Malacca (Melaka), the third-smallest state in Malaysia, has been a sought-after destination for foreign visitors since its founding in the 15th century. Modern Malacca has been rising with the general economic tide that has benefited much of Malaysia since the 1990s, with the accompanying development and land reclamation projects commingling with ancient structures and cultural heritage sites. The following destinations come highly recommended.
1. Cheng Ho Cultural Museum. History buffs and the culturally inclined would do well to pay a visit to this museum dedicated to illuminating the many voyages of eunuch Muslim Chinese seafarer, Cheng Ho, who went on to become the acting admiral of China’s famous “Treasure Fleet” in the 15th century.
2. Porta de Santiago. Established as a fortress by the Portuguese in the early 16th century and later alternately threatened and made use of by the Dutch, the iconic Porta de Santiago is not to be missed.
3. St Paul’s Church. The beautiful sanctuary at St Paul’s Church is indeed a welcome respite after the steep and somewhat daunting series of steps leading up to it (not recommended for those afflicted with compromised health). Originally established as a small hill chapel in 1521, St Paul’s is one of the most important testaments to the lingering influence of Catholicism in Asia.
4. Honky Tonk Haven. Evidence of the eclectic, mixed, and thoroughly modern culture continuously emerging in Malacca, this virtual temple to jazz memorabilia and performance is a welcome recent addition to the city’s vibrant nightlife (or rather, perhaps “drinking scene” is more apt, as it goes on night and day). The aptly named Honky Tonk Haven is run by Kiwi jazz pianist Joe Webster and his wife, and is a great place to catch a spontaneous jam session whilst imbibing.