Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
Highlights of Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
Introduction to Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
The historic cities of Melaka and George Town both developed on different areas of the Straits of Malacca. They both experienced over 500 years of trading between East and West. The Straits of Malacca are the longest straits in the world and are still well-used by international shipping. The location is what made these cities develop into major trading ports in the early days.
Inevitably the Asian and European influences can still be seen along with the multicultural heritage of these cities. Melaka demonstrates its early history beginning with the 15th century Malay Sultanate and later Portuguese and Dutch periods which are reflected in the government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications of that period. George Town is on the northeast corner of the island of Penang. It represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. Both towns show unique architectural heritage and a cultural influence which are unmatched anywhere else in Asia.
Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town Gallery
Guide to Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
Guide to Melaka
Melaka, also spelt Malacca, is the capital of the Malaysian state of Malacca on the south west coast of the country. It spans the Malacca River where it enters the Straits of Malacca and includes St Paul’s Hill and the ruins of the Portuguese fortress. The climate here is tropical and similar to most of Malaysia but heavy rain can occur at any time of year.
Some of the best known sights of Melaka are in the Old City. The ‘A Famosa’ is one of the oldest surviving remains of European architecture in Asia, along with the Dutch Square. The small gatehouse called the ‘Porta de Santiago’ is all that remains of the fortress. It was so well-built that when the British decided to demolish it, they had to use gunpowder. Dutch Square has typically Dutch-style red brick buildings including Christ Church, built in 1753, and the Stadhuys with its carved floral decoration, which was the City Hall. The fountain was built in 1901 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years as Queen). Other historic buildings include the Saint Francis Xavier Church and Kota Senjuang, the St John Fort. There are many other museums and churches in the area reflecting the European history of the city. Malay history can be seen at the Hang Jebat Mausoleum, the Sultan’s Well, the ancient Kampung Hulu Mosque and at the Kampung Kling Mosque which was built by Muslim traders in the 18th century. Both mosques have pagoda-like minarets similar to lighthouses.
Jonker Street was the rich man’s street in the Dutch colonial period and nowadays is full of interesting antique shops. The rich heritage of the Baba and Nyonya (offspring from mixed marriages usually of Chinese and non-Muslim natives) can be seen on the walls and pillars of the buildings, which are engraved with ornate carving. Other features include the Geok Hu Keng temple and the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple which is the oldest and most respected of the Chinese temples in Malaysia, dating back 300 years.
Guide to George Town
George Town is the main port city and state capital on the north east corner of the Malaysian island of Penang. It is a very busy city with modern high-rise architecture and an older area of colonial history and buildings. Historical monuments of note include Fort Cornwallis, with the original Sri Rambai cannon, and the Victoria Memorial Clock Tower which has leaned ever since the nearby bombing during World War II affected its foundations. The Khoo Kongsi clan house is a masterpiece of Chinese craftsmanship. It was built in 1906 and includes incredible paintings, crafts and beautiful sculptured decoration.
Also of interest are the religious monuments including the Taoist Goddess of Mercy Temple, built in 1801, and the 1833 Hindu Maha Mariamman Temple which has 38 statues and four swans featuring Hindu gods and goddesses. The Muslim Kapitan Kling Mosque was built by an Indian merchant in 1801 and is still the main mosque in the city. The St George’s Anglican Church is the oldest Anglican Church in Malaysia. It was built by convicts in 1818 and has a memorial to the founder of Penang, Francis Light. These buildings reflect the diversity of this multicultural port city.
Video of Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
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History of Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
History of Malacca
Malacca was the centre of the Malay world in the 15th and 16th centuries. It grew from being a small fishing village into an important trade port and was the capital of the Malaccan sultanate and the centre of Malaccan history until it fell to the Portuguese in 1511. It was governed first by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch for 183 years between 1641 and 1824 with intermittent British occupation during the Napoleonic Wars. During this time it ceased to be an important port as the Dutch preferred to use Jakarta (Batavia) as their administrative centre. The port silted up and Singapore became a more influential port.
History of George Town
George Town was founded in 1786 by Captain Francis Light, a trader for the East India Rubber Company. It was named in honour of Britain’s King George III. Light built Fort Cornwallis along the seafront which became the focal point as a trading post and the town quickly grew to a population of 12,000 people by 1804. The original streets still remain and are called Light Street, Beach Street and Malabar Street with many warehouses and passageways down to the sea. Land was reclaimed from the marshes and Beach Street receded inland as can be seen today. A new waterfront was created at Weld Quay in the 1880s. Many banks and trading companies established foreign offices in George Town at that time, including HSBC.
The two historic cites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July, 2008.
Getting to Historic Cities of Melaka and George Town
Melaka can be reached by air or by road. Once in the city follow signs to the Old Town.
To reach Malacca city using the North-South Expressway, you must take a detour from the town of Ayer Keroh and travel south through the Lebuh Ayer Keroh.
The island of Penang is easy to reach by air from Kuala Lumpur, or by ferry. Taxis are cheap and plentiful from the airport or the ferry terminal.
It is a straightforward journey by road from the mainland over the Penang Bridge – there is a toll. Take the 3113 route north along the coast to George Town, then follow signs to Fort Cornwallis.
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