A few days ago I left KL and arrived in the southern coastal city of Malacca. Upon entering Malacca I was pleasantly impressed by the eclectic mixture of architectural styles. The old Dutch Stadhuys, (town hall), a 16th century Portuguese church, and a 17th century Chinese Taoist temple are highlighted examples of this diversity. The local cuisine reflects this cultural multiplicity as well, it is known as Nyonya Malacca.
In the heart of China town the famous Jonker Street is lined with stores and stalls selling an abundance of this tasty fare. Portuguese inspired bakeries featuring pineapple tarts, and baked custards, Nyonya street hawkers selling bowls of laksa, a spicy coconut cream based noodle soup loaded with shrimp and fish cakes, and eateries serving plates of cendol, a dessert made of shaved ice drenched in coconut milk covered in palm syrup on top of green coloured noodles and kidney beans, are a few of the examples of Nyonya cuisine. After 6pm on the weekends, Jonker Street and many adjacent avenues become the venue for the Jonker Street Night Market. During these nights the number of food vendors increases, along side many merchants selling all sorts of Malaccan paraphernalia. The city becomes very lively with street performers and an open air karaoke stage, (sadly only in Chinese). The city is also known for its museums and, upon perusing several historical exhibits, I discovered the reasons behind Malacca’s range of cultural influences.
The city of Malacca’s strategic positioning overlooking the straits of Malacca, (between peninsular Malaysia and the island of Sumatra,) is the main reason for the attention it has received by so many nations. In 1403 the first king of Malacca secured the southern half of the Malay peninsula through the help of the Chinese, despite the influence of the Thai kingdom of Ayudhya. In the 1420 he converted from Hinduism to Islam and turned it into the center of Islamic culture in south-east Asia. In 1511 after several attempts the Portuguese overthrew the established sultanate and his powerful army of 20,000 men and 2000 guns with 14 ships and a mere 1100 men. The Portuguese era lasted until 1641 when the surrendered the great trade port to the Dutch. The British received Malacca from the Dutch in 1824 due to political complications in Holland caused by the French inspired Dutch patriotic revolution in 1787. In 1942 during World War 2 the Japanese invasion of Malaysia ended British rule in Malacca. After the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945 the Malay people where infused with a nationalistic fervor. In 1948 the area became restructured as the Federation of Malaya, and in 1957 the country of Malaysia achieved independence.
I plan to spend the next few days soaking up the history of this famous trade city, as well as visiting its many cafes, and of course continuing to enjoy the wonderful Nyonya cuisine.