We took a quick trip to Malacca, which is a city about two hours south of Kuala Lumpur. Historically, Malacca was a major shipping port for merchants coming from Europe, the Middle East, India and China, giving the city a unique blend of history and culture. We spent two days wandering through the different historic districts, visiting some of the museums in town, shopping and eating great food.
Malaka was invaded by the Portugese in 1511 and used as a base for exploring the East Indies. But before the European invasion of Malacca, it had already been an important trading center for over 100 years used by Chinese and Arab traders. The city became famous for the silk, spices, textiles and porcelain from this area in Asia (sometimes called the Spice Islands). This fame is what drew the Portuguese attention and led to the city’s capture and control by the Portuguese for the next 150 years. The Dutch took the city from the Portuguese in 1641 and then it was given to the British in 1826 before gaining independence in 1957.
The influence of all the different periods of Malacca’s history can be seen throughout the town. We stayed in Chinatown, which is still an active Chinese neighborhood today. From there it is a quick walk across the river to the Dutch part of town where there are many historic colonial buildings around a typical European plaza that is still being used today.
Malacca has a great museum housed in an old Dutch building that is full of objects from all over the world that made it there on trade ships, and from items that have been discovered in shipwrecks beneath the Straits of Malacca. The museum also had an interesting exhibit on Zheng He, a Chinese explorer who made seven voyages to South East Asia, India and Eastern China between 1405 and 1433. During our trip we both read a book (1421, the year China discovered America) about Zheng He and other Chinese explorers, so we were very excited to see that Malacca which was such an important port for them.
Today Malacca is a lively tourist center full of shops and restaurants mixed in with all the history. In the shops you can still find things from all over the world, from little knick-knacks from China, to beautiful rugs from Kashmir. Today they may not be brought by trade ships, but we still found it fitting to have goods from all over the world. Since we knew we were heading home soon, Alexa enjoyed some shopping for souvenirs. We very much enjoyed are time here, and were glad we could squeeze it in before we headed home.