On my way from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur I passed by a city called Malacca. I heard that there was some Dutch heritage in this city so I decided to stop for a night or two to check it out.
It turned out to be a good decision. Not only does the city have a really interesting history, its old city center has been listed as UNESCO world heritage site since 2008.
At the start of the 16th century, Malacca was a busy, cosmopolitan city and an important international trade hub. It owed its position to its strategic location, along the strait linking India and China to Indonesia.
Things were about to change though when in 1511 the Portuguese arrived. They quickly took the city and build a massive fort called A Famosa. The fort helped the Portuguese fend off subsequent attacks by the Malays. A small part of the fort remains until today.
The Portuguese controlled Malacca for 130 years, banning local traders to trade with other nations. The Dutch didn’t like this and planned an attack. They teamed up with the Sultan to expel the Portuguese. The Sultan choose the side of the Dutch mainly because of their tolerance towards the Islam. Unlike the Portuguese, who tried to force Catholicism on the Malay.
After an eight month siege, the Portuguese were defeated. The victory came at a cost though, the city was completely in ruins. The Dutch rebuild it during the next years. Some of the buildings remain today, such as the “Stadthuys,” which translates to City Hall.
Eventually the city was handed to the English in return for the city of Bencoleen in Sumatra, Indonesia. In 1957 its independence was proclaimed by Highness Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.