Saturday, March 3, 2012

Winter Escape 2012: Melaka - A Historian's Dream

St. Paul's Church on Bukit St. Paul's 
During our 2nd and last week in Melaka we absorbed the history of this city. We learned that the Portuguese conquered Melaka in 1511 and occupied it for 130 years. The Portuguese took over the Sultan's palace grounds on top of the hill, fortified it and renamed it Bukit St. Paul's. Herein laid the body of St. Francis Xavier for nine months until the ship came by to take his exhumed body to its final resting place in Goa, India. Catholic missionaries attempted to convert as many of the locals as they could. The most renowned missionary being St. Francis Xavier. Also during this time, it was the beginning of the end of Melaka's vital trading post of the then world. The Portuguese integrated with the locals; their descendants live in an area called the Portuguese Settlement that is a Catholic enclave of Melaka.

Dutch Historic Artifact 
After fierce battles the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch in 1641 who then ruled Melaka for 154 years. Melaka continued to be an important trading post, but it never re-gained its prominence of the Sultanate's era. The Dutch built the Reformist Church spreading their form of Christianity. Their influence on Melaka is well documented and illustrated in the museums.

In 1824 the British engaged in a smooth take over of Melaka and the rest of Malaysia, making it one of its colonies, until Malaysia became independent in 1957. There was a brief Japanese occupation during WWII, with the British re-gaining control after the war. In Melaka, there are many architectural remnants of British power; some of which are now prominent museums depicting the British colonial rule as well as the negotiating process that culminated in the independence of Malaysia from Britain.

From Melaka looking onto the Strait 

The museums and historic sites display a series of photographic collages and text based plaques depicting the richness as well as the tensions that existed in the past era of this city. After all this fascinating history, it is now time for our next stop, Penang, Malaysia where we will spend time in a seaside resort.

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