If you are a massive history buff, then I would highly recommend you look into the coastal Malaysian state of Melaka for your next holiday destination. Otherwise known by its British name ‘Malacca’, played an enormous role during the 15th Century sea trading system. This was because of Melaka’s prime location, since it is situated halfway between China and India, and because it had perfect access to the Indonesia spice trade. Even hundreds of years later Melaka and its current society still maintains strongly the roots of its international significance.
At one point in history, it was estimated that there were over 80 different languages spoken within just the confinement of Melaka. During this time Melaka’s port was full of life and provided endless wealth and prosperity. However, following the various Portuguese, Dutch and British sieges of the port the goldmine eventually dried out and Melaka surpassed its glory days, especially with the ever successful and growing competition of Singapore. But, after all those hundreds of years Melaka was not left with nothing, in fact far from it; as this hectic past stained the state with so much rich history and intriguing architectural structures. The Dutch Red Square is one of the most famous historical sites; which very much resembles the setting of a brother Grimm’s fairytale.
Under the British rule there was a guaranteed imprint of Christianity to grace the state with some old stone churches that still stand proud today as tourist attractions.
And then the Chinese and Indian influence, over the many years, resulted in the creation of an actual authentic Chinatown and little India. Accompanied by these are some incredible Asian dishes and exotic foods that will leave your taste buds crying for more.
Without giving a fully fledged historical lesson with thousands of facts, what I will say is that it is not an exaggeration on how much there is to be gained from learning information straight from the source. Melaka is brilliant for providing all this wisdom in such an easy and accessible way. For example, one of their museums is on a life sized replicated of a Portuguese ship and it just doesn’t get much better than that when it comes to creatively. There is an endless supply of museums in Melaka for all different areas of interests and especially if you are intrigued by the past and how Melaka came to be what it is today.
Melaka was giving the title of the Islamic capital of Asia at one point. This name was coined because of just how quickly Islam spread throughout Melaka and Malaysia during the trading era. The Islamic faith was brought across to Melaka from China, Indian and a few Arab countries. The Melay people were very keen to accept the teachings of Islam, since the religions central focus is about creating a outer and inner peaceful life among a caring community and these were aspects already important in society. In today’s society, Islam is just about the most professed religion in Malaysia with approximately 61.3% of the population following the Islamic faith. Which means there is a massive 49.7% mix of multiple faiths which are freely expressed. Malaysia has been my first experience of a majority Muslim country with Islamic laws and I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect due to the cultural contrast from Westernised England. But, my experience here in Melaka and Malaysia as a whole has been wonderful. The cultural shock was not even close to as big as I expected probably because you can still find all your big western brands like Mcdonald’s and Tescos on the streets and in the malls. All I advise is just embrace the differences and appreciate them for what they are. It is so interesting to see an alternative way of living; so open your eyes and your mind to what else is out there.
To summarise, if you want to learn an enormous amount about history, to eat amazing Asian cuisine and to see a wonderful example of harmonious multi-cultural living – then I can think of no better example than Melaka. A place where in just under 30 seconds of walking you can stroll across a Mosque, a Church and a Chinese temple.
Imagery credit: Freya Millard