What do you get when you mix Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, English, Indian, Japanese and Chinese? You get Melaka – a particularly diverse Malaysian town of about 500,000 inhabitants. And though the population is mostly Malay now, you’ll quickly notice the diversity in architecture, languages, people and foods. No wonder the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For anyone with an interest in history or culture, the city center of Melaka offers a stimulating and interesting day-long experience.
Melaka’s diversity can be readily explained by one quick peek at the map. Ever since its founding in the 14thcentury, it has held a vital geopolitical role due to its critical location on the edge of the Strait of Malacca. The narrow channel of water between Malaysia and Indonesia was then, and still is today, a natural bottleneck and the only (reasonable) water passageway between China and India. Owing to this strategic location, Melaka became the home of the Malay sultanate and was said to be among the largest trading ports in the pre-colonial world.