The ancestral birthplace of Malaysia, Malacca has acted as a gateway for the world into Malaysia's colonial history.
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Modern Malaysia invariably traces its roots back to Malacca, which was an important trading port along the sea route between China and the west. Today Malacca is still renowned the world over, and Malacca Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City, an acknowledgment of its illustrious past. It is a state that is proud of its traditions and its people, descendants of various countries, all of whom came and settled in this once great trading port.
Influences from former conquerors, the Portuguese, Dutch and British, can be seen throughout Malacca, not only in the physical architecture, but also in the lifestyle of the Malaccan people. A cultural melting pot, Malacca boasts several enclaves of unique culture, such as the Peranakan Chinese, the Portuguese Eurasians, and the Indian Chittys. A fusion of both foreign and local cultures, these races are considered to be unique and represent the living harmony that exists in this land. Their customs and traditions are proudly preserved and are still practiced in this day and age.
Local cuisine is also another hallmark of this state, and the variety of food that is offered here is simply mind boggling. Each of Malacca's ethnic groups have their own specialty dishes that are bound to tantalize the taste buds of those who savour them.
Malacca started out as a small fishing village before becoming one of the most important ports along the sea route to China. The man behind this great transformation was Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince from Palembang, Indonesia. Fleeing political turmoil in his homeland, he made way to Malacca and established a trading port there. His fledgling sultanate would establish a dynasty that would change the course of the entire region and lay the foundations of a nation.
Malacca's strategic location along the Straits of Malacca encouraged ships to dock at its harbour as they sought shelter from the monsoon. This, combined with good warehouse facilities, spurred its growth and Malacca was soon recognised as an important international port. Its prosperity, however, attracted the attention of the Siamese, who launched two attacks in 1446 and 1456. These attacks, precursors to invasion, were thwarted by Tun Perak, the Bendahara of Malacca at that time.
In April 1511 an ambitious soul named Alfonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with the intention of capturing the port for the glory of his country, Portugal. He succeeded in conquering Malacca on 24 August 1511. The last Sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mahmud Shah, fled into the countryside and launched occasional raids and attacks on the Portuguese. He was finally defeated in 1526 and fled to Sumatra where he passed away five years later.
The Portuguese soon realized that control over regional trade did not come only through the possession of Malacca. During their reign, they faced administrative difficulties and imposed restrictive trading conditions that were counter productive. Trading dwindled and Malacca's status began to wane as other regional ports were established by other parties. The Portuguese were finally driven out by the Dutch in 1641, who in turn ceded Malacca to the British almost a century later in 1824 as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. Under British rule, Malacca, together with Penang and Singapore, formed the Straits Settlements, which would be incorporated into the Federation of Malaya after World War II.