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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MALACCA STRIVES ON HER HISTORY

Originally published Monday, March 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Malaysia's Malacca thrives with history
The hub of Malacca's civic colonial sites is Dutch Square — also called Red Square because of the color of its buildings.

By NAOMI LINDT The New York Times

On the tranquil grounds of the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Malaysia's oldest Taoist house of worship, late afternoon visitors bowed and offered burning wands of incense to a gilded statue of the Goddess of Mercy, the deity for whom the temple was founded in the 1600s. Tourists quietly watched or focused cameras on the structure's ornate, figurine-covered roof.

The placidity was interrupted by the muezzin's call from the nearby Kampung Kling Mosque, an amalgam of Corinthian columns, Portuguese tiles and Hindu carvings, built by Indian Muslims in 1748. And down the street at the 230-year-old Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple, the country's oldest Hindu temple, bare-chested and barefoot men in pastel-hued sarongs and garlands made of yellow blooms gathered to pray.

It was another seemingly sleepy afternoon in Malacca, Malaysia's oldest city, just two hours south of Kuala Lumpur and about four hours northwest of Singapore. But underneath that sleepiness, its foundation of vibrant multiculturalism, which dates back centuries, is very much alive and increasingly accessible, as it welcomes a handful of hotels and millions of international visitors a year.

"I just love Malacca — its laid-back, slow pace of life and the history in the buildings, the people, the culture," said a local resident, Colin Goh, 66, at Cheng Hoon, surrounded by a pair of red-and-gold sedan chairs and black-and-white photos that chronicled decades of the temple's religious festivals. "Everything you touch that is not new is old."

With his mix of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and "God only knows what else" heritage, Goh, a retired civil servant who now manages 8 Heeren Street, a restored 18th-century Dutch shophouse, embodies the city's colonial past. Founded around 1400 by a Malay-Hindu prince, Malacca, within a century, became Southeast Asia's most important trading port, luring an international cast of colonialists and merchants seeking a piece of the region's lucrative spice trade.

The hub of Malacca's civic colonial sites is Dutch Square — also called Red Square because of the color of its buildings — where tourists pose in front of the century-old Queen Victoria Fountain and trishaws festooned with plastic flowers gather. Nearby are the ruins of the A'Famosa fort, one of Asia's oldest European-built structures, erected by the Portuguese 500 years ago, and the imposing Stadthuys, or town hall, built by the Dutch in 1650 and later painted salmon red by the British, Malacca's last foreign rulers, whose reign lasted until 1957.

On the west side of the Malacca River, which flanks the square, along the old center's narrow, atmospheric streets, are hundreds of lantern-hung shophouses, some distinctly Chinese in style, others bearing geometric Art Deco trademarks, and grand residences with ornately tiled stoops built by wealthy families of the past. For centuries, these streets served as the town's commercial and residential center.

Malacca's eclectic charm, with some help from a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 2008 and its reputation as one of Malaysia's most exciting culinary destinations, has resulted in a steady growth in tourism. Last year 12 million visitors came, an increase of over 17 percent from 2010, according to a state tourism committee.

While some heritage buildings are still occupied by generations-old family businesses — silversmiths, watchmakers, dim sum purveyors — others have newer identities. At Temple Street, a shop run by a local artist, watercolors and hand-painted tiles depict idyllic street scenes. In another building, Nancy's Kitchen, a no-frills restaurant known for its local Nyonya cuisine, sells addictive delicacies like buttery pineapple tarts and onde-onde, glutinous rice balls filled with Malacca's famous palm sugar, known as gula Melaka, and covered in fresh coconut.

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The Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, in a grand, preserved residence on Heeren Street (officially known as Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock), pays tribute to Peranakans, a group of wealthy, sophisticated families that arose from the intermarrying of Babas, or Chinese traders, and Nyonyas, or local residents.

The Peranakans forged a distinct East-meets-West culture that represents much of what makes Malacca so fascinating: A racial and religious multiculturalism that's been cultivated and honored for centuries.This rich cultural heritage is also being celebrated in new lodging options. In 2009, a 100-year-old residential property down the street was converted into the 14-room Courtyard (AT) Heeren hotel, which blends era-appropriate furnishings with modern amenities. At the Snail House nearby, a charming French-Malaccan couple, Serge and K.C. Jardin, rent rooms in their carefully restored century-old home, with an open courtyard, a grand spiral staircase and high ceilings, offering travelers the chance to appreciate the nuances of Peranakan architecture.

"When you're inside, you feel as if you're in the presence of a wealthy Baba," Jardin said. "And though you're in the city center, it's so quiet you forget where you are."

Josephine Chua, a self-described "busybody housewife," history buff and proponent of Malacca's historic preservation, agreed.

"This place has been built on harmony since the 15th century," she said.

Chua, 55, traces her local roots back nine generations, to 1765, when one of her paternal ancestors migrated from Fujian, China.

"The religions have coexisted side by side for centuries — that's what makes us so unique and the town so great to live in," she said. This is a particularly telling statement in modern-day Malaysia, whose Muslim, Malay-majority government has been criticized for exploiting ethnic divisions for the sake of political gain. "We don't ask each other about one's race and religion, but what we do always ask each other is,'Have you eaten?"'

Where one has dined is not a question to be taken lightly in a city of restaurants serving home-cooked dishes, many of which have been passed down through generations. At Aunty Lee, a grandmotherly spot with lace curtains and pastel walls just a short drive from the historic center, septuagenarian chefs cook mouthwatering renditions of classic Nyonya dishes — chicken stewed with earthy, smoky keluak nuts; a fluffy omelet flavored with dried shrimp and chili; and cendol, a shaved ice dessert topped with coconut milk and gula Melaka.

Though authentic culture is easy to find in the city, residents like Chua and Goh worry about its future. The old center is now home to a recently opened Hard Rock Cafe, and many historic buildings have fallen into disrepair or been transformed into conventional souvenir shops and hostels, with no government financing to protect them.

Perhaps the most glaring example is Jonker Street, officially called Jalan Hang Jebat. Once known for its antiques shops, the strip now draws tour groups trawling stores stocked with Birkenstock knockoffs, batik linens and cheeky T-shirts with sayings like, "If YouTube MySpace, I'll Google Your Yahoo." It's particularly raucous on weekends, when a food and retail night market takes over.

Still, what captivated explorers and entrepreneurs centuries ago never seems far away, whether it's during a contemplative moment in a crumbling church or a stroll along the old town's back streets and its fragrant Chinese medicine shops. Or while you are sipping a steaming cup of tea during a downpour at Zheng He Tea House, a hidden spot two blocks from Jonker Street. "Once you step into Malacca, you can feel the positive energy," said Pak Siew Yong, the teahouse's friendly owner. "Foreigners, once they come here, they don't want to go home."

MELAKA AIR TO FLY TO PENANG FROM 6TH.APRIL 2012

Published: Wednesday March 28, 2012 MYT 5:39:00 PM

Melaka Air set for maiden flight to Penang on April 6

MALACCA: Melaka Air will start its maiden flight from the Malacca International Airport in Batu Berendam to Penang on April 6.

Melaka Air, operated by Melaka Holiday Sdn Bhd in cooperation with Firefly, will fly twice a week (Monday and Friday) to Penang using an aircraft with a capacity to fly 72 passengers.

Melaka Holiday Sdn Bhd chairman Syed Mahaza Syed Dakian the flight would take 1 hour 10 minutes and tourists coming to Malacca from Penang would be able to arrive in comfort to visit interesting places in the state.

"There is a demand for such service from Penang since tourists who arrive in Penang would also like to visit Malacca which is also a Unesco World Heritage site just like Penang," he told reporters after opening the Melaka Air and Melaka Holiday counters here Wednesday.

The introduction of the air route to and from Penang would shorten the travel time for tourists as well as save cost.

Melaka Air, which started its operations last November, was previously servicing only the Malacca-Medan (Indonesia) sector.

Syed Mahaza said Melaka Holiday also offered travel packages, especially five days four nights or four days three nights to selected destinations. - Bernama

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SUBMARINE MUSEUM TARGETS 500,000 TOURISTS

March 18, 2012 12:57 PM
Submarine Museum In Melaka Targets 500,000 Tourists, Visitors By Year End

MELAKA, March 18 (Bernama) -- The submarine museum featuring the French made SMD Ouessant (Agosta 70 class) submarine, is expected to attract about 500,000 tourists and visitors to Melaka by end 2012.

The submarine museum project in Melaka, costing RM12.5 million, had come under heavy criticism and deemed a waste of money by some.

Melaka Museum Corporation general manager Datuk Khamis Abas said from Jan 1 to March 14, the
museum had attracted 53,737 tourists and visitors and the figure could reach 500,000 by year end.

"Among them were 10,000 tourists," he told Bernama here.

He added that based on the popularity and returns generated, the cost of bringing the SMD Ouessant Agosta 70, a submarine formerly owned by the French navy, from Brest, France to Melaka at a cost of RM12.5 million has become irrelevant.

Apart from being a museum, the submarine museum also acts as an information centre for visitors who are interested to know about submarines, in detail.

-- BERNAMA

Friday, March 16, 2012

MALAYSIA EYE TO BE BUILT IN MELAKA

Friday March 16, 2012
By ALLISON LAI

New giant ferris wheel for Malacca

MALACCA: Malacca will get a new giant ferris wheel from China to replace the previous structure that was shut down and removed two years ago after a 10-month legal tussle.

Dubbed the Malaysia Eye, the new 88m-tall giant ferris wheel from China will be built at Pulau Melaka by a local company. It is expected to be operational by June 1.

The previous 62m-tall Eye On Malaysia ferris wheel, a joint venture between MST Ad Suria Sdn Bhd and state-owned Eye On Malaysia Sdn Bhd, ceased operations in 2010 after Belgian owner Fitraco MV took possession of the wheel on Jan 7 that year over an RM18mil debt by MST Ad Suria.

The wheel was removed by Fitraco in October the same year.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the new structure would be shipped to Malacca by the end of this month and piling work at the man-made island would start next week.

“We are hopeful that the ferris wheel would be operational by June 1, in time for the school holidays,” he told reporters after presenting the special government school aid to 255 pupils at SK Datuk Demang Hussin in Bukit Katil here on Wednesday evening.

Mohd Ali said the state government was not involved in the RM40mil project, to be carried out by KAJ Development Sdn Bhd.

“The giant structure will be inistalled on a 0.8ha site, which will also be acquired by the company,” he said.

Mohd Ali said that with a new and taller ferris wheel, Pulau Melaka would be developed further with attractions.

Asked about the quality of the China-made ferris wheel, he said: “Not all products from China are of low quality.

“This time we will make sure what we get is of good quality and safe for public use.”

The state government, in recent years, had been criticised for acquiring China-made coaches for its Malacca river monorail system, stretching 1.6km from Taman Rempah in Pengkalan Rama to Kampung Bunga Raya Pantai.

Hours after it was opened to the public on Oct 21, 2010, the monorail ground to a halt, stranding 20 passengers.

There has since been a series of test runs and rectifications, besides plans to extend the line.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp...207&sec=nation
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

MELAKA RIVER WALK

To compliment and promote Melaka more specifically, we have just created a blog for "Melaka River Walk".

With the success of the ever popular Melaka River Cruise, it is about time to promote "Melaka River Walk" so that it can become an icon in Melaka. More activities can be created along the Melaka River Walk. Riverside dining and drinking can be promoted during the day and at night. More restaurants and souvenir stores can be opened along the Melaka River so that visitors can walk the banks of this historic river.

Quarterly events should be organised with walks. New ideas can be used to make the Melaka River Walk alive during the day and night.

Friday, March 9, 2012

HIGH SPEED TRAIN TO SINGAPORE

Friday March 9, 2012

High-speed rail link holds great prospect



I’M looking forward to the potential high speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore “High speed rail-ity?” (The Star, Mar 5).

As a frequent traveller to Malacca, Johor and Singapore, I would greatly appreciate an additional option to travel down south.

Air travel, with all its perceived luxury, still brings with it delays, long wait times and the inconvenient (though admittedly necessary) security screening.

All these on top of the 40-minute travel time to KLIA/LCCT from Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya.

If it’s true that the high speed rail journey would only take 90 minutes, we could be looking at significant time saving in our travels.

Some, like me, can still remember the days before we had the North-South Expressway.

Narrow roads and slower speeds had a big impact on whether we would travel.

Since the NSE opened, people get to see more of their extended families, businesses have flourished along the highway, commuting has become more common and we have generally seen a significant overall improvement in our lives.

With the NSE becoming congested, it is timely for the Public Land Transport Commission to consider high speed rail as an alternative.

Taiwan HSR is an apt comparison, given the relatively similar population size along the Taipei-Kaohsiung corridor as the KL-Singapore route.

If Taiwan can generate over 30 million passengers annually, and with an operating profit, why can’t we?

In our case, HSR may be even more catalytic than the NSE, given the significant journey time reduction and the convenience it provides.

I can only imagine how extensive the effects can be on the wider economic sectors, namely tourism, retail, construction and property, not to mention the broad-based productivity improvement.

Although I am as equally wary as the next Malaysian of yet another mega project, I also think that the high speed train will be one mega project that the country needs.

FREQUENT TRAVELLER,

Petaling Jaya.