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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yada yada bla bla bla...

So I’ve decided to take a break from my never-ending travel tales. Be warned there’s still more to come, but not for the time being. As for now, do allow me to spill out whatever that’s on my mind. You might wanna skip this entry, but do join along if you don’t mind my rants and ramblings. :P

  • Did you know that the Kingdom of Kedah (aka Kadaram), my home state, was founded by Maharaja Derbar Raja of Persia (modern-day Iran) circa AD 630? According to both the Kedah Annals (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa) and the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu), the king was alleged to be a descendant of Alexander the Great, which could be true since the Achaemenid Persian Empire was completely destroyed by Alexander and his men centuries earlier. This probably means that the bloodline of the current Kedah royalty is descended from the legendary Macedonian conqueror. The Persian-Hindu dynasty ended with the adoption of Islam by Phra Ong Mahawangsa (who took the name Sultan Mudzafar Shah upon conversion) in the 12th century which thereafter marked the beginning of Malaysia's oldest sultanate which lasted to this day. Never mind that you didn't know all these, for I, a Kedahan, just knew about them quite recently. :P
  • I realize there are a lot of loanwords of Portuguese origin in the Malay language (a legacy of the 130-year Portuguese rule of Malacca) after I enrolled in the Spanish classes, since Spanish and Portuguese do share some similarities in pronunciation and vocabulary. Examples of these Malay words are: bendera (flag; Portuguese: bandeira; Spanish: bandera), sekolah (school; Portuguese: escola; Spanish: escuela), gereja (church; Portuguese: igreja; Spanish: iglesia), meja (table; Portuguese: mesa; Spanish: mesa), keju (cheese; Portuguese: queijo; Spanish: queso), bola (ball; Portuguese: bola; Spanish: bola), kemeja (shirt; Portuguese: camisa; Spanish: camisa), and tema (theme; Portuguese: tema; Spanish: tema).
  • And I just found out that the name Isabel is Spanish (probably Portuguese too) for Elizabeth! So the Spanish name for Queen Elizabeth II is Isabel II, or Reina Isabel II del Reino Unido (Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom) in full. :D
  • Have you guys heard about the rumours that the legendary Malay warrior, Hang Tuah, was actually not a Malay, but a Chinese? The same thing was said about his warrior mates too. It was alleged that the Government had since removed tales about them from the school curriculum. Hmm...
  • And why are there still no signs of the 916 agenda?
U hu! hu! from The Loaf, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
  • Had these wonderful U hu! hu! cup-sized cheesecakes from Tun Dr. Mahathir's The Loaf on my cuzzie's birthday. OMG... So yummy can die!
  • Watched The Other Boleyn Girl at GSC Queensbay Mall the other day to celebrate the end of my 2nd studio assignment. I first thought it was a new movie, but to find out it was shown in the West back in February and March. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, which in turn helped to rekindle my interest in the history of Tudor England (Henry VIII, Katharine of Aragon, Anne & Mary Boleyn, Mary I, Elizabeth I, the English Reformation, and etc). Feel like buying the novel written by Philippa Gregory which was adapted into the film though I have yet to read the dozens of novels I bought years ago. *sweat*
Crêpe Gâteau, Paddington House of Pancakes, Queensbay Mall
  • Had my Crêpe Gâteau at Paddington House of Pancakes before the movie. My my... The portion was so big! Luckily I had a big appetite, else I wouldn't be able to finish it. It was very cheesy, and my only gripes were the stingy amount of fresh tomato sauce and the unpleasant taste of the olives. And did I mention that the restaurant menu was so freakin' thick? I was literally lost while reading it... There were so many mouth-watering choices to choose from! Definitely worth a revisit, but it'll not be so soon especially after this splurge.
  • I didn't even know the exact date of this year's Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节 until someone informed me days after the celebration. Call me a Chinese... *sigh*
  • I especially love the Ramadan season. It's not that I'm gonna fast with the Muslims, but it's due to the fact that my hostel's cafeteria and sundry shop are open till 2 in the morning everyday for 1 whole month! Now I no longer need to worry about my midnight hungers. :P
  • Somebody buy me the gorgeous Nikon D90 with movie mode, please! OMG... OMG... OMG!
  • And last but not least, WHEN WILL THOSE ASSIGNMENTS EVER STOP COMIN' MY WAY? They're too much... Just simply TOO MUCH! Grrr...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

O Malacca, how great thou art!

Sony Ericsson K800i

In fact, it was so great that the Portuguese came from afar to conquer it, before being ceded to the Dutch and the British in the subsequent centuries. It was not until the year 1957, when this former centre of the mighty Sultanate of Malacca was ultimately returned to the people of the newly independent nation of Malaya (now Malaysia) after 446 years of European dominion.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Malacca/Melaka features some of the oldest surviving European architectural remains in the Far East, a legacy that it inherited from its European colonial masters since its fateful fall to the Afonso de Albuquerque-led Portuguese invaders in the year 1511. As a result of this, Malacca has always been one of Malaysia's premier tourist destinations.

Believe it or not, I've never set foot on this piece of land before. Well... Not until quite recently. I've longed to visit this place for many years now and you wouldn't know how thrilled I was when I knew I was gonna make a trip there. Actually, my purpose of having this trip was to conduct a study on the design of a selected building in Malacca for one of my never-ending assignments. Since a friend of mine had also picked a site from there, we both agreed to go together by bus. Night tickets were bought so that we would reach there in the morning. It was an 8-hour bus ride from my hometown to Malacca, and luckily the bus seat was spacious and comfortable enough for me to endure through the long journey.

Stadthuys and Christ Church, Dutch Square, Malacca

Upon arrival, we were immediately blown away by the fine state of Malacca's ultra-modern bus terminal. Thinking of the ones in Penang and back at home, I couldn't help feeling sorry for them. And from there, we took a bus ride to our 1st destination, the Dutch Square. Surrounded by the Stadthuys (the Dutch municipal town hall) and the 18th-century Christ Church, the beautiful square was the administrative heart of Malacca during the Dutch colonial era. The Stadthuys was built shortly after the Dutch captured the area from the Portuguese, while the Christ Church was erected to commemorate their centennial occupation of Malacca. Initially painted white as with other Dutch buildings in the region, both the Stadthuys and the Christ Church were given a fresh coat of salmon-red paint after it became a British colony.

Ruins of St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Hill, Malacca

A stone's throw away from the Dutch Square is the ruins of St. Paul's Church, which perched majestically on the peak of St. Paul's Hill. Originally built as a small Roman Catholic chapel by the Portuguese, it was later enlarged by the Society of Jesus. When the Dutch came, they changed its name to the current one and used it as their primary place of worship for over a century until their own church, the Christ Church was completed in the year 1753. Under the British rule, the church was turned into a storage for gunpowder and a lighthouse was added in front of it.

Ruins of St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Hill, Malacca

Old tombstones of Portuguese and Dutch lineage can be found leaning against the church wall inside. The rooftop of the church has now long gone, leaving the church interiors exposed to the temper tantrums of Mother Nature.

View of Malacca Town and the Strait of Malacca from the peak of St. Paul's Hill
View of Malacca Town and the Strait of Malacca from the peak of St. Paul's Hill

St. Francis Xavier, the renowned 16th-century Jesuit missionary who helped to spread Christianity to the far-flung regions of the Orient, was temporarily interred here before being exhumed and shipped to his final resting place at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in the then Portuguese-ruled city of Goa, India. An open grave at the church now marks the place of his burial. In addition to that, a statue of him was erected in front of the church to commemorate this particular event.

A Famosa, Malacca

At the foot of the hill stands the old Portuguese fortress of A Famosa ("The Famous"), possibly the most recognizable icon of Malacca. What remains today is the Porta de Santiago ("Gate of St. James"), the famous fortress gate that you see on postcards and travel brochures. The gate underwent renovation under the Dutch and it was the British who ordered the destruction of the fort in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleonic France, whose expanding empire was Britain's greatest rival at the time. The surviving gate was spared from destruction on the timely intervention of Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles on his visit to Malacca in the year 1810.

And no, it's not read as ei Famosa as it's often mispronounced as such, but rather ah (silent h) Famosa due to its Portuguese origin.

Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum, Malacca
Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum, the modern replica of the now-defunct palace of the Malaccan sultans is home to Malacca's Cultural Museum

Luckily, we had a friend in Malacca who was more than willing to drive us to other famous sites located beyond the city's historic quarter. We went to visit some of the country's oldest and most architecturally-unique mosques...

Masjid Kampung Hulu & Masjid Kampung Keling, Malacca
Featuring pagoda-like minarets and traditional Javanese pyramidal roofs, both Masjid Kampung Hulu (top) and Masjid Kampung Keling (bottom) were built in the 1700s during the Dutch colonial era

... ascended the stairs leading to the St. John's Fort...

St. John's Fort, St. John's Hill, Malacca
Built on the site of a former Portuguese chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist, this Dutch fortress was used to guard against landward attacks from the restive Malays who sought to reclaim Malacca from the European invaders

... and back to the historic quarter for more sightseeing...

Flor de la Mar Maritime Museum; view of the European colonial remnants from the Menara Taming Sari; Jonker Street's quaint little archway
Replica of the sunken Portuguese galleon of Flor de la Mar ("Flower of the Sea"), now a maritime museum; view of the European colonial remnants from the Menara Taming Sari revolving observation tower; Jonker Street's quaint little archway

I found the small alleys at the historic quarter reminiscent of the ones in George Town, Penang. Perhaps it's a colonial thing? Regrettably, we didn't get to visit the famed Portuguese Settlement where many of the Portuguese Eurasian descendants (the Kristang/Serani community) are still living. Malacca, I'll be back!

And oh, did I tell you guys that it was just a 1-day trip? :P