Melaka, one of the earliest Malay sultanates, saw her first foreign visitor as early as 1403 when the first official Chinese trade envoy arrived in Malacca. Then she saw a series of European intrusions in the early 16th century. The Portuguese came and conquered Melaka in 1511. Thereafter, came the Dutch in 1641 and defeated the Portuguese. She was then ceded to the British in 1824 and the British ruled Melaka until the Japanese invasion during World War II.
It is not hard to see why Melaka has always been a favourite destination to visit in Malaysia. Her melting pot of influences from her relationship with the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty and her past masters from Portugal, Holland and Britain; each had left her significant architectures, cuisines, cultures, languages, etc that has transformed into a unique culture of its own.
Her past and how she intertwined with Singapore history is something most of us are familiar especially if you attended national schools in Singapore. So when our guide showed us the route of biking through plantations, paddy fields, passing by a lake and river (not Melaka River), we were bewildered.
We were picked up from the city centre of Melaka and were driven to the countryside within 30 minutes. We could immediately feel the serenity of the surrounding with very few buildings in sight. In fact, not more than 3 concrete structure of 2-storey tall.
We began our cycling through a small village and past by a small plantation. It’s not all and just the beginning. Then our eyes were treated to a sea of bright green fields – hectares and hectares of paddy fields. We had lots of fun taking pictures here. It is really a sight to behold. And there’s lotus flowers in bloom when we were there too.
Then we followed the Kesang River that separates the state of Melaka and Johor. We saw animals such as lots of cows, monitor lizards as we cycled through the countryside, palm oil plantations and fruit orchards. As we rode, our guide shared knowledge with us on how palm oil fruits are harvested, what do the farmers do to supplement their income on their land during the years before durian trees become mature to bear fruits which is like gold in the market now.
Soon we into a quiet village located next to a large tranquil lake, Tasik Biru. The locals here affectionately called it The Blue Lake as it shimmers in hue of deep blue during certain time of the day as the sun rays beam onto the water. Lots of great spots for photo opportunities and relaxation.
We had lunch at the residence of the family who lived just next to the lake. We left after spending some restful time here. The return cycling journey was not long and we ended the ride as we approach the first town in sight.
It was an exciting history lesson on 2 wheels as we began the ride in front of A’ Formosa - one of the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Southeast Asia that was built by the Portuguese in the early 16th century when they invaded the Malacca Sultanate.
As we cycle around the UNESCO World Heritage Town, we learnt the architectural and cultural influences that the Portuguese, Dutch and British had left behind. Now we are good in telling who (Portuguese, Dutch or British) constructed those architectures by looking at the façade of the structures.
As you ride along the streets, be transported back into the old times and re-live the lifestyles and beliefs of the people – between the rich and the poor. It was a stark difference of living conditions just by looking at these buildings which is parallel across the Melaka River.
Visit the original coffee shop of Aik Cheong. If you love our local coffee - often known as Nanyang coffee, this is the place you must visit. Then, wheel over to the first site that attained the world heritage status even before Melaka attained its heritage township – Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. It is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia that practise Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. And how a man – affectionately known as Melaka’s favourite son, has contributed in assisting the city to achieve the position of world heritage town.
As cycled along Melaka River to return to our starting point, we came to Church of St Francis Xavier. Did you notice something unusual of the Church façade ? Soon, we arrived back at A Formosa. Due to time constraint, we didn’t make it up to Church of St Paul but along the way, we learnt some interesting facts of the church from our guide. Should we return, I will not miss the church again.
We bade farewell to our guide as we get ready for our journey back to Singapore. It has been an interesting cycling holiday as we had a good balance of nature and culturally rich history lesson on wheels.
Melaka, as always – we will be back !
If you are keen on this cycling trip, coming up soon, 3 days Melaka’s Hidden Kampung & Heritage Ride.