Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Melaka, Malaysia

Quick stay, quick post. I stopped in Melaka more for convenience than desire. The grapevine does not give it much credit in comparison to Penang and this is a tad unfair. It's pleasant and interesting enough but easily done in a day. All the same I made my time here a quiet one. I decided to forgo the dorms and get myself a room. No more trying to ignore snoring or glaring at drunk gappers until they shut up. Had myself some me time in a quiet garden. Back to the fray soon.

Melaka has got a more interesting story than the town suggest at first glance. That glance would make you believe this place is a small historic village surrounded by shopping malls. Chinatown is full of "antiques" shops and was weirdly reminiscent of the Petite France area of Strasbourg. Anyway, here's a quick lowdown on the place itself.

Melaka was probably settled aeons ago but people tend to attribute it's debut on the world scene around 1396 when Parmeswara, a Sumatran prince on the lamb (or in exile depending on the sources) popped up .The subsequent Sultans used its position on the Straits to make it a great trading center possibly by being able to attack all non-cooperative ships. I think the modern day pirates that roam these waters are working on the same principle. The sultans got quite rich this way and, like most nouveaux-riches, attracted attention. The Portuguese saw that this would benefit their counters in India greatly and asked for absurd trading privileges.They got told to fuck off and returned with ships and soldiers and nicked the place in 1511. They then themselves got fat on the profits until the Dutch decided they wanted a piece of the pie or more precisely the whole pie.

They managed to get it in 1641 and ensured they got a monopoly of trade on pretty much everything. They also built clocktowers and other buildings illsuited to the climate.They held on to it until 1795 when the Brits took over. Holland had just got conquered by the French so the Brits installed themselves maybe on the excuse that a nation that gets beaten by the French doesn't deserve far away spice counters. After Boney got a kicking at Waterloo, like all shortarses who get above themselves eventually do, the Nederlanske reckoned they should have it back. The Brits were unsure about this but the local garison reckoned it would happen and planned for a tidy handover by getting ready to blow up the Fort. Let the clogwearers build their own defences.

For some reason this didn't happen and the situation was resolved when the Brits agreed to trade the Sumatran port of Bencoolen for the place in 1824. This is the type of deal that always makes you popular with the locals and makes them feel empowered. However, just like the present, Melaka was never as much fun as Penang or Singapore so the Brits didn't do much to the place hence much less silly Victorian buildings and cricket pitches.

That was today's brief History lesson as I don't feel descriptive today. I have become very blase about the Chinese temples, Hindu temples and mosques that litter the Malay peninsula. Ditto Little Indias and Chinatowns. I sort of see them in the same way I see most churches back home. Nice but commonplace. I will soon leave for the Taman Negara for some real jungle time with the heat, mozzies and leeches that I am told are abundant at this time of year. I somehow doubt that a wormlike creature sucking my blood will ever seem commonplace so this should rekindle some curiosity in me.

Take care,



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I somehow doubt that a wormlike creature sucking my blood will ever seem commonplace"

Why. A close look at my monthly bills reveals me plenty of these all around.

Take care, Jon-of-the-Jungle ;)


Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:04:00 PM  

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