Day 34: Checking out MalaccaJuly 19, 2016 in Malaysia
Woke up at a fairly normal time this morning but had a few errands to do before getting the day off. Firstly our washing situation was becoming critical, so we needed to find a laundry shop. And our efforts the previous evening to find an ATM proved fruitless, so we needed to find one pronto as we had no money and were clearly in a relatively cash-driven area. After a pair of hot tips from a passing motorcyclist and a tourist info officer, we managed to find both facilities okay.
Malacca is a city with a long and surprising history. Before arriving, I'd assumed it was similar to George Town in Penang which we'd visited last year, but it's actually very different! It was an important trading city and the centre of a sultanate from about the 1100s onwards, until the Portuguese arrived in the 1510s and colonised the place. They occupied the area for about 140 years until the Dutch conquered it in the 1640s, who then ruled for just under 200 years. The Dutch wanted to free up troops and resources to fight off Napoleon's occupation of the Netherlands, and so handed temporary control of the town and area to the British in the 1810s. The British, concerned about giving the Dutch back a strong fortress and trading post sabotaged the place, pushing most of the trade to their settlement at Penang a few hundred kilometres up the coast. In the end, the Dutch didn't want it back so the British kept it until the Japanese conquest in 1941/42 (Malacca fell only a week or so before Singapore). The Japanese occupation ended in 1945 with the return of the British, until Malaysian independence in 1965. So a long and varied history!
We spent most of the day wandering around the ruins of the old town - there's still a crumbling archway from the original Portuguese fortress, along with a bunch of buildings, churches and graves from the Dutch era as well. The British didn't build much so there wasn't a lot left from their era. We spent quite a bit of time in a couple of museums which were very impressive and very thorough - exhausting even.
Also found the time to go on the observation tower, which ascends to quite a height, maybe 20 storeys? It takes about a minute to ascend, and stays at the top for about 5 minutes while slowly rotating. Great views from the top, long distances in every direction!
We retreated from the heat of the day to a cafe and had a cold drink then headed back to the hotel around 5pm. Showering in the evening is just such a necessity in the tropics, even being outside for more than 10 minutes makes me sweaty! Headed back out around 6:30pm, intending to take a river boat ride during sunset and dusk which we'd heard good things about. The dock was only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel, and we made it with time to spare.
The ride itself was great, 20 minutes each way up and back along the river which is really more of an Amsterdam style canal, complete with ornate lighting and brightly painted buildings. It also went past the amusingly poorly-thought-out monorail that only operated briefly before being shut down. The idea of sticking a monorail in a UNESCO World Heritage listed town honestly makes me shudder! Got some good photos from the boat which was good!
After the boat ride it was nearly 8pm and definitely time for dinner (though we'd snacked on some pineapple tarts late in the afternoon). Once again we couldn't find much open - I think most tourists come here as a day trip from KL or Singapore so the bulk of the restaurants just don't open in the evening. Once again Shandos vetoed the Hard Rock Cafe, so we had a beer in a small bar overlooking the canal then a laksa dinner at a cafe around the corner from our hotel.
Looking forward to tomorrow, this town seems to have quite a lot to offer! Today was mostly on the eastern side of the canal, as for whatever reason the western side where the older Chinese community live is mostly closed on Tuesdays. So we'll check out that tomorrow!Read more