Backpacking Southeast Asia: Malacca

Nestled conveniently between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the historical city of Malacca is a stop that’s worth at least 4-6 days. There are so many museums, galleries, and ruins within walking distance of the famous Dutch Square, and our 2 and a half day stay was too short.

When I made our itinerary, I thought that it would be enough to cover most of the important sights and museums. However, our hotel room was too cozy to leave first thing in the morning, and the rather sleepy feel of the city (excluding Dutch Square, Jonker Street, and the nearby malls) tempted us to dawdle.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL

We arrived in Troka Prewar Guesthouse a little before 3PM. After checking in to our attic room, we ate lunch at their cafe, rested, had our dirty clothes washed, and freshened up for dinner.

On our way to the mall to buy a sim card and eat, we passed by Dutch Square. It was almost dark when we headed out, and the colorful, psychedelic music-blasting trishaws had turned on their neon lights.

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Photo by Sir Jo

DAY 2: RUINS & MUSEUMS

Islamic Museum

After lunch, George, Maly and I went to the Melaka Islamic Museum where we learned about how Islam reached Melaka shores, Islamic laws practiced in Melaka, and the resistance of the Muslim leaders to [European] foreign invasion.

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Porta de Santiago a famosa

The only remaining structure of the fort is its gate (in Portuguese, porta). Although it was built by the Portuguese in 1511, the inscription on the gate’s arch reads ANNO 1670 because it was renovated by the Dutch after they drove out the Portuguese. The destruction of the fort was ordered when the fort changed hands for the second time (Dutch to British) in the 18th century, but due to the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles (the father of modern Singapore), the gate was spared demolition.

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If you look closely, you can make out ANNO 1670 on the arch

St. Paul’s Church

The church was originally built in 1521 and is the oldest church building in Southeast Asia. It started off as a Catholic chapel before it was turned into a church named Church of the Mother of God between 1556 and 1590. St. Francis Xavier used the church as a base on his missionary journeys to China and Japan, and in 1553, a year after his death, he was disinterred from China and temporarily buried there.

When the Dutch conquered Malacca, the church was reconsecrated for Dutch Reformed use and was thereafter known as St. Paul’s Church. It was deconsecrated after the structure of Christ Church Melaka was completed.

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Gravestones found lying around the area are now displayed inside the church walls.

The statue of St. Francis that was erected right outside the church in 1952 has a broken arm because a casuarina tree fell on it a day after its consecration. Coincidentally, the right forearm of St. Francis was detached in 1614 and saved as a relic.

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Dutch Square

One of the most picturesque and notable places in Malacca is Dutch Square. It is surrounded by terracotta-red buildings built between 1660 and 1700, and is dominated by a fountain erected in 1904 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

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DAY 3: FOOD

We bought tickets at Melaka Sentral for our bus ride to Kuala Lumpur then dropped by Tesco to stock up on food and toiletries. With those errands out of the way, Maly and I heard Sunday Mass at the Church of St. Francis Xavier. It was in Mandarin, and the only phrases we could understand were “xie xie” and “amen”. The experience was a mixture of strangeness and familiarity. Going to church has become routinary for me, but to hear the ceremony in another language threw me off-kilter.

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After the mass, we met up with the rest of the group and had dinner at Jonker Street where we bought barbecued pork, duck, hotdogs, durian moshi, and Melaka’s signature durian cendol. We ended the night with drinks and a live band at Hard Rock Cafe.

DAY 4: OFF TO KUALA LUMPUR

Other places to visit in Malacca:

  • Stadthuys
  • Flora de la Mar Maritime Museum
  • No. 8 Heeren Street Heritage Centre
  • Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum
  • Jonker 88
  • Cheng Ho Cultural Museum
  • Menara Taming Sari
  • Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum
  • Youth Museum & Melaka Art Gallery

Disclaimer: This post contains photographs taken by Maly Larrazabal. Thanks Mal 🙂

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