard tile floors. And it was a slick plastic. Think of the slickest ice patch you have ever lost your footing on. Compared to my piece of plastic on tile, the ice patch in your mind might as well be a field of turf. (and you’re wearing cleats.)

In a less than a split second my leg went up like a Charlie Brown football kick and I went crashing to the ground – or hard tile – like, well, like Charlie Brown does when he kicks a football.

That plastic body slammed me. My head crashed against the chair, my hip collided with the tile, my wrist bent back severely, and the two picture frames fell straight to the floor, one of them smashing in a thousand pieces.

I was lucky, actually, to not have broken anything. How my hip is still in place I have no idea?

I had that darn frame in the house for less than 5 minutes and I smashed it to pieces and ended up having to walk around like an old man with a bad hip and a hurt wrist.

All of this just to do a little good.

Well, that’s it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m through with good deeds that only pay with the kind of payback that my body can no longer handle. Christmas and all birthday celebrations have hereby been canceled. I just can’t afford to be my awesome, nice self anymore.

My Top 10 Favorite Places in Asia: #10 – Malacca, Malaysia

Malacca is located on the Malay Peninsula, an hour and a half south of Kuala Lumpur and five hours from Johor Bahru and Singapore on the peninsula’s tip.

The history of Malacca is what drew me to it; its charm is what keeps me going back.

The history stuff first. Malacca was taken over by the Portuguese in the early part of the 16th century, being a perfect outpost for their trade forays into the spice islands. They established a small settlement, including St. Paul’s church whose structure is one of the oldest European buildings in the region. The Dutch removed the Portuguese in the 17th century and the English returned the favor in the 19th century. The European colonialists provide a rich layer of history to Malacca with fascinating architecture and beautiful old colonial houses and shops.

Jonker Street and the surrounding streets provides a rich shopping experience for antiques, art, and varied knickknacks and rare finds. Malacca boasts some of the best Nonya (Straits Chinese) food in Malaysia.

In the past few years, the Malacca River has gone through a renaissance of sorts, lined with beautiful walks, refurbished ancient structures, and modern and sleek hotels and restaurants.

It’s a cultural and historical feast – as well as a gastronomical one. For all of these purposes, Malacca ranks as one of my top 10 places in Asia.

Here are a few photos from my last visit to Malacca:

Colonial era homes of the Straits Chinese
Colonial era homes of the Straits Chinese

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Dutch Square - Stadthuys Ethnographic Museum on the right. Christ Church in the background.
Dutch Square – Stadthuys Ethnographic Museum on the right. Christ Church in the background.
Jonker Street. Wonderful night street market with Chinese delicacies, art, antiques, and lots more.
Jonker Street. Wonderful night street market with Chinese delicacies, art, antiques, and lots more.
Statue of St. Francis Xavier outside St. Paul's church.
Statue of St. Francis Xavier outside St. Paul’s church.
Malacca River. Enjoy a night cruise.
Malacca River. Enjoy a night cruise.

And you’ve never had Nyonya Food?

The Peranankan Chinese or the Baba Nyonya describes the ‘Straits Chinese’ – those who settled in places like Penang, Malacca, and Singapore. As generations of Chinese made the Malay Peninsula their home, their food was diffused by Malay and Indian cuisine creating a wonderful hybrid which is truly unique and truly wonderful. You can get it nowhere else in the world, as far as I know. Here are a few dishes we had the other night in Malacca. Truly amazing!

It was unreal! Some of the very best I've ever had anywhere.
It was unreal! Some of the very best I’ve ever had anywhere.
These were going so fast I had to eat my only one without even noticing what was inside it. It was amazing!
These were going so fast I had to eat my only one without even noticing what was inside it. It was amazing!
A delicate fresh fish, cooked in a thin curry broth with lady fingers and chili. Wonderful!
A delicate fresh fish, cooked in a thin curry broth with lady fingers and chili. Wonderful!
Water spinach (kancang or rau muong) cooked with sambal - spicy, chili and fish paste concoction. So good!
Water spinach (kancang or rau muong) cooked with sambal – spicy, chili and fish paste concoction. So good!

Not Pictured: Mixed Vegetables and sambal shrimp (tastey!)

Nyonya food is not to be missed. It’s worth traveling to Malaysia just to experience it.

So you haven’t visited Malacca? Here’s a few photos from my trip.

Dutch Square - Stadthuys Ethnographic Museum on the right. Christ Church in the background.
Dutch Square – Stadthuys Ethnographic Museum on the right. Christ Church in the background.
Jonker Street. Wonderful night street market with Chinese delicacies, art, antiques, and lots more.
Jonker Street. Wonderful night street market with Chinese delicacies, art, antiques, and lots more.

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Colonial era homes of the Straits Chinese
Colonial era homes of the Straits Chinese
Statue of St. Francis Xavier outside St. Paul's church.
Statue of St. Francis Xavier outside St. Paul’s church. After he died, his body remained here for a few months until it was returned to Goa in India.
Malacca River. Enjoy a night cruise.
Malacca River. Enjoy a night cruise.

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Inside St. Paul's church - built by the Portuguese in 1511.
Inside St. Paul’s church – built by the Portuguese in 1511.

Tomorrow I’ll show you some of the food!

In Malacca

I am spending a couple days with my students in Malacca (Melaka) Malaysia enjoying the sights, sounds, and food of one of Southeast Asia’s more colorful cities.  I planned to post a few photos but my technology is not cooperating.

Malacca played a front and center place in the spice trade of yesteryear. The Portuguese established a trading post here in the early 16th century only to be overrun by the Dutch in the early 17th century.  The Dutch built the famous fort A’fomosa which in turn was destroyed nearly entirely by the British in the early 19th century.

Narrow streets filled with colonial era Straits Chinese houses. Churches dating back hundreds of years. A colorful river and vibrant night market street with delicacies and art. Ancient ruins and beautiful replicas of treasured architecture.

Malacca is a wonderful place to visit.

Pictures to follow.