Thursday, November 1, 2012

Melacca River Cruise – Get Nostalgic About the Glory Days of Melacca

Melaka River cruise is one of the signature attractions in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Melacca. The river was once dubbed the “Venice of the East” by European seafarers.

                                      Melaka River Cruise

The distance of River Cruise along the river is 9 km and approximate touring time is about 45 minutes from the Quayside Heritage Centre to Taman Rempah, Pangkalan Rama. It provides the sights of Kampung Morten, Jonker Street, buildings and Cafes with its painted walls depicting the culture and history of Melacca.

                                  Quayside Heritage Center-starting point

The cruise boat passed under many bridges that had important functions in the old days. The Tan Boon Seng Bridge marked the strategic place captured by the Portuguese in 1511 in their bid to occupy Melaka. The other bridges are Chan Boon Cheng Bridge, Ghostbridge of Melaka, Old Market Bridge and Jalan Hang Tuah Bridge.

                                 Kg Morten Bridge

The 26 fiber-glass boats are named after historic figures such as Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Munshi Abdullah and Tun Perak. In order to create a culture atmosphere, Malay traditional songs “dondang sayang” are being played. The Melaka tree, under which Parameswara was so inspired by the sight of a mouse deer kicking a dog that he decided to name the place Melacca, can be seen.

                                        Beautiful Scenery

The journey past Malacca town settlements and bridges along the riverbank is offering another nostalgic memory. The night cruise is even more beautiful with lighted buildings and trees along the river banks.

                                   “Venice of the East”

The Melaka River is often regarded as the birthplace of Melaka, and is classed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage City in Malaysia. Often than not, Melacca held on to its claims that the state has its roots from the year 1400 where Sumatran Prince, Parameswara founded Melaka after having fled from Temasek, known today as Singapore, following a bounty placed on him by the Siamese king. The exiled prince was inspired to settle on the new land after seeing a mousedeer fending itself against a hunting dog when attacked. He built his palace on the east-bank of the river, at the foot of St. Paul’s Hill in the 1400s.

                                        Big replica ship

The Melaka River is the most historically significant river during its glory days as Ming Dynasty’s Admiral Cheng Ho who visited Malacca at least five times during his famous seven voyages to Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Middle East and Africa from 1405 to 1433. He set up a huge warehouse complex along the northern side of the Melacca River. 

                   Transformed into a popular tourist destination

It was obvious that China had been warring with the Siamese over the control of the Straits of Melacca for a number of years and sought to hold the position in Melaka to control the trading route. Admiral Cheng Ho left Nanking for his 3rd voyage in autumn and headed down to Melacca to put in place, the last piece of the missing puzzle in the Ming southern strategy.

The emperor sent him to bestow upon Parameswara two silver robes, a mandarin's hat, a girdle of office, and an embroidered silk robe. In return, Parameswara presented the Emperor with a pair of spectacles. That was the introduction of spectacles to the Chinese. The Emperor proclaimed him as the ruler of Malacca and declared that it was a city-state under the protection and paid homage to the Ming throne. With the Chinese securing the trading routes and its special interest in developing Melacca as its regional warehouse for trading of goods, Melacca claimed its position as an entrepot.

Under the circumstances, Parameswara was not about to alienate his former overlords either. He still acknowledged two powerful neighbors, the Thai Ayudhya and Majapahit of Java as overlords. He requested the overlords help in building Malacca by providing food and people; in return, he presented these overlords with gifts and tributes. With the foreign policies well in place, Melacca flourished for the next 100 years.

Traders began arriving from all regions. Melacca's warehousing infrastructure was built underground to house goods arriving from the east and the west. Since the monsoon seasons dictated the sea traffic, goods coming in from the east or west or even south had to be stored awaiting the arrival of other traders. Between December and March, ships would arrive from the Western lands and the Far East whereas ships from Java and the eastern Indonesia archipelagos came in from May until September.

Melacca ensured safety for their traders who plied along the Melacca Straits by commanding allegiance with the piracy Orang Laut. They protected the clients and taunted those that were of its rivals. This guaranteed safety was of utmost importance to the merchants for pillaged ships could mean bankruptcy and loss of lives.

Eventually, it became the collection Centre for priceless spices from the rest of the Archipelago. Cloves from Moluccas, nutmeg and mace from the Banda Islands, aromatic woods, exotic bird feathers, sea cucumbers, tortoiseshells etc came pouring in and was traded just as swiftly.
In the year 1459, princess Hang Li Po was sent to marry the sultan. It’s the spectacular results by the arrival of Admiral Cheng Ho; Sultan Mansur Shah (1459–1477) dispatched Tun Perpatih Putih as his envoy to China, carrying a letter from the sultan to the Ming emperor requested the hand of an imperial daughter in marriage. 
The princess came with 500 high-ranking young men and a few hundred handmaidens as her entourage. They eventually settled in Bukit Cina and a significant number of them marrying into the local population, creating the descendants now known as Baba for the men and Nyonya for the women.  
When Melacca became the most powerful empire in South East Asia, Melacca River severed as the main entrance for several forces to jostle and subjugate it, from the Portuguese in 1511 to the Dutch in 1641 and the British in 1824.

As time goes by, the Melacca River’s glory is gone. Unnoticeably, the river became small and murky, with fishing boats crowding the river mouth. In order for the City's new Economic Development Strategy to succeed, the authority has taken measure to put in place an array of initiatives to promote proper planning and sustainable development, a modern waterfront with gardens, a fort, a fountain, performance stages, breezy walkways and a large windmill were built by Department of Irrigation and Drainage.

The muddy, murky water is treated and become clear, with a tinge of emerald green. Clean embankments on both sides stretch for several kilometers. The river has also been widened and a mechanical device has been installed to control the depth of the water. A completely pollution-free river to develop exquisite gardens on its banks, and pave the pedestrian pathways to perfection is the target.

From its role as a meeting point between the East and West in the 16th Century, the Melacca River has been transformed into a popular tourist destination today. The buildings which have withstood the test of time are the old temples, churches, mosques, bridges, clan houses, warehouses, and villages.

In view of the river's popularity, both locals and foreigners from all over the world come to experience the true essence of the long colorful history from the diverse architecture found along its banks. There is simply no other place like it anywhere in the world; Melacca River is a perfect platform for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Melacca.

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