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Notes on the Geography of Malaysia: Melaka Take Two

The pictures in the previous set were taken in 1995 or 1996; here's the view 15 years later, in 2011.

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Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 1

An old postcard, from the British period, shows a Victorian clocktower, Christ Church behind it, and the Stadthuys or Town Hall on the right. Think it's like that now?

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 2

Here's the clocktower, along with visitors on a Sunday morning.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 3

A Victorian fountain, missing from the postcard, has been added and still plays.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 4

Christ Church, built in 1753, is little changed, apart from the added color of the garden and the tourists.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 5

The interior is very simple.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 6

Until the last line, you'd think that he enjoyed a long and venerable career.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 7

Plenty of American parents don't want their kids inoculated; they should read plaques like this one. There are plenty more like it.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 8

Here's the Stadthuys again.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 9

The Dutch ruled here from 1641 to 1824. They were preceded by the Portuguese, who arrived in 1511, and were succeeded by the British, who held down the fort--pardon the pun--until 1957 (unless you count the brief period of Japanese rule).

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 10

Sometimes the British were masters of understatement; sometimes, not.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 11

Dalhousie was one of the most energetic rulers of British India. He would have been just under forty at the time of this visit; he was dead before fifty.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 12

Here's the Stadthuys seen from the side facing south, toward the church-topped hill.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 13

The same building from the east end.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 14

The bakery, with Dutch ovens.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 15

One of the museum rooms shows Melaka's successive rulers: Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Japanese.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 16

A model in the museum shows the fortress in the Dutch period. Christ Church is there physically, though it is not yet Anglican, and the governor's office was already in its approximately final form.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 17

A model of the British period adds the clocktower and a governor's house at the top of the hill but removes the wall. Safe in Penang and Singapore, the British wanted no fortresses where some other power might take refuge, so the wall here was demolished.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 18

In 1997, the old governor's house was off-limits and marked by a fence with signs showing a policeman taking aim with a rifle. Now the same house is part of the museum.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 19

On display, some Edwardian occupants.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 20

On the summit of the hill the Portuguese built a church in 1521 and a larger structure--in ruin here--later that century. The Dutch took over in 1641 and used the same building as their main church in Malacca until the next century. The old church was then used as a storehouse but eventually lost its roof.

Cuthbert Woodville Harrison, writing in An Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States, 1923, waxes romantic: "An eerie place is this hill, known all over the Malay world as Kota Malacca; it sleeps and dreams now, the red roofs of the town below dozing in the sun, a hornet's nest hanging on the blank walls of its cathedral, the swallows screaming round the old high altar, the sun meeting no roof, beating down upon forgotten vaults, a lighthouse at the west end winking signals to ships which pass in the night but do not deign to speak Malacca in passing" (p. 113).

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 21

Dutch tombstones survive in the church.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 22

One reads: "Here lies buried Hendrik Schenkenbergh, in his life head merchant and the second person of the fortress city Malacca. Died 29 June 1671."

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 23

Just below the church there's a small English cemetery.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 24

To the south, Melaka grows.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 25

And grows; the view here is west, across the busy strait separating Melaka from Sumatra.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 26

You could easily overlook the one remaining bit of the Portuguese wall. (Yes, that's a Carrefour supermarket on the far side of the lawn.)

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 27

Here's the relic entrance, with its security-minded oblique passage. The seal overhead belongs to the VOC, the Dutch United East Company.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 28

Close-up.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 29

Busy destroying the wall, the British caught themselves just in time, saved this gate, and posted this plaque: "The only remaining part of the ancient fortress of Malacca built by Alfonso D'Albuquerque and by him named Famosa. 1511. Near this stood the bastion of Santiago."

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 30

Times moves on: along the seaward side of the vanished wall, Dunlop built this office. The company by 1926 had the largest acreage of rubber plantations of any company in the British empire.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 31

A more traditional building along the same alignment.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 32

The alignment of the old wall lurks.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 33

A building designed to catch the least breeze.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 34

We've come almost full circle around the old fort. Land has been added here, and on part of it there is now a boutique hotel.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 35

The river has been much improved, with tour boats cruising up and down. Pity the iguanas of once upon a time. The traffic has driven them upstream and out of sight.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 36

Reminds you of Singapore? Lifeless, you say? Of course, but very tastefully so.

Malaysia: Melaka Take Two picture 37

To think that only 15 years earlier these streets were next to deserted. The antique shops were then full of treasures at bargain prices.


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