Strategically situated on the famous Straits of Malacca, about 147km south of Kuala Lumpur, Malacca (Melaka) is a place with a proud past. However, not much is known about the state until the 15th Century as there were no proper records prior to this period. According to the annals of history, it was founded by an exiled Hindu prince, Parameswara, from Palembang in Sumatra in 1402. Melaka then grew slowly but steadily to become a major trading center and port-of-call for ships from the four corners of the world. Among them were Indian-Muslim traders from India whose wealth attracted Parameswara. Not too long after, he too embraced Islam and came to be known as Megat Iskandar Shah. Hence began the Melaka Sultanate.
In 1409, Admiral Cheng Ho, "the Three-Jewel Eunuch", an envoy of the Ming Emperor, helped forged links between the state and the Middle Kingdom. Hence the beginning of a long relationship between Melaka and China. The descendants of Chinese settlers from this period came to be known as "Baba Nyonya" (Straits-born Chinese), products of a unique fusion of traditional Chinese origins and the Malay environment.
The Melaka Sultanate flourished to become the emporium of the East and its prosperity soon made it a target for the growing Portuguese empire. In 1509, a Portuguese galleon headed by De Sequeira landed at Melaka. Overwhelmed by the State's beauty and wealth, he tried to overthrow the Malay Kingdom but was thwarted by Sultan Mahmud, the leader then. However, the Sultanate eventually fell in 1511 after a Portuguese army attack lead by Alfonso De Albuquerque.
The Portuguese continued to rule Melaka against all odds until they were outclassed by the ambitious and more powerful Dutch in 1641. The Dutch spread their sovereignty and destroyed much of the Portuguese heritage in the state. But their reign was short lived as the British wrestled control in 1795. The London / Anglo Dutch Treaty of 1824 conceded the state to the British for good. Thus begun a period of British rule until the country's independence in 1957.
Despite the recent appearances of modern buildings and hotels on the periphery of the old town, Melaka still remains a historical goldmine. All cultural and architectural relics of the respective colonial eras can still be seen today.
Melaka is easily accessible from major points of the country by road, rail, or sea. However, the most recommended means would be by road (private or public transport such as express bus services and taxis), in order to enjoy the scenic experience of traveling through tropical greens of rubber estates and palm oil plantations.
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