Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Wednesday August 31, 2011
Walking down memory lane

Heritage enthusiasts Colin Goh and Josephine Chua are passionate about preserving the history of their beloved city.

HIDDEN away in the shadow of a massive shopping complex in Malacca is an almost forgotten part of Malaysia’s history. It is a small mosaic-covered pyramid with a large ‘M’ in the middle, and it marks the beginning of Malaysia as we know it.

Once the focal point of Malacca’s Padang Merdeka, the Merdeka Monument commemorates the day that Malaya declared its independence. That’s not all. Most people forget that it was in Malacca on Feb 20, 1956, Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the glorious news that the British Government had finally agreed to grant Malaya independence. So in a way, Malacca is inextricably linked to Merdeka.

“It is such a shame that an important monument to such an important event in our country’s history is so downplayed today,” laments Colin Goh, 65, a retired civil servant and one of my tour guides for the day.
Colin Goh and Josephine Chua at the Merdeka Monument.

Despite being the second smallest state in Malaysia, Malacca has always been at the centre of Malaysia’s history – ever since Parameswara founded the settlement in 1409. This once important and strategic port in the Straits of Malacca was where the Portuguese, Dutch and British once had their strongholds. Some old Portuguese maps even referred to the entire Malayan peninsula as Malacca. Therefore, it was fitting that Tunku chose Malacca, the place where it all began, to announce the birth of our nation.

Goh was 10 years old when Tunku came to town, and according to him, the atmosphere leading up to the days before his arrival in Malacca was electrifying.

“Everyone was fired up about independence at the time. Everyone in school and on the streets was shouting ‘Merdeka! Merdeka!’ even though they didn’t really know what it meant,” Goh recalls. “Back then, this was just a sleepy hollow. But when word got out that Tunku was coming here to make the announcement, people arrived on buses from everywhere just to hear what he had to say!”

Walking encyclopaedia

Today, Goh is a walking, talking, living history book, an encyclopaedia of Malaccan history. He and his long-time friend and fellow heritage enthusiast Josephine Chua are taking me on a whirlwind tour along the heritage trail of Malacca.

They will be showing another side of Malacca’s history, one that you would not read about in books.

Chua, 55, who is on the Malacca Historical Resource Society committee, is equally passionate about preserving the history and heritage of Malacca. Her roots go all the way back to the very early days of Malacca – her grandfather was one of the founders of the iconic 17th century Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, which is the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia.
The historical A Famosa fortress, a landmark of Malacca.

The walk around Malacca’s heritage zone is as much a walk down memory lane for Goh and Chua as it is a walk down Malacca’s chequered past.

Starting out from the St. Francis Xavier Church, we enter the designated Heritage Zone via the row of distinctly red pre-war shop houses along Jalan Laksamana to the central town square (with its iconic red clock tower), then up Jalan Kota towards the Merdeka monument. From there, part of our route includes the one that Tunku Abdul Rahman took in 1956 after making the Merdeka announcement, when he went across the Tan Kim Seng Bridge to MCA founder Tun Tan Cheng Lok’s home on Heeren Street (now Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok) for tea.

Besides its obvious historical heritage (the ancestral homes of many influential Chinese and Peranakan families are still located here), Heeren Street also holds special significance for both Goh and Chua – they were born on the same street in adjoining buildings, at 54 and 56 Heeren Street respectively.
Ban Onn Silversmith on Jonker Street (now known as Jalan Hang Jebat), is one of the few remnants of a more idyllic, less commercial era.

As we walk along the street, Chua excitedly points out the various homes she’s lived in, and tells vivid stories about the denizens of the street.

“My aunt used to live across the street from us when I was little. During Merdeka Day, she would wave to me from across the road and I’d shout ‘Merdeka!’ from our window,” Chua recalls.

One of the most remarkable parts about being brought on a tour by Goh and Chua is that they can point out little details that you would normally have missed. For instance, at one end of the Tan Kim Seng Bridge, concealed behind a garish and completely out-of-place Dutch windmill (despite being colonised by the Dutch, Malacca never had windmills), is an engraved plaque commemorating the opening of the bridge by the British governor at the time. It also honours the contributions of prominent merchant Tan Kim Seng, who donated the funds for the construction of the bridge

Treasure trove of knowledge

You’ll also hear stories about things that happened in everyday life as well. Pointing out a prominent building on Heeren Street, Goh relates how it used to be the home of a good friend who was murdered in her own home. Passing by another building, he explains how it used to be called The Black House because it was occupied by a coal trader.

Stories like these are what make Goh and Chua so unique. They may not be historians or tour guides by profession, but they conduct private tours on a voluntary basis, usually for special occasions or selected guests, because they are driven by their passion for the city they grew up in, as well as the wealth of history and stories within its walls and along its streets.

Goh and Chua are treasure troves of knowledge on Malacca’s history, dispensing historical facts with stories from their childhood, as well as insights into how Malacca has changed.

“The first time I took somebody on a tour of Malacca was in 1965. I found myself getting more and more interested in Malacca’s history. So I started to pick up more books and articles and kept them for reference,” says Goh.

It’s not all warm and fuzzy memories though.

Goh and Chua are equally adept at pointing out the less savoury side of Malacca, which includes the over-commercialisation and over-development of the heritage area, inadequacies in the preservation of heritage buildings and even blatant disrespect of the city’s proud heritage and buildings.

As we walk along Jonker Street (now known as Jalan Hang Jebat) amid the cacophony of tour buses, trucks and motorcycles whizzing past, Goh points out, “This place used to be a thriving community. Everything you needed in everyday life was here – there were tailors, blacksmiths, laundry cleaners, electrical shops, silversmiths. But when it was turned into the Jonker Walk night market to attract more tourists, all the old residents packed up and left the area.”

“It’s become a commercial community now – everything being sold here now is catered for tourists,” Chua adds.

“Many of the things being sold here aren’t even Malaysian, let alone Malaccan!”

Yet, amidst all the tacky tourist traps and blatant commercialisation, some remnants of the old Jonker Street community remain.

For instance, Ban Onn Silversmith is one of the few traditional silversmiths left standing in Malacca. And directly opposite is The Royal Press, a 75-year-old printing press that is still going strong.

“They (The Royal Press) recently had to move from the store next door to the current one; and when they did, they arranged all the furniture and equipment in the exact same positions as they were in the previous store,” says Chua proudly.

Nevertheless, one gets the feeling that these are the dying embers of Malacca’s old history, and that they will soon be gone unless something drastic is done to preserve these heritage treasures.

In fact, oral historians and ordinary Malaccans like Goh and Chua should also be treasured, and commended for the work they have done.

For the pair, it is frustrating and sometimes painful to see the city they grew up in being exploited in the name of development and tourism.

According to Chua, acclaimed historian Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard once said that Malacca was the only place where you got a feeling of antiquity when you drive into town.

“This should have been the main motto in all our conservation projects for Malacca. How important is Malacca? Before anyone even dreamed of Malaysia or Malaya, there was Malacca,’’ she says.

From a certain angle at the Merdeka Monument, you can see the entire history of Malaysia - the iconic Porta de Santiago gate of the A Famosa fortress, the Malay sultanate palace, and the Bastion House. They represent the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Malay Sultanate eras of Malacca.

There can be no doubt Malacca is the cradle of Malaysia.

Monday, August 29, 2011


As Muslims celebrate Adilfitri today, we want to wish Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri to all Muslims. Maaf, Zahir dan Batin.

Take care on the roads and drive carefully.

For all Malaysians, Happy 54th Independence Day on 31st.August 2011.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


24th. August 2011

Today is a milestone for our Tourism Melaka web portal site as the number of visitors to date reached 1,000,367.

We reached this important figure on 24th. August 2011. We started our website in 2001 as a website to promote Melaka, our home state. Visitors to our site started off slowly but two years later, our website was selected by Tourism Malaysia as the website to feature Melaka. Visitors started to visit our site since then. When Tourism Malaysia revamped their website, visitors still visited our site for information and news.

The next boost was when Melaka was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO in July 2008. Since then, visitors tend to search our site for news, developments, events and deals in Melaka.

From 2001 to December 31st. 2006, we received 250,000 visitors over 5 years. But from 1.1.2007 until 24.8.2011, 750,367 visitors graced our site, thus overtaking the 1 Million figure.

We at Tourism Melaka web portal will like to express our appreciation to all our visitors, both local and overseas, for visiting our website. Your support has given us the inspiration to strive higher. We want to continuously update and inform you about happenings in Melaka as and when they occur.

For your part, we want you to email us suggestions, ideas, comments (good and bad) and feedback so that these suggestions and comments can be read by citizens of Melaka including the government agencies. Without constant feedback and suggestion, we cannot improve ourselves.

A Big Thank you to all for your support and do come to Melaka over and over again if you have the opportunity and time.

Melaka is for all the citizens of the world for generations to come.

Tourism Melaka Web Portal Team

Sunday, August 21, 2011


As of 21st. August 2011, our Tourism Melaka web portal site that Connects Malaccans and Melaka to the World, is just a whisker to break the 1 Million visitors milestone. We need another 1,600 visitors before this figure is breached. This will happen in about 3 days time pending there is no breakdown of the website on the server end.

When we hit this mark, we will be creating our own history. Created in 2001 as a website to promote Melaka our home state, we never dream of reaching 1 million. Started off on a snail pace at the beginning, as years go by, our website was recognised as a gateway to our historical Melaka. Currently, our main page welcomes about 500 to 600 visitors per day on average. We want it to reach 1,000 visitors per day as our new target.

For new visitors, you will read about Melaka - World Heritage City UNESCO while returning visitors can read about new happenings and offerings. We want you to come to Melaka over and over again so that you can enjoy our hospitality, food, cultures, shopping and cruises.

We want to hear and receive your feedback so that Melaka can achieve greater heights in attracting more visitors. Melaka hosted 10 million visitors in 2010 and we aim to reach 11 million in 2011. Well, Melaka should aim to host 20 million visitors by 2020 if we can get our act together.

Tourism Melaka
Web Portal Team

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Recently an official hand over of keys to the premises of the renovated Plaza Inn renamed as Best Western Riverside Malacca was carried out.

Soft opening of this well known hotel chain will be in September 2011.

With the opening of this hotel, more visitors are expected to come to Melaka via the marketing effort of the Best Western Hotel group of hotels worldwide.


Untiring commitment for Cantonese opera
MyKampung  2011-08-05 12:49

Performing for the first time in Malacca’s Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Qian Qiu Le Cantonese opera troupe members are giving the audience a stunning performance. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
1 of 6
Translated by Chan Li Lin
Sin Chew Daily

MALACCA, July 17 – Applying heavy make-up before unleashing their full potential. Settling into respective roles before skillfully and freely expressing their emotions in a world of fantasy. These pretty much sum up the career and lives of Cantonese opera performers.

For the artists, it doesn’t matter whether 10 years, 20 years or 30 years of their lives have been spent performing on stage. Their untiring commitment and passion for the art are what it counts. Unless the members of audience have grown tired of their faces and performances, they will not change the course of their career.

Are Cantonese opera actors concerned that the number of their audience is declining? According to them, even if there are only three spectators, they will still happily put on a good show.

This is the charm of opera. Those who are interested in it will remain so for the rest of their lives. They will not easily grow tired of it.

The so-called “tuk tuk qiang” opera was at its pinnacle in Malaysia between the 40’s and 70’s. In the eyes of youngsters nowadays, however, it is nothing more than “antique”, or a show dedicated to God.

Qian Qiu Le Cantonese opera troupe started performing on July 16

For the current generation, there is not much difference between Cantonese opera and Taiwanese opera.

In recent years, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple has been making arrangements for Cantonese and Taiwanese opera troupes to perform in its premise. The shows manage to bring back memories for the older generation, as well as spark the interest in the art form among the new generation.

In view of this, Qian Qiu Le Cantonese opera troupe was, for the first time, invited to perform at Cheng Hoon Teng Temple from July 16-19. The cast included performers from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

He Bo: Response from audience is the best reward

According to He Bo, a Cantonese opera actor from Hong Kong, he could still play the role of a 20 year-old although he was almost 60. He enjoyed settling into different characters and performed on stage after applying make-up.

“The ability to take on different roles is the biggest joy of performing and I’ll remain happy even after the shows have come to an end. Having so many scripts to memorize, I certainly will not contract Alzheimer’s disease too,” he said.

For He, the experience of being part of Cantonese opera was invaluable. He loved the shows and the response from his audience is the best reward for him.

Previously working as an officer in the Hong Kong Identification Services Bureau, He joint the Cantonese opera troupe when he was 40 years old. 20 years had since passed and he still enjoys tackling various roles, including those of a male, female, ugly man, crazy man and young scholar. Embracing his work and passion with professionalism, he sports a big smile whenever he talks about Cantonese opera.

He had previously performed in Malaysia but it was the first time he put up a show in Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. The beautiful stage with carvings has deeply impressed him.

Intense competitition in Hong Kong

He said, Cantonese opera troupes are facing stiff competition in Hong Kong and there is no shortage of demand for this kind of performance. In Singapore, it remains popular while in Malaysia, the shows are commonly found in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

“The invitation has gifted us another opportunity to perform. The size of the dressing room is not an issue,” he said.

Actors have no age limit

Zhang Qian-hui, the leader of Qian Qiu Le Cantonese opera troupe started to get involved in Cantonese opera when he was 13 years old. In the beginning, he only took the roles of “extra” but managed to get increasingly important roles later and subsequently took over as the leader of the troupe.

He said, there is no age limit for opera actors, as they can be part of the shows for as long as they want. If the spectators have grown tired of the performers, they can switch roles or even work behind the scene.

“Though the life on stage is not easy, there shouldn’t be any problem if you have the interest,” Zhang said, adding that he hoped his troupe could have a nationwide tour in Malaysia to promote the art of Cantonese opera. No matter how remote the places are, the troupe would still perform there as what it valued the most were audience acceptance and interest in it.

Show will last for more than three hours

Zhang said, the show will last for over three hours with a 10-minute interval, when actors could change their costumes and apply make-up.

He said, male actors needed 20-30 minutes to apply make-up while female performers needed some 45 minutes.

He hoped that the troupe could give a wonderful performance in Malacca, which was gazetted as a world heritage site.

Anticipating crowd with the same passion

Xu Pei-shan, an experienced opera artist who performs in Singapore and Malaysia said, she performed in Malacca more than a decade ago. The show received overwhelming response but she was not sure if her upcoming show was going to generate the same effect.

Having previously performed in Batu Gajah, Ipoh, she also performs in Singapore on a regular basis. On the shows in Singapore, she said they managed to attract the interest of senior citizens, middle-aged group, as well as youths. By performing in Cheng Hoon Teng Temple this time, she hoped the troupe could give a wonderful show and spark the interest in Cantonese opera.

Costumes are “prized possession”

Xu loves being part of the opera shows. In the two decades of her acting career, she, along with each and every other performer, had given their best efforts no matter how many spectators had showed up to watch them perform. This is the fighting spirit of the artists.

When travelling, the performers would take good care of their prized possession – their costumes, which were custom-made in Hong Kong or China. They were bright in colours and seamlessly made.

When asked if it was difficult to remember the script, she said she had memorized it before going on stage. Besides, she had struck a chord with her fellow artists and co-operated well with them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


A new 16 floors Heritage Hotel is now being constructed opposite Equatorial Hotel, Melaka.

As the location is in the buffer zone and outside the heritage zone area,the developer can build 16 floors instead of 8 floors.

Seems Melaka is getting a lot of investments in boutique hotels, 5 star hotels and budget hotels lately. Competition for hotel guests will surely mount and hoteliers must be innovative to attract guests otherwise there will be empty rooms instead.

More festivals and cultural events must be organised professional so that Melaka can attract long staying visitors. Brazil has her Annual Samba festival that draws millions to her shores. In Italy, Venice holds her Venetian Festival annually for locals and guests.

Melaka can use her various cultures, music, dances and food to draw in crowds annually or half yearly. For this to happen, the Melaka state government must work hand in hand with hoteliers, tour agencies, cultural troupes, community organisations and related agencies to make the festival a reality. More importantly, this festival must be held annually so that people remember the event.

Monday, August 1, 2011


With the holy month of Ramadan started yesterday, Tourism Melaka will like to wish our Muslim friends in Malaysia and around the world, Selamat Berpuasa.

When the Puasa month ends, you will be celebrating the Hari Raya Adilfitri. May we take this opportunity to wish you all Selamat Hari Raya.

Have a safe month and look forward to the Hari Raya celebrations.

Tourism Melaka web Team.