Local Heart, Global Soul

November 13, 2012

Stop In The Name of The Law!

Filed under: Kids and Family,LIFE,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are slowly making our way back to Singapore on the coach when all of a sudden we slow down and then start to pull over… for some reason there is a police road block here and our driver and guide exit the coach to go and talk to the police.

From where I’m sitting I can no longer see them once they leave the bus, but we sit there for a good five minutes waiting for the all-clear to move on.

Whilst we wait Little Mr delights in trying to outdo Himself for the most audacious reasons why we have been stopped and why the checkpoint is there.

Options range from a random breathalyser text, to escaped convicts, armed bank robbers, drug runners, spy catching and kidnappers, although it could just as easily have been a random check of the vehicles warrant of fitness or some other mundane thing.

After some five minutes or so our driver and guide climb back on board and we are on our way. No reason was offered for the unscheduled stop so we will just have to let our imaginations run wild with possible reasons for the checkpoint and the nature of the police business.

So, what’s your weirdest and wildest guesses as to what or who the police were looking for? … answers on a postcard in the comment box please.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 12, 2012

My Knowledge gets More Elastic, …. even Rubbery!

Filed under: MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This is yet another page in my travel diary of our adventures of earlier this year. I apologise in advance for the quality of the photographs, they were taken from the moving coach and it was very hard to get any shots in focus when we were on the motorway.

The reason for these photos is because our guide tells us that these are Rubber trees, and because I found myself for the second time today wondering how on earth  managed to have such a wrong mental image of  a tree.

I assumed that Rubber trees were large sturdy trees with thick  trunks from which the sap was drained… for the second time today I find that my assumptions are completely wrong.

When I went to Wikipedia  to look up some information on rubber trees I read something “that made me laugh…
“Hevea brasiliensis, the Pará rubber tree, often simply called rubber tree, is a tree belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae, and the most economically important member of the genus Hevea. It is of major economic importance because its sap-like extract (known as latex) is the primary source of natural rubber.”

So what was funny? There is a very well known Kiwi company that started in Christchurch in 1910 and went on to become a nation-wide brand name. The name of this company: “Para Rubber” … and until I researched this post I had no clue that the name “Para”  had anything to do with the real and actual name of the rubber tree. It was a real “het kwartje is gevallen” moment, as the saying goes in Dutch. (“The penny has dropped” in English).

This means I’ve learned not just one thing about the rubber tree, but two! My little grey cells must be getting more elastic by the minute!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 11, 2012

Go On, Show Us A Bit of Leg…

Filed under: Funny,LIFE,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Just as an extra post today… there were a ton of photos that I took that had Barbie doll legs in them as they hung down from the spider’s grip on the trishaw I was riding in… since the previous one gave you a giggle,  from peeping toe tips to thigh high: here is evidence when you ride in a trishaw that has a spider on the roof,  that that last thing you would imagine you’d have to contend with is that Barbie would secretly  photo-bomb your photos ….

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 10, 2012

Legs in The Photos and The Cops are Close by as We Discover Enduring Beauty…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As we leave  Melaka’s Dutch Square in our trishaws, we pass by some interesting buildings…  the first stands across the intersection from the Stadthuys and looks very oriental, and I am not sure but it may be the Information Centre (and there’s that strange road sign with the red spots on it again…  does anyone have any clues what it might mean?)

Alongside of the building I think is the information centre stands a police van… Little Mr. as if on clue is suddenly totally animated in his excitement that I need to urgently take photos before our drivers peddle us out of sight, then he spots the Police station nearby and more squeals ensue so yes, it is at his behest that these photos are on this page.

I spy a very tall tower in the distance… mobile phone mast maybe? and then there are the market stalls, and more interesting buildings as we follow other trishaws down the street.

Opposite more pink/red buildings I spy some parked up train carriages and a small aeroplane, and just around the corner from the first pink/red building is another one that according to the sign on the front is the “Museum of Enduring Beauty” (whatever that might be).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A stone’s throw further along is another building that is partly in the pink/red colour scheme but sports a white ground floor, there’s a sign that reads “Melaka Stamp Museum” and an information board outside that reads:

This building was the former Melaka State Museum, also known as the “Sekolah Gambar”. It was originally used as the residence for Dutch dignitaries living in Melaka. On 19th  March 1954, G.E. Wisdom the Resident Commissioner of Melaka converted this building to a museum. However in 1982, the museum was moved to the Stadthuys.

Now this building houses the Melaka Stamp Museum.and the Department of Museums and Antiquity has gazetted the building as an ancient monument according to Section 15 of the Antiquities Act 168/1976.”

Then we pass Bastion House which is the home of  the Malay and Islamic World Museum,  before the road curves somewhat and the Memorial Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan with it’s bright yellow domes comes into view.  It opened in 1985 as a memorial to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all those involved in achieving the countries independence after almost four hundred and fifty years of colonial rule.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Inside are exhibits that pertain to historical events and outside are parked two small tanks which had been used in crisis times as well as cars used in the 1957 Independence day celebrations.

The Memorial Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan building was formerly the Malacca Club,  was built in 1911 and is a combination of local and British architectural styles.

Then we see the  Porta de Santiago,  which is a small gate house that’s the only surviving remnant of the  “A Famosa”, a Portuguese fortress that once stood here. Wikipedia tells me:

In 1511, a Portuguese fleet arrived under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque. His forces attacked and defeated the armies of the Malacca Sultanate. Moving quickly to consolidate his gains, Albuquerque had the fortress built around a natural hill near the sea.

Albuquerque believed that Malacca would become an important port linking Portugal to the Spice Route in China. At this time other Portuguese were establishing outposts in such places as Macau, China and Goa, India in order to create a string of friendly ports for ships heading to China and returning home to Portugal. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The fortress once consisted of long ramparts and four major towers. One was a four-story keep, while the others held an ammunition storage room, the residence of the captain, and an officers’ quarters. Most of the village clustered in town houses inside the fortress walls. As Malacca’s population expanded it outgrew the original fort and extensions were added around 1586.

The fort changed hands in 1641 when the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Malacca. The Dutch renovated the gate in 1670, which explains the logo “ANNO 1670” inscribed on the gate’s arch. Above the arch is a bas-relief logo of the Dutch East India Company.

The fortress changed hands again in the early 19th century when the Dutch handed it over to the British to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleon’s expansionist France. The English were wary of maintaining the fortification and ordered its destruction in 1806.

The fort was almost totally demolished but for the timely intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, who happened to visit Malacca in 1810. Because of his passion for history, this small gate was spared from destruction.

With a sigh these sights slip past us as our trishaw driver delivers us back  to the Equatorial Hotel and our waiting coach… so much to see so little time…

postscript: Yes I know there is a pair of Barbie doll legs dangling down into the top of one of the photos, truth is that I have many more photos with the Barbie doll legs in them because every time I wanted a wider angle view there was no escaping them.

The photos sans plastic appendages were all taken zoomed in… and in the end I didn’t mind the legs too much, it was a nice distraction from the fact that I was travelling in a trishaw that had a giant spider on the roof (I hate spiders) ..at least by sitting underneath it I didn’t have to look at it. At least I’m in good company because French author Guy de Maupassant used to sit and eat his lunch under Tour Eiffel for the same reason.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Famosa

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 9, 2012

The Replica of Flora de Lamar Stands Tall… VERY Tall…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just around the corner from Dutch Square in Melaka, is a sight that will stop you in your tracks and make you go “whoa!!!”.

It’s been out of sight whilst we’ve been in Dutch Square but now that we’ve rounded the corner the exclamations and “wow’s” are coming thick and fast.

What confronts us is a full sized replica of a 16th Century Portuguese galleon called the “Flora de Lamar” that sank off the Melaka coast whilst returning to Portugal. It’s beyond massive: standing at 34 meters (111.549 feet)  in height and 8 meters (26.246 feet) in width.

By today’s standards for ship proportions, this galleon looks stunning but I find myself wondering where in earth the centre of gravity is and if  maybe it sank because it was simply too top heavy?

It’s massively tall for it’s length… but since the Portuguese successfully circumnavigated the globe and were master mariners it’s clearly must have been a design that worked. It’s possible for visitors to climb up to the upper deck of the galleon to enjoy the view.

Maybe it’s just as well we don’t have time to go aboard, it’s a step too far for me on crutches… definitely something for a return visit. The museum itself is housed inside the  replica ship and focuses on the maritime history of Melaka throughout it’s various phases: from the Sultanate, to Portuguese, Dutch and British eras.

http://malacca.attractionsinmalaysia.com/Maritime-Museum.php

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 8, 2012

Victoria Enjoys a Long Reign Over Dutch Square…

Filed under: Landmarks,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In continuation of recent posts I’m still in Dutch Square, Melaka, Malaysia: and having marvelled at all the surrounding buildings my attention now turns to the fountain in the middle of the Square.

A Malaysian tourist website  called “Attractions in Malaysia” (link at bottom of this post) gave me some background and history of the fountain, although our guide had filled us in on some of the details whilst we were there.

The  Queen Victoria’s Fountain was built to commemorate  Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and from the website I learned:

The Queen Victoria Fountain was built in 1901 by the British and is still standing as elegant as ever until this very day.

Although more than a hundred years old, this fountain is still functioning well and is probably the only functioning colonial water fountains in Malaysia.

Queen Victoria surpassed George III as the longest reigning monarch in the history of England and Scotland history on 23rd September 1896.

The Queen requested at the time that any special celebrations are to be put on hold until 1897 in order to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee which was later made a festival of the British Empire.

The fountain is a famous backdrop for visitors who come to Malacca as it is so near the Stadhuys and the Chirst Church.

On the tip of the fountain says ‘Victoria Regina 1837-1901, erected by the people of Malacca in memory of a great Queen.”

The Queen Victoria Fountain is probably one of the last traces of the British colonial era in Malaysia and it symbolizes the glorious days of the British colonization in Malaysia in the yesteryears.

Hmm the phrase “glorious days of the British colonization of Malaysia”  was only probably glorious in reality if you were on the side of the colonizers and not one of the colonized… as usual around the world, the locals probably didn’t get an awful lot of say after they were taken over.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As an aside: Queen Victoria  reigned for 63 years and 7 months, and the current British Queen, Elizabeth II at age 86 has been on the throne for 60 years as of 2012, so would have to be close to 90 years of age if she wants to break Victoria’s record.

(Elizabeth began her reign at 26 years of age, whilst Victoria was only 19  when she began hers but died aged younger at age 81, so literally time-will-tell if history will be rewritten in four years time).

I love this fountain as a work of art too… it’s hard to get the true detail amid the cascades of water but I find the garlands, grapes, ribbons, flowers (and I think might they be pomegranates?) beautiful, with a portrait of Victoria outlined in what I am sure must be raised ceramic tile with a blue glaze background.

I first thought that the larger decoration on the column close to the shield was carved stone, but on closer inspection I now think that it’s also raised ceramic tile.  So readers, stone carving or tile, what do you think this is?

The detail fanatic in me couldn’t resist taking a ton of photos of the fountain for my “arty inspiration folder” which one day when I get a spare moment (Ha!) I will indulge in.  Also I was pleased that  the second photo shows the radio mast, pylon thingy in the background, proof that it definitely hadn’t sprouted out of the little clock tower just behind me.

http://malacca.attractionsinmalaysia.com/Queen-Victoria-Fountain.php

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 7, 2012

Even the Church has Changed it’s Stripes… But is Not Separated From This World…

Filed under: HISTORY,Landmarks,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY,Travel — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You are leafing through the pages of my travel diary as I document our travel adventures of December 2011 and January 2012. At the moment we are taking a side trip to Melaka Malaysia, as part of an almost week long stopover in Singapore on our way back home to the Netherlands.

Dutch Square in Melaka has me captivated… it’s wall-to-wall tropical heat but here I am, mesmerised by beautiful buildings, culture and a heap of history… what’s not to like?

The latest building to capture my attention is the Melaka Christ Church. Painted in the same pink/red as the Stadthuys on one side and the Youth Museum and Art Gallery on the other, this previously Dutch Reformed church has been through it’s share of changes because  it’s now an Anglican church.

I love going inside all historical buildings,  and love churches too, but sadly we just don’t have time to see and experience all that Melaka has to offer in one short day trip, especially one that involves six hours of coach travel.

From Wikipedia I learn:

The church is built in Dutch Colonial architecture style and is laid out in a simple rectangle of 82 feet (25 m) by 42 feet (13 m). The ceiling rises to 40 feet (12 m) and is spanned by wooden beams, each carved from a single tree.

The roof is covered with Dutch tiles and the walls were raised using Dutch bricks built on local laterite blocks then coated with Chinese plaster. The floors of the church are paved with granite blocks originally used as ballast for merchant ships.

The Dutch conquest of Malacca from the Portuguese Empire in 1641 saw the proscription of Roman Catholicism and the conversion of existing churches to Dutch Reformed use. The old St. Paul’s Church at the summit of St. Paul Hill was renamed the Bovenkerk (High Church) and used as the main parish church of the Dutch community.

In 1741, in commemoration of the centenary of the capture of Malacca from the Portuguese, the Dutch burgher community decided to build a new church to replace the aging Bovenkerk. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The foundation stone was laid by the Malacca born Captain of the Malacca Burghers, Abraham de Wind, on behalf of his father, Claas de Wind, a prominent Burgher who had been the Secunde (Deputy Governor) of Malacca.

The church was completed 12 years later in 1753 and replaced the Bovenkerk as the primary Dutch Reformed Church in Dutch Malacca. 

With the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, possession of Malacca was transferred to the British East India Company and in 1838, the church was re-consecrated with the rites of the Church of England by the Rt. Rev. Daniel Wilson, the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta and renamed Christ Church.

Originally painted white, the church and the neighbouring Stadthuys building was painted red in 1911 and this distinctive colour scheme has remained the hallmark of Malacca’s Dutch-era buildings since. The original Dutch windows were reduced and ornamented after the British takeover of Malacca and the porch and vestry were built only in the mid-19th century.

The floors of the church also incorporate various tombstones with Portuguese and Armenian inscriptions used as paving blocks. Memorial plaques in Dutch, Armenian and English also adorn the interior of the church. Some Armenian inscriptions provide an interesting panorama of life in the Dutch period:

“Greetings, you who are reading this tablet of my tomb in which I now sleep. Give me the news, the freedom of my countrymen, for them I did much weep. If there arose among them one good guardian to govern and keep. Vainly I expected the world to see a good shepherd came to look after the scattered sheep.”

“I, Jacob, grandson of Shamier, an Armenian of a respectable family whose name I keep, was born in Persia near Inefa, where my parents now forever sleep. Fortune brought me to distant Malacca, which my remains in bondage to keep. Separated from the world on 7th July 1774 A.D. at the age of twenty-nine, my mortal remains were deposited in this spot of the ground which I purchased.” 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The church bell is inscribed with the date 1698 suggesting that it was used for another purpose prior to the completion of the church.
The church’s collection of Kerk Boek (Church Book), Resolutie Boek (Resolution Book), Rapporten (Reports) as well as the Doop Boek (Baptism Register) going back to the earliest Dutch times in Malacca have survived through the centuries. These antiquated documents are now being kept at the National Archives of Malaysia.

Silver altar vessels dating back to the early Dutch period are also in the possession of the church but are kept in storage and rarely taken out for display. The altar Bible has a cover made of brass inscribed with the passage from John 1:1 in Dutch.

I love the serenity in the prose that describes Jacob’s date of death:  “separated from the world on… ” .. and I was struck by the fact that he was only twenty-nine years of age. Life back then was apparently tough, … and short.

These days we have creature comforts Jacob could not have even dreamt about, medications not the least of them. We travel with speed and comfort, we can exchange information around the world at speeds almost beyond our own comprehension, we are well educated and we enjoy long life expectancy. I wonder what Jacob would make of us all if he could come back and see us today?

One thing is for sure… Melaka then was probably as much  a cross-roads, meeting point and place of vibrancy then as it is today. And in that, Jacob, who sleeps eternally in his little purchased spot in the church, would have felt very much at home.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church,_Malacca

November 6, 2012

One Building Has Worn Multiple Hats, Another, the Result of a Dying Wish…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Situated near the Stadthuys entrance of the square stands a clock tower painted in a matching shade of pink/red as the Youth Museum & Art Gallery, Church and Stadthuys… our guide tells us it was built by a son over a century ago to fulfill his father’s last request. I did some research on the internet because I had totally forgotten the names our guide gave us at the time and discovered the following information: (website link at the bottom of this post if you are interested in reading more)

More commonly known as Red Clock Tower, the Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower stands tall at the center of the Dutch Square. While it was named after Chinese billionaire Tan Beng Swee, it was actually his son, Tan Jiak Kim, who had this built in 1886 to fulfill his father’s promise.

Tan Beng Swee was a rich Chinese man who lived in Malacca and was known for his philanthropy. He donated the land where the city’s Chinese cemetery now lies and the bridge just beside the tower.

For almost a century, the clock installed on top of the tower was from England. In 1982, however, it was replaced by a Seiko clock, which was not received well by the older residents of the city and caused an outrage because many of them still remember the suffering they experienced when Japan occupied the city decades ago.”

When I first photographed the clock tower  from the bridge I was under the impression that it supports a radio mast… luckily this isn’t this case, the mast being a far larger construction situated behind the Stadthuys, and my position on the bridge just producing an unfortunate angle.

Once I walked a bit further it was clear that the two were separate and that the clock tower was rather a sweet little building. In case you are wondering if  it’s Melaka’s version of Pisa, it’s me on a lean, not the tower. I was juggling crutches, camera and a water bottle and the further I walked the more I ended up leaning on at one of the crutches when I stopped since it was rather tiring keeping up. Nevermind, you get the idea of the surroundings at least.

I’m not quite sure if requesting my kids to build a clock tower would be an item that features anywhere on a list of my dying wishes… but hey, each to his own, and Dutch Square is certainly a prettier place for it, so maybe Tan Beng Swee was onto something.

There’s another former administrative building on Dutch Square too, it stands on the opposite side of the Christ Church to the Stadthuys and was built in 1784. In 1826 it became the Malacca Free School and then roughly one hundred years later a second story was added to it and it took on a new function as a post office, before finally becoming the  Malaysia Youth Museum & Art Gallery.

The  Youth Museum is located on the ground floor and the Art Gallery is housed on the upper floor and displays artworks from both local Melakan artists and from artists from around Malaysia.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://www.thepoortraveler.net/2012/05/tan-beng-swee-clock-tower-queen-victoria-fountain-dutch-square-malacca-malaysia/

November 5, 2012

Stadthuys / Stadhuis … Still Mysterious in Red…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In this page of my travel diary we are in Dutch Square in Melaka, Malaysia.  In yesterday’s post we saw the most obvious Dutch building: a windmill,  but one of the oldest and most famous is situated just across the square: the Stadthuys.

Stadthuys”  in Dutch means “Town Hall” but this spelling is the outdated one and has long since been superseded in the Netherlands by the word “Stadhuis”.

The Stadthuys in Melaka dates back to 1650 and was built by the Dutch as the offices of the Dutch Governor and (say some sources:his deputy)  because Melaka was at the time the administrative capital of the region here under Dutch occupation and control.

The Square here has various names: “Dutch Square”  is one of them and another is “Red Square”.  This second name came about because  although the buildings here are made of bricks, the British  painted over it in a shade of salmon pink for maintenance reasons and then year later the state government tweaked the colour to the present day hue of  pinky-red for  they are now famous.

The Stadthuys is the oldest remaining Dutch colonial building in Asia and currently houses the Museum of History and Ethnography and inside are displays of  the history, artifacts and traditional costumes of Melaka.

I found a detailed article on the Stadthuys here: http://www.hollandfocus.com/v2/index.php/magazine/contributors/dennisdewitt/99-dennisdewitt/111-ddwstadthuys

and from it learned (somewhat edited for brevity) :

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Stadthuys of Malacca is a reproduction of the former Stadhuis (town hall) of the Frisian town of Hoorn in the Netherlands. However, the former Stadhuis of Hoorn only existed from 1420 until 1796.

Hoorn’s former Stadhuis was replaced in 1796 by a building that is now known as “het oude stadhuis” (the old town hall), which is still  there and in use until 1977  Hoorn’s current Town Hall is a modern building.

Therefore, anybody who wishes to see what the former Stadhuis of Hoorn looked like in the 15th to 18th centuries,  only the Stadthuys of Malacca can give an excellent representation of the now extinct Frisian building.

The Stadthuys was situated within the walls of Malacca fort and located opposite the northern gateway into the fortified town, across the river. The fort itself encompassed a considerable area surrounding the hill of St. Paul’s, which accommodated offices and warehouses for the VOC and all the amenities needed by its colony. The fort walls no longer exist today thanks to the folly and vandalism of the British who maliciously ordered its destruction while safeguarding Dutch possessions in Asia from the French, during the Napoleonic wars.

The Stadthuys is a massive complex. The building’s interior has two floors and it is 30 metres wide. Apart from being the governors’ house, the Stadthuys also includes the Secretary’s office, a prayer room, a dining room, a guest house, servant’s quarters, the home of the Chief Merchant, a prison, trade office, warehouses, courtyards and a detached bakery. 

The spacious records room of the Stadthuys is exceptionally suitable for the preservation of official documents, even though tropical climate is often the cause for the swift deterioration of paper. With massive metre thick walls, a high ceiling and big floor tiles, it provides a cool interior atmosphere and apparently has a dry-cellar effect.

Standing at the Dutch Square, the Stadthuys appears majestically impressive with its big windows, doors and stairs. On the outside, a stone balustrade leads a dual stairway to a small balcony that is also accessible through a door on the first floor. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

During the Dutch rule of Malacca, the Stadthuys, like all the other Dutch administration buildings in Southeast Asia, was painted white. By way of the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824, Malacca was given up by the Dutch and the town became a British colony. In 1911, the British painted the Stadthuys and the Christ Church a salmon red.

The actual reasons as to why these buildings were painted red by the British is now lost in time but legends and theories are abundant.

One opinion was that the buildings were painted red to copy the colour of red brick stone houses in Holland. Apparently, the Dutch painted the buildings red to remind them of their homeland. However, this theory is flawed because it was the British, and not the Dutch, who painted the buildings red.

Another theory was that the British wanted to differentiate British built houses from the old Dutch houses. Therefore, the British painted the old Dutch buildings red. However, there were other old Dutch buildings in Malacca that were not painted red by the British.

Most amusingly, it was also suggested that the red discharge from chewing sireh (betel) was constantly spat onto the white walls of the buildings by the locals in venting their hatred and contempt for the Dutch. Later, the British simply decided to cover it up with red paint. A witty tale probably perpetuated by anti-Dutch propaganda and contrived by nationalistic British colonials.

A more plausible reason given was maybe due to the lack of maintenance, the red laterite stone used to build the Stadthuys showed through the whitewashed plastering. Also, perhaps heavy tropical rain often splashed the red soil up the white walls. So, the British decided to paint it all red to save maintenance costs.

There are also tales of secret pathways and tunnels that were suppose to serve as strategic hidden entry and exit points in the building. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The famous Malacca-born Malay scholar and teacher, Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, who as a young man worked as a scribe for Sir Stanford Raffles in Malacca, wrote in his historically acclaimed autobiography that there was a tunnel that ran through St. Paul’s hill into the Stadthuys. Abdullah also remarked that the building had a door which gave direct access to the Malacca river, located about 200 metres away. It was thought that the river exit provided the governor with an escape route out of the fortified town, in case there was trouble.

Although the rumours of secret tunnels have perpetuated in Malacca throughout the generations, these stories have never been substantiated. Dutch conservation architect, Laurens Vis, in his thorough investigation of the Stadthuys in the 1980s found no evidence of any secret tunnels or hidden pathways. But maybe the building still closely guards its age-old secrets?

Today, the Stadthuys is Malacca’s premier museum, welcoming over 48,000 visitors annually. However, it now goes by the name of Museum of Ethnography and it is used for displaying bits and pieces of the different eras of Malacca’s colourful history and the culture of its people.

Unfortunately, the museum provides no information on the architectural layout, historical function and past activities of the Stadthuys itself. The only feature that gives a somewhat true representation of the history of the building is the governor’s room, a single room that attempts to recreate the atmosphere of how it was during Dutch times there.

(Dennis De Witt is a Dutch Eurasian from Malacca who as a hobby studies the history of Dutch influence in Malaysia and the surrounding region. He is currently the Project Co-ordinator of the Malaysian Dutch Descendants Project, a community effort working to bring together the forgotten Dutch descendants in Malaysia. For further information, please visit www.dutchmalaysia.net)

Whilst I was delighted to be able to see the local Melakian market in full swing on the day we visited, the one downside was that it made getting decent photos of the Stadthuys very difficult indeed. In fact I ended up with more Market than Stadthuys… also probably because of the presence of the market, the front entrance area was rather restricted in space so there were people everywhere, taking photos, coming out, waiting to go in, and my photos didn’t come out well at all.  We also saw the queue and knew immediately that there would be no hope of even a super quick tour on our tight schedule… but yet another reason to return one day for a longer stay and a closer look.

November 4, 2012

A Surprise That Almost Takes the Wind Out of Our Sails…

Filed under: HISTORY,Landmarks,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY,Travel — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After we passed on foot under the gaze of the fearsome dragon that confronted us then we entered the city, we then had to cross a river and a bridge to complete the short distance to Dutch Square.

Now we have a chance to check out something that made Himself and I burst out laughing as we got a fleeting glance of it  from the coach on the way into town, actually we should have been at least a little prepared for what we had seen: First, Dutch Square isn’t called Dutch Square for nothing… The Dutch were in control of Melaka from 1641  until 1825  so it was fairly certain that there would probably be influences of some sort left behind.

Secondly, on this trip to New Zealand we have had an uncanny habit of stumbling across things with an almost kitch-more-Dutch-than-the-Dutch flavour, everything from bakeries to a very decent sized windmill in the small New Zealand town of Foxton.

So when Himself and I sat in the coach and suddenly saw a very Dutch looking windmill by the side of the road we burst out laughing.  It sits between the busy road and the river and is nestled into an ornamental garden.

Immediately it’s clear that it’s a complete tourist magnet, in fact getting photos of it is harder than I imagined,  if you stand on the pavement next to it you can’t get much of it in the photo:  if you stand as far back as you can on the pavement  it’s not much better: you are perilously close to the traffic and people keep walking in front of you, if you stand on the other side of the road you can get it into your photo but along with supplemental extras that consist of  trishaws, cars and motorcycles going past on the busy road, not to mention the almost constant stream of tourists having their portraits taken in front of it.

I waited patiently for multiple couples taking the obligatory “her-with-windmill” and then changing places to photograph  “him-with-windmill” and if there was a friend in tow, and possible extra “him-plus-her-with-windmill”, then there were larger family groups, parents taking photos of their kids by it and even what looked like an entire tour party group shot.

Himself and the kids had gone off with Velveteen to search out a joke rubber cow as a gift for her Mother at the nearby Market by the Stadhuijs (Town Hall). Velveteen’s family have a wonderful tradition of doing joke gifts for Birthdays and her Mother already has (and loves) the joke rubber chicken ! (yes, they found what they were looking for too!)

Since I’m walking slower and stopping to take photos, they have gone ahead and I’ll meet up with them a short while.

This certainly doesn’t look anything like a working windmill, it’s too small to mill flour (yes they do have mills this small in the Netherlands, usually found in farmers fields next to a canal and they are just very basic water pumps) but the Dutch ones this size are generally far more plain than this one so I suspect that this one is not so old and is here as a tourist attraction to complete the  Dutch Square’s  “Dutch flavour”.

It seems ironic that we Dutchies when we go abroad still can’t escape the windmills, not even in the Southern Hemisphere or in Asia… oh well, we’ll just have a laugh and not let it take the wind out of our sails.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The river from the bridge…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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