The first stop on our 10-day Malaysian extravaganza with Mark’s Dad & brother was Malacca City, capital of Malacca Province, right on the historic Straits of Malacca. For many centuries and right up to the current time, the Straits of Malacca, separating the Malay Peninsula from Indonesia’s Sumatra, has been among the most important waterways in the world; going through the Straits cuts hundreds of miles off the distance between India or the Middle East to China & Japan.
During the Age of Discovery all the European colonial powers fought over control of the region. Malacca was first colonized by the Portuguese in 1511, who lost it to the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch, who were more interested in their colony centered in Jakarta, traded it to the British in 1824 who then ruled until Malaysian independence in 1946. That melange of colonialism shows up in a variety of ways – the food, the architecture, the language, and more, I’m certain. Just last night, for instance, we ate at a great Portuguese restaurant, pretty unexpected after our three-plus months in Southeast Asia so far.
Just six years ago UNESCO named the historic city center a World Heritage Site; tourism is booming and it’s easy to understand why. We found great food, interesting buildings, a great little Chinatown, a beautiful little river walk, and the most unusual trishaws we’ve ever seen. The only downside was that we were there over celebrations for Chinese New Years and as a result a lot of the city – or at least the central part of the city where tourists like us hang out – was closed. Not all, certainly, but apparently a lot of people were home celebrating with family instead of serving us, as they should have been. Someday I’d love to go back when everything is open and people are out and about.
Sadly, though, we have no photos of the Straits. I walked down there our first day, and ran along the water’s edge a couple times, but basically the view is really pretty boring, just unattractive rocks and industrial wasteland. Too bad, since I was hoping for some great historic revelation.