There is one Chinatown in almost every major city in the world but none is more historic than the one in Melaka, Malaysia. Melaka or Malacca is chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historicity, and Chinatown has a lot to do with it. The Melaka Chinatown is the oldest one in Malaysia, and most probably one of the oldest in the world. A tour of Melaka is not complete without visiting Chinatown for the following reasons.
The first reason is Jonker Street, the most popular street in Chinatown for bargain shopping, cultural experience, and meeting tons of people. It is always crowded with tourists trying to get the best bargain. In fact, traffic is closed on weekends because of the overcrowding. Along the row of shops is a show called “Malaysia Boleh” that is run by a Chinese-Malaysian traditional doctor, Ho Eng Hui. He sells a special liquid that’s supposed to ease one’s pain and stimulate one’s muscles. To convince people to buy his potion, he puts up an amazing show of strength by breaking coconuts with just one finger or elbow. Anyone who’s been to Jonker Street has surely seen his show and many other interesting things. At the heart of Jonker is a row of old 17th-Century houses. During the Dutch occupation, these used to be the homes of local servants because their Dutch masters lived at the nearby Heeren Street. After the Dutch left, it became an important street for the rich. This street within Jonker Street is called Jonker Walk or Antique Street since there are several antique shops.
Second, Chinatown is the seat of Baba Nyonya culture, the unique blend of Chinese and Malay cultures. There is a strong presence of Chinese here, and a rich relationship between China and Malacca continues to exist.
The third reason is Harmony Street. Only in Harmony Street can one see the temples of the world’s three leading religions standing harmoniously close by on one short street.
Fourth, strangely, are the shoes. Malacca is popular for ornately designed shoes that are backed by so much history. In olden times, the rich Nyonyas showed off their status by wearing elegant clothes, including shoes and sandals. Each pair of shoes was custom made and intricately designed. Today, colorful beaded shoes handmade in Chinatown sells from RM 200 to RM 500.
Fifth are Heeren House and Heeren Street. Located in Old Malacca within Chinatown and along Malacca River, Heeren House represents Malacca of bygone years. Rich and important families used to live along Heeren Street (now Gentlemen’s Street). The Heeren House now serves as a hotel that is overlooking the picturesque Malacca River and other historical sites. It is completely furnished with antique furniture and fixtures.
Above are five reasons why a tourist should visit Malacca Chinatown. It is a guarantee that once a tourist sees Chinatown and its many shops, restaurants, cafes, Chinese architecture, shows, antiques, Baba Nyonya artifacts, cheaply sold items of all sorts and overall Carnival-like atmosphere, the tourist will instantly forget all that he’s read about Chinatown and completely be caught up in the experience. Any tourist will have a grand time just walking around.