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Uncovering Melaka’s Charms
Travel
Uncovering Melaka’s Charms
PHOTOS BY: Alvin Toh
Uncovering Melaka’s Charms 05. June 2018, Photos by Alvin Toh
Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and history of this charming city on the Melaka Heritage and History Discovery Walk.

At a time where everyone is rushing for something or another, it’s refreshing to take a slow walk through the city’s old quarters with Mr Eddie Chua, the guide for this walking tour.

Meeting us at the mouth of the Melaka River under the historic Melaka tree, from which this city derived its name, Mr Eddie, as he likes to be known, took us on a walk that covered the areas known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Melaka tree
Legend has it that Parameswara, a prince once rested under the Melaka tree and found the location to be auspicious. So he decided to build a settlement there and named it Melaka.
Mr Eddie Chua, Guide for Heritage Walk
Mr Eddie Chua, the sprightly and highly knowledgeable guide for the Heritage & History Discovery Walk.
Cycling to explore Melaka
Another great way to explore Melaka is by bike, especially around the old town areas.
Cycling to explore Melaka
Another great way to explore Melaka is by bike, especially around the old town areas.

The morning began with a hearty breakfast at Casa del Rio Melaka’s riverfront restaurant. The tour started at Hereen Street, a narrow street with ornately decorated homes where prosperous residents lived during the early 20th century. The famous Jonker Street was rather calm and quiet as it was early in the day. It is lined with numerous antique shops that are renowned among antique collections around the globe. This street truly comes to life at night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a night market that sells everything from trinkets to street food.

Yet another unique street to explore is “Street of Harmony” (Jalan Tokong and Jalan Tukang Elmas), where temples and mosques from the three major religions in Malaysia— Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism—co-exists almost next to each other. Kampung Kling Mosque, Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi temple and the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple are just a few minutes from each other.

One of the most striking sights along the street is the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple that was built in 1645 and was the first building to be restored by UNESCO. The prayer hall is dominated by dark timber beams and richly decorated rosewood carvings. These were carved in China and brought to Melaka in 1704 where they were assembled by craftsmen. The temple is the main place of worship for the Hokkien population in Melaka.

Heritage Walk
Sights from the heritage walk.
Heritage Walk
Sights from the heritage walk.
Heritage Walk
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest and grandest temple in Melaka, and is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.
Heritage Walk
Kampung Kling Mosque, built in the 1748, is a splendid blend of Sumatran, Chinese, Hindu and Malay cultures.
Heritage Walk
Kampung Kling Mosque, built in the 1748, is a splendid blend of Sumatran, Chinese, Hindu and Malay cultures.

We then headed to Kampung Morten, the only remaining village with traditional Malay houses in the middle of the city. Tucked away along the Melaka River, one immediately feels a sense of serenity and tranquillity upon entering the village.

Despite being nestled in the heart of the city, one can experience the old world charm of village life here—a way of life that is mostly lost as the country develops.

The village was named after F.J. Morten, the British Land Commissioner who helped open the village. Homes are adorned with handmade decorations, separated only by plants, as wells as herbs and spices grown for cooking and curing ailments.

The houses here have retained the traditional architecture of Malay homes, which are built with 12 columns. Each house is built without the help of a contractor, with only family members and relatives coming together to construct it. The base of these homes are also smartly built without nails, so the entire house can be moved during a flood, which was a regular occurrence in the past.

Kampung Morten Melaka
The beautifully preserved Malays homes in Kampung Morten.
Kampung Morten Melaka
Kampung Morten is a living museum in the middle of Melaka town, where residents still practise the traditional Malay lifestyle.

During the tour, we visited the home of Kak Aminah for a scrumptious home-cooked meal. A traditional Malay meal comprises six dishes that are served in Dulang, a round metal tray. We indulged in dishes like Asam Pedas Ikan Tenggiri (fish in spicy and sour gravy), Ayam Goreng Kunyit (fried chicken marinated in turmeric) and Goreng Kacang Panjang (fried long beans), all washed down with a cold rose syrup drink. Of course one has to eat as the locals do, by mixing the dishes up with fingers to deepen the individual flavours, while sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Kampung Morten Melaka
A traditional Malay meal comprising six dishes, served on a dulang (flat tray), where all courses are presented at the same time.
Kampung Morten Melaka
Bananas, onions and yam frying in boiling hot oil.

A short walk later, we came upon Mr Baser, a villager with a love for making miniature traditional Malay houses from the different states in Malaysia. His workshop can be found by the side of his house, where he spends three hours a day after work patiently crafting his miniatures.

Each piece is made by hand, and Mr Baser replicates each element of a house down to the finest details. Every house takes up to two weeks to make and can cost around RM450 onwards.

To date, he was sold over 300 pieces to collectors both local and foreign, who have found his work on his Facebook page under Replica House. So popular are his pieces, some have been sold within hours of the pictures being uploaded on Facebook.

His popularity is gaining, with some government departments purchasing his pieces to be given away as souvenirs during official functions. In fact, he has even been invited to showcase his work at several exhibitions in the city.

As the day winded down, we said goodbye to Mr Baser and continued our walk around Kampung Morten. The best time to visit is during the evening when everyone returns home and go about their lives. This is when you can experience a true sense of traditional village life.

Kampung Morten Melaka
Mr Baser, a self-taught craftsman who has a passion for making traditional mini village houses, with his gallery of miniatures.
Kampung Morten Melaka
One of Mr Baser’s intricately crafted miniature traditional houses.
Kampung Morten Melaka
Mr Baser at his workshop next to his house, working under the shady trees.

The half-day walking tour is conducted by a local guide, and guests at Casa del Rio Melaka can approach the Reception Desk for a booking.

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