Friday, December 23, 2011

Melaka Diary # 3 : A City Of Museums

Replica of Flor Do Mar. It houses one of the two maritime museums
It was for the first time in my life that I came across such a large number of museums situated in an area of less than 2 square kilometers. In Melaka, most of the museums are situated east of the river. You name a kind of museum, and Melaka is there to offer you the same. And what’s more, entry into most of them is free of cost. All they ask you to invest is a good amount of time to absorb what is there to see and understand. And if you are going to spend a lot of time in Melaka, don’t miss these museums, as you will return enriched with in-depth knowledge of Malaysian culture in general and Melaka in particular. Some of the most famous ones are the twin maritime museums named Samudera, Customs Museum, and History & Ethnography Museum housed in the building called The Stadthuys and Cultural Museum just besides A’Famosa fort.

Most of these museums are situated around and at the base of St Paul’s Hill, and are within a walking distance from each other. So close are these museums to each other, that while heading onto Jalan Kota from Town Square, you will see only museums on your left side until you reach A’Famosa fort. Only Customs Museum, twin Samudera Museum and Naval Museum are the ones that are situated along the waterfront. Entry into Customs Museum is free, while there is a combined ticket of RM 3 for entry into three museums i.e. both maritime museums and the naval museum. One of the two maritime museums is situated inside a replica of a Portuguese ship called Flor Do Mar, which had sank off the coast of Melaka some five centuries back. In this museum, one can read about the detailed descriptions of history of Melaka (previously Malacca) and see a map that has actual charts used by Portuguese sailors some five centuries back.
The Customs Museum that is on the waterfront and near river cruise counter
The History & Ethnography Museum housed in The Stadthuys at Town Square is a place to know a great deal about Melakan culture and history through artifacts, costumes and drawings on display there. The Stadthuys is besides the Christ Church. The Stadthuys has also got a history. Built in 1650, this red building used to be the official residence of Dutch governors. Nearby it, though on the other side of church, is Youth Museum where one can know about youth activities in Malaysia. Exhibits relating to youth leaders from around the world are also on display here. It also functions as a youth centre.

Apart from government-run museums, there are also two private museums in Melaka. One of them is called Villa Sentosa and other one is known as Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. Villa Sentosa is basically a Malay house which has been converted into museum and it offers a glimpse into a traditional Malay home. It is situated on river bank in Kampung Morten, the only Malay village in Melaka. Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum is at Tan Cheng Lock Street on the west side of the river. It is basically an ancestral house of a Straits-born Chinese family and which has been converted into a museum. A visit to this museum gives an insight into the culture and legacy of the Straits-born Chinese called Baba and Nyonya.

Text and Photos by Ajay Garg
I would be detailing about Baba Nyonyas in another article of mine.

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