Whoever coined the term “March Madness” was on to something. An eventful month indeed, but before I get into a selfish rambling of sorts, I would like to just say that my thoughts, prayers, and wishes have constantly been with the passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and their friends and families. Sending strength, love, and hope to all affected.
Craving a getaway, my in-laws abandoned their snowed-over city of Calgary, Canada to bask in Malaysia’s tropical heat with us last month. It was a delight to share our new home, Malaysia, with them and their positive attitude meant that they were pretty much game to explore as much as possible, as long as it allowed them the chance to thaw out from the freezing Canadian temperatures. From observing them and drawing from my own personal experience, I now believe that humans work the same way as frozen meat taken out of a deep freezer. Let me explain: I finally feel thawed from a lifetime of Canadian winters and now I need the air conditioner running all the time, whereas before I could sit around in the heat without a trickle of sweat. Some call it acclimating. I call it defrosting.
One of the best parts about having visitors is that it really forces you to get out there and do the things you otherwise might be taking for granted in your surroundings, because well, being a tourist is fun. Melaka (in Malay), or Malacca (in English), has been on my Malaysia travel list for some time now and with family visiting, I decided to take the opportunity and try to get something crossed off my list as I was itching to get out of Kemaman for a while.
Melaka, “the historic state,” is the third smallest Malaysian state and is located next to the Malacca Straits, which is a stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The capital, Melaka City, is about 1.5-2hours from Kuala Lumpur, making it unforgivable to not at least devote a day trip to the historic city. Conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, Melaka has a sizeable population of Portuguese descendants from the colonists from the 16th and 17th centuries, who speak a dialect of “Portuguese creole.” If that’s not interesting enough for you, it’s important to note Melaka is extremely diverse, boasting a charming collection of historic mosques, Chinese temples, churches, and Sikh gurdwaras.
Because Melaka rose from being a humble Malay fishing village to a major centre of trade between the East-West, iconic boat and ship symbols are prevalent in the city:
After the Portuguese hold over Melaka, it was also ruled by both the Dutch and British, creating an interesting blend of Eastern and Western architecture, most visible being the Dutch Colonial style.
Perhaps my favourite thing about Melaka is the presence of art. Art everywhere. The best is seen along the Melaka River where most of the buildings lining either end are covered in colourful imagery.
Melaka is also known for its traditional Nyonya food. Nyonya is basically a type of cuisine found in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries that is essentially a blend of Chinese, Malay and other influences. One of the most popular Nyonya delicacies is the Popiah (fresh spring roll filled with shredded jicama, shrimp, bean curd, wrapped in a wheat flour tortilla.)
During it’s height, Melaka was known as the Emporium of the East and in the words of a European traveller during the time of the city’s greatest glory: “Whoever is Lord in Malacca, has his hand on the throat of Venice.”