‘Melaka after Dark’ offers compelling nocturnal history

08 Dec 2018 / 15:50 H.

MALACCA: As the days grow more humid now, possibly due to the adverse effects of climate change, a group of veteran tour guides and amateur historians have taken it upon themselves to innovate.

Specifically, for this Unesco World Heritage Site, this group of retirees have given birth to the country’s first ever evening historical walk, which takes place three days a week.

The guides decided to do something which “kills two birds with one stone,“ by providing a fresh activity in the evenings, after the sun has set when the weather is more accommodating.

Starting at around 8.30pm, the participants are asked to bring along a torchlight, walking shoes, light clothing, bug spray and a bottle of water.

The heritage walk is called “Melaka After Dark,“ and it is organised every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with two packages on offer for a duration of three hours per session.

Shaukani Abbas, who is the president of the Friends of the Malacca Museum, has roped in several friends and associates from the non-governmental organisation to organise the tours, describing it as a fresh concept but with historical anecdotes.

For one, the youngsters may not realise that Malacca is a rare specimen in the region, as it is the only township to have been colonized not once, but thrice.

“We want history to be told from a street view perspective and to allow our guests an insight into how the people had lived for centuries. We will underline the role of Malacca as a thriving seaport for Europeans,“ he told theSun.

Together with Ho Ah Hoon, and Eddie Chuah, Shaukani has provided two packages for tourists to sample but with a token administrative fee.

The usual gathering point is at the clock tower, opposite the main Tourism Malaysian Information centre within the heritage esplanade.

Version one is a walk that focuses on the historical residential and commercial zone in the Unesco World Heritage site.

It contains more than 600 shop houses, commercial, religious buildings and tombs with a specific attention given to the many traders operating here, whom Shaukani described as an “endangered” species because their trade is slowly giving way to the online world.

The other type of tour, which is done on Fridays, is a stroll around the St Paul Hill civic area, which has a number of government buildings, museums, churches, an urban square and a fortress which dates back to the 16th century era of Portuguese and Dutch colonialism.

Shaukani said that the objective of the night walk was to enrich the variety of heritage and cultural products in Malacca. He added that the participants would receive an intimate and insightful look at the daily lives of Malacca’s diverse communities.

The sessions will end with supper at areas which offer street food, including the cuisine exclusively associated with Malacca, such as ‘assam pedas’.

Among the interesting anecdotes are the differences in the types of architecture between the British, Dutch and Portuguese, who had ruled over Malacca for a number of centuries.

One should also keep a good sense of humour and an open mind, as the walks are often filled with queries and the cracking of jokes.

“Penang (sister Unesco World Heritage site) may have more shop houses but we in Malacca have more stories. We were colonized by three powers,“ said Ho.