Melaka and its Portuguese past

Journeying one hundred and fifty kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur, we reached Melaka. Unlike KL, Melaka was grimy. I can still picture walking over a bridge that crossed the Melaka River where dilapidated houses drooped over the water’s edge. But the tourist hub was well maintained.

We toured the museum, then explored Ponta de Santiago fortress that had been constructed by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. Situated on St Paul’s Hill, this was one of the oldest remaining colonial structures in Asia. The Portuguese retained control of the region for around one hundred and thirty years before the Dutch commandeered control.

During the Dutch era, a church was constructed in the mid 1700s. The white building reflected the Dutch style. When the British seized power, the church remained in use but in the early 1900s the colour was changed to red.

By the time I’d had my fill of Melaka, we headed east to Mersing—a convoluted journey that took three different buses until we reached the port that would lead us to our intended destination—Tioman Island. It was late afternoon when we reached Mersing, so waited until the following morning before we could catch the ferry across to the island. Sadly, the only memory I have of Mersing is garbage on the beach—a problem that has only expanded worldwide.

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