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Melaka: at the Crossroads of History
The port city of Melaka is about 150 kilometers (94) miles from Kuala Lumpur, about a two-hour drive. We visited once when living in Singapore and then returned in early 2019 to tour the town more extensively. Although largely a popular tourist attraction today, it was one of the world's premier port cities when the the Indian Ocean was the world's leading trade network, a period from the 3rd century C.E. to the the 15th century C.E. The port was vital for two reasons. First, it was the gateway to Asia for the African, Arab, and later European trader, who would cross the Indian Ocean to store goods in Melaka warehouses for transport to Southeast and East Asia. Secondly it was a seasonal haven for many of these traders, as they waited for a shift in the monsoon winds to carry them back home.

As a result many merchants from all over the world made Melaka their home for at least several months a year.  Melaka stood as one of the world's major ports in ancient times, equivalent to Shanghai or Singapore. Interestingly the 9 of the top 10 ocean shipping ports in the world today are still in Asia--the other 7 are in China, and 1 in Korea. The lone non-Asia shipping port in the top 10 is Dubai.  This long and storied history of Melaka has truly made it a melting pot of the world. Visitors to Melaka are treated to displays of its maritime past, from the exploits of the Chinese admiral Cheng Ho, toand the arrival of Indian, African, and Arab traders to the later development and fortification of the port area by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British.

Visiting Melaka: Hospitality and History
The compactness of Melaka makes it an ideal place for a two to three day visit, made all the more enticing by its culinary offerings and hotels adjacent to the historical sites.  Our latest visit is divided into two themes, hospitality and history. Our base of operations was the old colonial style Majestic Hotel with its legendary style, service, and dining. From there we toured historical Melaka for two days, retracing its maritime past.

The Majestic: Colonial Charm

The majestic hotel is one of the harbingers of a bygone colonial era, much like Raffles in Singapore or The Strand in Yangon. It was built as a private residence for Leong Long Man, who came from China and made his fortune in the rubber trade. Fortune, however, was not on his side, and he died just two years after the mansion's completion. His son squandered the family fortune and the mansion was passed to a relative who in turn rented it to a local businessman, Lim Heng Fang, who converted the mansion into the Majestic Hotel in 1955. In 2000 the state government bought the land and closed the Hotel. In 2008 YTL group reopended the Hotel. The hotel's unique architectural style mirrors Malacca's multi-faceted community and is historic past. It draws on influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, British and the Peranakan cultures, and these elements have been carefully preserved and complemented with modern amenities, such as a glass-walled gymnasium and wireless broadband.

A Virtual Tour of the Majestic Hotel
Majestic Hotel EntranceSnap Content

Gallery 1825: A Contemporary Take on the Traditional Shophouse
On two subsequent trips with family we stayed at the 1825 Gallery Hotel, located several blocks north of Jonkers Street on the Melaka River. Billing itself as a "hidden jewel," the hotel was built from three old shop houses dating from 1825, and hence its name. It retains much of its native character, with the original beams on the high ceilings and old Dutch brick walls. The street level features the reception, an open air well with Koi pond, and the hotel's restaurant in the back, overlooking the river. The rooms occupy the ground floor and the upper two levels. We stayed in one of the suites on the top floor, overlooking the river. The features of the hotel as well as the room are featured in the virtual tour below. Less expensive than the Majestic and closer to the historic area, it provides a nice contrast to the older hotel with its contemporary take on the traditional shophouse.

A Virtual Tour of the 1825 Gallery Hotel
1825 Gallery Street ViewSnap Content

: Touring the Melaka Historic District

The virtual tour below is dvided into two parts. The first part tours the area south of the river. The sites on this side of the river are largely associated with the colonial era, and the successive rules of the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British and their interactions with the local Malays. The second part of the tour crosses the Melaka river and the stops there examine the influence of the earlier Chinese, Arab, Malay and Indian traders who made this into a bustling port long before the European incursions into Southeast Asia.

A Virtual Tour of Melaka's Historic District
Kampung MortenSnap Content

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