Malacca: Where classic and modern blend

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


MALACCA City never fails to attract visitors because it is the perfect blend of the old and the new, the past and the present, and the classic and the modern.

Called Melaka by the locals, it was once the epicenter of an important trading empire. The birthplace of Malaysia’s historical and cultural heritage, remnants of its long and illustrious past are well-preserved and can still be seen today. It has earned the prestigious title of UNESCO World Heritage in 2008.

The seemingly red strait, with all its heritage buildings and ancient landmarks, would bring visitors to a historic-stylish world. It has become the home to the timeless and the progressive.

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Approximately two hours south of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, Malacca has endured Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. The legacy of its settlers and the Malay Sultanate is evident in Malacca's medieval charm, picturesque buildings, and multi-racial population.

From Kuala Lumpur, one would feel the Philippine-ambiance when travelling to Malacca. The side of the roads is painted green as tree planting has played an important part in the greening of Malaysia’s cities way back from the eighteenth century to the recent campaign for a “Garden Nation.”

The initial impression of “So Philippines!” can be heard as houses in nipa hut form and raw-house style are lined up along the roads going inside Malacca. But it’s more than those when you reach nearer its trail of old town and downtown area.

Like our very own Intramuros in Manila where the original citadel during the Spanish empire stands, Malacca has its historic central area located near the old coastline where St. Paul's Hill, A Famosa and the Dutch Square were built.

Colorful tricycles designed with artificial flowers and famous characters are waiting to take tourists around. This becomes exciting as one explores the ancient remnants.

The Dutch Square, also called the Red Square, has become a popular tourist landmark where Christ Church, built in 1753, is found. A well-preserved model of Dutch masonry, the church is the oldest surviving Dutch church building found outside the Netherlands.

The famous ruins of St. Paul’s church where St. Francis Xavier was once buried gives a panoramic view of Malacca and its straits and the old town of Bandar Hilir. It was first named Nosa Senhora – Our Lady of the Hill but was renamed to St. Paul’s church after the Dutch overran Melaka.

A’Famosa is a Portuguese fortress and it is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Asia. Even though the rest of the fortress was badly damaged during the Dutch invasion in 1641, its iconic gateway still stands to this day.

All these and many more ancient landmarks make Malacca truly a world heritage.

The 45-minute Malacca river cruise also enables tourists to savor old buildings that stand majestically by the river, lined by Kampung Morten, a traditional Malay kampong as well as modern buildings.

A stroll along Jonker Street, a heritage street lined with shop houses, is another enjoyable experience where tourists can spot antiques and those they have in their what-to-buy list.

When visitors get into the heart of the city, modern buildings with multi-cultural businesses are seen along the roads signifying progress and modernization in the city.

Malacca City has become one of the important places to explore in Malaysia. With more than 25 million tourist arrivals in 2012, Malaysia targets 36 million tourist arrivals by year 2020.

The Philippines contributed 277, 378 tourist arrivals as of January to June 2013 making it top 7 tourist generating markets to Malaysia.

The Malay culture is not new to the Philippines as Filipinos are basically of Malay race with a bit of Chinese, American, and Spanish blood. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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