One of Malaysia’s most eagerly sought-after destinations, the small city-state of Melaka (Malacca) lures droves of visitors to its namesake historic port city, where they are quickly steeped in an intoxicating multicultural world of heritage architecture and the alluring aromas of distinctive local cooking.
Under the Melaka sultanates, the city was a wealthy centre for trade with China, India, Siam (Thailand) and Indonesia, owing to its strategic position on the Selat Melaka (Strait of Melaka). The Melaka sultanates were the basis for Malaysia as it appears today, and it is sometimes said that this city is where you’ll glimpse the soul of the nation.
Modern Melaka was swept up in the sudden economic boom that blew across Malaysia in the 1990s. Massive land-reclamation projects, which tapered off during the ensuing economic downturn, pushed the historic waterfront so far inland, however, that it endangered the traditional livelihood of the Portuguese fishing community. Malacca has a rich seam of heritage, but many argue that this is under threat from those twin fruits of development: commercialisation and modernisation. Nevertheless, Melaka remains one of Malaysia’s most rewarding tourist experiences. Proud of its multicultural heritage, plentiful museums and assorted cultural attractions, Melaka is a tourist habitat par excellence.
Beyond the city, there are worthwhile beach excursions to Pulau Besar and Tanjung Bidara, plus the wildlife and theme-park attractions of Ayer Keroh.