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colonial history
Ben van Wijnen

"Our first goal is of course the Stadthuys, this is one of the oldest Dutch buildings in the East and is a replica of the Town Hall in Friesland. The renovation was completed a few years ago with the cooperation of the VOC city of Hoorn (the Netherlands). It is wonderful to see a piece of Dutch history in the East, although it was not always feeling "peaceful and free". After the Stadthuys we walked through Jonker street and van Diemen street towards a Chinese house that now serves as a museum. The house gives a good representation of the rich, literal, history of Melaka."

St. Pauls Church at the top of the hill, surrounded by the fort. At the left: Melaka river.
Francis Valentijn (1726)

Melaka is about 150 kilometer south of Kuala Lumpur. Across the North-South expressway you'll be within two hours in Melaka. In the middle of the center are several hotel, who will offer you a "promotion rate". IA room with breakfast and taxes will offered to you for about RM 100. So why wouldn't we stay just one night in this beautiful, historic city? Just one night, that's enough, there's so much to see in the rest of Malaysia! 

Melaka had a lot of conquerors in the past century's: Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch en English. In the past the city was strategic place at the border of the Strait of Melaka. It was a major port along the spice-route, and its harbor bristled with the sails and masts of Chinese junks and spice-loaded vessels from all over world. Also was traded: silk and porcelain from China; textiles from Gujarat and Coromandel in India; camphor from Borneo; sandalwood from Timor; nutmeg, mace, and cloves from the Moluccas, gold and pepper from Sumatra; and tin from western Malaysia. 
The strong wind was always blowing from the right position for the sailors and Melaka was a safe place to be, when the sailors came ashore.  No wonder that they took this city for provision. Melaka became important for all who wanted to rule the Strait of Melaka. And...that Strait was so important for the spice-route. That's why Melaka had since 1400 so much occupiers and could grow to a world wide trade center.

In 1511 Melaka was conquered by the Portuguese. The Portuguese came to the East to capture the spice trade. Led by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Portuguese failed to maintain the glory and prosperity of Melaka because of restrictive policies, competition and wars. The Portuguese ruled Melaka from 1511 to 1641.
On the incline of the hill  (St. Paul's Hill) they built fort: "A Famosa". Later this was extended, so that the hill was surrounded by the the wall of the fort. Inside these walls were two palaces, a castle, a meeting room for the Portuguese Council and there were five churches. Unfortunately, the only thing that's left, is the "Porta de Santiago", a gate without a wall that leaded to the fort. 
After a siege of 7 months the Dutch of the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) conquered the fort in 1641. At that time Melaka wasn't so rich and prosperous anymore. After the conquest by the VOC the Dutch could start rebuilding the fort. Walls were repaired, bastions got another name and they digged canal around the fort with a drawing bridge. At the summit of its power Melaka had a garrison of 550 Dutchmen and 50.000 inhabitants.
Despite all the new buildings the Dutch built, Melaka trade quickly declined after their conquest. The Dutch had only two goals: safety of the spice-route and elimination of the competitors.
In August of the year 1795 the English (East India Company) occupied Melaka. Holland had in his region in Europe troubles with the French (Napoleon), who were expending their borders. Holland didn't care for such an unimportant outpost, which Melaka was in this period. It's a great pity for the history of Melaka, that the English decided then to blow up the walls and gates.

Augustine Earle (1828)

The highlights of Melaka are in short distance of each other. Just a little walk. They're concentrated around St Paul's hill (see the old drawing at the top). That's where the fort was situated. It's nearby the Melaka-river, which was so important in the old days.


What should you visit? 
Everything is situated around St. Paul's Hill. The highlights are: the Stadthuys, Bell Tower, Christ Church. The color of these buildings are deeply red. That's characteristic for the Dutch architecture in this period.
The Stadthuys is a fine example of Dutch architecture as it was built in 1650 as the official residence of Dutch Governors of Melaka and their officers. It now houses the Historic Museum and Ethnography Museum as it is being preserved in its original structure and form. 
At the roundabout (with the windmill!) you can also find the Bell Tower and Christ's Church. The church and the Bell Tower are  a testimony to Dutch's architectural ingenuity as it stands exactly as it has always been since 1753.
At the top of the hill is St. Paul's Church situated.  A Portuguese Captain, by the name of Duarte Coelho built this chapel. The Dutch turned it into a burial ground for their noble dead and renamed it "St. Paul's Church" from the Portuguese's "Our Lady Of The Hill". So it's built by the Portuguese, Dutch are buried in it, and named by the English!
At the feet of the hill is "Porta de Santiago". That was the gate for the fort.
Across the Melaka river are some shopping streets who has Dutch names, like: Heerenstraat (Jalan Tun Cheng Lok) and Jonker Walk (Jalan Hang Jebat. Jonker Walk is known worldwide among famous antique, but (I think) the prices are as high as in your home country.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is one of the interesting places to visit. It is the oldest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia.


A selection of the finest hotels in Melaka




  Ben van Wijnen



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