UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia
Many years ago Malacca was one of Malaysia’s most sought-after destinations. Before Kuala Lumpur transformed from a malaria-infested jungle into a polished high-rise capital, Malacca was one of the greatest trading ports in Southeast Asia. Over time it changed from a thriving port into a sleepy backwater city and lost its spot as a must-visit destination to its high-rolling cousins.
Yet in recent years, Malacca has been revived as a top-pick holiday getaway due to its many historic attractions. Home of the well-known Nyonya cuisine, it’s a popular destination for tourists who want to catch a glimpse of Malaysia’s unique heritage.
Malacca is a hotchpotch of Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and sundry influences. Malaysians laud Malacca’s laidback atmosphere and lost-in-time feel; stores close early here, traffic goes by at leisurely pace and city life is a languid affair. Between the scattered historic spots are atmospheric Chinese shop fronts and traditional Malay kampongs. Though the state may not boast a white-sand shoreline reminiscent of its East Coast cousins, Malacca is noteworthy for its heritage hotspots.
When the sun goes down, one of the city’s most popular destinations is the Friday and Saturday Jonker Walk Night Market which plays host to a collection of stalls that sell everything but the kitchen sink. Here you can purchase a variety of trinkets and even sample some of the state’s best-known local fare including fried egg ice cream and fried radish cake. At night the handful of bars along the boulevard become a mini street party with tables oozing beyond the sidewalks and a mix of live music beating throughout the area.
Dubbed Malaysia’s unofficial historic capital, Malacca – declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 – is one of the country’s most unassuming states. Boasting a good blend of historic attractions – from the salmon-pink Stadhuys to the Jonker Walk Night Market – Malacca is also home to a smorgasbord of great food.
In the late 14th century, Malacca was a simple fishing village. Parameswara – a fleeing prince from the nearby Sumatra – landed on Malacca’s shores, founded the city and turned it into a favoured port for waiting out monsoons and re-supplying ships plying the strategic Straits of Malacca. In time, due to its strategic location between China and India, Malacca came to monopolize the trading routes in this quadrant of the globe. In 1405 Malacca forged an alliance with the Ming Emperor in order to secure protection against Siamese invaders; over time Chinese settlers who married local Malays resulted in what was dubbed the Baba Nyonya peoples.
After Malacca was attacked by the Portuguese in 1511, the invader missionaries strove to implant Catholicism within the state and Malacca’s popularity dwindled as Muslim merchants began to steer clear of the port. Malacca’s reputation increased again in 1641 when it passed into Dutch hands for 150 years and later the British assumed control for a short time, further lending to its hodgepodge of cultural influences. Yet as time went on Malacca once again become a sleepy backwater state; it was only during the 21st century, when Malaysia gained its independence, that Malacca became a tourist draw card.